Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee made a last-ditch effort yesterday to stall Republican legislation that would strip U.S. EPA of its authority to regulate greenhouse gases.
Republicans didn't budge. Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Energy and Power Subcommittee, brushed aside an appeal from the full committee's top Democrat, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), to postpone tomorrow's markup of the EPA-blocking measure, H.R. 910.
"I hope we could come up with a more nuanced, reasonable policy," Waxman said yesterday at a hearing convened by Whitfield's subcommittee. Democrats are prepared to negotiate "with no preconditions," he said, calling the GOP bill "breathtakingly dangerous."
Subcommittee ranking member Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) also urged Republicans to shelve their markup plans. "We should be more deliberative," he said.
But the arguments didn't sway Whitfield, who said Democrats would have ample opportunity to air their views during this week's subcommittee markup, a subsequent full committee markup and eventually, a House floor debate.
"One need not be a skeptic of global warming to be a skeptic of EPA's regulatory agenda," Whitfield said, raising familiar GOP complaints that the Obama administration's plans to regulate carbon dioxide would harm the economy.
Scientists describe crop problems and lake warming
The rest of the hearing proceeded along similar lines. Four scientists invited to testify by Democrats said climate change is decreasing the yields of agricultural staples like wheat, corn and barley, heightening the risk of wildfires in the western United States and increasing the odds of extreme weather events like floods and droughts.
Knute Nadelhoffer, director of the University of Michigan's Biological Station, described how climate change is affecting the Great Lakes.
"What's stunning is the fact that Lake Superior has warmed by 4.5 degrees [Fahrenheit] in the last 30 years," he said. "That is a lot of joules. That is a lot of energy. And Lake Superior is a big thermometer."
Richard Somerville, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, told lawmakers that "skeptical or contrarian arguments have been refuted many times over" by papers published in peer-reviewed journals.
"Nobody today should be impressed by these discredited claims," he said of those skeptical arguments. "The leading scientific organizations of the world, including national academies of science and professional scientific societies, have carefully evaluated the results of climate science and endorsed the results."
But such arguments didn't find purchase among Republican lawmakers or their invited witnesses, three scientists known for their skeptical views of mainstream climate science.
Republicans blaze away
Told by Somerville that "global cooling" was a myth perpetrated by the media in the 1970s that was never widely accepted by scientists, Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) insisted the scientist was wrong.
"I was there," Griffith said. "It was in my textbook."
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) accused climate scientists of holding "elitist, arrogant views," and warned of "armies of thousands of scientists somewhere that hide behind these organizations that themselves have been discredited."
Meanwhile, Texas Republican Michael Burgess took a shot at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other bodies that operate by scientific consensus.
"Science by consensus is fraught by some danger," he said. "Certainly, Copernicus and Galileo, if they were living, could testify to that effect."