U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
Hearing Statements
Date:   09/28/2005
Statement of Senator Frank R. Lautenberg
The Role of Science in Environmental Policy-Making

Thank you for convening this hearing. We’re honored to have with us today Michael Crichton, a medical doctor by training who is best known as a writer of fiction and movies.

His book “Jurassic Park” was made into a film that ranks among the ten highest grossing movies of all time. I have ten grandchildren so I know it well. In “Jurassic Park”, Dr. Crichton concocted a fascinating tale about scientists who clone dinosaurs using DNA from fossils.

Nobody can dispute Dr. Crichton’s talent as a writer of science fiction.

But this committee needs scientific facts, not science fiction.

His latest book, "State of Fear" expresses doubt that global warming poses a real threat to our planet.

If we learned tomorrow that scientists had cloned dinosaurs from DNA in fossils, Mr. Crichton would be hailed for his astute prediction.

But most scientists who have devoted their whole lives to studying such issues do not dismiss the threat of global warming.

Everyone agrees that the Earth is getting warmer. The last four years have been among the five hottest years on record.

And the projections for the future are not comforting. It’s a fact that hurricanes draw their power from warm waters in the ocean. For years, climate scientists have warned that higher ocean temperatures would spawn more powerful storms.

And in fact, we do have more powerful storms today than we did just a few decades ago.

Just this month, the journal Science reported that the proportion of storms that achieve Category four or five status has almost doubled since the 1970s.

Yet even when the warnings of climate scientists are borne out, some people cling to denial.

It might make a good story to imagine that the threat of global warming is a concoction of groups with a political agenda.

But we need scientific facts … not science fiction.

Here’s another fact: once greenhouse gases enter our atmosphere, they remain there for a long time. There is nothing we can do to remove them.

So every day that we fail to act, the potential consequences grow worse.

By refusing to act, we are gambling on the outside chance that most of the scientists are wrong.

Let’s not take that gamble with the future of our children and grandchildren.

Let’s enjoy science fiction like Jurassic Park … but let’s base our decisions on scientific facts.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.