Congress ends three-year drought on climate change discussions

For a situation that most knowledgeable scientists say is an increasing crisis facing the planet, Congress has gone pretty light in learning about climate change.

Today, Congress broke a two-year drought in learning the latest on climate science, when the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee held Congress’ first hearing on the subject in that time, Wired.com reports. It heard from a scientist for the first time in three years.

“The US experienced $14 billion disasters in 2011, a record that surpasses the previous maximum of 9,” Christopher Field, an author of the U.N.’s climate change report said. “The 2011 disasters included a blizzard, tornadoes, floods, severe weather, a hurricane, a tropical storm, drought and heatwaves, and wildfires. In 2012, we have already experienced horrifying wildfires, a powerful windstorm that hit Washington DC, heat waves in much of the country, and a massive drought.”

The hearing, coincidentally, came in a week in which one of the more famous climate change skeptics on the question of human contributions — UC Berkeley physics Professor Richard Muller — jumped ship. In a series of research papers, he concluded the Earth’s warming is manmade, an assertion that started another round of an argument that predates the last time Congress held a hearing on the notion.

He was countered by David Evans, a former consultant for the Australian Greenhouse Office, who switched from being “a warmist” (as he describes them) to a skeptic. His article appeared in the Brisbane Times today.


The climate models predict that the outgoing radiation from the earth decreases in the weeks following a rise in the surface temperature, due to aggressive heat-trapping by extra humidity. But analysis of the outgoing radiation measured by NASA satellites for the last two decades shows the opposite occurs: the earth gives off more heat after the surface temperature rises. Again, this suggests that the amplification assumed in the models simply does not occur in reality.

And back and forth we go.

Nothing was really learned in the Senate hearing today, except that people pick the data that confirms what they already believe, and disregard much to the contrary.

But writing on the NPR blog, 13.7 Cosmos and Culture, Marcelo Gleiser says people would do well to keep in mind the Earth is a finite environment.


.. and any artificial forcing away from its equilibrium may lead, due to nonlinear effects, to undesirable circumstances. A finite system can cope with only so much forcing before changes occur. (For example, the water you boil in a pan.) Surely, it is possible that global warming is not man-made or that a new technology will control it. However, given the possible negative outcomes, why not take a few steps toward improving our relation with the planet, moving from a parasitic to a mutually advantageous one. Earth couldn’t care less about us. But we can’t exist without it.

  • Otter

    muller was Never a skeptic.

    I’ve been a Skeptic since the late 80s- after having been a believer in ‘man-made’ global warming.

    I’ve been following things closely since 2004. I never heard of muller until last year. He was not a skeptic then, he is Not a ‘converted’ skeptic now.

    In his own words:

    muller has said “… carbon dioxide from burning of fossil fuels will prove to be the greatest pollutant of human history. It is likely to have severe and detrimental effects on global climate.” (Richard Muller, 2003). So perhaps he became a skeptic later? Not so much. Richard Muller, 2008: “There is a consensus that global warming is real. …it’s going to get much, much worse.”

    November 3, 2011

    “It is ironic if some people treat me as a traitor, since I was never a skeptic — only a scientific skeptic,” he said in a recent email exchange with The Huffington Post. “Some people called me a skeptic because in my best-seller ‘Physics for Future Presidents’ I had drawn attention to the numerous scientific errors in the movie ‘An Inconvenient Truth.’ But I never felt that pointing out mistakes qualified me to be called a climate skeptic.”

    “If Al Gore reaches more people and convinces the world that global warming is real, even if he does it through exaggeration and distortion – which he does, but he’s very effective at it – then let him fly any plane he wants.”

    - Richard Muller, 2008

    “There is a consensus that global warming is real. …it’s going to get much, much worse.” – Richard Muller, 2008

    You can’t jump a ship you were never on.

  • Robert Moffitt

    Well, then, the problem is as good as solved once Congress holds a hearing! (g)

  • bsimon

    ” Surely, it is possible that global warming is not man-made or that a new technology will control it. However, given the possible negative outcomes, why not take a few steps toward improving our relation with the planet, moving from a parasitic to a mutually advantageous one. ”

    Indeed. Though I prefer the argument based on the cost of being wrong. If the warmists are wrong, we’re out some billions of dollars of scientific/engineering research on alternative fuels. If the skeptics/deniers are wrong, we’re potentially screw-ed as a species. Seems like the conservative bet is to invest in alt fuel technology & hope the warmists are wrong.

  • BJ

    But, Otter, Richard Muller was the closest thing to a “true” scientist that was skeptical. He was skeptical of what he called scientific errors. Last year he proved there were errors, but they didn’t make a difference in the end result. In that report a year ago he proved the the earth was warming. But, and this is the big point, he was very clear that he couldn’t prove man (didn’t see evidence that man) was causing the warming.

    That to me is a skeptic.

    His scientific background makes this a big deal.