Good morning and welcome to the Committee’s second hearing to examine the systems we have to track the emissions, sequestration and transport of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, on land, and in the oceans.
In our first hearing, we examined greenhouse gas reporting systems and the methods used to verify the information reported to greenhouse gas registries. Today, we will hear about federally sponsored programs to monitor greenhouse gases.
Monitoring and verification of greenhouse gases doesn’t sound like a very exciting topic. It’s a little like housekeeping – it is an essential task that goes unnoticed – until it isn’t done well or it isn’t done at all.
Without robust monitoring and verification systems, we cannot understand the sources and sinks of greenhouse gases. We cannot detect changes in atmospheric or ocean chemistry or understand the potential impacts of those changes. And, we cannot evaluate the effectiveness of policies to control emissions of greenhouse gases. Equally important, we cannot verify compliance with emissions reductions agreements.
Our nation is a leader in these areas of research. Some of the satellite observations that enable us to track Earth’s heat budget are available only because of our investments in science programs at NASA. The ground and satellite observations that we gather tell us a lot about local weather and climate patterns, air quality, and the health of ecosystems and oceans.
The monitoring and measurement systems we have today serve primarily a research function. Some, such as the monitoring system associated with EPA’s acid rain program, serve a regulatory purpose. And we also track emissions to meet our reporting obligations under international agreements – the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Montreal Protocol.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent reports tell us that we must control greenhouse gas emissions if we are to avoid future accelerated warming and its most devastating consequences.
Our colleagues on the Energy and Commerce Committee have begun their work to develop a plan to reduce our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. In December, 192 countries will meet in Copenhagen to forge an international agreement to reduce emissions.
We will need a robust monitoring system that is capable of telling us whether we are reducing emissions and meeting our policy goals. And, we need to know how the Earth’s climate system is responding.
Of course, the specific design of the monitoring system will depend upon the type of emission control policy we ultimately decide upon.
We have an excellent panel of witnesses with us here this morning who will offer constructive suggestions on how we can best utilize the assets we already have in place and make strategic investments where necessary to develop a robust and reliable monitoring system.
At a time when warming appears to be accelerating and people are experiencing regional climate impacts already, we need to ensure that we will have the information we need on a sustained basis to implement the most effective policies.
Thank you all for participating in this important hearing.