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Congressional Hearing: Whadja Say?

August 22, 2013 – During the past two years, Henry Waxman (D-CA), Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member, and  Bobby Rush (D-IL), Energy and Power Subcommittee ranking member, have sent 21 letters requesting a hearing on climate change and the latest science bearing on the issue.  Recipients Fred Upton (R-MI) and Ed Whitfield (R-KY), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman and Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman, respectively, have steadfastly ignored these requests.  The one exception occurred in March of this year, at which time Waxman and Rush received a response.

Upton and Whitfield have now scheduled what is being called a “major hearing” on climate change for September 18.  The leaders of 13 federal agencies have been invited to testify, among them Gina McCarthy of the EPA, Ernest Moniz of the Dept. of Energy, Chuck Hagel of the Defense Dept., and State Dept. Secretary John Kerry.   Each letter of invitation asks nine questions about the amount of time, money and resources devoted by these agencies to climate change policies, and asks that written answers be submitted at the time of the hearing.

Advance press states that the hearing, “The Obama Administration’s Climate Change Policies and Activities,” will touch on the scientific underpinnings of climate change.  The words “touch on” do not exactly fill me with optimism; on the other hand, acknowledged or not, the science is not about to go away.  Indeed, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has written another report about the science of climate change, a draft of which has been leaked.  In it, scientist members of the panel assert that there is now 95 percent certainty about the human origins of climate change, largely by means of burning fossil fuels.  The IPCC’s reports serve as the primary guides for U.N. member nations when they formulate climate change policies.

At the same time, Vice President Al Gore is quoted as saying that a number of Republican members of Congress have told him they are tired of climate change denial by members of their own party.  The reason for their change in attitude, he believes, is the extreme weather events being reported on a daily basis in the nightly news.  Gore also alludes to the addition of another number to the hurricane classification scale, something of which I was unaware.  There is now a category 6, something which would give any thinking person reason to reconsider.

What the September hearings will accomplish remains to be seen.  A restive populace, as evidenced by growing numbers of protests from one coast to the other, accompanied by aggressive climate change campaigning on the part of Congressional Democrats, seems to be moving Republicans off of square one.  Whether or not square two can be even vaguely perceived from where legislators stand today may be much clearer, especially to Republicans, by the middle of next month.

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