Today, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a heated hearing on the “assumptions, policy implications, and the scientific method” of climate science. In fact, the hearing was just an excuse to pretend there’s uncertainty within the scientific community on whether human-made climate change is real.
Four witnesses were asked to testify before the committee; only one of them — Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State University — agreed with the other 97 percent of scientists who believe that human activity, like the burning of fossil fuels, is causing our planet to heat up. The other witnesses testified that we don’t really know how much people are contributing to climate change, and there’s too much uncertainty to consider global warming a threat.
“The witness panel does not really represent the vast majority of climate scientists who have concluded that there is a connection between human activity and climate,” Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) said at the hearing. “For a balanced panel, we need 96 more Dr. Manns.”
In fact, Mann’s views aren’t only representative of pretty much the entire science community; they also represent the views of the majority of Americans. Data released last week by the Yale Program on Climate Communication shows that 70 percent of Americans believe that climate change is happening; 53 percent believe that global warming is caused mostly by human activities. And 75 percent want the US government to regulate heat-trapping carbon dioxide as a pollutant. (More than 70 percent of Americans also trust climate scientists on global warming.)
Bonamici said that the hearing was a waste of time. Yet, the committee chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) commented in his opening statement that “much of climate science today appears to be based more on exaggeration, personal agendas, and questionable predictions than on the scientific method.” He added, “Alarmist predictions amount to nothing more than wild guesses.”
Some members of Congress went on by asking some ridiculous questions and targeting the only climate scientist in the room who seemed to take climate change seriously. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) asked the witnesses whether it’s true that sea levels are actually going to fall, not rise as a result of global warming. (Melting glaciers and land-based ice caps are already causing sea levels to rise.) Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) asked whether we know what caused the ice ages just to make the point that the ice ages occurred naturally and so we can’t claim with certainty that climate change is human-made. (Again, within the scientific community, there’s basically no disagreement that by pumping heat-trapping gases like CO2 into the atmosphere, people are warming up the planet.)
In a particularly intense moment, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) attacked Mann for saying that Smith took part in a “climate science denying conference” at the Heartland Institute. “From the get go, we have heard personal attack after personal attack after personal attack coming from those how are claiming to represent the mainstream of science, even to the point that our chairman is attacked,” Rohrabacher said. “That is ridiculous, people should be ashamed of yourselves.” (The live stream then stopped working.)
Rep. Darin Lahood (R-IL) asked three of the witnesses whether they had ever been personally attacked by Mann for their views on climate science. “As I understand it in the past, and this is public record, Dr. Mann has referred to you as ‘a carnival barker’ and also ‘a contrarian pundit.’ Are you aware of that?” Lahood asked the witness Roger Pielke Jr., a professor at the University of Colorado’s Environmental Studies Department. “I can’t keep up with all of Dr. Mann’s epithets,” Pielke responded.
Mann did represent the only “mainstream” scientist at the hearing, so the fact that he was repeatedly attacked is not that surprising. There was a lot of what one congressman referred to as a “food fight among scientists.” But as members of Congress hold useless hearings and President Donald Trump tries to bring back coal mining, climate change is only getting worse and we’re running out of time.
“The consequences for this country are very grave for our citizens,” Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) said at the hearing. “At some point we have to go with consensus for the time being, as we continue research.” She added: “We cannot wait for final ultimate truth to make decisions.”