SALT LAKE CITY — Climate scientists should stay out of the political arena, Rep. Mike Noel told a Senate committee Tuesday as he pushed for a resolution urging the state to pull out of an anti-greenhouse-gas initiative.
"I'm open for all kinds of discussion, but I'm certainly not open to politicizing this as the science community has done," the Kanab Republican said. "We look to them for good data and good information, and not for them to be politicians."
Noel's HJR21 asks the governor to pull the state out of the Western Climate Initiative, a multi-state collaboration designed to reduce greenhouse gases.
Under the proposal, the state would observe, rather than participate, in the effort to reduce fossil fuel emissions.
"I think that it is when we try to push forward agendas and say that there is an immediate catastrophe coming about — there is no catastrophe — that's when decisions are made that are improper," Noel said.
He argued that scientists have "manipulated" data to exaggerate the impact of humans on climate change, resulting in a "confused" public.
University of Utah bioengineering professor Joe Andrade criticized the resolution and said the state should act to protect future generations.
"Our grandchildren will one day look back on us as a criminal generation that selfishly ignored the clear warnings and chose not to implement the actions and solutions," he told the committee.
Andrade compared the debate about fossil fuels and climate change to arguments over the links between tobacco and cancer and said the resolution would simply delay the inevitable.
"It's about the power and arrogance of political and corporate officials who choose the convenience, comfort and economic rewards of the present and ignore the burdens and sacrifices such inaction imposes on those who follow," he said.
Noel dismissed the comparison and accused climate change scientists of manipulating data.
Representatives of the Sutherland Institute and the Utah Rural Electric Association voiced concerns that efforts to reduce greenhouse gases would devastate the state's economy.
"The science is not settled," Sutherland's Stan Rasmussen said. "This is not only premature, but economically dangerous."
In the end, the resolution found a receptive audience, and the committee passed the measure 3-1, with Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake, casting the lone no vote.
Later in the day, Noel took another tack in approaching climate change issues, but this time opted for what seems to be a Plan B scenario, in case climatologists aren't over-hyping the effect of humanity on the planet.
His HB395 would create liability limits for individuals or businesses that do damage or injury via greenhouse gas emissions.
"What I'm doing here is a protective action," Noel said. "Let's just say that global warming is in fact not just a hypothesis, but actually becomes a fact, it is true that man-caused global warming is creating problems for the environment."
In case that it does, at some later point, become an uncontested reality, Noel is concerned that litigation would be focused on the fossil fuel energy sector. That's a scenario that he said could create large-scale problems for Utah, because its power producers rely almost exclusively on fossil fuels.
"I think Utah is particularly vulnerable because of the fact that 97 percent of our power is generated by coal fired generation or gas generation or fossil fuel generation," Noel said. "We also have a very, very strong environmental community that is not afraid of suing."
Some lawmakers felt that the preemptive protections provided by HB395 were unnecessary. Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake, said the proposal was addressing an issue that has an existing apparatus to deal with it.
"We have a very well established and effective method for dealing with disputes when they arise, it's our judicial system," King said. "This bill is a one-size-fits-all solution for a problem that doesn't even exist in the state of Utah. This is just poor public policy."
That sentiment, however, was not shared by the full House body that approved the bill on a 49-19 vote.
- Frances Monson, wife of LDS prophet, passes away
- LDS missionary 'stable' following hit-and-run...
- Psychologist calls doctor accused of killing...
- Members recall Sister Monson's quiet devotion
- Mitt Romney to live in Utah — at least...
- A firsthand perspective: Reflecting on the...
- LDS missionary from Sweden suffers aneurysm,...
- Utah facing $1.2 billion-dollar water...
- Frances Monson, wife of LDS prophet,... 61
- Mitt Romney to live in Utah — at... 44
- Police say driver who hit 3 children... 27
- Angry Orrin Hatch: IRS guilty of... 19
- Utah GOP convention agenda includes... 19
- LDS missionary from Sweden suffers... 18
- LDS missionary 'stable' following... 16
- Attorney General John Swallow says he's... 16