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Climate Change

US Congress displays new interest in climate change

Democrats in House hold series of hearings; Republican to chair one in Senate

by Cheryl Hogue
February 28, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 9


Photo shows a large data-collecting buoy floating in water.
Credit: NOAA
During a congressional hearing last week, House appropriators discussed the importance of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's data-collecting buoys for climate science.

After years of showing little interest in climate change other than to challenge science, the US Congress has launched a series of hearings on the issue.

The House of Representatives, which Democrats have controlled since January, examined federal inaction on the global 2015 Paris Agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions, federal research on climate, and the effects of climate change on oceans in hearings the week of Feb. 25. Holding those hearings were panels with jurisdiction over environment, federal funding, and science matters. Earlier in February, other House hearings probed the state of climate change science, the need to act on climate change, and the environmental and economic impacts of climate change.

The House is not alone in demonstrating renewed interest in climate change. On March 5, the Republican-controlled Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will focus on “the electricity sector in a changing climate.”

Notably, the House on Feb. 28 held what is probably the first congressional hearing dedicated to the repercussions of President Donald J. Trump’s move to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement. Trump announced in 2017 that in 2020 he would withdraw the US from the landmark climate change accord in which each country established its own targets for curbing emissions. The president claimed the deal was less about climate change and more about other countries gaining an economic advantage over the US. His administration is moving to dismantle regulations that the Obama administration instituted to implement the Paris deal.

Witnesses at the Feb. 28 hearing said that in the absence of federal leadership, a coalition of states, cities, tribes, businesses, and organizations, including hospitals and faith groups, has committed to cut greenhouse gas emissions. But they noted that these efforts can achieve only about two-thirds of the US emission reduction pledge in the Paris Agreement. National efforts are needed to meet that goal, to ensure the US retains a seat at international climate change negotiations, and to exert influence on global efforts to curb human climate change, they said.


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