Science Policy & Funding News

Leading Congress Member Promises Renewed Focus on Climate Change

In a statement issued at AGU’s Fall Meeting 2018, House Science Committee ranking member Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson says that “it is time to stand up for science.”

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Calling climate change “perhaps the biggest challenge of our time,” Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) promised a renewed focus on the issue during the next Congress in a statement released at AGU’s Fall Meeting 2018 on Monday.

“As we look forward to next year, with a change in leadership on the [House] Science Committee, you can expect to see a renewed focus on climate change,” Johnson said in the statement. Johnson currently is the ranking Democrat on the committee. With the Democrats controlling the next Congress, which convenes in January, Johnson is expected to become the new chairperson of the committee.

Her statement was released during a Fall Meeting session titled “Communicating Climate Change: Informing Politicians and Policy Makers.” That session included climate scientists Richard Alley and Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University, University Park; Katherine Marvel of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York; and Kathie Dello of Oregon State University, Corvallis. Session co-convener Bob Ward of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, a research center at the London School of Economics and Political Science, had invited Johnson to participate in the session either in person or by a written statement that could be read out on her behalf.

“As the Ranking Member of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology, I have witnessed what often times felt like steps backwards on this issue,” Johnson wrote. The current committee chair, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), has called climate scientists “alarmists.”

Johnson said in her statement that warming temperatures across the country can lead to significant negative impacts on our environment, our economy, and our health and that the impacts will span generations, including those that have not been born yet.

She wrote that following the release of two major reports earlier this year—the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above preindustrial levels and volume 2 of the Fourth U.S. National Climate Assessment—“it is clear that we cannot sit idly by and do nothing to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Our planet is warming at an alarming rate, with human activity playing the largest role. The consequences of this warming will be devastating [and have] already begun to impact us in irreversible ways.”

Her statement emphasized her commitment to scientific consensus. “It is long past time for us to stop debating the existence of climate change, and start discussing the very real impact of our changing climate on American lives. It is time to stand up for science,” Johnson stated. “I hope that the Science Committee will again become a place for thoughtful discussion on not only the state of the climate science, but also in the myriad of impacts, and potential technology and policy solutions that could be implemented to help with climate change adaptation and mitigation.”

—Randy Showstack (@RandyShowstack), Staff Writer

Citation: Showstack, R. (2018), Leading Congress member promises renewed focus on climate change, Eos, 99, https://doi.org/10.1029/2018EO111925. Published on 11 December 2018.
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