Thank you for having this hearing today, Madam Chairman. I have to say, however, that we seem to have hearing after hearing after hearing on climate change – indeed, this is the Committee's second one this week alone – but we don’t seem to actually discuss legislation. While other Committees without jurisdiction on this issue attempt to write our nation’s global warming policies, this Committee sits idly by talking about tangential issues. I believe that if we do wrestle with actual legislation, then the folly of cap-and-trade carbon legislation will become apparent.
The recreation industry’s true threats come not from climate change – which has always changed and will always change – but from the so-called global warming ‘solutions’ being proposed by government policymakers. Misguided efforts to ‘solve’ global warming threaten to damage the travel and recreation industry. In short, it is a direct threat America’s way of life. If we cannot fly to remote locations, and if few automobiles are capable of pulling boats, jet skies, and campers, and if RVs become a thing of the past as environmentalists would like, then minor climate fluctuations will have little impact on recreation because Americans will not have the means to recreate.
I will not belabor my views about the scientific underpinnings of global warming alarmism, other than to make a few observations. The fact that climate fluctuates – changes – is nothing new, and should not be feared. It has always changed, and unless the processes of the planet suddenly stopped, it always will. There is little disagreement that it warmed in the Northern Hemisphere from about 1970’s until 1998, and that since that time, temperatures flattened. And there is general agreement that some human activities such as the building of cities and expanding agriculture, have contributed to this. But there remains much debate in the peer-reviewed scientific literature as to the many factors which may influence climate that is of importance to the question of whether climate fluctuations are natural or caused by humans. But regardless of that debate, a healthy functioning planet means constant changes in our climate.
There are winners and losers as climate fluctuates. A warming period could be a boon for warm weather destinations like beaches and lakes and a cooling period like we experienced from 1940-1970s could be beneficial for cold weather recreation like skiing and snowboarding. This past winter saw record snows in the Rocky Mountain region as well as an unusually cold spring in Alaska. Currently, we are seeing a Memorial Day snow advisory for the Colorado Mountains. Wyoming being buried in a May snowstorm and parts of Canada are still enduring winter. In addition, South Africa just set 54 new cold weather records with some parts seeing snow for the first time in 33 years as snow and ice continue to fall. And I am not finished. A massive snowstorm in China has closed highways and stranded motorists. And finally, winter has arrived early in Australia as the snow season is off to a promising start for the winter recreation industry.
But the most verifiable threat to the recreation and travel industry is the unintended consequences of misguided government policy and environmental activists. The chilling effect of guilt that the climate alarmists are attempting to instill in Americans for owning four wheel drive vehicles, flying in an airplane and enjoying travel is enough to harm the industry. For examples of this promotion of misguided policies and guilt, you need look no further than a proposal in April by the UK-based Institute for Public Policy Research, which called for tobacco-style health warnings on airplanes to warn passengers that the plane flight may be contributing to a global warming crisis. The group proposed posting signs on airplanes which read “flying causes climate change.”
Another example of unintended consequences by climate crusaders was the recent proclamation by a UK grocery store announcing it would usher in ‘carbon friendly’ policies and stop importing food from faraway nations. This proposal may have been popular with wealthy Western environmentalists, but the idea did not sit so well with poor African farmers. As a February 21, 2007 BBC article details:
“Kenyan farmers, whose lifelong carbon emissions are negligible compared with their counterparts in the West, are fast becoming the victims of a green campaign that could threaten their livelihoods. A recent bold statement by UK supermarket Tesco ushering in ‘carbon friendly’ measures - such as restricting the imports of air freighted goods by half and the introduction of "carbon counting" labeling - has had environmentalists dancing in the fresh produce aisles, but has left African horticulturists confused and concerned.”
The BBC article continues:
“Half of this produce goes to the UK's supermarkets, generating at least £100m per year for this developing country. The dependence on the UK market cannot be underestimated, says Stephen Mbithi Mwikya, chief executive of FPEAK. For Kenya, horticulture is the country's second biggest foreign exchange earner after tourism. ‘This announcement from Tesco is devastating’, says Mr Mbithi.”
The recent announcement by travel guru Mark Ellingham, the author of the Rough Guide travel book series, that he was now recanting his promotion of worldwide travel is another blow to the travel and recreation industry. Ellingham now says that our addiction to ‘binge flying’ is killing the planet.
This kind of alarmism should concern the travel and recreation industry, not natural climate fluctuations which mankind has no control over.
There is even more proof showing that the dangers facing travel and recreation are coming from climate hysteria. The Associated Press on May 16, 2007 reported that ecotourism --the type of travel you would expect environmentalists to endorse--is no more Earth friendly than regular travel due to the long plane flights necessary to bring vacationers to exotic locales. The Norwegian Environment Minister Helen Bjoernoey is now warning about long distance travel.
"Long distance travel — especially air travel — is a challenge to all of us. We know that it has serious impacts on the climate," Bjoernoey said.
I cannot think of a more devastating sentiment to the industry than that. Reduce air travel because of unfounded fears of climate doom. That is the authentic threat not only to the travel industry, but the developing world which depends so much on tourism to improve the life its residents. Clearly, the unfounded fears of a man-made climate catastrophe and the proposed solutions represent the gravest threats to the industry.