UPDATE: Dr. Judith Curry’s transcript of her verbal testimaony is online here: http://judithcurry.com/2013/04/25/congressional-hearing-on-policy-relevant-climate-issues-in-context/
Skeptics outnumber alarmists at House of Representatives session today
Subcommittee on Environment Hearing – Policy Relevant Climate Issues in Context
Policy Relevant Climate Issues in Context
On Thursday, April 25, 2013, (10AM ET) the Subcommittee on Environment will hold a hearing entitled Policy Relevant Climate Issues in Context. The purpose of the hearing is to provide Members a high level overview of the most important scientific, technical, and economic factors that should guide climate-related decision-making this Congress. Specifically, this hearing will examine the current understanding of key areas of climate science necessary to inform decision-making on potential mitigation options.
Climate science—and climate-related regulatory actions informed by such science—are among the most complex and controversial issues facing policymakers. After several years of relatively quiet legislative and regulatory activity within Congress and the Executive Branch, climate policy is again receiving renewed attention.
Since winning re-election in November, 2012, President Obama has increasingly signaled his intention to propose significant, new executive actions and regulatory measures aimed at addressing climate concerns. At his inaugural address in January, the President stated:
We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.
The President elaborated on this at last month’s State of the Union address, and indicated he would direct his Cabinet to propose specific actions for his consideration. Specifically, he stated:
But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.
The good news is we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth. I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.
While it is unclear what specific form the President’s proposals will take, it has been widely reported that new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations restricting greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plant facilities will serve as a centerpiece of the President’s climate efforts. In March 2012, EPA proposed greenhouse gas regulations for new power plants.1 While this rule has yet to be finalized, the Agency’s Regulatory Impact Analysis that accompanied this proposal emphasized some of the key challenges associated with incorporating uncertain scientific, technological, and economic information into such regulatory decisions:
When attempting to assess the incremental economic impacts of carbon dioxide emissions, the analyst faces a number of serious challenges. A recent report from the National Academies of Science (NRC 2009) points out that any assessment will suffer from uncertainty, speculation, and lack of information about (1) future emissions of greenhouse gases, (2) the effects of past and future emissions on the climate system, (3) the impact of changes in climate on the physical and biological environment, and (4) the translation of these environmental impacts into economic damages. As a result, any effort to quantify and monetize the harms associated with climate change will raise serious questions of science, economics, and ethics and should be viewed as provisional.2
This characterization is indicative of the likely challenges associated with future climate-driven regulatory proposals as well. Therefore, it is likely that Congressional review and response of such proposals will be heavily informed by the understanding of a combination of science, technological feasibility, and value judgments such as economic tradeoffs and opportunity costs.
The purpose of this hearing is to examine key factors that will guide these decisions, particularly as they relate to the understanding of climate change-related risks facing the country, associated probabilities and uncertainties, and the costs and benefits of various mitigation proposals.
Dr. Judith Curry, Professor, School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology
Dr. William Chameides, Dean and Professor, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University
Dr. Bjørn Lomborg, President, Copenhagen Consensus Center
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