- House Democrats held the first hearings on global warming the chamber has seen in six years.
- The hearings, though, weren’t the serious policy debates Democrats may have hoped for.
- Rather, the hearings relied on testimonies from climate activists and even religious leaders.
Top House Democrats finally got their wish to hold the first hearings on global warming in six years Wednesday, but both committee hearings meandered into discussions of civil rights, race and apocalyptic warnings without much talk about science.
The House Committee on Natural Resources hearing started off with testimony from Governors Roy Cooper of North Carolina, a Democrat, and Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, a Republican — both of whom support liberal climate policies.
During that time, Utah Rep. Rob Bishop questioned whether or not the climate hearing broke committee rules. Bishop, the committee’s ranking Republican, also wondered why the committee held a hearing on an issue outside its jurisdiction.
“Are these hearings simply for those of us around the horseshoe who are going to make legislation, or are these hearings designed for that group sitting at a table in the corner so they can write cute stories?” Bishop asked, pointing to where reporters sat in the hearing room.
Committee chairman Rep. Raul Grijalva responded that global warming “significance and consequences over all our jurisdictions.”
Bishop said he wanted a hearing “focused on solutions and not just empty rhetoric and fear mongering.” So, of course, the next panel of witnesses was stacked with activists making apocalyptic warnings.
“Climate change is a civil rights issue,” Reverend Lennox Yearwood, president of the Hip Hop Caucus, told lawmakers on the committee on Wednesday morning. Lennox also referred to tackling global warming as the “lunch counter moment for the 21st century.”
Yearwood also warned the U.S. does “not make it beyond 12 years from now without huge amounts of death, destruction, and suffering” unless Congress addressed global warming, according to his prepared remarks. To hit the point home, Yearwood wore a hat with the words “12 Years” on it, which he placed in front of himself during the hearing.
Climate activist Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of UPROSE, warned the Trump administration’s rolling back Obama-era regulations were “very dangerous” and could bring about a “Day After Tomorrow” scenario, referencing the 2004 disaster film.
On the other side, Derrick Hollie, president of Reaching for America, argued that poor, minority communities could ill afford to eliminate fossil fuels, like Yearwood and Yeampierre championed.
“We don’t have the luxury to pay more for green technologies, we need access to affordable energy to help heat our homes, power our stoves, and get back and forth to work,” Hollie said, speaking about the black community.
New Mexico Rep. Debra Haaland broke into tears when speaking to one of hearing witnesses — a 16-year-old environmental activists. Haaland said, “I just want to recognize your presence here.”
Nadia Nazar, the 16-year-old founder of the Zero Hour Movement, said the Trump administration’s inaction on “climate change is violating my right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” according to her prepared remarks.
Climatologist Judith Curry, one of two scientists invited to testify, cautioned against alarmism. Curry pointed out that while there are some sensible climate policies, there’s still much we don’t understand about the climate system.
“We need to avoid the hubris of thinking that we can predict what the future climate will do and that we can actually control the climate,” Curry said during the hearing.
House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a separate global warming hearing Wednesday. Chairman Frank Pallone of New Jersey opened the hearing saying “we must act now to avoid the most catastrophic consequences” of warming.
Reverend Leo Woodberry of the Kingdom Living Temple Church warned “we have less than 12 years to get on a serious path” to cut greenhouse gas emissions or else “there will be little that we can do in the foreseeable future.”
Woodberry championed “environmental justice” in his testimony — the concept that poor, minority communities are harder hit by environmental problems and global warming. Democrats on the committee seemed to embrace that message.
“When I think of climate change, I don’t think in terms of green. I think in terms of black and brown,” California Rep. Nanette Barragán said during Energy and Commerce hearing.
“When I think of climate change, I don’t think in terms of green. I think in terms of black and brown.” – @RepBarragan on the disproportionate impact of climate change on communities of color. #ActOnClimate https://t.co/01bh7EGzqq
— Green For All (@GreenForAll) February 6, 2019
Dr. Brenda Ekwurzel, the climate science director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the at least 21 people, including two university students, killed during the recent “polar vortex” was tied to global warming, despite the fact there’s scant evidence to back that theory up and disagreement among scientists.
“This deadly cold snap is just the most recent example of the changing nature of extreme events that scientists are studying,” Ekwurzel said, according to her prepared remarks.
“Anyone hoping that Congressional climate hearings will be more constructive in 2019 should be disappointed with this one,” University of Colorado professor Roger Pielke, Jr. tweeted of the climate hearings.
“Climate theater continues, and both parties seem to like it that way,” Pielke said.
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