Climate Denial Congress! Taking the Tin Foil Hats to yesterday’s Climate Hearing

September 19, 2013

Written by Greenpeace's Bonnie Barclay with input from Connor Gibson.Greenpeace tin foil hat Congress climate change science denial It might surprise quite a few who know me, but I'm actually quite a shy and introverted person. So what exactly moved me to show up at a Congressional hearing and put on a tin foil hat? Two words: Climate Deniers. Denying climate change is as bizarre and out-of-touch as tin foil hat conspiracies. Congressional climate deniers need to accept the science and bolster the President's actions with a tax on carbon pollution. That's why we brought our tin foil hats to yesterday's hearing, called together by the U.S. House of Representatives Energy & Power subcommittee chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY). It focused on the Obama Administrations Climate Action Plan, with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and Energy Secretary Earnest Moniz testifying. Whenever the members of Congress started saying false things about climate change, we tossed on the tin foil hats. By the end of the three-hour hearing, the silly tin hats were on our heads for almost half of the entire event. Of all the politicians in yesterday's hearing who are known climate change deniers, West Virginia Rep. David McKinley gets the tin foil hat award for his completely false assertions about climate change science. Check out this CSPAN clip, starting at 2:01:26. [caption id="attachment_20262" align="alignright" width="327"]Rep. David McKinley got a lot wrong yesterday. Rep. David McKinley got a lot wrong yesterday.[/caption] First, Rep. McKinley said, "Over the last forty years, there's been almost no increase in temperature." He was attempting to undermine the reliability of climate models, which in reality have underestimated climate change. Worse, my jaw dropped when I heard Rep. McKinley claim that Arctic sea ice increased by 60% from last year to this year, a false figure he apparently got from a typo in a bad newspaper article! H/T @RLMiller--see NASA for the facts on how consistently and rapidly the ice cap has melted in recent years. Finally, McKinley completely misrepresented the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), saying, "Most experts believe by 2083--in 70 years--the benefits of climate change could outweigh will still outweigh the harm." Ummm...that is completely wrong. The IPCC has made it crystal clear that global warming is a very serious problem that demands immediate policy action if we have any chance of solving it. Perhaps the $391,000 McKinley has received from the coal industry explains some of his scientifically-irrelevant opinions--McKinley wrapped his speech up by promoting the coal industry.

My first Congressional hearing....

This being my first Congressional hearing I've attended, I found myself surprised by a few things that didn't make sense to me and probably wouldn't to an ordinary citizen:
  • Climate deniers in Congress make their points not by stating factual information from peer-reviewed studies, but by quoting newspaper headlines. I'm pretty sure those were meant to sell newspapers, not settle a debate.
  • The hearing was packed. People do care about what Congress is OR isn't doing on climate change.
  • It's actually not the "do-nothing Congress," as Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) pointed out, it's much worse! "On Climate we're doing worse than nothing--we are affirmatively obstructing progress." [CSPAN, 38:25].
Luckily there were a few members of Congress who seem to get it, including these three:
  • Representative Waxman called out his elected peers for their obstruction and no serious proposals to solve the problems posed by global warming:
    • "What's your plan? It's easy to criticize other people's solutions, but if all you did is criticize you're either a climate denier because you don't think anything needs to be done--'the science doesn't warrent it, it's not happening'--or, they're [sic] ignoring the warning of scientists." [CSPAN, 42:35]
  • Representative Eliot Engle (D-NY):
    • "It's time for us to act and Congress has been ducking this issue, even going so far as to deny the basic science behind climate change. I've seen the devastating effects right in my area when hurricane Sandy hit New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. My district suffered huge devastation. Rising seas, stronger storms and flooding will only increase if we choose to do nothing[...]." [CSPAN, 2:55:35]
  • Representative Doris Matsui (D-CA) pointed out the key logical disconnect with the naysayers who try to scare us into inaction:
    • "My Republican colleagues are quick to argue that tackling climate change will hurt the economy. But in reality, climate change itself poses an enormous economic risk and failure to address it could be disaster to the global economy." [CSPAN, 1:59:43]
And she's right. A 2012 report commissioned by 20 governments written by "50 scientists, economists and policy experts" concluded that global warming already costs the world $1.2 trillion every year, and contributes to 400,000 annual deaths.

Climate Change Denial and Extreme Weather

In a week where we're seeing people's lives lost and communities devastated in Colorado by extreme flooding, the type of disaster we can expect more frequently thanks to climate change, one would think the urgency to act to avoid future economic devastation and loss of life would become crystal clear to those who we elected to represent us. Unfortunately, nothing seems to cause Congress to take action. It's like they missed the last year of weather events!
You can see the distortion of climate denial in Greenpeace's recent report, "Dealing in Doubt", which summarized how industrialists like the Koch brothers have funding fake science and sheer misinformation to make us question the hard truth about climate change. So it comes as no surprise that Koch Industries is the second highest donorthis election cycle to the chairman of yesterday's hearing, Rep. EdWhitfield (R-KY), as well as other Representatives on the subcommittee, like Koch's hometown favorite Mike Pompeo, and Texas politicians Joe Barton and Pete Olson. I'm tired of seeing members of Congress put their head in the sand and deny climate change. It's an appalling manipulation of our future potential by people who are meant to represent us and do the right thing. So why'd I show up for the hearing yesterday? People's lives and livelihoods are on the line. The strength and future resilience of our country and our communities and all we've built as a nation are at risk if we don't do anything. We're not do-nothing people. We're Americans. We lead. We work. We improve. We build. We innovate.
We need to stop the perpetuation of ignorance and denial. It will take some work to get there, so we need your help too. I hope you stand with me--extrovert or introvert--and join in saying enough is enough its time for action. There is no greater moment than now for us to come together and do the right thing on climate change.

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