All of the Republican members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee question the science behind climate change. Fueled by millions in donations from the fossil fuel industry, on Thursday, these Senators used the committee as a way to simply parrot the tired talking points of Koch funded organizations and industry leaders, denouncing what 97 percent of climate scientists have agreed on.
Titled “Climate Change: It’s Happening Now,” the hearing was the embodiment of the climate schizophrenia currently transfixing congress. A panelist representing the U.S. insurance industry informed Senators that the surge in weather-related catastrophes has forced billions in payouts and that climate change “increases the exposure of citizens and their property to extreme weather risk.” The GOP, on the other hand, outlined what they believe is a White House conspiracy designed to mislead the public on the threat of climate change.
Dr. Heidi Cullen, the chief Climatologist for Climate Central, warned of the hazards of ignoring climate change, reiterating that it’s “very clear global warming has not stopped.” But almost every Republican on the committee repeated the same talking point — that recent data somehow proves that climate change stopped 15 years ago. Here’s a breakdown some of the GOP talking points, followed by what the science actually says:
- “Over the past 15 years, temperatures have been flat while greenhouse gas emissions continue to soar.” — Senator James Inhofe (R-OK)
There were more national temperature records broken in the first decade of the 21st century than in any previous decade, according to a report by the World Meteorological Organization. The report also found that warming has sped up over the past 40 years and that nine of the 10 years between 2001 and 2010 were among the warmest 10 since “modern measurements” began in 1850. Dr. Cullen also pointed out during the hearing that heat is being transferred into other components of our climate system, such as the deep ocean, which has been dramatically warming over the past 15 years.
- “Climate change is happening. It’s always happening. And there are many significant influences that are making it happen….major influences on climate include solar activity, solar cycles, ocean currents, cosmic rays, and greenhouse gases that occur naturally as well as those emitted from many countries including those who have no plans on regulatory change like China, India and Russia.” — Senator David Vitter (R-LA)
Many climate science deniers try to say that climate change is just a natural part of Earth’s history — that the climate is always changing and therefore there is no reason to worry. What they fail to point out is that greenhouse gas emissions have been dramatically increasing since the industrial revolution, when humans began burning the fossil fuels that heat up the atmosphere. The temperature is changing 50 times faster than it did prior to the industrial revolution and we are headed for 7 to 11°F warming this century on our current emissions path — increasing the rate of change 5-fold yet again.
- Many senators expressed their concerns that climate change is not causing extreme weather patterns, including Senator Inhofe (R-OK), who said claiming global warming is causing extreme weather is just “wrong.”
Asking whether an event is caused by climate change is the wrong question. All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer than it used to be. As Climate Progress has said before, extreme weather is more like a baseball player on steroids. These players do not always hit home runs, but on average they get more, and more powerful, hits. Climatologist Kevin Trenberth put it best, the “answer to the oft-asked question of whether an event is caused by climate change is that it is the wrong question. All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be.” The United States has experienced an onslaught of extreme weather in the past few years with over 25 events that caused at least $1 billion in damage beginning in 2011. Combined, these storms cost our country $188 billion and took the lives of over 1,100 Americans. Most of these storms, floods, droughts, heat waves, and wildfires are fueled by climate change.
While Senator Wicker (R-MS) asked for tolerance in the public discourse regarding the many scientific viewpoints on climate change, Chairman Boxer (D-CA) reminded the panel that only 2 percent of scientists support his views, and that there seems to be “endless money” funding the interests of the fossil fuel industry. Boxer went on to point out that even the panelists that were asked to appear at the hearing by the GOP were from companies that have received funding Big Oil in the past, including donations from the Koch brothers.
Responding to Senator Inhofe’s claims, Boxer lamented, “I don’t know what it will take to convince you, and the rest of the deniers, of what is going on outside the window.”