Climate change: The U.S. Senate speaks – all talk, no action

Author: West Texas oil field and wind farm

SALEM, Ore., March 12, 2014 — It’s been said that everyone talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it. The Senate found a brand new way to prove that old adage. The 35th ever all-night session of the U.S. Senate was held this week.

Over nearly 14.5 hours, senators spoke about about climate change. For that they deserve credit. The event was well organized. It’s great the Senate is finally taking a stand on something after three long years of doing very little. Thirty senators participated. It’s regrettable they chose to pontificate rather than to legislate.

The national media responded to the all-night effort with a big collective yawn.

Climate change deniers need to wake up and realize that the scientific diagnosis about warming the planet is real. We need to take action.
– Sen. Chuck Schumer, Senate all-night session, 3/10/2014

Unfortunately, the Senate took no action. Senate Democrats accomplished as much last night as Republican Sen. Ted Cruz accomplished during his 21 hour marathon filibuster against the Affordable Care Act: nothing.

In one way, Democrats accomplished less. If the purpose was to draw attention to their issue, like Sen. Cruz tried to do for his, then it was a bigger failure. Climate change is already overexposed in the national press. Awareness is the last thing it needs. Almost daily we are told that earth is on the doorstep of climate catastrophe.

Senators mistakenly seem to think climate change never existed before they discovered it. Almost every one of them started out by exclaiming in no uncertain terms that climate change is real, as if that isn’t already known.

Of course climate change is real. It has been the norm on this planet since the earth formed billions of years ago. It would be news if climate change stopped.

The earth is getting warmer. As a result of warming, 70 percent of glaciers are in retreat. The Arctic ice cap is melting. Sea level is rising. There is evidence that sea level rise has accelerated in the last 30 years. Some evidence exists precipitation is increasing.

It’s also true that atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased as a result of human activity.

None of this is news. It’s been measured. Each senator rehashed all that. It’s all they did. We don’t need to hear it repeated again by non-scientists.

Senators, being politicians, did get some of their science wrong. The IPCC has started to back off on its assessments of extreme weather beginning with its newest AR5 report released late last year.

For example, the IPCC now says it has low confidence there have been “increases in intensity and/or duration of drought” and “increases in intense tropical cyclone activity” through until 2050.

Climate change has not caused more extreme droughts and hurricanes.

IPCC: AR5 report backs off on extreme weather predictions

According to the IPCC, California’s current drought is not caused by climate change. Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Katrina were not caused by climate change.

The IPCC is beginning to back off on previous dire predictions for two main reasons:

  1. Measured temperature rise is lower than model forecasts
  2. Surface temperature rise mysteriously stopped after 1998

The IPCC calls the pause in surface temperature rise a “hiatus”. Before that, surface temperatures had steadily increased for 20 years. They expect the hiatus to end, but don’t know when since it wasn’t forecast in the first place.

Some scientists still don’t believe the hiatus is real. Other climate scientists are scrambling to come up with explanations for it.

It could be, as some speculate, that the missing heat is going into the deep oceans. It certainly could,  but nobody knows why the sudden change. Numerous mechanisms have been proposed, but all of them require that natural variability overcame human activity, at least temporarily, as the primary driver of climate change after 1998.

Earth’s global surface temperature has not increased so far this century.

The scientific community is beginning to consider the possibility that climate sensitivity to human carbon dioxide emissions is not as strong as once thought.

Politicians couldn’t possibly be expected to keep up with leading edge developments in scientific research.

It would have been newsworthy if senators had done what they are supposed to do: craft serious legislation to address the problem of climate change instead of rehashing old science. They didn’t. That’s why nobody paid much attention.

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