McCain Global Warming Hearing; President Threatens Veto of Restrictive Bill Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Arizona) held a hearing on Tuesday on the recently released draft publication, "Climate Change Impacts on the United States, the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change" (see FYI #69.) This hearing came at about the halfway point of the public comment period for the report.
Senate floor proceedings forced McCain to adjourn the hearing after only 38 minutes, with his sincere apologies and promise to reschedule the hearing. McCain's written opening statement and the written testimony of many of the witnesses provides a good opportunity to assess the views of those on both sides of the global change controversy. All of this was set against a backdrop of restrictive climate change language in an FY 2001 appropriations bill, causing the White House to issue a veto threat.
McCain's primary questions to the witnesses in his written statement were "'how can two computer models which give different results be used to reach a consensus conclusion,' why federally-funded US models were not selected for the study, and what role does the ocean's dynamics play in these analyses." He concluded his statement saying, "this is very serious business with real impacts to the American economy and the lives and well being of our citizens."
The first panel of witnesses had the opportunity to make brief presentations as well as to submit written testimony. In the written testimony of Thomas R. Karl and Jerry M. Melillo, two of the report's co-chairs, they stated, "It is important to realize that the national assessment does not attempt to predict exactly what the future will hold for the U.S." They described the report's methodology and ten draft key findings, among which is "Assuming continued growth in world greenhouse gas emissions, the climate models used in this Assessment project that temperatures in the US will rise 5-10 degrees F (3-6 degrees C) on average in the next 100 years." McCain asked about the magnitude of change, and why severe weather may be more likely in the future. Anthony Janetos, the report's third co-chair, told McCain that one of the report's main objectives was "to address the question of so-what," using the "best snapshot at this time of our understanding."
Raymond W. Schmitt of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution also testified. Schmitt stated that "monitoring the ocean's patterns of heat storage is absolutely essential for understanding global warming, yet we have no system for such observations." He described a new system, ARGO, which is "like weather balloons for the ocean" that should provide new data. McCain asked about the temperature of deep ocean water, what was being discovered, and when predictions will be made.
Fred Singer, president of The Science & Environmental Policy Project, was the final witness on this panel. He testified that "we hold a skeptical view on the climate science that forms the basis of the National Assessment because we see no evidence to back its findings; climate model exercises are NOT evidence." His three main points were that "there is no appreciable climate warming," "regional forecasts from climate models are even less reliable than those for the global average," and "sea level rise . . . [is] controlled by nature not humans." He told McCain that the report "should definitely NOT be used to justify irrational and unscientific energy and environmental policies, especially the economically damaging Kyoto Protocol." McCain's only response was to ask Singer if he rejected the report's findings in total.
McCain asked Karl how he would respond to Singer's remarks, Karl responding that "I don't know where to begin." He cited the large number of peer reviewed papers used in the preparation of the assessment, saying that Singer's views were "quite at odds" with the published literature. Evidence of global warming is not just confined to temperature records, Karl explained, describing arctic ice loss, reduced snow fall, and the increased volume of the oceans due to warming.
After another question or two, McCain was forced to adjourn the hearing, telling the witnesses, "we will continue to pursue this . . . it is extremely important to review this."
On another front, the House has passed H.R. 4461, the Agriculture Appropriations bill for FY 2001. That bill contains a provision which would prohibit federal funding to implement provisions of the Kyoto Protocol not found in U.S. law. Section 734 of this bill declares, "None of the funds appropriated by this Act shall be used to propose or issue rules, regulations, decrees, or orders for the purpose of implementation, or in preparation for implementation, of the Kyoto Protocol . . . " The accompanying committee report explains that this includes "such Kyoto mechanisms as carbon emissions trading schemes and the Clean Development Mechanism that are found solely in the Kyoto Protocol and nowhere in the laws of the United States." Section 734, and a number of other provisions in this bill have made it a target for a presidential veto. A Statement of Administration Policy issued by the Office of Management and Budget declares:
"The Committee bill's climate change language, together with the accompanying report language, is unacceptable and may well be unconstitutional. The Administration will not accept any appropriations language that limits activities under current law to reduce greenhouse gasses, or that restricts the President's constitutional authority to negotiate international agreements. As we have stated many times, the Administration has not, and will not, attempt to implement the Kyoto Protocol prior to ratification. Consequently, the Committee's language must be deleted since it is unwarranted, disruptive, and can be interpreted as unconstitutionally preventing the Department of Agriculture from assisting the President in carrying out his constitutional authority to conduct international negotiations. We note that this provision is cast in the language of permanent law."
Richard M. Jones