WASHINGTON (CN) – As world leaders grapple with the threat of climate change in Paris, scientists skeptical of the human impact on climate change made their case to senators at a hearing on Capitol Hill Tuesday.
Three scientists and one author who question whether humans have an impact on climate change defended their views before the Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness and lamented the lack of funding for scientists who do not agree with the majority opinion on climate change.
“Now, I am the son of two mathematicians – two computer programmers and scientists – and I believe that public policy should follow the actual science and the actual data and evidence and not political and partisan claims that run contrary to the science and data and evidence,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said in his opening.
The hearing came hours after Senate Democrats held a press conference demanding action on climate change and condemning Cruz’s inquest.
“We need long-term solutions on how to address climate change, not a continuation of denials that a problem even exists,” said ranking Senate Commerce Committee member Bill Nelson, according to a transcript.
Cruz – a Republican presidential hopeful – said during his opening statement he thought he should take the press conference as a “backhanded compliment.”
The hearing also coincides with international climate talks taking place in Paris where world leaders are expected to formally commit to curbing their nations’ emissions, as well as to pledge money to an international fund to help growing economies scale back their reliance on fossil fuels.
The scientists used charts and slideshows during the more than two-hour hearing to show their theories that climate change data has been manipulated or is significantly flawed.
Princeton University physics professor William Happer called it “wrongheaded” that CO2 is a pollutant, and University of Alabama-Huntsville professor Dr. John Christy said models showing temperature increases fail “the most basic” tests, sometimes predicting temperature increases three times what have actually been observed.
While a good portion of the hearing was devoted to hard data, much also focused on what the witnesses characterized as a concerted effort to suppress alternative ideas about climate change.
Happer and Christy called for the creation of a team of scientists specifically tasked with performing research aimed at discrediting the consensus opinion on the human impact on climate change. Judith Curry, a professor at George Tech, lamented the “acrimonious” political debate in which climate scientists have become trapped.
“There is enormous pressure for climate scientists to conform to the so-called consensus,” Curry said. “This pressure comes not only from politicians, but from federal funding agencies, universities and professional societies and scientists themselves who are green activists.”
Cruz took the conversation a step further by comparing scientists who question climate science to Galileo.
Nelson intended to invite Sierra Club president Aaron Mair to the hearing, but there was some debate on the committee as to whether that invitation was ever sent. Cruz said he extended an invitation to Mair, but that he “preemptively declined.” Nelson questioned this, saying Cruz never sent a letter to Mair asking him to attend the hearing.
Cruz noted Mair’s absence several times during the hearing, calling it “striking” that the president of an organization that advocates for action on climate change was absent from a hearing meant to examine that issue.
The Texas Republican announced Mair when introducing the other witnesses on the panel, but instead of listing his accomplishments as he did for the others at the table, he suggested Mair avoided the hearing because of his inability to defend his position on climate change before Cruz at a recent hearing before a different committee.
“To any fair or impartial observer, the Sierra Club’s refusal even to engage in a discussion of the science should speak volumes,” Cruz said.
As a result of Mair’s absence, Pennsylvania State University professor Dr. David Titley was left as the only witness to defend the prevailing way of thinking on humanity’s impact on climate change.
Titley, also a retired rear admiral, questioned a dataset from Princeton University Physics Professor Dr. William Happer that purported to show a “pause” in global warming over the last 18 years. Titley said the data relied on arbitrary endpoints and questionable methodology.
“I mean, I’m just a simple sailor, but it’s hard for me to see the pause on that chart,” Titley said, referring to a chart he kept over his left shoulder during the hearing that presented a different view of temperature increases over time.
Democrats on the committee primarily directed their questions toward the self-described reformed climate skeptic, asking him to explain the science behind carbon dioxide pollution, to discredit the opposing witness’s testimony and to confirm their opinions on climate change.
“We’re already paying today a de facto carbon tax, one that nobody voted on,” Titley said. “You look at the costs of the New Orleans levees, you look at the costs of [Hurricane] Sandy, you look at the costs of relocating communities in Alaska. Those are all carbon taxes and we’re paying those today.”
The majority witnesses seemed to notice the Democrats’ attempts to question only Titley and jumped in after more than one senator’s time had expired with unprompted responses. This eventually led to a contentious debate nearly two hours into the hearing between Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, Curry and author Mark Steyn.
Steyn and Curry challenged the science Markey relied on to make claims that human action caused 2014 and 2015 to be the hottest years on record, while Markey challenged Curry to come up with another explanation for the temperatures.
Before the hearing began, a person was escorted from the room after apparently arguing with one of the witnesses.
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