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
Add to Briefcase
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?”

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.


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.