Climate change comments draw ire for W.Va.'s McKinley
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Rep. David McKinley expressed doubt about widely agreed upon facets of climate science on Wednesday, earning stern rebukes from the U.S. Secretary of Energy as well as his Democratic colleagues on the House subcommittee on Energy and Power.
"The CO2 levels are undeniably increasing. Some scientists and climatologists have concluded that CO2 levels coincide with temperature increases," McKinley said, going on to say that this may not be the case. "Over 40 years, there's been almost no increase in temperatures, very slight."
McKinley, a Republican representing Northern West Virginia, was speaking at a House subcommittee hearing on climate policy with Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy.
His statements drew an immediate response from Rep. Henry Waxman, the ranking Democrat on the committee.
"I just thought the statements that the gentleman from West Virginia read to us were incredibly inaccurate and contrary to what everybody in the scientific community has said to us," Waxman said, "We need scientists to come in here and talk about science."
One of those scientists, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, a theoretical physicist, also criticized McKinley's remarks.
"This decade is the warmest decade in recorded history," Moniz said. "The issues in terms of risk of climate change are not based upon models . . . the anthropogenic changes from CO2 are clearly of a scale that has long been expected."
McKinley cited data showing that there is now 60 percent more ice in the Arctic than there was at this time last year, when ice levels hit a record low.
However, levels of Arctic ice are still substantially below historical averages. As of this week, there were about 1.5 million square kilometers less Arctic ice than there has been, on average, for the past 30 years, according to data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center, a research center at the University of Colorado.
McKinley and others pointed to a recent slowdown in temperature rises over the past several years as evidence that man-made greenhouse gas emissions might not be contributing to climate change.
Moniz pointed to a study in the journal "Nature," published in August, showing the slowdown to be a product of short-term weather trends.
"Our results show that the current hiatus is part of natural climate variability, tied specifically to a La Niña-like decadal cooling," that study concluded. "The multi-decadal warming trend is very likely to continue with greenhouse gas increase."
The hearing came in advance of the EPA's release of rules limiting carbon emissions on new coal-fired power plants. The rules are expected to be released Friday.
McKinley and other Republicans expressed serious concerns that the rules, and other EPA actions, will cost jobs and contribute to higher energy costs.
Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., asked McCarthy what authority the EPA has to act on greenhouse gas regulations, when Congress has failed to pass cap-and-trade bills and other carbon regulations.
"We are not doing anything that Congress has not said we have an authority to do," McCarthy said.
A 2007 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court authorized the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases under the auspices of the Clean Air Act, passed in 1970.
Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., criticized McCarthy and President Obama for failing to appreciate the consequences of potential EPA rules on coal-producing states.
"Over 151 coal mines have been closed," Whitfield said. "What are the special plans in the president's action plan that help address the people who are losing their jobs because of these policies?"
McCarthy did not have information on any specific plans, but said, "We have to be sensitive to the economic actions of our policies."
McKinley sharply criticized Obama for his decision to no longer finance coal power plants abroad through the U.S. Import-Export Bank.
"One of the biggest moral responsibilities for the United States should be to help emerging nations out of poverty. The most abundant, affordable source of power is coal" McKinley said, saying that many African countries can generate only enough energy to power one 60-watt light bulb per person per day. "This president must not prevent people around the globe from attaining affordable energy."
Reach David Gutman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5119.