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FYI Number 78: June 15, 2006

From the House Floor: Debate on Global Warning Resolution

While there was little doubt that the House of Representatives would vote to remove language in the FY 2007 Interior Appropriations bill on the reduction of greenhouse gases, the debate last month provides insight into the thinking of House Members. At issue was language that had been inserted into the bill by Rep. Norman Dicks (D-WA) while it was under consideration by the Appropriations Committee. Identical to the language in a Senate resolution passed last year, the nonbinding House language called for "a comprehensive and effective national program of mandatory, market-based limits and incentives on emissions of greenhouse gases that slow, stop, and reverse the growth of such emissions" that would not hurt the U.S. economy.

Selections from the May 18 debate follow. Representatives based their opposition to the provision on the grounds that it violated House rules by legislating on a funding bill, and their contention that climate change fears were unfounded.

REP. DON YOUNG (R-AK): "Mr. Chairman, I raise a point of order that the language . . . violates . . . the rules of the House representing prohibited legislation in appropriation bills. The language that I have cited contains congressional findings and a sense of Congress on global warming."

REP. DICKS: "I would like to be heard on the point of order. This is my amendment, and I want the gentleman to understand that this doesn't have anything to do with authorizing language either for Interior or for Agriculture and that this amendment is a sense of the Congress."

REP. DAVID OBEY (D-WI): "I don't know what it takes to have this government get off its you-know-what and start dealing with the most critical environmental problem that confronts the entire planet. If we just take a look at a few of the pieces of evidence that are lying all around: core drillings in glaciers around the world enable us to study bubbles that go back as far as 300,000 years, and we see that we have a higher concentration of carbon dioxide than we have had in the known history of the planet.

"Since 1970, the duration and intensity of hurricanes has increased by 50 percent, the number of tornados in this country has now reached the highest number in recorded history, some 1,700 in one year. Two hundred western cities have broken heat records in the past two years."

"So this to me is not just an environmental problem; it is a moral problem. It isn't going to affect my generation. All of you who are in my generation are going to be gone within twenty years. But it most certainly is going to affect our kids, it most certainly is going to affect our grandkids. And I would hope that we would demonstrate that we care more about the welfare of the planet than we care about committee jurisdictional dung hills."

"But what is apparent today is that this Congress is going to be prevented from making a simple statement of fact that humans and human activity are driving, at least significantly driving, the problem of global warming and that we have an obligation to do something on the national level and the international level to deal with it, and we have an obligation to do it now."

REP. YOUNG: " I have the greatest respect for the gentleman who just spoke. My interest is in fact legislation on appropriation bills. And I do believe we have the opportunity to in fact have good hearings on this issue, because there is a difference of opinion. Do me a favor, my friends, and go back and read 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1975."

"We call that the Ice Age. Every scientist of any renown said we were faced with an ice age. It was irreversible. We were going to be faced with famines. The world was coming to an end. And we had to do something about it immediately. We had to do something about it as the Congress. Check the records. That is the reality. What concerns me the most is the possibility of a fear tactic being implemented in the warming threat.

"Let's have a good study. Let's have a debate and division of what is occurring by scientists. Let's look at the model. Yes, the Earth is warming, in some areas. I just read a report, in fact, that Greenland is cooling. The thing I think strikes me the most is if you will take the time to study the globe, the world as we know it, and look at what has occurred in the past and possibly will occur in the future, we are now pumping one million barrels a day from Prudhoe Bay. Prudhoe Bay, the most northern part of this continent, we are pumping that oil.

"Now, I ask you, my friends, if you studied science, where does oil come from? What occurred on this globe at that time to allow mastodons, ferns, tree stumps, a tropical atmosphere to be there to create that oil? And that is the reality.

"I ask you, secondly, if you go back to the Ice Age, and we have had four ice ages, three majors and one minor, if you go to New Mexico 12 million years ago, there was 287 feet of ice in New Mexico. I won't ask you what created that ice. But I will ask each and every one of you and everybody watching and everybody talking this fear tactic what melted that ice all the way to the North Pole before mankind set foot on this continent. It certainly wasn't hair spray or Freon or automobile emissions. It melted, 287 foot of ice, before we set foot.

"I am a little bit concerned when everything that is wrong is our fault, that the human factor creates all the damages on this globe. That is pure nonsense. That is nonsense. And so I am asking you, let's have the hearings, let's have the scientists, let's have some debate about really what is occurring here instead of having hysteria and saying it is all our fault.

"And, by the way, it is always the fault of the Americans. It is never the fault of the bigger countries that burn as many barrels of oil as we are doing today, not per capita but as many barrels of oil, and burn the coal as we are trying to do. It is never their fault. It is our fault.

"So let's have a sound debate about this issue and not be caught in this attitude that we must do something right now because we are the Federal Government. Let's do it the right way."

REP. OBEY: "I knew we still had charter members of the Flat Earth Society walking around this country. I didn't realize there were quite so many in the United States Congress."

REP. YOUNG: " I am just curious, were you referring to yourself?"

REP. OBEY: "The rules don't allow me to say who I was referring to. The gentleman says we should have studies, we should have hearings. Your party has controlled this Congress for 14 years. The time for studying is over. The time for studying is past. There is a huge scientific consensus that human beings are driving global warming. And James Hansen from NASA has told us that in his view we may have less than 10 years to deal with this problem before we hit a critical tipping point beyond which we will be facing catastrophe.

"He may be right, and you may be right. If you are right, then moving to deal with this problem costs us very little. If he is right, not moving costs us everything. The gentleman refers to an ice age.

"If you shut down the ocean currents' conveyors, you are going to have an ice age in one heck of a hurry. So I would suggest the gentleman has committee responsibilities. If he does not want this committee to meet our responsibilities, as we have tried to do, then it is about time you meet yours and actually do something about it rather than denying that this is a real problem."

REP. YOUNG: "let us say this is not about the action itself. It is about legislating on appropriation [legislation], but I do, and ask you sincerely, I do not have jurisdiction with that committee. Thank God, I do not really run the White House, but I think we have to legitimately and not respond to the fear tactic. Read the book, "Controlled By Fear." It is very interesting you can frighten people into doing most anything, including taking away the economy and the opportunity for future generations, easily done.

"That is what I do not want us to fall into. If we are the driving factor, I am willing to accept that responsibility and do something of it, but again, go back to the history of this globe and what has occurred. It is ironic when I go into many of these States and I see seashells at 11,000 feet, seashells. This continent was covered with water at one time, retreated and allowed humanity to grow. Now, keep that in mind. Do not keep getting caught in the idea that everything that is here now is permanent. The Earth is a natural, evolving phenomenon.

"That is all I am asking people to do. It is not to be caught into the fear and driving and say it is all our fault what is occurring. If that is the case through such studies, then let us accept that, but right now it has not been proven. There is a large division that says this is not happening because of humanity."

REP. OBEY: "I would simply say to my good friend that just about the only scientists left in the world who do not recognize that this is a serious and real problem are those who have an economic interest in not recognizing it, and that, in my view, is an absolute fact.

"The gentleman talks about not wanting to fall into a trap. What you are going to fall into if we listen to the gentleman is sea levels 20 to 30 feet higher than they are now, and virtually every coastal city in the world is going to be under water, and New Orleans is going to be the norm rather than the unhappy exception. That is what the world is going to face if we do not deal with this problem and begin to deal with it while we still have time."

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
fyi@aip.org
301-209-3095

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