Views on the Assigned Hearing Charter (Lesson 9)

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          After Republicans have won back a majority in the U.S. House, it is not surprising that the House will see something of a shift away from the Democratic views on a range of issues, including the ongoing debate surrounding the issue of climate change. Examples of this shift can be found across the various hearings led by more conservatively led committees. This is a natural political reality, and will remain a fact of politics as the two major parties exchange control in both the House and Senate. Our reading, which was the March 31st, 2011 Hearing Charter led by the Committee in Science, Space, and Technology addresses this major focal point of both science and politics: climate change. As we keep in mind the chairman of this committee is Republican Ralph Hall of Texas, it is important to also expect a right wing leaning tone throughout this charter and the hearing itself. In fact, the chairman makes it quite clear that this hearing was held for the purpose of discrediting the need to regulate greenhouse gases. For example, the title of Hall's press release is "Witnesses Highlight Flawed Processes Used to Generate Climate Change Science, Inform Policy [7].

           Running through a somewhat quick check on the witnesses of this hearing appear to verify this conservative idea that approaches climate change with more scrutiny compared to the left leaning's willingness to more widely accept increasing global temperatures as fact. Without going into great detail, I will state, based on sources, what witnesses agree with taking strict action on climate change, and those who do not. Dr. J. Scott Armstrong, Mr. Peter Glaser, Dr. John Christy, Dr. Kerry Emanuel, and Dr. David Montgomery all disagree with the idea of a clear and verified increase in global climate temperatures [5][3][6][2][1]. Of the six witnesses, Dr. Richard Muller is the only one to not present a clear position going into the hearing, either for or against taking action on climate change [4]. I was not able to find the full transcript of this hearing, but it is important to note that Dr. Muller's testimony is not summarized in the chairman's press release on the hearing, along with that of Dr. Emanuel and Dr. Armstrong [7].

            I can understand why Chairman Hall would be inclined to accept testimony from those skeptical of climate change, but I also feel that it would have given the hearing more credibility to include witnesses who are more accepting of this scientific area of great concern. While most of the witnesses tend to lean away from accepting climate change, the hearing does not do a good job of showcasing the varying degrees of this acceptance. For example, Dr. Emanuel has in the past been a proponent of climate change. However, he has recently refined his position in which he does not think climate change is truly having the impact that he once thought. That being said, he is at least entertaining the idea that climate change is having some impact on our planet. With this largely clear bias in mind, I have to disagree with the way in which this hearing is conducted. With that, I do not think that this hearing was necessary. It is essentially highlighting a polarized political position that most followers of Congress would already be aware of. The witnesses serve the purpose of backing up this one-sided perspective. The hearing could have benefited from a group of witnesses who each represent a unique view on climate change, with backgrounds ranging from across the academic and professional spectrum. The groups of witnesses in this hearing do actually represent this mix of academic and professional backgrounds, but the overwhelmingly one-sided view hold more weight from an outsider's point of view. In order for U.S. energy policy to move forward in a more balanced manner, such hearings should present all opinions. Holding hearings that oppose other hearings simply muddies the waters of this already contentious issue. 

Sources:

(My MLA formatting didn't totally carry over from Word and I can't indent here for some reason)


1."A Summary: The Analysis Paper." Cut Black Carbon Emissions. Copenhagen Consensus                   Center. Web. 14 July 2011.

<http://ftc_dev.planck.mocsystems.com/component-1/the-solutions-new-research/black-carbon/>

2. Berger, Eric. "Hurricane Expert Reconsiders Global Warming's Impact." Chron.com. Houston Chronicle, 12 Apr. 2008. Web. 14 July 2011. <http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/tech/news/5693436.html>.

3. Glaser, Peter. "House Holds Hearings on Climate Bill - Troutman Partner Glaser Testifies."     Business Solutions & Software for Legal, Education and Government | LexisNexis. Lexis Nexis Communities, 2 Feb. 2011. Web. 14 July 2011. <http://www.lexisnexis.com/community/environmental-climatechangelaw/blogs/environmentallawandclimatechangeblog/archive/2011/02/14/house-holds-hearings-on-climate-bill-troutman-partner-glaser-testifies.aspx>


 

4. Muller, Richard. "Muller's Group." Richard A. Muller. Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, 25 Feb. 2007. Web. 14 July 2011.

<http://muller.lbl.gov/>.

5. O'Neill, Brendan. "Put Your Money Where Your 'myth' Is Meet the Ivy League Professor and Expert on Forecasting Who Is Challenging Al Gore to a $20,000 Bet That He Is Wrong on Global Warming." Spiked Online. Spike, 25 June 2007. Web. 14 July 2011. <http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/printable/3533/>.

6. Harris, Richard. "Three Views on Global Warming : NPR." NPR : National Public Radio : News & Analysis, World, US, Music & Arts : NPR. National Public Radio, 12 May 2004. Web. 14 July 2011. <http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1893089>.

7. "Witnesses Highlight Flawed Processes Used to Generate Climate Change Science, Inform Policy |       Committee on Science - U.S. House of Representatives." Welcome to Committee on Science - U.S. House of Representatives | Committee on Science - U.S. House of Representatives. U.S. House of Representatives, 31 Mar. 2011. Web. 14 July 2011. 

<http://science.house.gov/press-release/witnesses-highlight-flawed-processes-used-   generate-climate-change-science-inform>.

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4 Comments

Stephen,

I couldn't agree more with you on your blog. It is almost comical the way these types of hearing are conducted with their preconceived notions already in mind. From your opinion what do you think can be done to bring a more bi-partisan approach to the issue of climate change and energy policies in particular?

Brian

Hi Brian,

I don't know how most of these Congressional committees are structured, but they usually do have a minority representation. It seems to be implied that this minority either does not have enough power to call their own witnesses or they are not involved enough to call witnesses on the issue. If it is the latter, that would be a pretty concerning idea; to think that the minority representatives are simply not motivated to counter what is clearly going to be a biased hearing. A possible approach to remedy this would be to set climate change as a higher priority within the House itself. This, however, carries with it the risk of appearing to be too radical on the issue.

Stephen

Stephen,

I'm not sure exactly why the minority representations on these committees do not have more involvement either. I agree with what you wrote in about a structural change with witnesses and evidence on both sides of the argument. Increasing the priority within the House on climate change is a different matter altogether. With as many issues that are currently ongoing I don't see it becoming a higher priority anytime soon.

Brian

It's a fascinating (disheartening) process, isn't it? And I really think the thing that scares me more than anything is that when I watch or read about hearings and debates related to climate change, it's easy for me to get personally fired up when I know they say things that aren't true. So then I think about all the other issues in which I'm not versed at all and wonder, how much of what I hear should I believe, and how much is political grandstanding. Scary stuff.

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