John D. Rockefeller, IVSenator
Opening Statement – John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, Chairman
Good morning. I want to thank our witnesses for joining us and I look forward to their testimony.
This morning, we are here to discuss Climate Change.
There are some in this room who believe that Climate Change exists and is worthy of great discussion, further discovery and action. Others are still not convinced.
For me – I believe the science is overwhelming and the danger of getting it wrong is too great. We must act.
The time for arguing whether carbon emissions affect the health of the earth or whether our sea level is rising from global warming is and must be over.
We must discuss solutions now, and tackle the challenges we face head on.
Today’s hearing is about taking science out of the laboratory and into our communities in order to help people understand how climate variability and climate change are impacting their everyday lives – from clean air and water to fixing our rapidly declining economy.
Climate affects every aspect of our economy. Over one-third of our nation’s Gross Domestic Product is sensitive to weather and climate. It determines the types of crops we grow and where we grow them; it affects where we live and where we build our roads, homes, and schools; it determines the amount of energy we need; and it affects our health.
Make no mistake - climate change is affecting our world in ways we are only beginning to understand. Warmer temperatures bring longer growing seasons in some regions, increasing agriculture production. We have seen severe storms that threaten coastal ecosystems, public health crisis are rapidly evolving through increased infectious and respiratory illnesses and weather-related mortality – the list goes on.
The economic consequences of climate change are equally grave. These issues are particularly important because of the serious challenges facing our economy.
I know many Americans believe that addressing climate change may have a negative impact on jobs.
The cost of inaction will be much worse than the impact on the economy of action. More importantly, action on climate change will produce new jobs and make our economy stronger.
In this crucial time in our nation’s history, the decisions we make now can and will set the course for many generations to come. We have the ability to improve the economy and the climate simultaneously.
Through the decisions we make today - we can: resolve to transition to a low carbon economy, increase sound climate science and drive effective decision-making, enhance stakeholder-driven climate science that directly addresses public needs and concerns, and improve our ability to mitigate, respond, and adapt to climate change.
The time to act is now.
Before I yield to my colleague, Senator Hutchison, I want to recognize our distinguished witnesses.
I look forward to hearing from them about how we can improve climate science programs within the federal government to make them more stakeholder-driven and more responsive to the needs of society.
Dr. Tim Kileen with the National Science Foundation will provide us with an update of the current state of climate change science, including research and data needs and challenges to addressing the needs.
Dr. Kathy Jacobs, Executive Director of the Arizona Water Institute, works to connect science and decision-making and engage stakeholders to use climate change and climate variability information for water management. She is also the Chair of the National Academy Panel on Adapting to Impacts of Climate Change.
Commissioner Sean Dilweg is the Wisconsin Commissioner of Insurance and Former Head of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ Climate Change Task Force. The insurance industry is one of the largest financial sectors in the United States and climate change will impact nearly every segment of the insurance industry, including health and life insurance, and property damage.
Dr. Jacobs and Commissioner Dilweg will help us understand the tangible link between science and its use.
Reducing and stabilizing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will require a broad portfolio of solutions. Mitigation strategies such as carbon capture and storage are important in decoupling climate altering emissions from continued coal use, creating a bridge to a low-carbon economy.
Our fourth witness is Frank Alix, CEO of Powerspan Corporation, who will discuss how carbon capture and storage can help us build that bridge.
And now I’d like to recognize Senator Hutchinson for her opening statement.
Kay Bailey HutchisonSenator
STATEMENT OF HON. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON
COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION
CLIMATE SCIENCE: EMPOWERING OUR RESPONSE TO CLIMATE CHANGE
MARCH 12, 2009
Thank you, Senator Rockefeller. I am pleased to join you in conducting this hearing on Climate Science. This Committee has a long history of advancing and promoting laws that are based on sound science.
Our nation spends nearly $5 billion per year on climate change activities. Given the current fiscal challenges to our country it is important to ensure that these funds are allocated wisely. While conducting this research is important it is equally important that this research is presented in a form that is useful to stakeholders and decision makers.
Accurate climate and weather science can have substantial benefits for both the private sector and local communities. It can help local communities plan future development and protect against natural disasters. As my home state of Texas continues to rebuild after Hurricane Ike, climate science can help us to make better decisions to prepare against future hurricanes.
Climate and weather science can also help us to develop new renewable energy technologies. Last Congress I introduced the Creating Renewable Energy through Science and Technology Act in order to promote renewable energy research and development in the areas of wind, wave, solar, geothermal, and biofuels production. Not only is a strong science program essential to developing these technologies the private sector needs a strong understanding of the environment to deploy these technologies efficiently. Understanding weather patterns is crucial when deploying wind and solar energy technology. Understanding ocean currents is necessary for making decisions of where to site wave and tidal energy technologies. We must use sound science to encourage innovation, and cost effective clean energy technologies that can help America reduce greenhouse gases and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
We must also increase our efforts in weather modification research. In 2003, the National Research Council recommended the establishment of a coordinated Federal program of atmospheric research on cloud dynamics, cloud modeling, and cloud seeding, which would focus on fundamental research questions that currently impede progress and understanding of intentional and inadvertent weather modification. In order to establish a coordinated Federal weather modification program I introduced legislation in both the 109th and 110th Congresses. This Congress I plan to introduce the Weather Mitigation Research and Development Policy Authorization Act of 2009, which I hope will lead to expanded weather modification research at both the Federal and local level. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation as it comes before this Committee.
The National Science Foundation currently spend about $7million per year on weather modification research but this pales in comparison to the economic costs of severe weather events. While we will not be able to stop Mother Nature entirely, we may be able alter her course, changing the weather in small, yet significant ways. Weather modification programs in Texas and other states are trying to use the latest technology to reduce the impacts of droughts by extracting more precipitation out of clouds. Many political subdivisions, like water conservation districts and county commissions, have embraced the technology of rain enhancement as one element of long-term, water management strategy. Research in weather modification will not only help us to mitigate severe weather events but will also help us to understand how weather impacts our nation.
So as we look to research what the weather impacts of climate change will be in the future, we cannot sit idly by and wait. We must also conduct research into what and how we may be able to modify the weather of that time. I know as well as anyone that weather modification is a long term investment, but given what’s at stake, we have no other choice but to make the investment.
Our nation needs to invest more in basic scientific research, math and education. Many of our greatest challenges, such as understanding climate change, weather patterns, and developing additional sources of domestic energy, will require significant additional funding and effort to answer some of the unresolved questions that have plagued policymakers.
I look forward to hearing the testimony of the witnesses. Thank you.
Witness Panel 1
Mr. Sean DilwegWisconsin Commissioner of InsuranceNational Association of Insurance Commissioners, Office of the Commissioner of Insurance
Katharine JacobsExecutive DirectorArizona Water Institute
Dr. Timothy KilleenAssistant Director of GeosciencesNational Science Foundation
Mr. Frank AlixChief Executive OfficerPowerspan Corporation