Ask the Expert: Kit Batten

Kit Batten on the Science Behind Global Warming

The Action Fund's Mic Check asks about the scientific community's opinions on global warming and potential solutions to a warming climate.

This interview is from the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s Mic Check Radio.

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Grant Ginder: This is Grant Ginder with Mic Check Radio, and I’m here with Dr. Kit Batten, who is the Managing Director for Energy and Environmental Policy here at the Center for American Progress. She is here to discuss global warming and the science behind it. Kit, to begin, is there honestly any disagreement in the scientific community about global warming?

Kit Batten: Well Grant, really there isn’t any disagreement anymore. The vast majority of scientists are in consensus. Global warming is real, it’s happening, and it is the result of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions that have entered our atmosphere. There are still a few climate skeptics out there, but like I said, the vast majority of scientists across the globe understand that global warming is happening.

GG: You mention the skeptics. To what extent have those skeptics and the scientists that I’m assuming are funded by large groups like Exxon and the interest groups that Exxon funds, to what extent have those skeptics been successful in manipulating public opinion when it comes to climate change?

KB: Well, in the past they’ve been, actually, rather successful. And part of the reason for this is the way that climate skeptics have been given air time in the media. The media, in an effort to present a balanced view in terms of global warming, has given equal playtime to the vast majority of scientists, like I said, who support the view that global warming is happening and the very small number of scientists that are still climate skeptics and are funded by groups such as Exxon Mobil. So that type of portrayal of both points of view given equal playtime leads to the perception that there are still are quite a few scientists who don’t think global warming is happening, but that’s not the case. The vast majority understand that it is happening.

GG: What irrefutable science exists to support that conclusion that this widely accepted belief that global warming is in fact happening and causing some very serious disasters?

KB: Well studies ranging from the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which summarized the warming that’s occurred to date and shows that if we reach average temperature of greater than two degrees Celsius above pre-Industrial times, we’re in for some really serious consequences from climate change. And there are also studies right now that show we already are experiencing the impacts of global warming. Ranging from greater incidents of very severe hurricanes along the Gulf Coast that will increase in intensity and even in number as our oceans continue to warm, to examples of malaria moving into new regions where it’s never been before because those regions are warming and becoming more hospitable to malaria as a disease, and finally to even the more bizarre in terms of polar bears not being able to have enough food to eat and turning to cannibalize each other. These are the range of examples of how global warming is already affecting our planet in rather serious ways.

GG: Shifting the focus now to what Congress can do legislatively to combat global warming and take action against climate change. What legislation can we expect on the congressional agenda to address global warming?

KB: Well first off, as a down payment on trying to reduce emissions as soon as possible the energy bills that were passed by both the House and the Senate this summer, hopefully those will actually go to conference this fall, and what comes out of that conference proceeding will be a bill that contains the strongest parts of both the House and Senate bills, including increases in fuel economy standards for cars and a renewable electricity standard, which would require a certain percentage of electricity by

2025 to be from renewable sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, etc. In terms of climate-change-specific legislation, we’re starting to see action such as in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee with the bill that Senators Liebermann (I-NH) and Warner (R-VA) are putting together that will address climate change and greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors of the economy, put a cap on those emissions, and start to reduce that cap over time. And that’s the type of legislation that we need to see move forward in order to really get a comprehensive grip on reducing this country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

GG: In a perfect world, what would ideal legislation look like when it comes to global warming, when it comes to reducing emissions, when it comes to renewable energy sources? What would your ideal package look like?

KB: The Center for American Progress supports an overall cap in emissions that could be enforced by a cap and trade system. So you set a cap on how many emissions the United States can produce within a given year. And then industries that do emit will have to purchase credits for their emissions in order to account for those emissions.

There are a variety of ways to set up such a cap and trade system, but we’re very supportive of auctioning most of those credits off to these industries so that we can raise funds that will help offset rising energy costs for low and middle-income Americans, and also fund a suite of policies, complementary policies, to get technology started across all sectors of the economy that will be low-carbon energy technologies that we need to be investing in, and to provide incentives for industries to start adopting these technologies, and American consumers to start purchasing such technologies. That’s our ideal in terms of moving forward with climate legislation.

GG: Great! Thanks a lot, Kit. Once again, this is Grant Ginder with Mic Check Radio and I was speaking with Kit Batten, the Managing Director for Energy and Environmental Policy here at the Center for American Progress.

This interview is from the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s Mic Check Radio.

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