California Republican Rep. Tom McClintock opened a congressional hearing by reading a Washington Post article detailing the “unheard of” impacts global warming had on the Arctic ecosystem.
“The Arctic Ocean is warming up, icebergs are growing scarcer and some place the seals are finding the water too hot,” McClintock read in a Wednesday hearing, adding that reports “all point to a radical change in climate conditions and hitherto unheard of temperatures in the Arctic zone.”
McClintock went on, then asked President Barack Obama’s top climate adviser Christy Goldfuss if “this the crisis you’re referring to?” — referring to a new guidance her Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) staff issued on accounting for global warming impacts of federal agency actions.
“It is a crisis we’re trying to address,” Goldfuss said, totally unsuspecting of what was about to happen. “I’m not familiar with that specific report…” Goldfuss added.
“Perhaps the reason is because it was November 2, 1922 that The Washington Post carried this article,” McClintock said.
It turns out McClintock was reading a Washington Post article from November 1922, not November 2015 as many listening, including Goldfuss, likely assumed.
In 1922, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported “so little ice as has ever been noted” in the Arctic. A Norwegian captain told NOAA the Arctic “of that region is not recognizable as the same region of 1868 to 1917.”
“Many old landmarks are so changed as to be unrecognizable,” NOAA reported. “At many points where glaciers formerly extended far into the sea they have entirely disappeared.”
McClintock unveiled his ruse at a hearing to determine the impacts of a new White House guidance on how federal agencies should account for the global warming impacts of their decisions.
Republican lawmakers have criticized the guidance, arguing it should have no force since Goldfuss has not actually been confirmed by the Senate. She’s currently the “managing director” at CEQ, since the last CEQ chairman, Michael Boots, left the White House in 2015.
Goldfuss argued the guidance has no force of law, meaning agencies can choose to ignore it when determining their global warming impacts.
McClintock’s allotted time to speak during the hearing, however, largely focused on Earth’s climate history rather than the CEQ guidance.
Here’s what he said:
McClintock: “I think we can agree that global warming has been going on for a long time. It’s been going on and off since the last ice age.”
“In fact, I attended the president’s address at Yosemite this last year. I was struck by his noting that the glaciers in Yosemite were disappearing, and it occurred to me, had he given that speech on that very spot 12,000 years before he would have been covered by nearly 3,000 feet of ice,” he said.
“Doesn’t that predate the invention of the SUV?”
Goldfuss: “What I can speak to is the facts that scientists are pointing to now. So, as has been rightly pointed out, I am not a climate scientist, but what I have been…”
M: “And neither am I, but I do know history, and our pre-history tells us the climate’s always changing. We know that during the Jurassic period 150 million years ago atmospheric carbon dioxide were five times higher than they are today and it was the planet’s prolific period for new species.”
“Do you deny this science?”
G: “… 15 of the 16 hottest years on record have happened since 2000. We have now had 16 months of global averages broken.”
M: “I’m glad you brought that up because we know in recorded history that during the Roman warm period from about 250 to 400 A.D., much of Rome’s grain supply was grown in what are now the deserts of North Africa.”
“We know that during the Medieval warm period from the 10th through the 13th Centuries wine grapes were grown in northern Britain and Iceland and Greenland supported a thriving agricultural economy.”
“And we also know that during the Little Ice Age that followed, the Thames River froze solid every winter and advancing ice sheets destroyed many towns in Europe.”
McClintock then went on to press Goldfuss about the costs of the rule.
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