The latest report on global warming approved Friday by a United Nations commission could provide more fuel to the roaring political fires in Washington, D.C., over how to address the looming threats attributed to climate change.
The report, produced by the International Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations organization, is the second of four to be published relating to the group's fourth assessment of global warming since 1979. It states that poor nations will suffer most from global warming, primarily the result of the disruption of world drinking-water supplies from increasingly severe weather systems. Up to 30 percent of all species face extinction if global temperatures rise 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above averages in the 1980s and 1990s, the latest report states.
"Global warming is already under way, but it is not too late to slow it down and reduce its harmful effects. We must base our actions on the moral imperative and the scientific record, free of political interference in scientists' assessments of the effects of climate change on society and the environment," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who formed a new panel in Congress solely to investigate the impact of global warming, said in a statement after the report was adopted.
Building On Momentum
Hashing out the IPCC's first report, published in February, several congressional panels held hearings last month to discuss ways to stem the rising tide of global warming. Star witness Al Gore, who has been advocating global warming countermeasures for years, urged lawmakers to freeze carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. and begin sharp reductions of climate altering greenhouse gases.
The former vice president also proposed cutting carbon dioxide and other warming gases 90 percent by 2050 and requiring a ban on new coal-burning power plants that don't meet state-of-the-art carbon standards.
Like he did in response to the first report, the head of the House Science and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on April 17 to review the latest findings. Committee Chairman Bart Gordon said this second report's conclusions deliver "a powerful and sobering message" about the impact of humans on the globe's temperatures.
"For the first time, the world's top scientists are able to confidently attribute changes in a wide variety of ecosystems in all parts of the world to human-induced global warming," Gordon said. "We can neutralize some of (the impact) by better adapting our society to these changes. We should identify our vulnerable communities and begin working to reduce these vulnerabilities."
Sen. Barbara Boxer, the chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said her committee has held six hearings already this year on global warming. She plans to call another one to ask Environmental Protection Agency officials to respond to the Supreme Court's ruling last week that the EPA is allowed to regulate greenhouse gases as a pollutant.
"This powerful report confirms the very real dangers that global warming poses for us all," Boxer, D-Calif., said of the latest IPCC report.
But not everyone is convinced about the report's findings. Like the first phase of the IPCC's four-part report, the latest output generated heated debate over whether the scientific community's near universal consensus proves the facts of global warming or demonstrates a stifling of dissension among peers.
"The IPCC process more closely resembles a Democrat or Republican Party convention platform battle over the specific wording of an issue plank, not a scientific process," said Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., a leading critic of the science behind the climate change reports.
"The latest IPCC summary will surely spawn another round of media alarmism and hype," Inhofe said, adding that U.N. "political delegates and bureaucrats" were highly involved in writing the report.
The final product, the result of collaboration among 2,500 scientists from 120 nations as well as diplomatic negotiators, also angered many involved in the process. Several scientists at the report adoption objected to editing of the final draft by government negotiators, though in the end they agreed to compromises. Some scientists, angered by government involvement, vowed never to take part in the process again.
Sharon Hays, associate director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said several scientists representing the Bush administration participated in the report. She said negotiators from many nations worked hard to make sure the summary document "accurately reflects the underlying science."
"We went into this wanting to make sure that we had a report that reflected the current state of the science and we worked hard, alongside many other nations, to get that," Hays said.
The Bush administration does dedicate research dollars to develop cleaner fuel technology but President Bush has said that capping greenhouse gas emissions — as Democrats have called for — would choke the economy.
After the report's release, James Connaughton, a senior White House aide and chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said technological developments will help diminish the problem of global warming and enable the world to adapt.
"Our goal is to advance technology here in America and in the developed world and make them available and lower the cost of them so they can be purchased and used in the developing world," Connaughton said.
In the interview with FOX News, Connaughton also pointed to the president's plan outlined in his State of the Union address to replace 20 percent of the country's gasoline use with ethanol over the next 10 years as a way to reduce human contributions to fossil fuel pollution.
While lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been developing legislation to combat global warming, Brendan Bell, a Washington climate change lobbyist for the Sierra Club, said support or opposition for new laws will break down less along partisan lines and more according to members' interests in the energy industry.
"It's only the latest round, in the fact that we know that the science is real, we already know that we're experiencing the effects of global warming," Bell said. "It will only add momentum to people within Congress."
FOX News' Wendell Goler contributed to this report.