This blog was written by Natasha Patel, Communications Intern for the BlueGreen Alliance and Ashley Haugo, Legislative and Policy Aide for the BlueGreen Alliance.
Last week, the Environment & Public Works Committee held a hearing focused on global climate change, the first of its kind in more than two years. From the office water cooler to the halls of Congress, talk of climate change has been reignited by recent extreme weather events, and it’s a conversation few can now avoid. But, as the hearing on Wednesday demonstrated, there continues to be intense debate around the cause of and the response to such anomalous events.
In opening statements, Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) called attention to the urgency of addressing anthropogenic climate change, quoting a report by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) which concluded, "climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems." Supporting that, Dr. Christopher Field, Director of the Department of Global Ecology at the Carnegie Institution for Science, testified that a changing climate caused by human activity will increase the chance of three types of extremes: higher temperatures, increased precipitation and a higher rate of sea level rise.
Conversely, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), minority leader of the committee and a long-time denier of climate change, reiterated his arguments that climate change is a hoax and emphasized the belief that “one pattern or a cluster of patterns is not indicative of anthropogenic global warming.” This was merely the most recent example of the Senator’s continuing crusade, previously attempting to prove the planet is actually in a state of cooling, and that climate change is a conspiracy by the UN, Al Gore, and Hollywood. To his credit, he did not try to blame aliens, popsicles or the letter “Q” during his testimony. To everyone else’s detriment, the Senator remains a powerful anti-science obstacle.
Quite evidently, Sens. Boxer and Inhofe were once again unable to find common ground regarding the science behind climate change. However, the hearing also addressed climate change adaptation, and in that realm, there is hope that agreement might be found in proactive, sustainable measures that strengthen the United States’ economy.
Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) reminded the Committee of their successful work on energy efficiency and mileage improvements, and minority witness, Dr. Margot Thorning – also a climate denier – discussed “no regret” strategies businesses are beginning to adopt. These strategies characterize the practice of implementing adaptive measures to improve productivity, regardless of the reality of climate change, and, as Senator Boxer aptly summarized the term, “you won’t regret the lost opportunity to do this.”
What began as yet another gridlocked discussion of climate change ended with Chairman Boxer’s galvanized support for the “no regrets” concept, stating that it should be embraced by everybody from businesses, to the federal government to at-risk states. Hopefully this opens the door for more successful climate change and adaptation discussions in the future.