Arctic sea ice, ©NASA

Senate Wakes Up to Climate Change…At Least Some of Them

Tonight, more than 20 senators will be taking over the Senate floor to pull an all-nighter to “wake up” Congress to climate change.  It will be the first major action of the new Senate Climate Action Task Force, formed by Senate climate change champions to drown out the silence on climate change that descended on Capitol Hill ever since defeat of the cap and trade bills of 2010. The senators will use the event to raise awareness about the impending climate crisis, counter climate deniers’ polluter-backed anti-science campaign, and urge Congress to finally take action.

© Defenders of Wildlife

Noah Matson and President of the national Wildlife Refuge Association David Houghton talk before a hearing on climate adaptation.

I experienced climate deniers first hand last week, when I testified at one of the first Senate hearings on the impacts of climate change on wildlife and what can be done about it.  Senators Inhofe (R-OK), Sessions (R-AL) and Vitter (R-LA) laid into Dr. John Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe with questions designed to play “gotcha” with their previous statements and agency actions.  One of their invited witnesses even testified that there is “no scientific proof that human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are the dominant cause of the minor warming of the Earth’s atmosphere” and that scientific consensus on climate change is “based, almost entirely, on the results of sophisticated computer models designed to predict the future of global climate.”

The scientific evidence for climate change is not based on computer models of the future.  Models are very helpful in understanding the climate system, but there is direct physical evidence that scientists rely on to arrive at the unprecedented international scientific agreement that the earth is warming and that emissions of greenhouse gases from human activity is the dominant cause.

This physical evidence includes the very real, measured loss of sea ice in the Arctic, the massive melting of glaciers around the globe, the real, measured rise in sea levels, and the real, measured rises in air and ocean temperatures.  From geological records, we know that fluctuations in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are correlated with temperature – as greenhouse gases go up, temperature goes up.  We have real, measured rises in the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere far surpassing the levels seen in the last 650,000 years.

And even if you rejected all of that physical evidence, or rejected the human causes of the Earth’s warming, it is hard to deny that the U.S. has been woefully unprepared for extreme weather-related events in the past decade.  We shouldn’t be surprised by hurricanes and other storms, by floods, by droughts, or by massive wildfires.  But event after event, we pour money into rebuilding as if those events won’t return.  If we can’t even prepare for what we have already experienced, how are we to prepare for events outside of our historical experience?

It is time for Congress to wake up to this reality.  Click here to find out if your senator is standing up for climate action. If they did, please thank them! If your senator did not, please tell them to wake up and support action on climate change now.

– Noah Matson, Vice President of Landscape Conservation & Climate Adaptation