As Barack Obama’s presidency draws to a close, his administration is continuing to improve the nation’s apparatuses for assessing and responding to climate change impacts. Recent actions to deepen the connection between climate research and planning include initiating a sustained National Climate Assessment, creating a new public-private climate data sharing partnership, and instructing the government to incorporate climate threats into national security planning.
In an open letter published last week, 375 members of the National Academy of Sciences reasserted the scientific consensus on climate change, chided U.S. politicians who remain naysayers, and warned against U.S. withdrawal from the landmark Paris Agreement on climate.
The chair of the House Science Committee convened a controversial hearing this week to establish the committee’s legal authority to issue subpoenas relating to state fraud investigations of ExxonMobil. At the hearing, Republican committee members and sympathetic legal scholars outlined a broad authority based on the committee’s right to gather information relevant to its jurisdiction over federal science and technology policy.
In two recent rulings against the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, federal judges have expanded the reach of critics of the mainstream scientific consensus on climate change into government records.
State attorneys are using their subpoena power against ExxonMobil to investigate whether the company committed fraud by publicly contradicting its inside knowledge of risks that climate change poses to its business. Meanwhile, Rep. Lamar Smith is attempting to use his subpoena power as chairman of the House Science Committee to intervene in those investigations, claiming as legal justification a committee responsibility to defend scientific freedom. With a showdown looming in that battle, Senate Democrats are using the bully pulpit to condemn organizations that they allege conspire to undermine the mainstream scientific consensus on climate change.
Last month the U.S. signed an ambitious but non-binding global climate change agreement which Secretary of State John Kerry and other international leaders negotiated under the auspices of the U.N. in Paris last December. The deal leans on the “best available science” as a guidepost for nations’ future greenhouse gas emissions reductions.
In his final State of the Union address, President Obama provided an upbeat vision for the nation’s future that prominently includes American scientific discovery and leadership, also a strong theme of Obama’s past addresses.
With numerous charts on hand, Senator Cruz hosts a heated hearing in which he dismisses the conclusions of mainstream climate science as the product of politically-motivated dogma and provides a platform for skeptics to air their views.