“An Examination of the Impacts of Global Warming on the Chesapeake Bay”

By | September 25, 2007

Today’s hearing is on the impact global warming is having on the Chesapeake Bay.  It is also this Committee’s 14th hearing on global warming.  It was my hope that we would begin having hearings and discussions on actual bill language so that Members can begin to understand the intricate details of how many of the ideas mentioned today would work in reality.  Due to an abundance of new peer-reviewed studies, analyses, and data error discoveries in the last several months, this year has been a dramatic one for global warming revelations.  There has been a “scandal” of U.S. temperature data network where thermometers have been erroneously placed near heat generating equipment and hot asphalt.  Further, Antarctic ice has grown to record levels since satellite monitoring began in the 1970’s and NASA temperature data re-evaluations have made 1934 — not 1998 — the hottest year on record in the U.S.

Most interesting, Greenland has cooled since the 1940’s.  According to multiple peer-reviewed studies, current temperatures in Greenland have not even reached the temperatures from the 1930s and 1940s.  It is important to note that 80% of man-made CO2 came after these high temperatures were reached in Greenland. We have seen global average temperatures flat line since 1998 and the Southern Hemisphere cool in recent years.

Many of my colleagues today will undoubtedly say the science advocating man-made global warming is settled.  In fact, just last month, a comprehensive survey of peer-reviewed scientific literature from 2004-2007 revealed “Less than half of all published scientists endorse global warming theory.”  The survey used the same search term as that used in a survey cited by Al Gore in his movie as proof of the consensus. 

The study revealed that of 528 total papers on climate change, only 7% gave an explicit endorsement of the consensus. The figure rose to 45 percent if one includes implicit endorsement, or the acceptance of the consensus without an explicit statement.  While only 6% reject the consensus outright, the largest category (48%) is neutral papers, refusing to either accept or reject the hypothesis.  This lead the science publication Daily Tech to conclude in August 2007 “This is no ‘consensus.’” Let me repeat, just last month, a comprehensive survey of peer-reviewed scientific literature from 2004-2007 revealed “Less than half of all published scientists endorse global warming theory.”

With regard to the Bay, its sea levels have been rising for thousands of years.  The Bay itself is the product of rising sea level.  The Bay is at best 10,000 years old and recognizable to us in its current form only in the last 5,000 years.  Further, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Bay has risen about 6 inches per century over the last 6,000 years.  According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the sea level rise is due to naturally occurring regional land subsidence.  The land is subsiding at a rate of 1.33 millimeters per year.  In its report on global warming, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation noted that “much of the area is actually sinking due to geological processes that began during the last ice age.”   The Bay and its sea life have adjusted to its constant rise in sea level and it will continue to adjust and if the pollution issues can be brought under control, it will continue to flourish.

This hearing should not have been about the impact of global warming on the Bay but rather I would propose that this hearing should have been on the Bay’s health, the pollution sources, the local economy and the water quality. In 2000, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia signed the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement whereby they committed to reducing loadings sufficient to remove the Chesapeake and its tributaries from EPA’s list of impaired waters by 2010.

In 1985, 358 million pounds of nitrogen were delivered to the Bay’s tidal waters.  By 2005, nitrogen loadings into the tidal waters were down to 286 million pounds.  However, as noted in last year’s Inspector General Report, the average rate of decrease in nitrogen loadings is about 3.4 million pounds annually.  In order to meet the 2000 Agreement’s goal of removing the Bay from EPA’s impaired waters list, nutrient loadings must be reduced by 16 million pounds annually.  According to the 2006 Chesapeake Bay 2006 Health and Restoration Assessment, the signatories have met fewer than 50% of their restoration goals.  We should examine why those goals have not been met, whether the goals were realistic, whether the resources exist to meet them and where best to devote limited federal dollars in the effort.  According to the Congressional Research Service, the federal government spent $58 million in 2006 directly on Chesapeake Bay programs and projects. This does not include any funding received through the two state revolving loan funds or the USDA conservation programs. We should be discussing whether that money was well spent or should be focused elsewhere.

I think today is a lost opportunity.  While much of the testimony is focused on global warming, I remain hopeful we will be able to learn about local solutions to the problem of nutrient and sediment loadings. 

Source: EPW Committee