Administration Vows 'Rigorous Use of Best Available Scientific' Data in Climate Action Plan

WASHINGTON – A high-ranking White House science adviser told a House panel on Wednesday that administration initiatives to combat global climate change are based on the best available data and are intended to “lead international efforts” to meet the challenge.

John Holdren, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President, told the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology that decades of observation, monitoring, and analysis have established that the earth’s climate is changing “at an unusual pace compared to natural changes in climate experienced in the past.” Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions “from human activities,” principally the combustion of fossil fuels but also land-use change, are primarily responsible, he said.

Climate change, Holdren said, is “already causing harm in many parts of the world” and the damage will increase for some time to come. But he added there exists “a large difference between the amount of additional harm projected to occur in the absence of vigorous remedial action versus that expected if such action is taken promptly.”

“The recent measured changes in climate include a multi-decade increase in the year-round, global-average air temperature near earth’s surface but they are not limited to that,” Holdren said. “The changes also include increased temperatures in the ocean, increased moisture in the atmosphere, increased numbers of extremely hot days, changed patterns of rainfall and snowfall and, in some regions, increases in droughts, wildfires and unusually powerful storms.”

As a consequence, Holdren said, glaciers are melting, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are losing mass, and sea levels are rising.

These findings, Holdren added, “have been endorsed by every major national academy of sciences in the world.”

Given all that, Holdren said, President Obama “has been committed, from the beginning of his administration, to the rigorous use of the best available scientific and technical information in formulating policy, including, of course, policy to address the threats from climate change.” The Climate Action Plan, he said, contains initiatives to make new energy technologies more economic by reducing barriers to their implementation and seeks to reduce greenhouse gasses emissions through new regulations regarding emissions from both new and existing coal-fired power plants.

CAP also calls for the manufacture of cars that are more fuel efficient and greater conservation efforts.

The panel’s Republican lawmakers were not enthusiastic about the administration’s climate change efforts as outlined by Holdren. The tepid response was emphasized by the title given the hearing: "The Administration’s Climate Plan: Failure by Design."