By Ben Geman - 07/13/12 03:51 PM EDT
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), a top House Democrat, is urging the Energy and Commerce Committee's Republican majority to hold a hearing that explores links between climate change and extreme weather.
The request, spelled out in a letter Friday, is a sign that Democrats and environmentalists hope to translate the recent record-setting heatwaves into political momentum for efforts to battle global warming.
Waxman, the committee’s top Democrat, notes that Republicans have declined repeated requests over the past year to hold hearings on climate science.
“Our premise was that if you and other Republican members had genuine doubts about the strength of the science, you would welcome hearings at which Committee members could hear testimony from the nation’s leading experts. Yet you have not responded to any of our letters,” states the letter from Waxman and Rep. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), a top lieutenant on the committee.
Upton's committee office did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the letter.
Scientists predict that extreme weather events such as violent storms, wildfires and heatwaves will become more frequent and intense on a warming planet.
Democrats are using recent violent weather events to launch fresh assaults on GOP bills that would block the Environmental Protection Agency’s climate change regulations, which have repeatedly cleared the Republican-controlled House but sputtered thus far in the Senate.
Mitt Romney, the presumptive GOP White House nominee, says he would seek to nullify EPA’s power to regulate greenhouse gases.
“Congress cannot legislate responsibly if we do not listen to the experts and do not know what the consequences of our votes will be. That is why hearings are essential and why we are once again asking that the Committee hold them,” the letter from Waxman and Rush states.
It lays out the extent to which recent heatwaves have been shattering temperature records and notes that wildfires have burned more than 2.1 million acres this year.
Here’s a bit more from the lengthy missive from Waxman to Upton and Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), who heads the Energy and Power subcommittee:
Willful ignorance of the science is irresponsible and it is dangerous. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States has set more than 40,000 hot temperature records this year. Just this week, NOAA reported that the last 12 months have been the hottest in U.S. history.
At the end of June, more than 113 million people in the U.S. were in areas under extreme heat advisories. Two-thirds of the country is experiencing drought. Kentucky is facing a historic drought that is threatening the state’s crop yields. Other states facing severe losses of corn and other crops due to drought include Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Ohio.