How Science Denial Is Going To Affect Wednesday’s Big Climate Hearing

House subcommittee on Energy and Power Chairman Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY). CREDIT: AP/MANUEL BALCE CENETA
House subcommittee on Energy and Power Chairman Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY). CREDIT: AP/MANUEL BALCE CENETA

After years of ignoring repeated requests to hold hearings on climate change and its impacts, House Republicans have finally scheduled a major hearing on climate science. Tomorrow, Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power will hold an oversight hearing on President Obama’s second-term plan to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz are scheduled to appear as witnesses and will reaffirm the president’s reasoning behind the plan, and why it’s necessary.

Though he assembled this hearing to assess the president’s plan from Administrator McCarthy and Secretary Moniz, Chairman Whitfield has preemptively prepared legislation that would limit new EPA carbon dioxide controls on power plants. He also filed a legal white paper that contends that EPA has “overreached in pursuit of President Obama’s plan to counter the effects of climate change,” according to the Hill. Whitfield has also expressed disappointment that only 2 of the 13 federal agency heads will attend his hearing — yet McCarthy and Moniz are the officials who will oversee the central pieces of the president’s Climate Action Plan.

So while Whitfield makes the case that “it is appropriate for Congress to conduct oversight of the plan,” his mind is made up on how important it is to address climate change.

Despite the overwhelming scientific consensus on how the Earth’s climate is changing, it’s fairly likely that many members of the committee will continue to parrot climate denial talking points instead of focusing on dealing with the problem. Of the 17 Republican members on the subcommittee, 14 have made public statements disputing the existence of climate change, or 82 percent of Republican members.


These members have chosen to ignore the recent rash of extreme weather events, including the 25 most destructive events in 2011 and 2012 that caused $188 billion in damages. Recent analysis by the Center for American Progress found that many of the states that received the highest federal recovery aid to cope with extreme weather have federal legislators who are climate-science deniers. In fact, the 10 states represented by climate deniers on the subcommittee have experienced 100 climate-fueled disaster declarations, which cost nearly $19 billion aid courtesy of the U.S. taxpayers. This “bury-your-head-in-the-sand” approach of ignoring the costs should come as no surprise — together, these members have accepted over $7.7 million in dirty energy campaign contributions.

Meet just some of the climate deniers who are likely to appear at tomorrow’s hearing:

  • Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX): Barton is a long-time denier who is also the chairman of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, has taken $1.7 million in contributions from oil and gas companies alone — more than any other member of Congress. Texas has suffered an astounding 56 climate-fueled disaster declarations from 2011–2012, more than any other state. Barton is just one of four representatives from Texas who sit on the subcommittee.
  • Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO): Gardner has denied humans are causing any change in the climate despite the increasing extreme weather in his state. Earlier this year, the Black Forest Fire broke records for the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history and “biblical flooding” hit Boulder last week, causing more than half a year’s worth of rain to fall in the region in just days.
  • Rep. Shimkus (R-IL): Shimkus has read from the bible to prove that global warming will not destroy the earth because only God can decide when the earth will end. But recent analysis found that the federal government has spent over $4.1 billion helping Illinois recover from extreme weather — second only to Texas.

As it stands, American taxpayers are paying the price for extreme weather, and too many are suffering the consequences. Yet Congress is continuing to waste taxpayer time and money on an issue that has already been established by over 97 percent of scientists.