Dingell wary

Democratic ascension in Congress has raised hope for substantive action on global warming and energy security. But the outlook is not entirely rosy. (Richard Simon had a good rundown on this a few days ago in the L.A. Times.)

Representing the hopeful side, you have the new chair of the Senate Environment Committee, Barbara Boxer, saying all the right things.

Representing the not-so-hopeful side, you have Rep. John Dingell, the incoming chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He represents suburban Detroit -- i.e., American automakers -- and shares his constituents' mystifying conviction that cranking out enormous, fuel-inefficient beasts in perpetuity is the only way they can survive. (Worked out pretty well so far, right?) He was instrumental in establishing CAFE standards back in the 70s, but has been fighting against raising them ever since. And oh yeah, his wife is head of the General Motors Foundation. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Anyway, this interview with Dingell really doesn't inspire confidence. Take this:

Barbara Boxer has said repeatedly that she sees global warming as the single biggest environmental threat on the horizon. Do you agree with her?

I don't agree and I don't disagree. I don't know what the biggest one is. Certainly if there is environmental warming, it is a very major environmental problem and it should be addressed.

So you don't believe the scientific consensus on global warming is established at this point?

This country, this world, the [human] race of which you and I are a part, is great at having consensuses that are in great error. And so I want to get the scientific facts, and find out what the situation is, and find out what is the cure, and find out what is the cure that is acceptable to the country that I represent and serve.

Yes, if only someone had taken the time to get the scientific facts. If only someone had offered a reasonable solution. If only the whole issue weren't so damn mysterious.

In other news, here's what climate scientist Andrew Dessler (at Texas A&M) deemed the top climate story of the year:

No big scientific breakthroughs: Over the past five years, there have been virtually no breakthrough findings that revolutionized the science of climate change. There have been some tremendous scientific results, but they have largely confirmed what we already thought we knew: the climate is warming, humans are playing a role, and we can expect further warming of a few degrees Celsius if we don't reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases.

The stability of the dominant climate-science paradigm should be both reassuring and unsettling: reassuring because it suggests we understand the climate pretty well; unsettling because it forecasts potentially serious impacts if we don't take action soon.

Here's a helpful equation for the new Congress: