May 20, 2006
Don Young caught lying about debate over emissions bill
U.S. Rep. Don Young removed from an appropriations bill a statement that would have called for limits on carbon emissions, even though some House members said his arguments were laced with outright lies.
Study after study by climatologists worldwide has found that burning fossil fuels contributes significantly to global warming, but Young, an Alaska Republican, won't agree.
During the debate over the bill's language, Young said he had "just read a report, in fact, that Greenland is cooling," the Anchorage Daily News reported in Saturday editions.
However, a statement from NASA in February said Greenland's ice loss doubled between 1996 and 2005, as its glaciers flowed faster into the ocean in response to a generally warmer climate. The joint study by NASA and the University of Kansas was published in the journal Science.
Young also told his colleagues that America should not be singled out among large nations for blame over carbon emissions.
"It is never the fault of the bigger countries that burn as many barrels of oil as we are doing today," Young said Thursday during a debate on the floor of the U.S. House.
But according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the U.S. burned 20.6 million barrels of oil a day last year. The second biggest consumer, China, burned just under 7 million.
Young challenged a statement by U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., who said polar bear populations are threatened because of a thinning ice pack.
"The polar bear pack is very healthy and, in fact, increasing," Young said. "This is science from the Fish and Wildlife people. Read that."
Rosa Meehan, supervisor of marine mammal management for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska, said she doesn't have any such data. The agency is considering whether to list the polar bear as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act.
"Up until five years ago we assumed the population was stable, and we're questioning that now," Meehan said.
Alaska's southern Beaufort Sea polar bears are changing their behaviors, she said. They are spending more time on the coast in the fall because the sea ice they usually hunt seals from is retreating, she said.
Young also said there needs to be "a good study" and a debate among scientists on the subject of global warming, but House members countered that has been going on for years. It also prompted U.S. Rep. John Olver, D-Mass., a former chemistry professor with a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to give a mini-lecture to explain the rapid accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in the last 40 years.
Another former educator, U.S. Rep. Wayne Gilchrist, R-Maryland, continued the lesson, explaining how tiny increases in the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere could have big consequences on earth.
U.S. Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., suggested Young sounded like one of the "charter members of the Flat Earth Society."
Meredith Kenny, Young's spokeswoman, said her boss isn't entirely skeptical about climate change.
"He doesn't doubt something is happening, but it's not as drastic as they make it out," she said.
As for any misstatements Young may have made, she told the Anchorage Daily News, "He might have been caught up in the moment, in the debate."
Young ultimately won on technical grounds, saying the statement on climate change was inappropriate for a spending bill.
Young ranks third in seniority among House Republicans and is the eighth ranking overall member. He chairs the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and is vice chairman of the House Resource Committee. He's also a member of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security.
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