Ranking Members Waxman and Rush Renew Request for Hearings on Science of Climate Change

Apr 9, 2013

Today Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry A. Waxman and Energy and Power Subcommittee Ranking Member Bobby L. Rush sent a letter to Chairmen Fred Upton and Ed Whitfield to reiterate their request for hearings to hear from respected climate scientists about the urgent need to reduce carbon pollution and the likely impacts of unabated climate change on human health, the environment, and the economy.  Reps. Waxman and Rush have sent 24 letters to the Chairmen since May 2011, and have received only one response, which asserted that “the Committee frequently addressed climate change issues” in the 112th Congress.

The members write, “We respectfully renew our requests for hearings into the science of climate change and the likely impacts of rising temperatures so that members can understand the nature of the threat we are confronting.  If we rely upon representatives of electric utilities, coal companies, oil refiners, and chemical manufacturers to explain the state of the science regarding climate change, we are unlikely to get a full and unbiased view of the challenge we must confront and the opportunities we have.”

The full text of the letter is available below and online here.

April 9, 2013

The Honorable Fred Upton
Chairman
Committee on Energy and Commerce
2125 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Ed Whitfield
Chairman
Subcommittee on Energy and Power
Committee on Energy and Commerce
2125 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairman Upton and Chairman Whitfield:

Thank you for your March 14 response to our numerous letters requesting hearings on climate change.  Unfortunately, you appear to have misunderstood the nature of our request.

Since May 2011, we have sent you 24 letters requesting hearings so that Committee members could hear from respected climate scientists about the urgent need to reduce carbon pollution and the likely impacts of unabated climate change on human health, the environment, and the economy.[1]

In your letter, you assert that these hearings are not necessary because “in the 112th Congress the Committee frequently addressed climate change issues.”  You also assert that “the Committee heard from more than thirty witnesses, including climate scientists, who testified concerning climate change related matters.”  We assume you are referring to the subcommittee hearings you held on February 9, 2011, March 1, 2011, June 19, 2012, July 16, 2012, and September 20, 2012, at which more than 30 witnesses did indeed discuss climate change in their testimony. 

These hearings were not hearings to inform Committee members about the science of climate change.  To the contrary, these hearings provided a forum for science-deniers and industry representatives who oppose any action to address climate change.  The witnesses included seven witnesses from the electric utility sector, four witnesses testifying on behalf of the coal industry, two witnesses representing petroleum refiners, a witness for a chemicals manufacturer, and others opposed to EPA’s efforts to cut carbon pollution, including Senator James Inhofe, who has called climate change a hoax.

On March 8, 2011, the Committee did hold a hearing on the science of climate change, but this hearing was scheduled only after Committee Democrats announced that we would exercise our rights under House Rule XI, which gives the minority a right to a day of hearings.[2]  At the hearing, the Committee heard undisputed testimony that climate change is unequivocal and primarily human-induced and that climate-related impacts are already occurring and are expected to worsen.

Aside from this hearing early in the 112th Congress, only two climate scientists have testified.  One is Dr. John Christy from the University of Alabama, whom you invited to testify twice.  Dr. Christy has made his career denying the importance of climate change.[3]  The other scientist, Dr. William L. Chameides, Dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, is an atmospheric scientist.  But he was invited only at the minority’s request and was seated on a panel with four witnesses from industry and agribusiness who spoke in opposition to EPA’s greenhouse gas rules.  A sixth witness testified that there would be no human health benefit from cutting greenhouse gas emissions, contrary to the views of the American Public Health Association, National Academy of Sciences, and World Health Organization.[4]

We respectfully renew our requests for hearings into the science of climate change and the likely impacts of rising temperatures so that members can understand the nature of the threat we are confronting.  If we rely upon representatives of electric utilities, coal companies, oil refiners, and chemical manufacturers to explain the state of the science regarding climate change, we are unlikely to get a full and unbiased view of the challenge must we confront and the opportunities we have.

Sincerely,

 

Henry A. Waxman
Ranking Member

Bobby L. Rush
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Energy and Power

 



[1] The complete list of these letters is available on the website for the Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats at http://democrats.energycommerce.house.gov/index.php?q=page/climate-chang....

[2] Letter to Chairman Ed Whitfield from Reps. Waxman, Rush, Dingell, Markey, Engel, Green, Capps, Inslee, and Matheson (Mar. 1, 2011) (online at http://democrats.energycommerce.house.gov/sites/default/files/documents/...)

[3] Dr. Christy’s work on climate change has contained significant scientific errors and been heavily criticized by other scientists.  See, e.g., Errors Cited in Assessing Climate Data, New York Times (Aug. 12, 2005); Dana Nuccitelli, Christy’s Unconvincing Congressional Testimony (Mar. 10, 2011) (online at www.skepticalscience.com/christy-testimony.html) and Christy Once Again Misinforms Congress (Aug. 8, 2012) (online at www.skepticalscience.com/christy-once-again-misinforms-congress.html); Joe Romm, Should you believe anything John Christy and Roy Spencer say? (May 22, 2008) (online at http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2008/05/22/202659/should-you-believe-an...). 

[4] At the hearing on June 19, 2012, witnesses representing the American Bakers Association, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, CountryMark, and Rain CII Carbon testified in opposition to EPA greenhouse gas regulations.  Dr. Louis Cox, a risk analyst, offered testimony questioning whether reducing air pollution, including carbon pollution, provides significant health benefits.