Blackburn slips up on climate change

Arguing against White House efforts on climate change, Rep. Marsha Blackburn mangled the facts and misrepresented the words of EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee, claimed "even Director McCarthy . said reaching all of the 26 U.S. goals is not going to have an impact globally."

But the "goals" cited by Blackburn aren't goals at all - they are 26 "climate change indicators" that the department tracks to measure the effect of the changing climate. McCarthy said it is "unlikely that any specific one step" can have an impact on those indicators, but she also said the idea is to coordinate "a broader array of actions" with other countries to make a meaningful global impact.

She was referring to a discussion between Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy during a House Energy & Commerce Committee hearing on Sept. 18, 2013. The hearing was to discuss "The Presidents Climate Action Plan" which Obama introduced during a speech at Georgetown University in 2013.

When Pompeo suggested there was "literally no connection between the activities you're undertaking" and the 26 indicators, McCarthy emphatically replied, "I did not say that."McCarthy said the indicators are "broad global indicators of impacts associated with climate change. They are not performance requirements or impacts related to any particular act. . They indicate the public health associated with climate change."

Politifact spoke to several climate scientists, who told us Blackburn's comment, and overall point, is misinformed."Goals and indicators are different concepts," said Reto Ruedy a climate scientist with the NASA Goddard Institute. "There is only one goal: Stabilizing our climate at a level that keeps this planet habitable. To do that we have to stabilize greenhouse gas concentration. Needless to say, this requires a global effort. . It is true that the actions of a single country cannot achieve this goal. However, it seems reasonable that the industrialized countries most responsible for the current atmospheric composition take the first steps."

Richard Somerville, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said Pompeo and Blackburn have both confused "goals" and "indicators." Besides, he said, the first four "indicators" on the EPA list "could certainly be impacted by U.S. policies."

They are: U.S. greenhouse gas emissions; global greenhouse gas emissions; atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases; and climate forcing. "The misleading aspect of the language used by Rep. Blackburn is the implication that, because U.S. actions alone cannot solve the global problem, U.S. policy will not have any impact at all," Somerville said.