Threat of Climate Change Focus of House Hearing

The potential future effects of global climate change include more frequent wildfires, longer periods of drought in some regions and an increase in the number, duration and intensity of tropical storms.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is getting set to hold a hearing on the threat of climate change. Public lands can play a critical role in the consequences and solutions to the climate crisis

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is set to hold a hearing on climate change for the first time in 2013. The committee has asked 13 different federal witnesses to participate, but EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz will be representing the Obama Administration at this hearing. Climate change is impacting our public lands and dealing with the threat starts with having conversations and hearings, followed by positive action.

President Obama announced early this summer that his administration would take action to mitigate and adapt to the ongoing threat of climate change through reducing carbon emissions, transitioning to clean energy and preparing our cities and lands for a warming climate. These steps are critical if we are to confront the climate crisis. Our public lands play a crucial role in moving the president’s Climate Action Plan forward.

Part of the president’s plan is to double the amount of renewable energy that is being sited on our public lands and waters. Our federal lands have historically been an important part of our energy policy, and that will continue into the future. The Wilderness Society has played a part in making sure that our most sensitive lands are set aside for conservation, while directing energy development towards low impact areas that do not pose a threat to sensitive areas and wildlife habitat.

To that end, TWS has opposed oil and gas leases in wild places that need to be conserved for recreational purposes and to protect our clean air and water and wildlife habitats. We have also supported an evaluation of our lands to best determine which places are most suitable for solar energy development. Combined, these actions will greatly reduce our carbon emissions while transitioning the nation away from dirty energy sources like oil and gas towards a cleaner renewable energy.

Another critical component we hope the committee will discuss deals with the budgets at the disposal of the Obama Administration. The budgets for energy and conservation have been repeatedly slashed over the last three years.

These funds are vital to helping land managers adapt to changing landscapes throughout our country. Climate change has already become a major issue in places such as Alaska and the Arctic where ice is rapidly melting. These types of issues will only accelerate as the climate gets warmer and the impacts, from melting glaciers to areas experiencing severe drought, intensify. With the budget cycle coming to a close at the end of this month, we are hoping that Congress gives the administration enough money to allow the land managers on the ground to properly manage the land.

It is vital that Congress recognize that climate change is already occurring and that we need to adapt to the changing landscapes. This hearing is a good venue to explore the impacts and potential remedies and we hope the Congress does that.