Two hearings worth watching this week: IPCC head Rajendra Pachauri and energy efficiency

E&E Daily (subs. req’d) reports on two hearings worth tuning into because of the witnesses [links for webcasts below]:

The head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other scientists are expected to tell lawmakers this week that carbon dioxide emissions are outpacing scenarios laid out in climate models.

IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri will testify Wednesday [10 am] before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee at a hearing on the latest developments in climate science.

Pachauri is always worth listening to (see “IPCC chief challenges Obama to further cut U.S. emission targets”).

So is the second witness, Christopher Field, director of the global ecology department, Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University (see “AAAS: Climate change is coming much harder, much faster than predicted”).


The second hearing is on the key strategy of energy efficiency (see “Energy efficiency is THE core climate solution, Part 1: The biggest low-carbon resource by far”):

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee meets Thursday [2:15] for a hearing on ways to reduce energy use in buildings, as Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) continues his push toward a planned broad-based energy bill….

The goal, according to the committee, is to “provide recommendations for reducing energy consumption in buildings through improved implementation of authorized DOE programs and through other innovative federal energy efficiency policies and programs.”

… Energy Secretary Steven Chu has flagged efficiency as a priority. For instance, at a briefing with reporters last week he said there are opportunities for increased collaboration with China on building sector technologies than curb energy use by 70 to 80 percent. He said this will be key as China grows.Witnesses: Arun Majumdar, director, Environmental Energy Technologies Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Edward Mazria, executive director, Architecture 2030; Philip Giudice, commissioner, Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources; Jennifer Amann, director, Buildings Program, American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy; Ward Hubbell, president, Green Building Initiative; and Charles Zimmerman, vice president, International Design and Construction, Wal-Mart.

And here are more details on the Wednesday morning EPW climate science hearing with star witness, IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri:

The Nobel Prize-winning group’s last major report, issued in 2007, cited “unequivocal” evidence of global warming and said human activities are the major factor driving climate change. The analysis warned that climate change, left unchecked, was likely to bring rising sea levels, widespread drought and more frequent extreme weather.

But over the last few years, a series of scientific studies and environmental changes have begun to suggest that the 2007 report’s predictions are becoming outdated.

By the end of the century, sea-level rise is likely to dwarf the IPCC report’s predictions, thanks to changes in the massive ice sheets at both poles, the U.S. Geological Survey said in December. Other studies suggest the world’s forests and oceans are becoming less able to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. And last month, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-backed research concluded that the world will keep warming and sea levels will rise for 1,000 years after CO2 emissions stop.

“Science is evolving rapidly on several different fronts,” Chris Field, an ecologist at the Carnegie Institution and Stanford University, said earlier this month at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Field, who will testify at this week’s Senate hearing, said carbon dioxide emissions are now higher than any of the IPCC’s climate models assumed they would be at this point.

“If you look at the actual trajectory of emissions from human activities, they are now outside the entire envelope of possibilities that was considered” in the 2007 report, he said. “We are basically looking now at a future climate that’s beyond anything that we’ve considered seriously in climate model simulations.”

Efforts to pull together the latest climate science come as world governments gear up to negotiate a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. Talks will resume next month in Bonn, Germany, and will conclude in December in Copenhagen.

Next month, climate scientists from around the world are set to meet in Copenhagen to publish their own update to the 2007 IPCC report, based on recent scientific findings. Katherine Richardson, a marine biologist at the University of Copenhagen who is organizing the conference, told the London Guardian the event is “a deliberate effort to influence policy.”

The IPCC’s next major report — its fifth assessment of climate change science, environmental effects and emission trends — is not due until 2014.

Witness: ‘Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant’

Also set to testify at Wednesday’s EPW Committee hearing is Princeton University physics professor — and climate skeptic — William Happer. In an interview last month with the Daily Princetonian, Happer said that carbon dioxide does not cause climate change.

“This is George Orwell. This is the ‘Germans are the master race. The Jews are the scum of the Earth.’ It’s that kind of propaganda,” he told the campus paper. “Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. Every time you exhale, you exhale air that has 4 percent carbon dioxide. To say that’s a pollutant just boggles my mind. What used to be science has turned into a cult.”

Happer is one scary denier. It’ll be interesting to see how the real climate scientists handle him.

In addition to his position at Princeton, Happer is president of the board of directors at the conservative George C. Marshall Institute, which has repeatedly challenged mainstream climate change science. He directed the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Research during the George H.W. Bush administration.

Witnesses: Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; Christopher Field, director of the global ecology department, Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University; Howard Frumkin, director of the National Center for Environmental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and William Happer, physics professor at Princeton University.