As the Biden Administration prepares to launch a bold climate agenda, one of the first things that should take place is a government-held public hearing on climate change. Why? Because the U.S. is the only major country in the world that still treats the subject as a matter of politics rather than science. And to rise to the level of leadership needed to help solve the climate crisis, our Congressional lawmakers and the American public need to be properly grounded on the facts and truths.
The goal would be to gain a strong and sustainable national consensus for climate action regardless of the political ebbs and flows of future elections. Sure, up to 99% of climate scientists agree that climate change is happening and is mostly caused by human activity, like burning fossil fuels that creates a greenhouse effect around our planet. And approximately two-thirds of Americans say they want more clean energy. Moreover, many elected Republicans side with Democrats on this issue.
But the fossil fuel industry still has significant sway with a loud minority of climate deniers via campaign contributions and advertising dollars. As a result, too many people drink whatever Kool-Aid beholden politicians and media shock-jocks pitch for their benefactors. Look no further than my home state of Ohio where the House Speaker was forced to resign six months ago due to a $61 million bribery scheme to bailout several First Energy electric power plants.
We need a public hearing that will allow the full weight of climate science to become the foundation of our energy and climate policies – not the opinions, biases, and corruption of a few. The world is desperately waiting for American leadership on this issue, but such leadership will be difficult to exercise when the loudest and most extreme voices often get the most attention. Therefore, a small investment in education prior to crafting and voting on new legislation could go a long way.
What might these public hearings look like? I envision moderate and trustworthy U.S. Senators like Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Tom Carper (D-Delaware) chairing a climate committee and interviewing our country’s top climate scientists. Perhaps ten scientists on each side of the debate deliver a written opening statement of no more than 300-500 pages to make their most salient and compelling case. And perhaps the Senators and each side get to question the other with responses held to 10-30 pages. This process could go back and forth maybe 5-10 times over several days.
This would give lawmakers and the public an opportunity to learn the facts and truths without politics and emotion getting in the way. And without the weight of too much information that could confuse and overwhelm the audience. The hearing is intended for lay people, not other scientists.
I envision Dr. Anthony Fauci-type climate scientists speaking in clear and succinct terms. No judging; just the facts and only the facts. The hearing could end with closing statements and final comments from the committee chairs. Not only would such a process serve as a basis for smart energy and climate policies – the constructive nature of it could help provide a spirit of bipartisanship when the related bills come up for a vote in the U.S. House and Senate.
Climate change is happening in slow motion, but we can’t be complacent any longer. Unless we rapidly decarbonize our economy over the next ten years, our planet will continue heating up for many years, decades, and centuries.
It’s time for the most developed country and greatest democracy in the world to get on the right side of history on climate change. This is why laying firm ground for bold climate action could be President-Elect Biden’s most important strategy in the next 100 days … and greatest legacy in the next 100+ years.