February 12, 2010

Blizzards Help Wage War On Climate Bills

After record snowfall in Washington, opponents of climate change action are hoping to kill emissions legislation, which was already facing an uncertain political future.

Environmentalists launched counter-attacks, pointing out that Olympics host Vancouver is faced with a lack of snow, which might offer proof of dangerous climate change.

Conservatives have gone on the offensive and mocked leaders that warned about the planet's heating after Washington and other eastern cities have seen the heaviest snow in decades.

"It's going to keep snowing in DC until Al Gore cries 'uncle,'" Senator Jim DeMint, a Republican from South Carolina, wrote on micro-blogging website Twitter.

Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma joined the group in building an igloo on Capital Hill with a sign that says "Al Gore's new home" and "Honk if you love global warming."

"I know that somebody is going to end up tearing it down," Inhofe said on his blog. "Because there are a lot of people who can't take a joke."

President Barack Obama changed policy on climate change last year when he took office.  The House of Representatives approved the first nationwide plan in June that forces cuts in carbon emissions blamed for global warming

However, the legislation has slowed down in the Senate, where Obama's Democratic Party lost a seat last month to a Republican that opposes action on the heat-trapping gases.

Senator John Kerry, who is a leading force behind the legislation, dismissed suggestions that snow could bury the bill.

"The inside-the-Beltway conventional wisdom that this issue has stalled is dead wrong," said Kerry, a Democrat from Massachusetts.

Kerry said he has continued to work on a plan that would restrict emissions, but also promotes nuclear energy and offshore drilling.  Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator of South Carolina, is working with him.

"Comprehensive legislation will not only speed economic recovery, but it will put our country on the path to sustainable long-term economic growth," Kerry said.

Environmentalists say climate skeptics have misunderstood the science behind snowstorms.

Although few meteorologists linked the snowstorms to climate change, some said it is part of the El Nino effect.

Director of meteorology at the Weather Underground website Jeff Masters said that the snow proved little more than that "we get pretty darn cold in the winter."

"If it's cold enough to snow, you will get snow," he said. "We still have winter, even though temperatures have warmed on average about one degree Fahrenheit (0.5 Celsius) over the past 100 years."

The Obama administration pledged to move on with fighting climate change.  It signed an accord from December's UN summit in Copenhagen with a pledge to cut US emissions by 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels.

A UN panel of scientists reported in 2007 that human-caused climate change was unequivocally a fact and it would threaten droughts, floods and other severe weather along with the survival of entire species if unchecked.

The IPCC has been under scrutiny after admitting that one assertion saying Himalayan glaciers were at risk was unsubstantiated.  Emails from the scientists leaked out and proved what critics believed to have been attempts to restrict debate.

"The IPCC's 'consensus' is slowly eroding away in the face of embarrassing disclosures about the poor quality of data and information it has used to make projections about climate change," Inhofe said.

The panel has still stood by the bulk of its work.  Policymakers in both developed and developing nations largely support IPCC findings.


Image Caption: High winds and blowing snow in Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C. on February 10. Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., is visible on the right. Courtesy Wikipedia