Boxer Says Senate Will ‘Follow the Science’ on Global Warming Legislation

By Ryan Byrnes | February 3, 2009 | 7:55 PM EST

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. (AP photo)

( - Democratic members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee have pledged to “follow science” in their quest to quell the effects of global warming, even as some reports suggest that belief in the environmental threat is waning. 
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the committee chair, told reporters at a Capitol Hill news conference Tuesday that Democrats on the committee are writing a global warming bill that she says will not only preserve the environment, but also help remedy the nation’s economic problems.
“Don’t allow talk of an economic recession to stop our work,” Boxer said. “The surest way to create good jobs in this country is to mobilize for clean energy.”
Boxer said she does not agree with economists who say taxes are the most effective way to reduce carbon emissions.She reaffirmed support for a cap-and-trade emissions system, though there is disagreement on the committee regarding whether that is the best option, she said.
“We’re working, let’s be clear, on cap-and-trade programs,” Boxer said. “The whole world is doing cap-and-trade, so we need to be consistent.”
Under cap-and trade, government sets a cap on the amount of a pollutant that can be emitted, and companies that exceed the cap are allowed to trade or purchase credits from companies that pollute less.
Boxer outlined the principles that will guide the committee in drafting a global-warming bill: setting short- and long-term emission targets that are certain and enforceable, establishing a transparent and accountable market-based system to reduce carbon emissions, and not setting specific numerical goals for carbon reduction but letting science dictate policy.
“Science will guide us, period,” she said. “Science will guide our committee and we will have a robust debate on what that science says.”
But the committee’s ranking Republican, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who fought similar legislation in the committee last year, warned that the global warming bill that is being readied should be examined closely.
“When it comes to drafting comprehensive climate legislation, the devil is in the details,” Inhofe said in a statement.
The committee’s principles offer “nothing more than a punt on all of the difficult issues that Americans expect to be honestly debated,” he added.
In his 2008 annual report, Inhofe suggested that cap-and-trade legislation could lead to a multitude of problems, including higher gas prices and a loss of manufacturing jobs.
“Congressional cap-and-trade bills, often touted as an ‘insurance policy’ against global warming, would instead be nothing more than all economic pain for no climate gain,” Inhofe said.
Inhofe, meanwhile, issued a minority report last month that quoted 650 top scientists who challenge the claim that global warming is man-made.
More than a dozen additional scientists have publicly expressed their skepticism since the report’s release, including a former NASA supervisor who said climate fears “embarrassed NASA.”
Many of the scientists, like Dutch atmospheric scientist Dr. Hendrik Tennekes, dismiss out of hand the global warming theory, Inhofe reported.
“I find the doomsday picture Al Gore is painting--a six-meter sea level rise, fifteen times the IPCC number--entirely without merit,” said Tennekes, who is the former director of research at The Netherlands’ Royal National Meteorological Institute.
“I protest vigorously the idea that the climate reacts like a home heating system to a changed setting of the thermostat: just turn the dial, and the desired temperature will soon be reached."
Boxer, who is committed to getting a bill out of committee by the end of the year, said she was confident global-warming legislation would gain bipartisan support.
“I know there will be [bipartisan support] because we had it last year,” Boxer added, though she would not specify which Republicans supported previous legislation.