Congressional Rants

The congressional House Science Committee is supposed to conduct objective oversight on the merits of research possibly impacting domestic and/or foreign policy.

So much for expectations. The committee's controlling Republican majority has frequently chosen a different track. It tends to turn congressional hearings into histrionic platforms in which members spend most of the time belaboring their biased, widely discredited anti-environmental views.

The committee often doesn't even bother to conceal its disdain for objectivity. Titles of some of its hearings speak for themselves. One was dubbed "the EPA's predetermined effort to block the Pebble mine (in Alaska)." The hearing's descriptive name leaves no doubt where the committee's majority stands before even a single witness has testified.

Another recent session was entitled "The Administration's Empty Promises for the International Climate Treaty." That hearing was all about members debunking the threat of global warming, and in some instances, the very existence of human-generated climate change. It was a forum dedicated to trashing President Obama's implementation plan that he intends to introduce during the major international climate change conference in Paris at the end of November.

The hearing was dominated by a number of recurrent Republican themes. Climate change was defined by some GOP lawmakers as a product of natural variability, not a human-generated phenomenon. Obama's signature executive action -- the reduction of carbon emissions produced by existing coal-fired power plants -- was denounced as an economic disaster and a futile exercise in alleviating pollution and improving public health. It was asserted that from a cost-benefit perspective, we would be better off economically doing nothing about climate change. President Obama's carbon reduction plan was dismissed as a partisan attempt to build his legacy and wage war on coal. Renewable energy, a key component of the president's plan, was criticized as not technologically advanced enough to play a pivotal role.

Those assertions at the hearing warrant a well-documented reality check. Who better qualified to do so than Dr. Joe Romm, former assistant energy secretary and a leading climate change analyst. In his new book, Climate Change: What Everyone Needs To Know, Romm points out that even taking natural variability into account, the latest studies show that all the additional warming since 1950 can be traced to human activity.

He notes that every major independent economic analysis fixes the cost of climate change remediation quite low unless society opts for the status quo.

Romm provides documentation that the coal industry is declining not because of environmental regulation, but because of competition from cheap natural gas.

He calls attention to the numerous studies that refute the contention that solar and wind energy sources have inherently limited application. Romm reviews the latest scientific literature on climate change's broad range of direct and indirect adverse impacts on public health.

How refreshing -- and jarring -- would testimony from Romm have been at that ideologically staged House hearing.