EPW Hearing Highlights: The Science of Climate Change, Mercury

Washington, D.C.--The Committee on Environment and Public Works conducted a hearing today to discuss the science of climate change and mercury. The following are key points from witness testimony:

CLIMATE

 

Dr. Willie Soon, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics:

 

· “My scientific study is only possible because of the careful research produced by nearly one thousand scientists around the world. Their expertise covers a very wide range, including physical, chemical, biological, and geological sciences.”

 

· “On a location by location basis, there was a widespread Medieval Warm Period between approximately 800 and 1300 A.D. This Medieval Warm Period was followed by a widespread colder period, called the Little Ice Age, that lasted from approximately 1300 to 1900 A.D.”

 

· “There is no convincing evidence from each of the individual climate proxies to suggest that higher temperatures occurred in the 20th century than in the Medieval Warm Period. Nor is there any convincing evidence to suggest that either the rate of increase or the duration of warming during the 20th century were greater than in the Medieval Warm Period.”

 

Dr. David Legates, Associate Professor and Director of the Center for Climatic Research at the University of Delaware:

 

· “Our work has been met with much consternation from a variety of sources and we welcome healthy scientific debate. After all, it is disagreements among scientists that often lead to new theories and discoveries.

 

· “Proxy records, which provide our only possible link to the past, are incomplete at best. But when these records are carefully and individually examined, one reaches the conclusion that climate variability has been a natural occurrence, and especially so over the last millennium. And given the uncertainties in the proxy and instrumental records, an assertion of any decade as being the warmest in the last millennium is premature.”

 

MERCURY

 

Dr. Gary Myers, pediatric neurologist and professor at the University of Rochester; member of the University of Rochester team that has been studying the human health effects of mercury for nearly 30 years:

 

· “We do not believe that there is presently good scientific evidence that moderate fish consumption is harmful to the fetus. However, fish is an important source of protein in many countries and large numbers of mothers around the world rely on fish for proper nutrition. Good maternal nutrition is essential to the baby’s health. Additionally, there is increasing evidence that the nutrients in fish are important for brain development and perhaps for cardiac and brain function in older individuals.”

 

Dr. Leonard Levin, technical leader, the Electric Power Research Institute:

 

· “Recent studies by EPRI have shown that the mercury depositing into the U.S. from the atmosphere may originate at very distant points. Model assessments show that, for 3/4 of the area of the continental United States, more than 60% of the mercury received originates outside U.S. borders, from other countries or even other continents. Only 8% of U.S. territory receives 2/3 or more of its mercury from U.S. domestic sources, and less than 1% of U.S. territory gets 80% or more of its mercury from sources within the U.S. One implication of this dichotomy between mercury sources and the U.S. areas impacted is that there may be a “management floor” for U.S. mercury, a level below which the amount of mercury depositing to the surface cannot be reduced.”