November 25, 2008 01:22 PM EST
Climate change skeptics on Capitol Hill are quietly watching a growing accumulation of global cooling science and other findings that could signal that the science behind global warming may still be too shaky to warrant cap-and-trade legislation.
While the new Obama administration promises aggressive, forward-thinking environmental policies, Weather Channel co-founder Joseph D’Aleo and other scientists are organizing lobbying efforts to take aim at the cap-and-trade bill that Democrats plan to unveil in January.
So far, members of Congress have not been keen to publicly back the global cooling theory. But both senators from Oklahoma, Republicans Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe, have often expressed doubts about how much of a role man-made emissions play.
“We want the debate to be about science, not fear and hypocrisy. We hope next year’s wave of new politics means a return to science,” said Coburn aide John Hart. “It’s the old kind of politics that doesn’t consider any dissenting opinions.”
The global cooling lobby’s challenge is enormous. Next year could be the unfriendliest yet for climate skeptics. Already, House Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) has lost his gavel, in part because his peers felt he was less than serious about tackling global warming.
The National Academy of Sciences and most major scientific bodies agree that global warming is caused by man-made carbon emissions. But a small, growing number of scientists, including D’Aleo, are questioning how quickly the warming is happening and whether humans are actually the leading cause.
Armed with statistics from the Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climate Data Center, D’Aleo reported in the 2009 Old Farmer’s Almanac that the U.S. annual mean temperature has fluctuated for decades and has only risen 0.21 degrees since 1930 — which he says is caused by fluctuating solar activity levels and ocean temperatures, not carbon emissions.
Data from the same source shows that during five of the past seven decades, including this one, average U.S. temperatures have gone down. And the almanac predicted that the next year will see a period of cooling.
“We’re worried that people are too focused on carbon dioxide as the culprit,” D’Aleo said. “Recent warming has stopped since 1998, and we want to stop draconian measures that will hurt already spiraling downward economics. We’re environmentalists and conservationists at heart, but we don’t think that carbon is responsible for hurricanes.”
D’Aleo’s organization, the International Climate and Environmental Change Assessment Project, is collaborating on the campaign with the Cooler Heads Coalition, a subgroup of the National Consumer Coalition with members including Americans for Tax Reform, the National Center for Policy Analysis and Citizens for a Sound Economy.
More than 31,000 scientists across the world have signed the Global Warming Petition Project, a declaration started by a group of American scientists that states man’s impact on climate change can’t be reasonably proven.
If the project gains traction, it might give skeptical lawmakers an additional weapon to fight cap-and-trade legislation to curtail greenhouse gases — a move they worry could damage the already fragile economy. At the least, congressional aides say, it could caution additional lawmakers from rushing into a hasty piece of legislation.
Many Hill skeptics have varying opinions on whether the earth’s temperature is warming more slowly than some environmentalists predict and how much man is actually contributing to it.
Inhofe’s staff has been steadily compiling a list of global cooling findings. And aides report that they have received countless e-mails from scientists worldwide supporting the theory. While Inhofe hasn’t indicated that he will move forward with the information anytime soon, his aides continue to compile it.
Republicans aren’t the only ones who are wary of hastily passing a greenhouse gas bill. Ten Democrats wrote to Senate leaders earlier this year, citing economic concerns as a key reason why they didn’t vote for the Senate’s cap-and-trade bill.
And despite Democrats’ pickups in the Senate this fall, several of the new Democrats are from conservative, energy-producing states and may not be supportive, either.
But congressional aides say it could be a long wait before lawmakers are comfortable pushing science that contradicts the global warming theory. And until the lobby gains traction, skeptics plan to continue pushing their ideas by arguing for protection of the economy, where they hope to meet middle ground with global warming supporters.
“Never underestimate the ability of Congress to offer non-solutions to problems that do not exist,” said Marc Morano, communications director for the Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “We could spend weeks arguing the mounting scientific evidence refuting man-made warming fears,” he added, “but it’s the economic arguments that have the most immediate impact.”
At the Cato Institute, senior fellow Patrick Michaels, a contributing author of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said most of Washington is already too deeply entrenched in the global warming mantra to turn back.
“You can’t expect the scientific community to now come to Washington and say this isn’t a problem. Once the apocalypse begins to deliver research dollars, you don’t want to reverse it,” said Michaels. “Washington works by lurching from crisis to crisis.”
Despite the growing science, the world’s leading crusader on climate change, Al Gore, is unconcerned.
“Climate deniers fall into the same camp as people who still don’t believe we landed on the moon,” said the former vice president’s spokeswoman, Kalee Kreider. “We don’t think this should distract us from the reality.”
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