Global warming is a term that we hear on the television and read about in newspapers on a daily basis. Unfortunately, a significant amount of the information conveyed by mass media outlets, environmental activists, and political organizations has been highly misleading and sensationalized.
As we evaluate this issue carefully, it is important to remember the scientific limitations which impact our understanding. Countless studies have been published - many of them contradicting - related to global warming. The fact of the matter is that there are aspects of climate science that are proven, and there are other aspects that have significantly less certainty. Scientists have documented that the Earth's temperature is rising. However, scientists admit that they cannot be sure whether the Earth's temperature is rising due to cyclical warming and cooling processes, or whether and how much humans are influencing it.
Despite dire predictions and prophetic warnings contained in a host of poorly researched Hollywood productions, there is no proof that our planet is warming because of mankind and there is certainly no proof that any of the radical changes proposed by environmentalists will end recent warming trends.
However, whether or not human activity is having an impact on our climate, it is important for Congress to advance public policy that will promote new sustainable fuel sources. Clean coal technology, nuclear power, cellulosic ethanol and biomass are a few of the possible options. New energy sources are important not solely on the basis of environmental fear mongering, but to ensure an affordable and reliable source of energy for our growing economy into the future.
When studying global climate change the biggest challenge is to understand the natural variations and what affect, if any, humans have on the climate. Indeed, scientists have documented a human-induced increase in greenhouse gas emissions (CO2) since the Industrial Revolution. They have also documented that these greenhouse emissions hang around in the Earth's atmosphere for years, therefore increasing the concentrations. However, it is difficult to determine the affects of greenhouse gases. Indeed, scientists cannot prove that greenhouses gases are contributing to climate change. Other complex and natural factors play significant, most likely predominant roles, and have driven climate change over the history of our planet. Mars, for example, has been undergoing a warming period since the 1970's and planetary climate change on Earth has clearly predated human activity.
Noting my skepticism over the science suggesting man made global warming; I have nonetheless supported several initiatives that reduce greenhouse gas emissions as a matter of good public policy. I have also proposed legislation that will increase the solar tax credit, thereby making it easier for Americans to purchase solar energy systems for their homes. Additionally, legislation I have authored would increase funding for plug-in hybrids which would decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
Congress has provided tens of billions of dollars to research and better understand climate change, as have other governments around the world. As we debate this issue, it is important that discussions of new laws and regulations take into consideration the economic impact of radical changes to our economy which are disproportionally felt by low income Americans. Fossil fuels, for example, have played instrumental roles in reducing poverty and world hunger.
Rather than create policies that will raise the cost of energy, Congress should invest in alternative energy sources that simultaneously reduce energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Technological advances in biofuel and ethanol production, advances in solar and fuel cell technology and creating nuclear energy plants will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and decrease our dependence on foreign oil.