“We don’t have an icecap in Texas,” Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), the ranking minority member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, said at a December 18 press briefing in Copenhagen. The “theory [of anthropogenic climate change] has never been independently analyzed by any scientific group.” Mr. Barton and some of his colleagues, including Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin), showed the media in Copenhagen that the Congressional global warming denial machine may be scientifically clueless, but is still capable of waging a nasty political battle.

See earlier posts:
Sensenbrenner IPCC witch-hunt: Attempt to blacklist climate scientists must be rejected

Rep. Sensenbrenner projects “fascism” and “fraud” onto scientists, is rebutted at hearing

“Texas Congressman Joe Barton, along with most members of a Republican delegation from the U.S. House of Representatives, on Friday (18 December 2009) in Copenhagen dismissed mounting evidence that climate is rapidly changing, that the impacts already are evident, and that it is being driven by rapidly increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases emissions from human activities,” reports the World Wildlife Fund climate blog. The WWF post continues (excerpt):

Texas Congressman in Copenhagen dismisses climate science: “We don’t have an icecap in Texas”

By Nick Sundt, WWF Communications Director for Climate Change, December 23

…“We don’t have an icecap in Texas,” said Barton, apparently suggesting that melting polar ice was not a concern in his state.

On the same day that President Obama told climate change negotiators in Copenhagen that “this is not fiction, it is science,” Republican members of a delegation from the U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, held a press briefing and most argued quite the opposite.  The panel included James Sensenbrenner (Wisconsin), Joe Barton (Texas), Fred Upton (Michigan), Shelly Moore Capito (West Virginia), John Sullivan (Oklahoma) and Marsha Blackburn (Tennessee).

When asked by a journalist if they “believe in anthropogenic climate change,” none of the representatives clearly said they did.  Referring to arguments that climate change science is conclusive, Congressman Sensenbrenner (Wisconsin) retorted “Prove it to us!” …

“This whole process is based on the premise that mankind through emissions of CO2 is causing the planet to warm at an unsustainable rate. That methodology, that theory, has never been independently analyzed or tested by any scientific group,” Barton incorrectly asserted. “If there is anything that comes out of this conference in my opinion that is worthwhile, it should be the political leadership of the world… begin to question the theory.”

“I do not believe the theory of anthropogenic climate change has been proven and…I think its going to very difficult to prove it,” he said.

Here’s what one of Mr. Barton’s constituents has to say:

“We will never regain control of our environment until every city in America firmly commits to recognizing the health consequences of climate change, and then develops action plans to reverse those changes.”
—Mayor Robert Cluck, Arlington, Texas (in Barton’s district; home of Texas Rangers and future home of Dallas Cowboys) (http://www.icleiusa.org/news-events/press-room/press-releases/texas-mayors-gather-to-chart-path-forward-on-air-quality-public-health-climate-change )

And for Texans and others who aren’t in a state of denial, willfully clueless about science, or on a political jihad against the climate science community, here’s a book that covers some of what Mr. Barton should be thinking about, but won’t:

The Impact of Global Warming on Texas
Edited by Jurgen Schmandt, Judith Clarkson and Gerald R. North
Austin: University of Texas Press, 2nd Edition, 2009

From the press release for the book:

Among the key findings in the book:

•      Climate Science and Climate Change: Climate science has evolved over the last thirty-five years to a point where predictions by climate models can be considered to have significant information content. The greenhouse effect has clearly established itself as a driver of climate change and the main agent is the continuing increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. There are several ways of assessing the status of climate change research, the most recent and comprehensive is from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: Fourth Assessment Report, released in 2007. According to this report greenhouse gases are expected to cause global temperatures to rise 5.4 degrees F (plus or minus 1.8 degrees F) by the end of the century. Temperature changes in Texas are expected to be comparable. A notable feature of the predictions is the expansion of the tropical zone, familiar in summer for Texans, to include more of the spring and fall. This could lead to less rainfall especially in regions that are already dry. Other important effects include possible changes in El Niño (climate variability) and hurricane behaviors; further research will more accurately specify these and other effects.

•      The Changing Climate of Texas: Texas temperatures increase from south to north, whereas precipitation increases dramatically from west to east. The seasonal patterns of precipitation also vary greatly across the state (e.g., dry winters in the west, more even distribution in the east). Texas also experiences a variety of severe weather such as tropical storms, tornadoes, drought and flooding. The wide variations in weather and climate across Texas imply a broad range of vulnerabilities to climate change. Averaging over Texas the temperature over the last few decades has been increasing. Precipitation has also steadily increased over the past century, but with variation among the different regions. In the future, Texas temperatures are likely to continue rising. Precipitation changes are much less clear, with most models projecting a decrease. Even if precipitation were to remain stable, rising temperatures would increase evaporation and dryness. The expected changes in temperature and precipitation will have an impact on other sectors of the state’s resources as discussed below.

•      Water Resources: Taking flows to the coast as a measure of river-basin impact, we calculate how flows will change by mid-century as a result of demographic and climate changes. Considering only population growth and the resulting increased water demand flows will be reduced by about 25 percent under normal conditions and by 42 percent under drought conditions. When also considering climate change (assuming a 3.6 degrees F increase in air temperature and a 5 percent decrease in precipitation) 2050 projected flows to the coast are 70 percent of the 2000 values under normal conditions and 15 percent of 2000 normal under drought conditions.

•      Coastal Zone: There are two direct effects, which are already observable, in the instrumental record: rapid sea-level rise and rising sea temperatures. The sea-level rise rates are especially high in Texas because of the added effect of land subsidence, which is caused by oil and groundwater extraction. The increasing temperatures are already manifesting indirect changes in habitats and water quality.

•      Biodiversity: Climate is a key determinant of species distribution. As the earth warms, species tend to shift to northern latitudes and higher altitudes. But climate change represents just one of a set of stressors. Other changes challenging fauna and flora are due to land development, habitat fragmentation, invasive species, chemical stressors, and direct exploitation. Comprehensive assessments in each of Texas’ ecological regions—coastal marshes, forests, deserts, prairies and western mountains—are needed to develop science-based management practices for wildlife and plant communities.

•      Agriculture: Agriculture in the U.S. and Texas is sensitive in terms of land and water usages, as well as crop and livestock production. However, in terms of agricultural-based economic welfare, the simulated effects of climate change are not large. We find that under the climate change conditions simulated herein that statewide Texas cropped acreage declines by about 20 percent.

•      Cities: Coastal population centers, from Houston to the Lower Rio Grande Valley, are vulnerable to sea level rise, increased storm intensity and accompanying flooding. All major Texas cities face the possibility of impacts on air quality, energy, health and other temperature related effects. All major cities face the prospect of declining water resources within the timeframe examined here.

•      Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Only 12 states had more GHG emissions per unit of gross state product (GSP) than Texas in 2001. Due to its large population and energy-intensive economy, Texas leads the nation in energy consumption, accounting for more than one-tenth of total U.S. energy use. Energy-intensive industries in Texas include aluminum, chemicals, forest products, glass and petroleum refining. Texas’ petroleum refineries can process more than 4.6 million barrels of crude oil per day, and they account for more than a quarter of total U.S. refining capacity. In 2005, Texas was responsible for 11 percent of US greenhouse gas emissions.

•      Economy: Looking to mid-century, it is clear that the cost to Texas of a national cap and trade policy would likely exceed any possible measurable benefit in terms of avoided damages. But over a longer time frame, if the harmful impacts of climate damage continue to increase the cost-benefit balance might shift. But time is not on our side. Texas would benefit economically by taking stronger actions today to address climate change impacts at the State level, and by supporting the adoption of cost-effective, equitable policies at the national level to limit GHG emissions and encourage the use of non-fossil fuel alternatives.

•      Policy: Texas is a leader in the gradual shift to renewable energy. Energy and water conservation are also priorities, mostly at the community level. The driving forces of these policy initiatives are energy efficiency, resource conservation, and the income and jobs associated with industries developing alternative energy sources. These measures help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Thirty states have joined regional climate change alliances. Texas has not done so. We recommend that Texas develop a comprehensive climate change policy to serve the goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing energy independence, ensuring regional security, and improving management of water, air, land and wildlife.

Also see:

Great Plains.  Regional Highlights from Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States

Oxfam fact sheet on the societal impacts of global warming in Texas