ASLA wrap-up on House IPCC hearings

February 23rd, 2007

Posted by: admin

Kate Von Holle in AGU’s Public Policy shop provides a wrap-up of the Feb 8th IPCC hearings before House Science, starring Susan Solomon, Kevin Trenberth, Richard Alley, and Gerald Meehl. Some interesting tidbits in there…. (Bolds are mine.)

ASLA 07-03: House Committee Considers IPCC Climate Change Report

On 8 February, co-Chair Susan Solomon and three of the authors of the Working Group 1 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report testified before the House Science and Technology Committee. The hearing followed the release on 2 February of the Summary for Policy Makers of the first volume of the report, titled “Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis” (

Susan Solomon, an atmospheric chemist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), was the first to testify. She summarized the major findings, namely that atmospheric CO2 levels are currently at unprecedented levels, and there is a 90% chance global warming is caused by human activity. In addition, the rate of increase in CO2 levels in the last 10 years has been the greatest ever seen. When questioned after her testimony Rep. Rohrabacher (R-CA) accused Solomon of not providing an “honest” response when he asked “What percentage of the CO2 in the atmosphere is generated by human activity?” Solomon did not provide a percentage but answered the question by stating that the 100 ppm increase in CO2 levels in post industrial times is predominantly caused by human activity.

We already knew how politicized climate change has become, but now not giving specific [is:is not] ratios is “dishonest” in the political sphere? You can read this more generously or less generously to Rep. Rohrabacher: either he just doesn’t understand that science can’t always give clear-cut, black-and-white answers, or he doesn’t care.

Kevin Trenberth, Richard Alley, and Gerald Meehl also testified. Their testimony included information about how the increase in CO2 levels will affect the planet in the future through an increase in heavy rain events, droughts, heat waves, floods, and a rise in sea levels. All witnesses stressed that the severity of these events will depend greatly on how aggressively policymakers begin to address mitigation of CO2 emissions. When asked their opinions regarding policy, economics or CO2 mitigation issues, they repeatedly stated that they were physical scientists, not policymakers, and referred to the reports of IPCC Working Groups II (Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability) and III (Mitigation), due for release later this year.

Ok, I’ll bite. Was this good politics? Not straying into what will become a very political fight? (How to deal with climate change will become far more political than the science itself; good for them if they understand this and want to stay clear.) Or IPCC politics? Not wanting to step on the toes of the other WG conveners?

The Republican and Democratic reaction varied dramatically. Many Republicans questioned the findings. Rep. Rohrabacher raised several objections including the idea that humans have not been the biggest contributors to CO2 in the atmosphere. He maintained that this warming trend was a part of a natural cycle that included a mini ice-age’ back in the 1700’s. He also stated that he knew hundreds’ of scientists that reject the idea of global warming being caused by humans. [see comment #32 on this post] The Democrats responded by supporting the findings of the Report, and their inquiries were directed towards increasing their understanding of the implications of the Report, as well as possible effects on their constituents. Several representatives, both Republican and Democrat, participated in a trip to Antarctica, and many of them mentioned the experience as being quite enlightening on the subject of global warming and climate change.

Trust me, as soon as Congress gets something passed on carbon, this left science/right science on climate change science will subside in favor of fighting over the regulations.

The beginning of the hearing was marked by the unusual appearance of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Pelosi read a statement strongly in favor of the IPCC report and its findings. She also stated that it was her intention to form a separate committee which would focus on climate change and how to relay information about it to the public. Before Pelosi addressed the committee, Rep. Sensenbrenner (R-CA) objected to allowing the Speaker be dismissed after giving her testimony. He demanded that Pelosi submit to the Committee’s mandatory 5-minute-questioning rule. Due to the objection by Sensenbrenner, the Committee required Pelosi to stay to answer questions after her testimony rather than allowing her to be dismissed as originally planned.

To read more about the release, see the news article in 13 February Eos:

This last passage may not seem like much. What it tells me is that the carbon regulation fight is going to be as politically nasty as you can imagine, down to pulling petty parliamentary tricks like Sensenbrenner’s. Not surprising, but a preview of fights to come.

4 Responses to “ASLA wrap-up on House IPCC hearings”

  1. Kit Stolz Says:

    Not all the Republicans on the committee questioned the findings. In fact, with the exception of Rohrabacker, who alluded to “dinosaur flatulence” in his remarks about past epochs, most of the Republicans I saw in two+ hours (including Roscoe Bartlett, Vernon Ehlers, and Mario Diaz-Balart) welcomed the findings, asked good questions, and in general looked eager to distance themselves from skeptics.

    Both parties must find ways to get past knee-jerk reactions if we hope to find solutions. I was actually encouraged by what I saw in this first hearing, although I agree that any bill regulating carbon emissions will be fiercely contested…which is why some pundits (such as “The New Republic,” this week) are calling for the Democrats to hold off until 2008.

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  3. John G. Bell Says:

    Mr. Vranes,
    Rep. Rohrabacher, a name new to me, probably meant to say that he knows of hundreds of scientists that reject the idea that harmful global warming is caused by humans. If you would like to look at the names of more than a thousand PhDs that reject this global warming theory visit . I was up to about 180 PhDs in the As alone. Those are only a drop in the bucket of the scientists that reject AGW theory. Keep on thinking.

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  5. JamesG Says:

    Susan Solomon: “90% chance global warming is caused by human activity”

    Regardless of how much CO2 contributes, this 90% statistic seems pretty “black-and-white” to me. What is the percentage level of the guesswork in arriving at this number?

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  7. kevin v Says:

    Kit – thanks for the first-hand update. It aligns with my perception of the mood on the Hill in the R camp w.r.t. climate change.