TOPEKA A Kansas House committee began weighing a resolution on Thursday that urges Congress to resist following President Barack Obama's plan for addressing man-made climate change during a hearing that highlighted the rival views on the role of humans in global warming.
Members of the House Energy and Environment Committee heard nearly two hours of testimony about the measure but took no action. The resolution cites Obama's 2013 plan that calls for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and encourages development of renewable forms of energy.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a U.N.-sponsored body, said in September with more certainty than before that humans are warming the planet, mainly through carbon emissions from the burning of oil, coal and gas.
But the two-page Kansas document declares that the federal climate change goals are based on false assumptions about the role of carbon dioxide and human activity. Supporters point to data that suggest warming is occurring naturally and human influence is overstated.
Rep. Dennis Hedke, chairman of the committee and a Wichita Republican, presented a slideshow with graphs indicating changes in temperature, weather and ice coverage going back as far as 10,000 years. He said the research shows that the Earth has gone through periods of cooling and warming long before the world became industrialized, suggesting the planet was experiencing another such natural warming period.
"That's real data," he said, adding that he didn't think controls on carbon dioxide emissions would be effective in achieving the goals Obama or environmentalists seek.
The World Meteorological Organization, the U.N. weather agency, says the warming of the planet since 1950 is "unprecedented" and the Earth will warm by at least 2 more degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) this century, unless the world drastically cuts emissions.
Sen. Forrest Knox said Thursday that the global debate was marked by "alarmists" who believe humans are contributing to global warming though the use of fossil fuels and other practices, while "skeptics" question the science behind those claims. He said a serious debate is needed where both sides respect the other's opinions and find common ground.
"The only thing you know for sure about the weather in Kansas, as you all know, is it's going to change," said Knox, an Altoona Republican. "That's all we really know about climate, too."
Environmentalists argue that the resolution is based on bad science and ignores data that emissions and human activity are altering sea levels and weather patterns.
Rabbi Moti Rieber said the scientific community is nearly united in its view that humans are affecting climate change and that such positions have been adopted by national academies of science worldwide. Rieber is director of Kansas Interfaith Power and Light, an organization of faith communities focused on environmental stewardship.
He said something was happening to the climate, noting that armadillos that previously never were found in Kansas are now found as far north as Topeka, while heartiness zones for gardening have shifted allowing for new plant varieties to thrive.
"Putting your fingers in your ears and humming is not an option," Rieber said. "I'd encourage you to stop doing it."