Issue Position: Climate Change and Policy Implications

Issue Position

Date: Jan. 1, 2011

Much research has been conducted by various organizations and universities on the subject of climate change, resulting in a wide range of conflicting conclusions. The Energy and Commerce Committee, of which I am the Ranking Member, is responsible for overseeing the debate on most environmental policy that moves through the House of Representatives. It is my belief that for the best possible policy to be written, all known facts must be considered as well as the impact of legislation.

Fluctuations in Temperature:

There is no dispute that average world temperatures have risen over the past 100 years. While a precise measurement is difficult to pinpoint, most scientists believe the temperature increase to be within the two to three degrees Fahrenheit range. The documented increase in temperature since the 1800's, and the projected increase over the next hundred years, appears well within the range of natural variation. In light of research conducted by numerous scientists on both sides of the debate, the theory that human actions are responsible for changes in global temperatures is a serious one, and worthy of continued research. I have, however, not been convinced the theory is strong enough to warrant the immediate and draconian measures called for by some segments of the environmental community.

Relevant Facts to Put the Theory of Manmade Global Warming Into Perspective:

1) The air we breathe is composed almost entirely (99.88%) of Nitrogen (N2), Oxygen (O2), and Argon (Ar). Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and other variable gases including water vapor (H2O and clouds), Ozone (O3), and other trace gases make up the remainder.

2) Of all the greenhouse gasses, water vapor (H2O and clouds) is the most dominant and abundant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere and, by far, exceeds the total effects of increased carbon dioxide, methane, ozone and all other greenhouse gases combined.

3) As a percentage of the total atmosphere, carbon dioxide represents only 0.0386%. The entire increase in CO2 since before the industrial revolution represents only .0091% of the total atmosphere. Not very much, is it? Laid out on a 100 yard football field, this would equal a distance of less than 3/8 of an inch. It is also important to remember that CO2 is not a pollutant; it is an indispensable part of life. Your body creates and emits CO2 every time you take a breath.

4) Scientists base many of their predictions concerning the future effects of climate change on models. However, these climate models are unable to accurately model clouds (water vapor) - the most dominant greenhouse gas. They are also unable to accurately model the past, much less predict the future.

5) Current CO2 levels are around 380 parts per million (ppm); in the past, CO2 levels have exceeded 1,000 ppm [iv]. An article in Science magazine illustrated that a rise in carbon dioxide did not precede a rise in temperatures, but actually lagged behind temperature rises by 200 to 1000 years [v]. A rise in carbon dioxide levels could not have caused a rise in temperature if it followed the temperature. The president of the National Academy of Sciences also testified under oath before the Energy and Commerce Committee on this very issue.

Policy Decisions:

When formulating, debating or voting on environmentally-related policy, I ask several questions. Does the policy contribute to our energy security; does the policy create or destroy American jobs; does the policy have a measurable environmental benefit; and does the policy require more than is technologically possible? It was with these questions in mind that I drafted the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT) aimed at solidifying our energy security, while still addressing the concerns surrounding carbon intensity.

EPACT, which was signed into law August 8, 2005, takes crucial steps toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It places substantial emphasis on our nation's renewable energy resource potential. Federal tax incentives and increased grants for alternative energy research, including development of wind, solar, biomass, ocean, and geothermal energy production, are offered to speed up the use of more environmentally-friendly methods. The legislation also serves to increase vehicle efficiency through cars that run on less gas and encourage hydrogen and fuel-cell vehicles. Additionally, the legislation calls for more efficient heating and cooling systems, lighting, electronics, appliances, and buildings.

Promising Results:

According to a preliminary report released by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), "U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions declined in absolute terms - from 5,955 million metric tons (MMTCO2) in 2005 to 5,877 MMTCO2 in 2006, a 1.3 percent decrease. The total carbon intensity of the economy (CO2 per $ real GDP) fell by 4.5 percent. The 2006 decline in carbon intensity is the largest since 1990 and the 4th largest since 1949"