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Lamar Smith should hold climate hearings in Texas

This article written by Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office, appeared on the editorial page of the San Antonio Express-News on Sept. 2

The newest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, leaked to media earlier this week, is frightening and conclusive.

The panel of several hundred scientists, which won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, says the odds are at least 95 percent that humans are the principal cause of climate change. The panel predicts an increase of 5 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century and warns that a rise of that magnitude would cause “extreme heat waves, difficulty growing food and massive changes in plant and animal life, probably including   a wave of extinction,” according to the New York Times.

Yet U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chair of the Committee on Science and Technology, claims the science is uncertain about how much of the warming is caused by humans.

As a result, he has urged U.S. policy makers to take a skeptical view of “overheated” rhetoric about climate change. He’s called for relaxing, not strengthening, regulations on carbon emissions from power plants. And he’s urged moving forward with the Keystone XL Pipeline, even though on a daily basis it would carry 830,000 barrels of tar sands oil – one of the world’s dirtiest fuels, which, according to the Congressional Research Service, generates at least 14 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oils do.

Rep. Smith should hold climate change hearings here in Texas – in Austin and San Antonio. Then he could listen to people who are living with the impact of global warming. He could take counsel from Texas scientists and city officials who have moved way past debating the reality of climate change and onto figuring out what we can do about it.

Here, drought exacerbated by rising temperatures is generating wildfires and dry river beds. In its fourth year, the drought afflicts 84 percent of the state, up from 76 percent a year ago, according to an August report from the U.S. Drought Monitor. Crops and livestock continue to die; businesses reliant on lakes and rivers continue to fail, and once again, many of us are living with severe water restrictions.

Here, we are having more frequent tornadoes and paying more for our insurance.

Here, our low lying coastal areas are vulnerable to rising sea levels and hurricanes.

Here, scientists from University of Texas at Austin are trying to figure out how rising temperatures will impact water supplies, infrastructure, agriculture, and public health, and how we can prepare. At the University of Texas in San Antonio, scientists are looking at ways to mitigate climate change by using new tools to integrate solar and other renewable technologies into our electrical grid. And both San Antonio and Austin are among the nation’s leading municipal utilities in shifting to renewable energy sources and away from coal plants.

As four Republican former EPA administrators wrote in a widely circulated August op-ed on climate change: “The costs of inaction are undeniable. The lines of scientific evidence grow only stronger and more numerous. And the window of time remaining to act is growing smaller: delay could mean that warming becomes “locked in. The only uncertainty about our warming world is how bad the changes will get, and how soon. What is most clear is that there is no time to waste.”