Yesterday, I posted on the March 8 2011 House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee Hearing “Climate Science and EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Regulation”;
Today, I want to present a few comments on the process. First, as has been written elsewhere (e.g. see) the Hearing was political theater, including props (such as the stack of books presented by Congressman Inslee) .
There were only a few questions/comments directed to the witnesses of the opposing sides and these were usually confrontational, and not designed to effectively explore the areas of disagreements and, of equal or even more importance, of agreement. The introduction of DDT by one of the Republican witnesses and of tobacco smoke effects by Congressman Jay Inslee of Washington was completely irrelevant to the science issues of climate.
There were some exceptions. For example, Morgan Griffith of Virginia asked a series of excellent science questions which he said will be sent to us for answers. Pete Olson of Texas, Steve Scalise of Louisiana, Jay Inslee of Washington, Henry Waxman of California and Bobby Rush of Illinois were clearly passionate about the subject, and a number of their questions were very good (but generally also directed to their invitees).
I have a recommendation to the Chair of the Committee Congressman Ed Whitfield of Kentucky for future Hearings of this type. Rather than adopt the standard Hearing format, it would be more informative for him to invite 6 scientists (3 witnesses each selected by the Republicans and Democrats) and pose a set of several questions, such as
1. Is CO2 the dominant human climate forcing?
2. What observational evidence is available to bolster or refute the predictions of the climate model multi-decadal predictions of climate change and of extreme weather?
3. What certainty is there in the skill of regional and local predictions of societally and environmentally important climate for the coming decades?
Then permit each witness, in sequence, 5 minutes to answer one of the questions followed on by 5 minutes of further comment by each witness. Then the second question can be addressed.
In this format, the House members would listen and would wait until the witnesses have cycled through each question before asking their questions on the science. The Members might be quite surprised regarding the degree of agreement among the climate scientists, as well as see major areas of disagreement (as well as how these disagreements can be resolved).
I recognize that this is not the way formal Hearings are conducted and my request is unrealistic. However, until there is a venue to properly discuss and assess the diversity of perspectives regarding climate science issues (and the National Research Council has not properly done this in the last few years), we are going to continue in the same polarized framework where scientifically unsubstantiated claims (on both sides) are being make.
An NRC panel, which is inclusive of climate scientists of all viewpoints, that is convened to report on areas of agreement and disagreement, would be very valuable to everyone.