Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy told reporters Monday morning that the so-called pause in global warming was not representative of the broader trends in climate, which she says point to global warming.
“That is a short-lived issue that doesn’t represent climate,” McCarthy told reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, adding that many other factors show the planet is changing because of human influence– though she did not elaborate on this point because the breakfast was nearing its end.
Satellite temperature data, which measures the lower parts of the Earth’s atmosphere, shows there has been no significant warming trend for the last 18 years or so. Surface temperatures from weather stations, buoys and ships show a lack of warming for about the last 15 years or so.
Scientists have struggled to explain the lack of warming in recent years, giving dozens of explanations for the pause, ranging from increased volcanic activity to natural ocean cycles. While scientists debate the causes of the pause, some are lowering their estimates of how much warming could occur in the future. Some scientists point to measures like warming ocean temperatures, melting Arctic Sea ice, extreme weather events or varying crop yields as evidence that carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels are having an impact on the planet, even though the temperature record may not currently reflect it.
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Despite the lack of warming, the Obama administration has been pressing forward with climate rules to limit U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from the fossil fuels industry. The most contentious regulation so far has been the EPA’s rule to limit emissions from power plants, which will likely cause coal plants to shut down.
“If you look at the science… nothing tells us we are being overly aggressive” in what the agency is doing, McCarthy told reporters Monday morning. Most recently, the Obama administration announced a vague climate agreement with China for both countries to reduce emissions in the coming years.
Critics have charged the deal binds the U.S. to deep emissions cuts that could hurt the economy, while China has does not have make any commitments to concrete emissions cuts. China simply promises to have its emissions peak in 2030, though energy experts have said China’s emissions are likely to peak around that time with or without an agreement.
Along with this agreement, the U.S. has pledged $3 billion to an international climate fund to pay for poor countries to adapt to a warmer world.
The China agreement has been criticized by Republicans who have vowed to fight the Obama administration’s global warming rules. Republicans argue these rules will do nothing to stop warming and only serve to raise energy prices and kill jobs.
“The president’s climate change agenda has only siphoned precious taxpayer dollars away from the real problems facing the American people,” said Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe, who will chair the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee in the new Congress.
“In a new Congress, I will be working with my colleagues to reset the misguided priorities of Washington in the past six years,” Inhofe said. “This includes getting our nation’s debt under control, securing proper equipment and training to protect our men and women in uniform, and repairing our nation’s crumbling roads and bridges. These are the realistic priorities of today.”
Republican leaders have said they will make sure to pass legislation in both chambers of Congress, ordering the EPA to roll back its agenda. If that doesn’t work, Inhofe and other lawmakers have also considered starving the EPA of its funding if it continues to promulgate climate rules.
But McCarthy said stripping EPA’s funding will be an unpopular move: “I feel very confident the American people understand the value of EPA,” she said. “EPA has not been a partisan agency.”
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