Not Going Away: America’s Energy Security, Jobs and Climate Challenges

Testimony of Dr. Peter H. Gleick for
The Select Committee on Energy Independence & Global Warming Hearing
“Not Going Away: America’s Energy Security, Jobs and Climate Challenges.”
Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Chairman Markey, Ranking Member Sensenbrenner, and Select Committee members. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today on America’s ongoing struggle to deal with increasingly severe climate challenges and the risks and opportunity those challenges pose for the nation’s energy and economic security.

I am the co-founder and director of the Pacific Institute in Oakland, California, an independent, non-partisan research and policy center addressing the questions of environment, economic development, and international security. My background and training is in the fields of environmental science, engineering, hydrology, and climatology. I am an elected member of the U.S. National Academy of Science. My full biography has been provided to the Subcommittee staff. My research on climate issues is supported by foundations and state and local agencies; none of my climate work is funded by corporations or federal agencies.

I’d like to make the following six points:

1. The science of climate change is clear and convincing that climate change is happening, happening rapidly, and happening because of human activities. Scientific conclusions derive from an understanding of basic laws supported by laboratory experiments, observations of nature, and mathematical and computer modeling. Based on these lines of evidence, the science of climate change is compelling and strong, and has been for over two decades. That science tells us that emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities not only will change the climate, but are already changing the climate. The evidence is now incontrovertible, even if a small minority cannot accept it.

Like all human beings, scientists make mistakes, but the scientific process is designed to find and correct them. This process is inherently adversarial — scientists build reputations and gain recognition not only for supporting conventional wisdom, but even more so for demonstrating that the scientific consensus is wrong and that there is a better explanation. That’s what Galileo, Pasteur, Darwin, and Einstein did. But no one who argues against the science of climate change has ever provided an alternative scientific theory that adequately satisfies the observable evidence or conforms to our understanding of physics, chemistry, and climate dynamics.

The science tells us – and has been telling us for over two decades – that:

• The planet is warming due to increased concentrations of heat-trapping gases in our atmosphere.

• Most of the increase in the concentration of these gases over the last century is due to human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.

• Natural causes always play a role in changing Earth’s climate, but are now being overwhelmed by human-induced changes.

• Warming the planet will cause many other climatic patterns to change at speeds unprecedented in modern times, including increasing rates of sea-level rise and alterations in the hydrologic cycle. Rising concentrations of carbon dioxide are making the oceans more acidic. And many other changes are seen to be happening.

• The combination of these complex climate changes threatens coastal communities and cities, human health, our food and water supplies, marine and freshwater ecosystems, forests, high mountain environments, and far more. […]

Download the full testimony here