U.N. climate report uses ‘scare tactics’ — Republicans

Source: Hannah Northey and Nick Sobczyk, E&E News reporters • Posted: Thursday, October 11, 2018

Senate Republicans today chipped away at a high-profile and dire report on climate change, as EPA offered its first response by touting the nation’s historic emissions reductions.

Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) during an interview on Capitol Hill this morning suggested that findings the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released this weekend are widely misinterpreted and exaggerated.

The IPCC report, penned by the world’s top climate scientists, found that keeping temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius — 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit — is no longer sufficient, and the globe must prevent warming of 1.5 C above preindustrial levels or abandon billions of people to the social and natural dangers of runaway warming (Climatewire, Oct. 9).

Barrasso said that he’s committed to a “clean, safe and healthy environment” and that he has a “great deal of respect for the environment” before rejecting the IPCC’s findings.

“I think that they continue to use scare tactics — those efforts are what we see in this report,” Barrasso told reporters.

The senator’s comments are significant given his committee oversees EPA, and the White House has remained quiet about the report’s warning that the planet will soon reach a critical threshold of wildfires, floods and food shortages if warming exceeds 1.5 C.

The president told reporters yesterday he has received the report and wants to see who “drew” the document.

Another Republican and well-known skeptic of mainstream climate science, Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, criticized the IPCC as “prejudiced” today. Inhofe is the former EPW chairman.

“They were totally discredited, totally discredited. I think they thought they’d wait long enough people would forget. Well, I haven’t forgotten,” Inhofe told reporters before adding that the U.N. was “formed to sell this in the first place.”

Inhofe didn’t specify how the IPCC panel of 91 top-tier experts from 40 countries had been “discredited” but was likely referring to the 2010 event known as “Climategate,” in which emails were stolen from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit in the United Kingdom.

They were presented as evidence of scientists falsifying their findings on man-made warming, but six subsequent investigations have cleared the scientists of any wrongdoing. Sunday’s report drew from 6,000 scientific studies from diverse sources.

When asked whether the president should review the report, Inhofe said, “Well, it depends on what else he has to do.”

The senators’ response is indicative of the uphill battle the report’s findings face within the Beltway, where the Trump administration has been largely dismissive of the IPCC’s warnings.

When EPA weighed in on the report today — marking the agency’s first comments — an official repeated the White House’s talking point that the United States “continues to lead the world in greenhouse gas reductions” and has already lowered its emissions 14 percent since 2005.

The spokesman also said the IPCC report is the responsibility of its authors, not any one government.

“We appreciate the hard work of the scientists and experts, many from the United States, who developed this report under considerable time pressure,” the EPA spokesman said in an email.

“In accordance with IPCC procedures, the report and its contents remain the responsibility of its authors,” the spokesman said. “Governments do not formally endorse specific findings presented by the authors.”

Still, Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, one of a few Senate Republicans willing to speak out about climate change, said the effects of global warming are impossible to ignore in her state, regardless of the IPCC report.

She stopped short of calling for immediate action on her committee but called for “an honest discussion about the issues” after the report, rather than devolving into partisan battles about the science.

“There are plenty of areas that we can do that,” Murkowski told reporters, citing potential impacts on the insurance industry amid more frequent flooding and more intense storms.

“It seems to me that we ought to be able to have a discussion about that without screaming at one another,” she said. “Maybe that’s a good way to start.”

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Barrasso’s counterpart on the EPW Committee, similarly predicted the IPCC’s findings would “keep our attention on climate change.”

“I think the United Nations report was stark, gripping and hard to ignore,” Carper said. “I think we needed that right now.”

Reporters George Cahlink and Jean Chemnick contributed.