Yesterday, new Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz sat before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee to discuss the Department’s proposed budget and ended up explaining basic climate science to a member of the majority party.
In an exchange with former committee chair Henry Waxman (D-CA) reported by E&E Daily, Moniz was blunt:
“It’s indisputable that we are experiencing warming, and that the pattern of consequences that has long been expected, in fact, are appearing around us, unfortunately — typically at the higher end of the predicted ranges,” Moniz said, pointing to melting ice caps, intensified storms, droughts and wildfires.
In recent years, the subcommittee has been used to push false talking points about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and to hold hearings just to throw climate denier talking points at real climate scientists.
Last year, Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) sponsored a raft of bills that would dismantle key public health and clean air provisions and undermine landmark environmental legislation. Last week, the committee marked up Rep. McKinley’s bill that would prevent the EPA from regulating toxic coal ash.
Unsurprisingly, McKinley’s asked Secretary Moniz if global warming was “primarly man-made, or natural and cyclical.”
The conversation that followed was educational, hopefully for all parties. Watch the exchange here, courtesy of Forecast the Facts:
Here’s the transcript:
MONIZ: I believe, in my view, there is no question that a major component is anthropogenic. And that comes from–
MCKINLEY: Interesting. Is that from a consensus?
MONIZ: It is practically, I would say 98 percent of scientists involved in this area–
MCKINLEY: But you’re well aware the petition project has 32,000 scientists and physicists who’ve disagreed!
MONIZ: But sir–
MCKINLEY: They say it’s contributing, I think it would be irresponsible to say we don’t contribute, but is it primarily…?
MONIZ: If I may say — and I’d be happy to have a longer discussion — but a few facts: first of all the rise in CO2 emissions in the last half century is clearly tracked to our global increased energy use. Secondly, I know how to count. I can count how many CO2 molecules have gone out from fossil fuel combustion and I know how many additional CO2 molecules are in the atmosphere–
MCKINLEY: Let me just close with saying, in terms of consensus, I think consensus has a place in politics, but consensus doesn’t have a place in science.
MONIZ: …Again, sir, I just want to clarify: my judgment is based on numbers, on data, and not on the consensus, and I would be really delighted if we could have a discussion.
MCKINLEY: We could have that, I liked that.
The “petition project” McKinley refers to is the infamous Oregon Petition, an effort to gather signatures saying that climate change is not caused by humans and if it is, that it is beneficial. Its numbers are meaningless because signatories do not need to have any knowledge of real climate science. As Brian Angliss put it: “What expertise does a nuclear engineer or a medical doctor or a food scientist or mechanical engineer have that makes them qualified to have an informed opinion on the cause(s) of recent climate disruption?”
Secretary Moniz acquitted himself well in the face of all of these assertions, and it is likely he and Rep. McKinley would draw a large audience if their “longer discussion” became public. While it is too soon to tell if he convinced McKinley, subcommittee chairman Ed Whitfield certainly seemed impressed.
Rep. Whitfield (R-KY) told Politico after the hearing, “The difference between Chu and Moniz is like night and day … I think he’s much better than Secretary Chu, myself. I think he’s more knowledgeable. I think he has a more practical approach to the political arena.”
Former Secretary Chu would also explain climate science to House members, but as he said himself about his rhetorical abilities, “I’m a scientist, not a politician!” It is possible his successor found more success with counting.