Here Is Exactly What the Chamber of Commerce Thinks About Global Warming

The smoke stacks at American Electric Power's (AEP) Mountaineer coal power plant in New Haven, West Virginia, October 30, 2009. In cooperation with AEP, the French company Alstom unveiled the world's largest carbon capture facility at a coal plant, so called 'clean coal,' which will store around 100,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide a year 2,1 kilometers (7,200 feet) underground.
National Journal
Ben Geman
March 13, 2014, 3:20 p.m.

A Sen­ate hear­ing Thursday on the pro­posed Key­stone XL pipeline pro­duced a clear piece of news: The U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce isn’t es­pe­cially fond of talk­ing about hu­mans’ con­tri­bu­tion to glob­al warm­ing.

Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee Chair­man Robert Men­en­dez asked the Cham­ber’s Kar­en Har­bert wheth­er the Cham­ber agrees that cli­mate change is real and caused by hu­mans.

“The Cham­ber has a long re­cord on cli­mate and here is what it is: Num­ber one, we sup­port ad­dress­ing our en­vir­on­ment [with] things that work,” said Har­bert, who heads the Cham­ber’s In­sti­tute for 21st Cen­tury En­ergy, in re­sponse.

She then noted that U.S. car­bon emis­sions have been fall­ing already and said Europe’s cap-and-trade pro­gram isn’t work­ing.

“We want to be in fa­vor of things that work, tech­no­lo­gies that work, that put Amer­ic­ans back to work, so we strongly be­lieve in im­prov­ing the en­vir­on­ment while also pro­tect­ing the eco­nomy,” said Har­bert, who later in the hear­ing would note the Cham­ber’s sup­port for green-tech­no­logy R&D and en­ergy-ef­fi­ciency le­gis­la­tion.

But Men­en­dez, a New Jer­sey Demo­crat, kept press­ing on his spe­cif­ic cli­mate query. “That’s not re­spons­ive to my ques­tion,” Men­en­dez said. “I asked a very simple ques­tion: Does the Cham­ber be­lieve that cli­mate change is real and caused by hu­mans? Yes or no?”

Har­bert replied: “We be­lieve that we should be do­ing everything in our power to ad­dress the en­vir­on­ment.”

Men­en­dez replied: “That’s great. But is cli­mate change caused … is it real?”

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4812) }}

Har­bert: “The cli­mate is warm­ing, without a doubt.”

Men­en­dez: “So cli­mate change is real. Is it caused by hu­mans?”

Har­bert: “And the oth­er part of that an­swer is, is it warm­ing as much as some of my col­leagues on this pan­el have pre­dicted in the past, and the an­swer is no.” (The wit­ness pan­el in­cluded former NASA cli­mate sci­ent­ist James Hansen and Si­erra Club Ex­ec­ut­ive Dir­ect­or Mi­chael Brune.)

Men­en­dez: “I am go­ing to get to that, too … but you have got to give me your an­swer: Is it caused by hu­mans?”

Har­bert: “It is caused by lots of dif­fer­ent things, and you can’t say that cli­mate change is only caused by hu­mans. I think the sci­ence is what you’re point­ing to, and we have a ro­bust de­bate go­ing on in this coun­try, as we should, and those that would say everything is settled sort of un­der­cut the in­teg­rity of sci­ence. It’s an on­go­ing dis­cus­sion.”

So, at the end of all that, the Cham­ber is ac­know­ledging a hu­man con­tri­bu­tion to cli­mate change. But Har­bert’s fram­ing un­der­plays the ex­tent of agree­ment among sci­ent­ists that hu­man activ­it­ies, in­clud­ing car­bon emis­sions from fossil fuels, are the key driver of glob­al warm­ing.

For in­stance, a re­cent joint re­port by the Na­tion­al Academy of Sci­ences and the U.K.’s Roy­al So­ci­ety con­cludes that re­cent cli­mate change is “largely” caused by hu­mans, and the United Na­tions In­ter­gov­ern­ment­al Pan­el on Cli­mate Change last year con­cluded there’s at least a 95 per­cent chance that hu­mans have been the “dom­in­ant” cause of warm­ing since the mid-20th cen­tury.

The Men­en­dez-Har­bert ex­change on cli­mate be­gins at the 59:50 mark here.

What We're Following See More »
Priebus Asks Party to Unite Behind Trump
7 hours ago
Sanders Upsets Clinton in Indiana
8 hours ago

Despite trailing Hillary Clinton by a significant margin, Bernie Sanders wasn't going the way of Ted Cruz tonight. The Vermont senator upset Clinton in Indiana, with MSNBC calling the race at 9pm. Sanders appears poised to win by a five- or six-point spread.

Ted Cruz Bows Out, Effectively Ceding the Contest to Trump
9 hours ago

And just like that, it's over. Ted Cruz will suspend his presidential campaign after losing badly to Donald Trump in Indiana tonight. "While Cruz had always hedged when asked whether he would quit if he lost Indiana; his campaign had laid a huge bet on the state." John Kasich's campaign has pledged to carry on. “From the beginning, I’ve said that I would continue on as long as there was a viable path to victory,” said Cruz. “Tonight, I’m sorry to say it appears that path has been foreclosed."

Trump Wins Indiana, All but Seals the Nomination
9 hours ago

The Republican establishment's last remaining hope—a contested convention this summer—may have just ended in Indiana, as Donald Trump won a decisive victory over Ted Cruz. Nothing Cruz seemed to have in his corner seemed to help—not a presumptive VP pick in Carly Fiorina, not a midwestern state where he's done well in the past, and not the state's legions of conservatives. Though Trump "won't secure the 1,237 delegates he needs to formally claim the nomination until June, his Indiana triumph makes it almost impossible to stop him. Following his decisive wins in New York and other East Coast states, the Indiana victory could put Trump within 200 delegates of the magic number he needs to clinch the nomination." Cruz, meanwhile, "now faces the agonizing choice of whether to remain in the race, with his attempt to force the party into a contested convention in tatters, or to bow out and cede the party nomination to his political nemesis." The Associated Press, which called the race at 7pm, predicts Trump will win at least 45 delegates.

What’s the Average Household Income of a Trump Voter?
14 hours ago

Seventy-two thousand dollars, according to FiveThirtyEight. That's higher than the national average, as well as the average Clinton or Sanders voter, but lower than the average Kasich voter.