Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL): Climate model predictions of warming are not panning out, and even if goals of Climate Action Plan were achieved, there’d be no measurable difference for 100 yrs. [For fact checking]

January 28, 2014 5:31 pm2 comments

POSTED FOR COMMENTARY BY SCIENTISTS

The following statements are from Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) during the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Work’s hearing titled “Review of the President’s Climate Action Plan.” The hearing was held on January 16, 2014.

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama)
48:14

The truth is that predictions of warming have simply not occurred at the rate that the experts have predicted. This rush to force billions more dollars of costs on this economy and thousands of more people laid off based on predictions that are not panning out deserves analysis.

50:14

The facts show that if the [President’s Climate Action Plan] is adopted in its entirety and all these goals are achieved in the U.S., there would still be no measurable difference in the global temperature twenty, fifty, or a hundred years from now.

51:25

As shown in this chart [aids holding up chart], which was updated two days ago with the most recent temperatures of 2013, global temperatures have not increased since 1998. They just haven’t. That is not consistent with the models that we have been told correctly predict our future.

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama): "As shown in this chart [...] global temperatures have not increased since 1998. They just haven’t. That is not consistent with the models that we have been told correctly predict our future." Source: C-SPAN.

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama). EPW Committee hearing on President’s Climate Action Plan. Jan. 16, 2014. Source: C-SPAN.

Source: Review of the President’s Climate Action Plan: Hearing on Climate Change and President’s Climate Action Plan before U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, 113th Cong. (2014) (statements by Republican Senators). See video at http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/317244-1.

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INITIAL COMMENTS BY THE CCNF SCIENTIST COMMUNITY: 

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Dr. Bart Verheggen 

Dr. Bart Verheggen

My response is similar to what I wrote re the NIPCC report and all statements trying to over-interpret the meaning of the “pause”:

  • The Senator wrongly suggests that the timeseries of surface air temperatures over 16 years is indicative of the longer term (multi-decadal) forced trend (what John calls 16 data points vs the process in his response to the NIPCC post).
  • He wrongly suggests that surface air temperatures is all there’s to global warming (whereas most excess energy ends up in the oceans which appear to be warming, including over this same period).
  • Also, it is something that has more recently been quantified, so it can’t really be held against him, but the surface temperature data have a cool bias by ignoring large parts of the (rapidly warming) Arctic (see also http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2014/01/global-temperature-2013/).

The warming that is expected at any point in time depends on a few things:

  • The climate forcing (how is the energy coming in and going out of the system changing?)
  • The climate sensitivity (how much warming would we eventually expect after equilibrium has been reached)
  • The climate response time (how fast is equilibrium reached)
  • Natural variability

The “positive” (warming) climate forcing from greenhouse gases has been counteracted in the past decade by a “negative” (cooling) climate forcing due to a very inactive sun and due to more reflective aerosols (from volcanoes and from China). On top of that, La Nina conditions prevailed over this time period so this mode of natural variability added more coolness so to speak. To what extent the sensitivity and response time are different from what we thought it was is harder to pin down (e.g. paleo-estimates differ from what may be deduced from the transient changes during the past 150 years).

His second point is a classic prisoner’s dilemma, but he also conflates the *global* temps with *American* emissions, as if the US emissions are the only driver of global temps.

THE FORUM'S COMMENT THREAD

  • The chart shown by his aides shows global surface temperature increases stopping in the early 2000s, not 1998.

    The entire globe would adopt less carbon-intensive energy sources if the Climate Action Plan’s investments in clean energy technologies lead to technological advances that make them cheaper than conventional sources. Sessions’ analysis of the impact of US-only actions appears to assume no such breakthroughs.

  • The senator is interested only in finding one piece of data that can be used to force the EPA administrator into a corner on making a statement on the overall prediction of climate change. Tamino breaks down the temperature change from 1979-1997 versus 1998-2013. It shows sustained warmth in the latter period versus the former. This is a better measure than just simply using the annual mean high temperature mark of the 20th century for the starting point in comparing annual mean temperature as the way to measure global warming.

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PUBLIC COMMENT THREAD

  • http://atmo.tamu.edu/profile/JNielsen-Gammon John Nielsen-Gammon

    The chart shown by his aides shows global surface temperature increases stopping in the early 2000s, not 1998.

    The entire globe would adopt less carbon-intensive energy sources if the Climate Action Plan’s investments in clean energy technologies lead to technological advances that make them cheaper than conventional sources. Sessions’ analysis of the impact of US-only actions appears to assume no such breakthroughs.

  • http://glacierchange.wordpress.com/ Mauri Pelto

    The senator is interested only in finding one piece of data that can be used to force the EPA administrator into a corner on making a statement on the overall prediction of climate change. Tamino breaks down the temperature change from 1979-1997 versus 1998-2013. It shows sustained warmth in the latter period versus the former. This is a better measure than just simply using the annual mean high temperature mark of the 20th century for the starting point in comparing annual mean temperature as the way to measure global warming.

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