One of the nice things about living in a democracy is that individual citizens can express their views.
On May 24 the Environmental Protection Agency held a public hearing in DC on its proposed regulation that would set limits on CO2 emissions from new coal-fired power plants — it would not affect existing ones or those already approved.
The hearing went from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with breaks for lunch and dinner, and any interested person could sign up to speak for five minutes.
The Lorax was also there to support the proposed regulation, but did not testify.
The schedule was fully booked, with witnesses ranging from DC residents expressing personal health concerns to experts with reams of data. In my testimony I summarized some points from my recent Patch blog about climate change and presented the two charts from that blog — one showing how plant "hardiness zones" in the US have shifted northward since 1990, the other showing that, for the last several decades, the average temperature in the earth's northern latitudes has been rising steadily while the area of polar sea ice has been shrinking — and both trends appear to be accelerating.
I also mentioned working on some environmental issues at CIA in the early 90s and being persuaded by the 1992 book "The Economics of Global Warming" by a respected economist, William Cline. After presenting the evidence and arguments on both sides, he concluded that the case for global warming was not absolutely proven, but was very strong. He determined that the potential consequences were very bad and in that situation the rational response was to begin taking steps to mitigate the consequences. And since 1992 the evidence has gotten much stronger, including shrinking glaciers around the world and insects causing problems in regions that used to be too cold for them. CO2 also causes other problems, such as making the oceans more acidic, which marine biologists say will kill off all the earth's coral reefs.
The proposed CO2 regulation is only a small step and EPA can't impose a carbon tax, which would be the most cost-effective approach. But the Supreme Court has ruled that it has not only the power, but also the duty to take action to limit CO2 emissions that are within its power.
I also mentioned the overwhelming consensus among scientists that climate change is a serious, human-caused problem with potentially catastrophic consequences. And not only climate scientists, but also those in other fields, such as physicist Stephen Hawking and biologist E. O. Wilson, who has written about humans destroying the biosphere that sustains us.
To conclude, I said that in my CIA career I had never worked on an issue as clear-cut as the threat posed by global warming, and suggested that EPA ask CIA for its analysis of the problem and what other countries were doing to address it.