Since taking over as Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works in January, California Senator Barbara Boxer has emerged as a truly bizarre figure in the global warming debate. Making climate change the focus of committee activities, Boxer maintains that "the American people have the will to slow, stop, and reverse global warming."
Whether such a statement is due to a genuine naiveté about climate science on Boxer’s part, or is strategically crafted to take advantage of public confusion on the issue, it is an assertion she is making often. Speaking at the National Press Club on April 14 and again in her introduction to the June 7th Senate committee hearing, Boxer promised her audience that "Working Together we can reverse Global Warming!" The issue usually dominates her personal site, www.barbaraboxer.com, and she even includes a button, "Act Now to Stop Global Warming", on the Senate committee site (http://epw.senate.gov/public/).
Twenty-first century humankind, let alone one nation, has no chance of accomplishing such a feat of planetary engineering. While debate rages in the climate science community about the causes of the past century’s warming, no rational scientist believes we can "reverse global warming". And, if someday we could, we would have to be very careful indeed — history shows that significant global cooling is disastrous and climate is never constant.
Citing religious texts and the importance of protecting children from global warming, "just as we would never, ever leave them trapped in a locked car in the hot sun", Boxer has completely polarized debate in committee. Instead of graciously accepting testimony from highly qualified skeptics of the theory of human-induced climate change, Boxer attempts to discredit their testimony by attacking them professionally and, at times personally.
Colorado State University Professor Emeritus of Atmospheric Sciences William Gray can certainly attest to the former. When the highly-respected Gray testified that today’s climate models are of little value in predicting future climate change, Boxer continually interrupted and aggressively questioned his credibility as a researcher in the field.
During the June 28th hearings, Boxer attacked the safety record of Murray Energy Corporation of
Contrast this with Boxer’s treatment of Al Gore when he testified before committee in March. Besides the procedural irregularities condoned by Boxer–granting Gore a 30-minute opening statement and a waiver of committee rules concerning written testimony submission (a "silly thing" to be concerned about, she told Fox TV)–Boxer said in her opening statement, "Personally, I believe your [Gore’s] work has made all the difference for the future of our planet and for our children and grandchildren. When the history of this issue is written, your name will be at the forefront …"
According to committee rules, chairmen have the duty to prevent "any demonstration of approval or disapproval" during hearings. Boxer is clearly in violation; however the person responsible for ensuring that chairmen enforce such rules is fellow California Democratic Senator, Diane Feinstein, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration. That Feinstein sides with Boxer on the global warming issue may explain why the rule is not being enforced.
Boxer is also the co-sponsorship of the "Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act" (S.309). The title, and much of the text of the bill, is inappropriate since, regardless of its impact on climate change, CO2, the act’s major target, is not a pollutant. Strategists must have concluded that so labeling CO2 will pay off politically since it fosters the perception that the bill is about reducing pollution, even though it is not.
So why are we, as Canadians, concerned about Boxer’s exceptionally biased behaviour?
We fear that, as Boxer chills open debate in committee, one of the last avenues for scientists to give dissenting input to government will effectively close. Considering Congress’ impact on World opinion, such a muzzling of open dialog would be a tragedy indeed.Dr. Tim Ball, Chairman of the Natural Resources Stewardship Project, is a Victoria-based environmental consultant and former climatology professor at the