A Democratic lawmaker’s request for an informational hearing on how climate change is affecting Idaho has been turned back by Republicans who chair the relevant committees in the Idaho House and Senate.
Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, a member of the House Environment, Energy & Technology committee who trusts the evidence for human-caused climate change, asked committee chairman Dell Raybould last week to schedule a hearing on the topic. The chairman, Rubel said Tuesday, initially “was open to the idea as long as he could bring in people from the other side of it.”
On Monday, Raybould told Rubel no, saying he had consulted with a Senate counterpart who concurred.
“He said it was because it (climate change) was too controversial and that there wasn’t anything we could do about it, and that he believes that there’s no reason to address it,” Rubel said.
A survey of Idahoans in 2015 found broad skepticism on the science behind human-caused climate change and that attitude is widely reflected in the Legislature. Raybould, quoted at the time, cited radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh in calling climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels a “bunch of nonsense.”
Raybould, a farmer from Rexburg, said Tuesday he had consulted with the chairs of the House and Senate Resources and Conservation committees and “they didn’t think we ought to do” the hearing.
Regarding climate change, he cited reports produced by the conservative think tank Heartland Institute that is a leading skeptic on climate science.
“They say that it’s just natural, carbon dioxide is not doing it,” Raybould said. “The extra carbon dioxide, however tiny it might be, is helping us produce more crops and better crops.”
The overwhelming consensus of the scientific community... is that climate change is real, that it is human-caused and that it presents a potentially existential threat to us.
Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise
Raybould also cited a claim promoted by climate change skeptics that large volcanic explosions expel more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than human-caused sources.
“Just reading that,” he added, “I’m quite convinced that it’s not man-made. There may be some climate change, but there has been for hundreds of thousands of years. It goes up, it goes down. It wasn’t too long ago that our noted scientists were predicting we were entering a new Ice Age, but it didn’t happen.”
Sen. Steve Bair, R-Blackfoot, who chairs the Senate Resources committee, said he told Raybould there was no legislative purpose for holding a hearing.
“There’s no bill, there’s no (administrative) rules, there’s nothing coming,” Bair said Tuesday. “The committee’s time is so short and we have so much to do. . . . In my opinion, we have struggled to find time to hear the bills and get the rules down and get to the necessary reports that are required by statute.”
I’m quite convinced that it’s not man-made.
Rep. Dell Raybould, R-Rexburg, chair of the House Environment committee, regarding climate change
He also expressed skepticism regarding climate change, saying “some years it’s hot and some years it’s cold.”
“We went through those years back in the Dust Bowl in the Midwest when obviously it was dry and obviously it was hot and it’s since turned around,” Bair said, also recounting how he was taught in school about an impending Ice Age that “didn’t happen.”
“I think it’s cyclical, and we as people, as humans, have to deal with whatever the cycle is dealing us at the time,” he said.
Rubel said she was disappointed by the reaction, citing the impact of climate change on drought, crops, forest fires and insect infestation in Idaho. She posted a message on Facebook asking that people contact the lawmakers to get them to reconsider.
“Certainly the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community, both in the U.S. and internationally, is that climate change is real, that it is human caused and that it presents a potentially existential threat to us, and I see it as something that needs to be studied and addressed,” she said. “If somebody came to me with compelling evidence on the other side, I’d be all ears. But we need a hearing for that to happen.”