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Despite new report, W.Va. officials still oppose Obama climate plan

Read the main story about the report here.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Climate scientists are more certain than ever that human activity is causing global warming, but the latest comprehensive report did nothing to weaken opposition from most West Virginia political leaders to the Obama administration's plan to cut greenhouse emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Several top elected officials, asked to react to the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, repeated their previous harsh criticism of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposal to set the first-ever carbon dioxide limits for new power plants.

Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W.Va., blasted the EPA for "pressing ahead with a unilateral solution that will undercut American jobs" while "minimally impacting domestic emissions."

"Hammering the American coal industry, raising costs for consumers and manufacturers, and slowing economic growth is not the solution," said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

In its report, released Friday in Stockholm, the IPCC concluded again that the warming of the planet is "unequivocal," citing a range of evidence that includes temperature measurements, melting glaciers, declining sea ice and increased concentrations of greenhouse gases.

"It should serve as yet another wake-up call that our activities today will have a profound impact on society, not only for us but for many generations to come," said World Meteorological Organization Secretary General Michel Jarraud, who chaired the IPCC group that wrote the report.

The Gazette-Mail asked Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and members of the state's congressional delegation to respond to several questions in the wake of the latest climate change findings.

Elected officials were asked, "Do you agree with the IPCC finding that human-induced climate change is a significant problem that needs urgent action? Why or why not?" They also were asked what, if any, policies they proposed in response to the IPCC findings.

Delegate David McKinley, R-W.Va., said, "No other specific policy actions are needed at this time," citing what he said are problems with the IPCC's latest report.

"In their report, they could not explain why mercury [temperature] has stopped rising," McKinley said. "They also acknowledged another possibility: Maybe it was wrong and there might have been an overestimate of the response to increasing greenhouse gas."

McKinley said coal is being singled out, while other human activities -- he cited specifically the destruction of tropical rainforests -- also are potentially major causes of global warming.

Actually, the U.N.-sponsored IPCC increased from 90 percent to at least 95 percent its certainty that global warming is caused by human activities, mostly carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal, oil and gas.

"Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system," the IPCC said in its 36-page summary of its 2,000-page full report. "Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions."

The IPCC said the so-called "hiatus," a slowdown in warming over the past 15 years, likely can be explained by natural variability from short-term records and don't reflect long-term trends. The 1998-2012 period frequently cited by skeptics of man-made global warming, for example, began with an especially warm year that disguises the longer-term trend, the report said.

Tomblin and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., did not respond to the Gazette-Mail's questions about the IPCC report.

Rahall did not respond to the question about whether he agrees with the IPCC's conclusions about global warming and its causes.

Instead, his office issued a statement in which Rahall said he has "long advocated increased investments in fossil fuel energy research and development, such as carbon capture and sequestration.

"These are technologies that would create good manufacturing jobs here at home and could be exported to the rest of the world to truly address the rise in global emissions," Rahall said.

As with previous IPCC reports, this first phase of the group's fifth assessment focuses on the physical science of climate change. A report summarizing the latest research on mitigation strategies -- such as carbon capture systems -- is due in April 2014.

In his response to the Gazette-Mail, Manchin said, "I have always said that I believe that the world is going through a period of changing climate, and I have never denied the human impact on our climate."

However, Manchin went on to say, "Blaming America for climate change is not a solution to climate change. This is a global problem."

Andrew Beckner, a spokesman for Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said the senator and his top advisers are reviewing the IPCC report.

"He's believed for a long time that the science is real, and that we need to address climate change as a matter of government policy," Beckner said. "Recognizing that, Senator Rockefeller has worked hard to create incentives for the development and deployment of clean-coal technology, and plans to do so again to meet the growing demand for cleaner energy sources while helping reduce harmful CO2 emissions."

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.


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