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Climate in US Politics - Feb 1

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Princeton profs drive 'wedges' into policy debate

Darren Samuelsohn, Greenwire
Brace yourself for a long series of congressional hearings on global warming.

There'll be climate models sprawling over decades, emissions inventories that go from coal-burning power plants to grass-munching cows, calculator-crushing economic impacts that soar into the trillions and dueling experts.

So many numbers, so many dollar signs. No wonder so many Washington wonks are wild for climate "stabilization wedges."

Two Princeton professors coined the term a couple of years ago as the simplest way to deconstruct what must be done to avert catastrophic climate chaos. Robert Socolow and Stephen Pacala, who outlined the concept in the journal Science, didn't invent the idea of an energy portfolio, but their way of linking it to global warming and all its complications seem to have hit on something big.

Here's how it works: Start with a toolbox of 15 energy technologies and lifestyle choices. Choose seven to implement. If these "wedges" -- as the profs call the emission-cutting tools -- are all carried out with gusto around the world for 50 years, the soupy mix of gases heating the earth's atmosphere may be on the way to slowing, stopping or even reversing their current trajectory.

Critics of the wedges warn they are an over-simplified academic exercise unconstrained by price tags or real-world politics. But a growing number of politicians, teachers, lawyers, industry lobbyists and environmentalists consider the concept a great way to identify and articulate their climate strategies.
(31 Jan 2007)
Normally Greenwire is subscription-only, but this article seems to be free access. From the same publisher, E&E TV had a speech by one of the Princeton professors who are behind the wedges idea: Robert Socolow (March 9, 2006).

Climate is changing, politically

Janet Hook and Richard Simon, LA Times
New attention from presidential hopefuls and others shows that global warming is not just the Democrats' issue anymore.
WASHINGTON — All of a sudden, global warming is hot.

After years of languishing on Capitol Hill, efforts to curb global warming have picked up momentum, powered by a growing bipartisan belief that climate change can no longer be ignored.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) has declared it a top priority for the House. Presidential candidates from both parties call it one of the biggest issues faced by the next occupant of the White House. Even President Bush, long a skeptic, is sounding the alarm.

That's an abrupt break from the past, when many politicians shrugged off the issue. Especially among Republicans, it was regarded as an untested theory or an alarmist fantasy.

Polls show that most Americans believe the studies that show pollution is a cause of climate change. And politicians now are scrambling to keep up with science and public opinion.

Legislation to curb global warming is still a long shot in Congress, because there is no consensus on a solution. But almost all of the candidates who want to succeed Bush — including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) — are far ahead of him in proposing ways to reduce carbon emissions.

"There has been a sea change in this issue over the last year," said Cathy Duvall, the Sierra Club's national political director. "It went from a back-burner issue to something people understand is a problem. Now they are looking for leaders to take action."
(31 Jan 2007)

White House climate documents sought

Richard Simon, LA Times
Following through on the Democratic Party's pledge to conduct aggressive oversight, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles) headed toward a possible confrontation Tuesday with the White House over his demands for documents that could show whether the Bush administration interfered with the work of government climate scientists to downplay the dangers of global warming.

Waxman, presiding over his first hearing as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, did not threaten to issue subpoenas, but said he would "insist on Congress' right" to the information.

Waxman and the committee's top Republican, Rep. Thomas M. Davis III of Virginia, sent a strongly worded letter to the White House Council on Environmental Quality, calling on it to "reconsider the confrontational approach" and produce the documents within 10 days.
(31 Jan 2007)

Climate scientist Shindell and Rep. Waxman on Bush interference
(audio and transcript)
Amy Goodman, Democracy Now
The Bush administration was accused on Tuesday of misleading the public over the threat of global warming and of interfering with the work of government scientists studying climate change. According to a new survey, hundreds of government scientists said they have perceived or personally experienced pressure to eliminate phrases such as "climate change" and “global warming" from their reports and public statements. One-third of the scientists surveyed also said officials at their agencies have made statements on climate change that misrepresented their findings.

One of those scientists -- NASA climatologist Drew Shindell – testified on Tuesday before the Committee on House Oversight and Government Reform. Dr. Shindell has worked as a researcher at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies since 1995.

* NASA climatologist Drew Shindell, testifying on Tuesday before the Committee on House Oversight and Government Reform committee.

The committee’s chair, Henry Waxman, later questioned Shindell about how the Bush administration has altered scientific reports to downplay the threat of global warming.

* Rep. Henry Waxman questioning Drew Shindell.
(31 Jan 2007)

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