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NSF & Congress

Hearing Summary - Climate Change: Empowering Our Response to Climate Change

March 12, 2009

Dr. Timothy Killeen, Assistant Director of Geosciences at the National Science Foundation testified at a hearing on climate change science held by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on March 12, 2009. The purpose of the hearing was to discuss taking climate change science from the laboratory to the communities.

Senator John D. Rockefeller (D-WV) opened the hearing by stating that the "time for arguing whether carbon emissions is a factor which affects the health of the Earth or whether our sea level is rising from global warming is, and must be, over." Additionally, Senator Rockefeller said that climate change is an important issue for the Committee because "climate affects every aspect of our economy" and that "over one-third of our nation's gross domestic product is sensitive to weather and climate."

Dr. Killeen outlined three points in his testimony.

Dr. Killeen's testimony started with his first point--that the science of climate change has advanced to the point that we understand the basic drivers of the observed changes, both natural and manmade in the Earth's climate system. In his testimony, Dr. Killeen stated that we do know that the Earth is warming and that "this warming is linked to human activities."

Dr. Killeen's second point was that we are "poised to take that knowledge and expand it in order to develop the tools" policy makers need to make decisions about future generations. In his testimony, Dr. Killeen discussed how the scientific community has "reached a point where the required detailed predictions are within reach," but "scientists must also find new ways to convey to nonspecialists the uncertainties of their predictions and to develop tools that allow decision makers to incorporate relevant information into the decision process."

At the end of his testimony, Dr. Killeen outlined his third point, which was that the "U.S. scientific and engineering community can and must retain world leadership, both intellectual and technological, and continue to push scientific frontiers that will allow us to predict climate and weather on scales relevant to human activities and endeavors." In closing his testimony, Dr. Killeen reviewed that the "U.S. scientific community is poised to take up" the challenge of the U.S. leading the world in the solution for the climate change problem.

Other witnesses who testified at the hearing were Mr. Sean Dilweg, Wisconsin Commissioner of Insurance, National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Office of the Commissioner of Insurance, Madison, Wisconsin; Ms. Katharine Jacobs, Executive Director, Arizona Water Institute, Tucson, Arizona; Mr. Frank Alix, Chief Executive Officer, Powerspan Corporation, Portsmouth, New Hampshire.