Today’s hearing will focus on one of the three objectives I set out when I assumed the Chairmanship of the Committee – to ensure that regulatory decisions are based on sound science.
Too often the environmental policy decisions made by EPA and other science-based agencies are driven by political or personal agendas. You see this in types of research that gets funded or the types of grants that get awarded. It is my hope this hearing will help shed some light on how science is used by policy-makers and that we can arrive at some concrete suggestions for making the process better.
I am particularly interested in hearing the testimony of Dr. Michael Crichton. Everyone knows that Dr. Crichton is a best-selling author and Emmy award-winning producer. But what most people do not know is that Dr. Crichton’s background includes degrees from Harvard College and Harvard Medical School. He was also a visiting lecturer in Physical Anthropology at Cambridge University; and a post-doctoral fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, where he worked on media and science policy with Jacob Bronowski, the author of Common Sense of Science, Science and Human Values, and The Identity of Man. Dr. Crichton’s science background has served him well in providing material for his books, many of which explore scientific issues, my favorite of which is State of Fear. I urge you all to read this book. It’s fiction, but it contains an enormous number of footnotes to real studies backing up the scientific points made in the book. Dr. Crichton, thank you for agreeing to testify today on your observations and recommendations about the use of science in public policy-making.
We also will hear today from Dr. Bill Gray, known as the pioneer of hurricane prediction. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, German Environmental Minister Juergen Trittin (Yer-gan Trit-in) alleged, “the increasing frequency of these natural events can only be explained through global warming which is caused by people.” This is absolutely absurd. This chart behind me, based on data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, demonstrates clearly that 100 years ago, even 50 years ago, we had just as many intense hurricanes as we have today. I look forward to your thoughts on this, Dr. Gray.
We will also hear today from Dr. Don Roberts, an epidemiologist and a leader in the field of science regarding DDT. EPA banned DDT in the 1970s despite a finding by its own experts that DDT did not cause cancer in humans nor did it have an adverse effect on wildlife. Since then, DDT has become the most studied chemical in the world and the only thing that has been proven is that there is no other substance, method or treatment as effective in eradicating malaria.
As many of my colleagues are aware, I travel throughout Africa several times a year. In fact, next week, I plan to make my third visit to Uganda this year. Malaria is devastating that country and the entire continent of Africa. It kills almost the same number of people as AIDS. Yet we focus little attention on this enormous human tragedy. Malaria kills 70,000 Ugandans every year, most under the age of five. It enlarges their spleen such as in the picture behind me, causing acute suffering and eventually death. In all of Africa, a child dies from malaria every 30 seconds.
Yet, developed counties continue to stand on their environmental agenda in the face of this human rights tragedy. Earlier this year, the European Union strongly warned Uganda that its exports to Europe would be in jeopardy if it goes ahead with current plans to use DDT to fight malaria. I look forward to your thoughts on the matter, Dr. Roberts.
I would also like to welcome David Sandalow, of the Brookings Institution, who is here to provide the committee with his beliefs on global warming and its perceived effects.
Finally, we have Richard Benedick, the President of the National Council for Science and the Environment. He was one of the authors of the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which was a precursor international framework for dealing with emissions reductions.
I look forward to hearing the testimony from our witnesses today.