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The Committee met, pursuant to notice, at 9:32 a.m. in room SR253, Russell Senate Office Building, Hon. John McCain, Chairman of the Committee, presiding.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. JOHN MCCAIN,
U.S. SENATOR FROM ARIZONA
The CHAIRMAN. Good morning. Earlier this year, we examined the science behind global warming as a means of defining the problem. Today we hope to further our efforts to understanding this issue by discussing the climate change impact on the United States, and the National Assessment Report. Because of the fact that at 9:45 a.m. we will begin a series of 11 votes, which will consume the entire morning, we have a problem. We contemplated delaying the rest of the hearing until this afternoon, but unfortunately, a number of our witnesses were not able to remain.
So what I would like to do is begin with opening statements, go as long as we can, and then I will have to adjourn the hearing and reschedule it at a later date. With a vote every 10 minutes, I cannot keep the witnesses here for an extended period of time. It would not be fair to the witnesses, nor would it provide for a productive hearing.
So what I would like to do is begin with our first panel, which is Dr. Thomas Karl, Director of the National Climatic Data Center, National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service of NOAA, Dr. Anthony C. Janetos, Senior Vice President for Program, World Resources Institute, Dr. Raymond Schmitt, Senior Scientist, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institutions, and Dr. Fred Singer, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia. I would like to express my deep apology to all of the witnesses, particularly some who have come here from long distances. At this time of year, we affirm Mr. Bismarck's statement that the two things you never want to see made are laws and sausages. These are very important hearings and very important witnesses, and we will reschedule at the earliest date.
Mr. Karl, we will begin with you.
[The prepared statement of Senator McCain follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF JOHN MCCAIN, U.S. SENATOR FROM ARIZONA
Earlier this year, we examined the science behind global warming as a means of defining the problem. Today, we hope to further our efforts to understand this issue by discussing the Climate Change Impact On the United States, the National Assessment Report.
This morning we will examine, as noted in the National Assessment Report, climate change impacts on the United States. Because the report is currently in its 60-day public comment period which ends August 11, we feel that this is an opportune time for the Committee to discuss this very important matter. We hope that today's discussion will spur others to review the document and provide comments to the White House.
I know that some have asked that today's proceeding be postponed until later in the year. I feel this would be a mistake given the timeframe that the Administration has laid out for completing this report. I believe it is important to have this open discussion while the report is still in its draft form thus providing valuable input as it is finalized. Postponing this hearing will not afford the Committee the opportunity to examine the report before finalization.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today. Although there are many issues that need to be addressed, I hope the witness will focus on the following: "how can two computer models which give different results be used to reach a consensus conclusion," why federally-funded U.S. models were not selected for the study, and what role does the ocean's dynamics play in these analyses.
As we review this document and other weather predictions, we should keep in mind that these predictions or forecasts have very real meanings to people and the economy. This past Sunday's edition of The Washington Post contained an article that demonstrates the importance of accurate weather forecasting.
The article states that the Department of Agriculture and National Weather Service officials predicted that severe drought could cripple the farm economy in much of the Midwest and Deep South. Secretary Glickman warned that the lack of rain could be "catastrophic" to farmers, and Jack Kelley, Director of the National Weather Service, observed that the Midwest drought was the worst since 1955.
Farmers in the agricultural heartland took heed of the warning. Many who were storing their 1999 yields held off putting their crops on the market, reckoning that a drought-induced falloff in production this year would drive up prices.
What happened was just the opposite. Timely rains and cooler-than-predicted temperatures have offered promise of bumper crops in much of the Midwest and other parts of the nation this fall, ensuring that grain and soybean prices will go down for the third straight year due to continuing oversupply.
Last week, the Department of Agriculture lowered its price projections for corn, soybeans and wheat. The point being that a serious, sober examination of the topic is long overdue.
Again, as noted, this is very serious business with real impacts to the American economy and the lives and well-being of our citizens.
I welcome all of our witnesses here today.
[The prepared statement of Senator Snowe follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF OLYMPIA J. SNOWE, U.S. SENATOR FROM MAINE Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for calling this important hearing today to review the public review draft for the National Assessment Report: Climate Change Impacts on the United States, to which the public can respond until August 11. The report is the most comprehensive so far-giving us snapshots specifically for U.S. projections through computer modeling to help us determine potential human impacts on the climate change process. The Report_assesses both geographic regions of the country and its socioeconomic sectors. Whether you agree with the different scenarios projected or not, it is a place for us to start.
In 1990, this Committee reported out legislation that was ultimately signed into law by President George Bush, the U.S. Global Change Research Program Act, which, among other programs, called for a National Assessment Report to Congress. The Assessment may be an extremely important tool when we consider the long lifetimes of the buildup of greenhouse gases-particularly carbon dioxide—that have already been put into the atmosphere, both manmade and natural.
Section 106 of the 1990 Public Law calls for a scientific assessment not less frequently than every four years. Quite frankly, I do not believe we should wait for another assessment in four years time, as I understand the United States has made great strides in modeling technologies and capabilities. I would like to think we are
capable of pulling on our country's best scientific modeling, as well as the Canadian and United Kingdom models used for the Assessment in a shorter time frame. We need the most updated research information so as to be able to make reasoned environmental and economic policy decisions.
In looking at the potential impacts for my state, I noted projections that gave me great pause. Many in Maine would tell you that if the devastating Ice Storm the Assessment Report mentions that hit across the State in 1998 and paralyzed the state's power infrastructure for over three weeks during bitter cold weather, is a harbinger of what we may expect with climate change, I believe they would want Congress to be paying more attention to the issue.
Also noted in the Report are the possible changes in Northeast forests from conifer to deciduous trees, and the loss of an entire tourist industry if the range of our vibrant sugar maple trees shifts more northward into Canada; and the reduction of cold weather recreation that is vital to the State's winter ski and snowmobile industry.
On the brighter side, there may be the possibility for longer warm weather recreation, already a popular summer pastime in my State, a reduction for heating requirements in the winter-certainly good news considering the State's energy problems last winter both with the supply and the price of home heating oil—and the prediction for increased crop and forest productivity.
One of my biggest concerns is the possible consequences of pest and disease outbreaks if the climate continues to warm, implications for both human health and our economy. According to the report, the Northeast, because of warmer winter weather, may experience increased incidences of diseases such as Lyme disease or West Nile encephalitis-the same disease that was found for the first time in the New York City area last year, which killed 7 people.
The Report says outbreaks are possible because of the increased survival of the reservoirs of infection, such as deer and white-face mice, and the vectors of infections, such as ticks and mosquitoes. If true, this is very disturbing.
Also, there are also some common themes among the regions that are noteworthy. Over 50 percent of the U.S. population resides in the coastal zone. All coastal regions will have to adapt to changes in shoreline characteristics and marine resources as a result of climate change. The models do not clearly predict many of these changes and we need to improve our oceanic databases to strengthen these models.
Even if the models are too high by 50 percent, we still need to know who and what may be affected-both the positive and the negative-so that informed environmental and economic decisions can be made for mitigation and adaptation.
I look forward to the testimony and the discussion this morning, and once again, thank Senator McCain for again bringing focus to the issue of global climate change in this Committee as we have jurisdiction over many of the programs concerned with climate change. I thank the Chair.
STATEMENT OF THOMAS R. KARL, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL CLIMATIC DATA CENTER, NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL SATELLITE, DATA, AND INFORMATION SERVICE, NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION
Mr. KARL. Thank you, Senator. We very much appreciate the opportunity to comment on the National Assessment. I would like to begin with the statement that suggests that the relevant question in this assessment is not whether greenhouse gases are increasing due to human activities and contributing to global warming. Clearly they are.
The CHAIRMAN. Would you pull the microphone a little bit closer? Mr. KARL. Rather, the question is, what will be the amount and rate of future warming and associated climate change impacts and how will those changes affect human and natural ecosystems?
In this assessment we used climate model simulations with projected changes in greenhouse gases and aerosols comparable to those used in the business-as-usual cases conducted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to assess those impacts on a regional basis across the nation.