Environment Living in Society

Defending Obama’s Climate Action Plan

Analysis of Peer Reviewed Scientific Articles
Analysis of Peer Reviewed Scientific Articles

On Thursday, Jan. 16, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a hearing entitled, “Review of the President’s Climate Action Plan,” begging the question, if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

A well credentialed panel is scheduled to appear, including administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Gina McCarthy. The hearing is important mostly to generate interest in a conversation about climate change that is on life support on Capitol Hill. (For more information about the hearing, click here). Who will be listening?

There aren’t enough votes in the 113th U.S. Congress to put a price on carbon emissions, something that is essential to slowing them. Recently, U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) announced formation of a task force to revive talk about climate change in the Congress, and to defend President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.

The goals of the task force are modest— introducing some small-scale bills intended to “use the bully pulpit of our senate offices to achieve (a) wakeup call,” Boxer said. She added, “we believe that climate change is a catastrophe that’s unfolding before our eyes and we want Congress to take off the blindfolds.” What will come of this year’s task force is unclear, but anyone paying attention can see the disruptive effects of changing climate on our society. However, as a writer on Daily Kos pointed out, it is another task force in another year, and legislation mitigating the causes of climate change, or dealing with its effects, is expected to be dead on arrival because the votes aren’t there.

Boxer has it right that people on the hill, and in the public, are asleep about climate change. The reason is the money spent by climate deniers. In December, Drexel University released a study of 140 different foundations funding an effort to delay action on climate change. The so-called Climate Change Counter Movement (CCCM) spent more than $900 million from 2003 through 2010. Author Robert J. Brulle wrote that the study was, “an analysis of the funding dynamics of the organized effort to prevent the initiation of policies designed to limit the carbon emissions that are driving anthropogenic climate change. The efforts of the CCCM span a wide range of activities, including political lobbying, contributions to political candidates, and a large number of communication and media efforts that aim at undermining climate science.” The efforts of CCCM have been successful, insofar as “only 45 percent of the U.S. public accurately reported the near unanimity of the scientific community about anthropogenic climate change,” according to the study.

What does “near unanimity” mean? James Powell recently evaluated 2,258 peer-reviewed scientific articles about climate change written by 9,136 authors between November 2012 and December 2013. Only one article rejected anthropogenic global warming. This may not represent a consensus, but consensus is not the purpose of science. Science is to explain the world to us, and we don’t need to strike the word “near” to understand climate change is real, it’s happening now, human activity is causing it, and scientists believe that is the case.

I am not sure whether a group of rich politicians posturing in the Congress will make a difference. However, it’s the only game in town. They are willing to take positive action to support the president’s climate action plan, which doesn’t rely on new legislation that isn’t in the cards anyway. While not hopeful of meaningful action, fingers are crossed, and the game is on.

Following is this afternoon’s press release from the League of Conservation Voters:

WASHINGTON, D.C.– League of Conservation Voters (LCV) president Gene Karpinski released this statement on the creation of the Senate Climate Action Task Force, a group chaired by Senators Boxer and Whitehouse that includes more than a dozen senators committed to pushing for action on climate change:

“Big Oil and corporate polluters have worked with their allies in Congress to prevent action on climate change for far too long. This task force is the latest sign that environmental allies in Congress are fighting back, standing up for basic science and pushing for action on climate change. This is the type of strong leadership we need if Congress is finally going to get serious about addressing the climate crisis and meeting our moral obligation to future generations. We thank Senators Boxer, Whitehouse, Cardin, Sanders, Klobuchar, Merkley, Franken, Blumenthal, Schatz, Murphy, Heinrich, King, Markey, and Booker for speaking out on climate change today and look forward to continuing to work with them to address this vitally important issue.”

~ Written for Blog for Iowa