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03/12/2014

Senate Subcommittee Takes Up Climate Disruption

The topic of the day at the Environment and Public Works subcommittee hearing was climate change. The hearing was held to discuss natural resource management, a very real concern in a world undergoing widespread global climate change. We can already see the effects of climate change right here in America, today. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that this past January was one of the four warmest in recorded history. The Environmental Protection Agency is already predicting longer and more common droughts in the drought prone west, rising sea levels along the coasts and more intense hurricanes to hit our eastern shores. Further, the warmer drier climate nationwide stands to cause serious disruption to American livelihoods from sea to shining sea.

The hearing was also the same week as the release of U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the United Kingdom’s Royal Society report “Climate Change: Evidence and Causes.” The report provides scientific evidence definitively supporting the reality of human caused climate change, and is aimed to educate the public and legislators. In the face of the facts climate change denial seems impossible—but then again I’ve found hearings on Capitol Hill to be full of surprises. Despite the scientific consensus on climate change the EPW hearing illustrated that there are still those who contest the reality of climate change.

The panels showed this wide range of opinion concerning climate change, from the Administration’s representative John P. Holdren, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, to Patrick Moore of Ecosense Environmental. I was quite surprised to hear Patrick Moore’s testimony stating that climate change could be beneficial. I wonder how this argument holds up to those like Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) who are already trying to mitigate the damages of climate change, facing problems such as rising sea levels and warming water that is driving cod away from important industry. Or to the citizens living through California’s drought, struggling to manage limited water supplies and maintain their livelihoods. It is impossible to imagine a transition to a warmer world that could be painless let alone beneficial.

Dr. John Holdren (Office of Science and Technology) repeatedly emphasized the scientific foundations of climate change as well as the need to take action to mitigate the repercussions of global warming and to prevent future worsening of these problems. I am personally inclined to follow the lead of the world’s leading scientists when it comes to climate change.

Another important topic repeatedly referred to in the hearing was that of the weather and extreme weather events. Just last week President Obama took a look at the effects of the drought in California that has resulted in 27 Californian counties being declared as natural disaster areas. In response to the risks of extreme weather events, President Obama has proposed a $1 billion “Climate Resilience Fund” and the creation of seven regional “climate hubs” to monitor and moderate the effects of climate change. These are obvious steps in support of protecting our natural resources and livelihoods from the disastrous effects of climate change.

Noah Matson of Defenders of Wildlife also noted that “We need to be better prepared for these and other climate-driven impacts and adapt to the new reality of more extreme weather and the other equally daunting challenges of a warming planet.” With extreme weather events already occurring, the need to have proper plans in place to adapt to climate change is absolutely essential—especially if weather events are only getting worse.

We can see across the country, from California to Massachusetts, climate change is real and is already affecting the American people. We can’t afford to do nothing, the risk is too great. My mother always taught me that being over prepared is better than being underprepared, so let’s all hope congress will take steps to prepare for climate change. 

-- by Foley Pfalzgraf


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