"Extreme weather" does not justify extreme political agenda (Opinion from Sen. Jeff Sessions)
on October 30, 2013 at 8:00 AM, updated October 30, 2013 at 8:18 AM
By Sen. Jeff Sessions
It has been eight years since the last major hurricane struck the United States—a lull that experts call an "extended and intense hurricane drought," the longest such drought since reliable records began in the 19th century.
This is welcome news for Alabamians. The nation still remembers Hurricane Camille (a Category 5 storm) that hit our region in 1969. Hurricane Frederic (a Category 3 storm) made landfall at Dauphin Island in September 1979, leaving widespread devastation and a tree on the roof of my home in Mobile. Hurricane Opal (a Category 4 storm) struck Alabama in October 1995. And it doesn't take a major hurricane to cause tremendous damage, as "Superstorm Sandy" demonstrated.
We face other forms of extreme weather too, like droughts, floods, and tornado outbreaks that can leave a wide path of destruction. Extreme weather happens, and we should all take common-sense, cost-effective steps to plan, prepare, and respond. The federal government has a key role to play there.
But the Obama Administration, congressional Democrats, and other climate alarmists are now pointing to extreme weather in a desperate attempt to promote their political agendas at the expense of hardworking Americans.
There is a reason for this dubious strategy: We are in the midst of a 16-year period without a measurable increase in global temperatures. It's hard to sell voters on a trillion-dollar plan to fight global warming — already rejected by Congress — when the globe isn't actually warming as much as they predicted. So the alarmists are increasingly citing extreme weather to convince Americans that we need a carbon tax, more job-killing regulations, and more wasteful federal green energy subsidies.
Al Gore recently asserted that "all weather events are now affected by global warming pollution." Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) called last year's Superstorm Sandy "evidence of climate change mounting around us." In his "Climate Action Plan," President Obama contends that we are having more weather disasters than before. The facts disprove this argument.
The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, of which I am a member, recently held hearings about climate change and extreme weather. A clear finding of those hearings frustrated the alarmists: The frequency of extreme weather events is not increasing.
The testimony of Dr. Roger Pielke—a noted climate-impacts expert who even endorses the idea that global warming is partly caused by humans—was particularly compelling. Dr. Pielke testified: "It is misleading, and just plain incorrect, to claim that disasters associated with hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, or droughts have increased on climate timescales either in the United States or globally."
He also said that it is "incorrect to associate the increasing costs of disasters with the emission of greenhouse gases."
And Dr. Pielke provided data to back up his position:
Globally, "weather-related losses" have not increased since 1990.
In the U.S., hurricanes have not increased in frequency or intensity since at least 1900.
Since at least 1950, the intensity and frequency of floods in the U.S. have not increased.
The frequency and intensity of tornadoes have not increased since 1950.
Drought has not increased globally in half a century.
Dr. Roy Spencer of the University of Alabama-Huntsville also testified that "there is little or no observational evidence that severe weather of any type has worsened over the last 30, 50, or 100 years."
And when climate alarmists made the unsubstantiated claim at a Senate hearing last year that we are experiencing more extreme temperatures, State Climatologist Dr. John Christy showed that there were, in fact, many more high temperature records set in previous decades, particularly the 1920s and 1930s, than we see today.
This is a serious matter. President Obama has asked the American people to accept higher energy prices, fewer jobs, and a lower standard of living to prevent storms, droughts, and other changes in climate. Senate Democrats are pushing for a tax on carbon emissions that will increase the cost of gasoline and electricity for every American.
When it comes to understanding and predicting the Earth's climate, I believe we need to be more honest and humble. No one person knows everything about the future of the planet's climate. Earth's history has seen ice ages and warming periods long before modern technology came around. Meanwhile, many technological advances—like electricity and automobiles—have resulted in improved quality of life and lifespan for billions.
We certainly can't say that any particular weather event is caused by human greenhouse gas emissions. Just five months ago, government experts were forecasting an "active or extremely active" hurricane season.
Good policy should be formed on the basis of rational, humble and fact-based judgments. It should improve, not degrade, the conditions for working Americans.
(Jeff Sessions of Mobile was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996.)http://www.al.com/opinion/index.ssf/2013/10/extreme_weather_does_not_justi.html#incart_river