Sen. Franken's colloquy with Sen. Whitehouse on climate change

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On December 14 Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) took to the Senate floor and the C-Span airwaves to talk about climate change, the scientific evidence for anthropogenic global warming, the problem of the global warming disinformation campaign, and the need for strong US action. These days we too rarely see progressive, pro-science members of Congress speak up to counter the denialist noise machine of Sen. Inhofe and his ilk.

Here is the full transcript of the colloquy [PDF] as published in the Congressional Record.

The following is re-posted from Nick Sundt’s post on the World Wildlife Fund Climate Blog, with much thanks for pulling this together.

"Ignoring or flat out contradicting what climate scientists are telling us about the warming climate and the warming planet can lead to really bad decisions on energy and environmental policies here in Congress," said Senator Franken. "So today Senator Whitehouse and I want to take some time to talk about climate science and about the fact that a scientific consensus on climate change has been reached. Climate change is happening and is being driven by human activities."

In contrast to the arguments being pressed by denialists, the Senators presented emerging evidence of growing climate disruption. Here is an excerpt from Senator Whitehouse's remarks:

"The challenge of climate change being extremely real, one of the things that is so frustrating about this campaign of phony, manufactured doubt is that in real life we are seeing the predictions of climate science come true around us.

“Climate scientists predicted the atmosphere would warm, and the atmosphere is warming. Climate scientists predicted the ocean would absorb heat, and sure enough, the ocean has absorbed heat and ocean waters are warming.

“Climate scientists predicted the ocean would absorb CO2 and that would then lower the pH level of our ocean waters. The ocean is now more acidic than it has been in 2 million years, threatening coral reefs, shellfish, and the tiny creatures, such as plankton, that make up the base of the entire oceanic food chain.

“Climate scientists predicted glaciers and Arctic sea ice would melt and, sure enough, we are seeing record melting. We just saw that notorious leftwing publication, USA Today, report: `Federal Report Arctic Much Worse Since 2006. Federal officials say the Arctic region has changed dramatically in the past 5 years for the worse. It is melting at a near record pace and it is darkening and absorbing too much of the sun’s heat.'

"Climate scientists predicted ecosystem shifts, and we are seeing ecosystem shifts, such as the million-plus acre forests in the American West—dead to the bark beetle, gone from being green and healthy forests to just mile after mile of brown and dead trees.”

Senator Whitehouse noted that throughout the corporate world, businesses are seeing these changes and are responding. After presenting a list of companies that "have gone public with the need for us to do something about climate change," and noting that "these are not fringe organizations" but "are the core of the American business community, and they recognize what is going on," he singled out Coca-Cola. He said the company "has taken probably the most iconic product in America—the Coke can—and has redesigned it to reflect what the climate change is doing in the Arctic and to polar bears" (see WWF and The Coca-Cola Company Team Up to Protect Polar Bears).  He continued:

"Coca-Cola is a serious American business, and here is what they say: `The consensus on climate science is increasingly unequivocal—global climate change is happening and man-made greenhouse gas emissions are a crucial factor. The implications of climate change for our planet are profound and wide-ranging, with expected impacts on biodiversity, water resources, public health, and agriculture.' So we put against that the core business community — iconic companies such as Coca-Cola, putting their very label behind the need to address climate change — and the phony-baloney-paid-for scientists who are creating this doubt, and it is time to close this episode."

"Climate change is real, and failure to address it is bad for our standing in the global economy, bad for the Federal budget, and bad for our national security," Senator Franken concluded. "We can do better than that for our children and our grandchildren and posterity."

Earlier posts:

Sen. Whitehouse and other members of Congress call for investigation of conflicts of interest in tar sands pipeline permitting

Al Franken interviews climate change whistleblower Rick Piltz, 2005

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6 Responses to Sen. Franken's colloquy with Sen. Whitehouse on climate change

  1. Mike Mangan says:

    You don't see many progressive alarmist congressmen period, because congress roughly reflects the nation. That's why only a handful of left-wing batshit crazies like Waxman, Markey, and Franken are ever seen near a microphone proclaiming their religious belief in CAGW. Normal people don't believe all of that bullshit and fraud from Gore, Mann, and Soros. If Franken wants to limit co2 he can start by killing himself.

    • Rick - Climate Science Watch says:

      Usually our comment moderation policy leads us to use the ‘Trash it’ option for this sort of thing, and that will continue. But perhaps once in a while it might be of interest to our readers to see an example of some of what comes slithering in from cyberspace. This is how the commenter thinks ‘normal’ people should think. Imagine an America in which this attitude was generally considered to be the norm. Go somewhere else, Mike. And be careful about suggesting that a US Senator should die, given that the ‘batshit craziness’ is really more characteristic of your side.

  2. RW says:

    And still no one can explain why watts of additional GHG 'forcing' will be amplified by over 400% when solar forcing is only amplified by about 60%, so the nonsense continues.

    • admin says:

      Response from a Climate Science Watch climate science adviser—

      I am not sure what he is talking about, but I’ll give a first try at it.

      Certainly, the way IPCC sets up the sensitivity relationship and counts flux changes, the response ratios for flux changes at the tropopause are the same for both. Basically, using a 3 C sensitivity to the net flux change of a bit over 4 W/m2 at the tropopause for a CO2 doubling, one gets a 0.75 C warming in response to a flux change of 1 W/m2. There are a number of model simulations, including ones for geoengineering studies, that equate the climate response of a CO2 doubling to a change in solar radiation to about 1.8% (see Caldeira and Wood, 2008, for example). So, let’s check on the solar term.

      On the response to a change in solar radiation, the key issue is getting the net flux change at the tropopause correct. Starting with the direct solar irradiance, looking full on to the Sun at noon: This flux is now observed by satellites to be 1360.8 W/m2 at the top of the atmosphere. So 1.8% is roughly 24.5 W/m2 for a 3 C temperature change. But, 24.5 W/m2 is not the average value of the net change in solar flux at the tropopause. First, one must divide by 4, since the area of the surface of the Earth is 4 times the area of the cross-section of the Earth (that is from the formula for the area of a sphere). So, that is about 6.1 W/m2. Now, the Earth has an albedo (reflectivity) of about 0.3, so one only wants to calculate the net flux of solar radiation (in minus out), and so we multiply 6.1 times 0.7 and this equals about 4.3 W/m2 for a 3 C response. So the response is 0.7 C per W/m2.

      So, using this very rough approach, we get to within 10%, and this is without accounting for solar absorption of UV radiation, etc. Thus, I just don’t understand how your commenter can get a ratio 6-7 times as much response for GHG forcing as for solar.

  3. co2hound says:

    The 'batshit' craziness can quickly turn a recommendation that a US Senator kill himself into a recommendation that the good senator be killed. Outside of the legalities of such a recommendation ... the distinction is subtle and in a nation where norms change, these distinctions may quickly dissolve.

    Just finished Shawn Otto's book, "Fool Me Twice". It's a great explanation of why science can be trashed so easily in the USA. It's good read. It also provides HUGE context for these opinionated but empty arguments.

  4. Paul says:

    I think they left out one detail: The Military has been planning for global warming for twenty-something years.
    "Global warming will challenge the interna- tional community as indications of a warming climate—such as meltbacks of polar ice, sea level rise, and increasing frequency of major storms—occur. "
    This quote is from the Director of National Intelligence's Global Trends Report 2015, published in 2000. They talk about global warming. Then check out the 2025 Global Trends Report, published in 2008. Page 51 is where they address climate. http://www.dni.gov

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