Global Warming Committee Examines Forest Fires

Posted: Nov 01, 2007 2:41 PM
Global Warming Committee Examines Forest Fires

After Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) blamed climate change for California’s raging forest fires, House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s (D.-Calif.) newly created global warming committee tried to prove Reid’s contention true.

In an October 24 news conference Reid told reporters, “One reason that we have fires burning in Southern California is global warming.”

Soon after, the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, which Pelosi formed in one of her first acts as Speaker, scheduled a Thursday morning hearing devoted to “examining the scientific link between a changing climate and the frequency and intensity of wildfires."

The committee’s website features a “skeptic watch” and labels California as a “global warming impact zone.” Other listed U.S. impact zones include Alaska, Florida and the Midwest.

At his hearing, Chairman Rep. Ed Markey (D.-Mass.) said global warming was not the sole cause of the wildfires but was a contributing factor. He said, “Global warming does not cause an individual fire or hurricane, and global warming is not the cause of the California fires.”

Rather, “Global warming’s contribution to wildfires is more subtle and more complex, and scientists and the firefighting community are just beginning to tease out this complex climate record from those factors which may be influencing these natural disasters in unnatural ways,” Markey’s written testimony said.

He noted that it was important that authorities determine which fires were caused by a “young boy playing with matches…from what started with lighting or a power line collapse or some other common cause of such fires.”

Ranking Member Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R.-Wisc.) expressed strong dissent from Markey. He said “global warming alarmists” were making Hurricane Katrina and the California fires “the poster children for global warming.”

“Global warming alarmists are using these natural disasters to promote regulations that will have little or no effect on these forces of nature,” Sensenbrenner said.

Republican Rep. Greg Walden (Ore.) showed concern that court appeals had prevented forest services from removing dried-out, dead trees before the fires occurred, which were easily ignited when strong winds blew the fires across California.

During the question and answer portion of the hearing, Democratic Rep. Jay Inslee (Wash.) railed against President Bush for not taking enough action to stop global warming.

“You go up to Northern Washington, you see miles of dead trees,” he said. “I don’t know if George Bush has ever looked at that.”

He then told U.S. Forest Service Chief Abigail Kimbell, who came to testify before the committee, “It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as George Bush stands at the schoolhouse door and prevents us in Congress to do things to stop global warming, these forests are going to die.”

“It doesn’t matter what you do because the forces are too great,” Inslee lectured the Forest Service Chief. “As long as George Bush allows unchecked CO2 emissions into the air, these forests are going to die. So, I have a great sadness about the position you are in, trying to save the unsavable when the President of the United States won’t help us deal with the mortal threat to these forests.

He then asked, “Have you told George Bush personally his policies are killing forests over which you have responsibility?”

Kimbell responded “no.” Inslee followed up: “What I am trying to say is no matter what you do, or how many great people are work with you, as long as climates are changing to entirely different regimes, they are going to be dead! And I want to know, would you be willing to try and get with the President of the United States and personally tell him, show him with pictures the devastation that is happening to these forests so maybe he will start to work with us on these problems.”

Kimbell replied she would be willing to talk with the president about the health of U.S. forests.

Others called to testify to the committee were Dr. Steven Running, professor of ecology at the University of Montana, Michael Francis, director of forest program and deputy vice president of the Wilderness Society, and Dr. Michael Medler, president-elect of the Association for Fire Ecology.