House climate science showdown set

A House Energy and Commerce Committee panel will wade into climate science Tuesday against the backdrop of accelerating GOP efforts to scuttle Environmental Protection Agency regulation of greenhouse gases.

The committee released details Friday of the March 8 Energy and Power Subcommittee hearing on climate science and EPA rules, a session that committee Democrats requested.

Witnesses invited by the Democrats include Richard Somerville, who is an emeritus professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California-San Diego.

Somerville helped organize the 2007 Bali Climate Declaration signed by over 200 scientists, which warns that millions will be at risk from heat waves, droughts, floods and other extreme weather. It states that in order to keep temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius, emissions must peak and begin falling within 10-15 years.

More recently, he published an essay in the journal Climatic Change late last year that called for scientists to offer the public “guidelines” on climate.

Among them: “The essential findings of mainstream climate change science are firm. The world is warming. There are many kinds of evidence: air temperatures, ocean temperatures, melting ice, rising sea levels, and much more. Human activities are the main cause,” he writes.

Witnesses invited by committee Republicans include researchers who have criticized mainstream scientific views on climate change and proposals to require carbon emissions cuts.

One is the University of Colorado’s Roger Pielke, Sr. He agrees that humans are having a significant effect on the climate, but claims there’s an overemphasis on the role carbon emissions among the various human “climate forcings.”

Also testifying is John Christy, director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama-Huntsville. He told the House Ways and Means Committee in 2009 that models and data showing warming are off-base.

“We have found that climate models and popular surface temperature data sets overstate the changes in the real atmosphere and that actual changes are not alarming,” he said in testimony submitted to that panel.

The names are familiar in climate policy circles. “Climate change deniers have a short bench, so we were not surprised at their witnesses,” said a Democratic aide.

The consensus view among climate scientists is that Earth is warming and human-generated emissions – from burning coal and oil and other activities – are a major cause.

The hearing comes as House Republicans -- and several Democrats -- are pushing legislation that would block EPA’s power to regulate greenhouse gases. Top Democrats on the committee requested the hearing last month, pointing to new studies linking human-induced warming to severe weather.