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Hastert, Now Top Republican on Clean Air Subpanel, Urges Caution On Climate Change

Wading into a debate that drew little attention from Republicans when he led the House, former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) today urged lawmakers not to rush into policy changes to address climate change.

Hastert called for a “thorough examination” of climate change science before rushing to adopt policies that could have dramatic effects on the economy. Hastert made the comments this morning during a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on energy and air quality, of which he is the ranking member.

Noting the “limits of human knowledge” and “superficial and sensational” media coverage of climate change, Hastert said that lawmakers should question the prevailing scientific wisdom on climate change — that humanity is causing the climate to warm by burning fossil fuels.

Hastert said the recent report of the United Nations-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — which concluded that humans are “very likely” causing climate change — is not a sufficient reason to rush to implement climate legislation.

“I happen to believe that saying global warming is unequivocal doesn’t end the debate — it begins it,” he said.

Hastert’s view on climate change was echoed at the hearing by fellow Republicans on the subcommittee. Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) warned of “unintended consequences of legislative activity which could be devastating.”

The Republican concerns spotlight the challenges faced by current Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in calling for climate change legislation to be taken up on the House floor by this summer. Pelosi in January convened a select committee on climate change charged with drafting legislation to be voted on this summer. But House Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) cast doubt on that timeframe earlier this week, telling Roll Call, “I can’t promise you we will meet a deadline.”

While the prospects for climate change legislation appear brighter in the Senate, where a number of bipartisan efforts have been introduced, those bills must overcome a threatened filibuster by climate skeptic Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.).

A paper released last month by the Senate Republican Policy Committee cited “considerable uncertainty” in the scientific debate on climate change.

Hastert’s comments echo remarks he made yesterday at a hearing by the same subcommittee on carbon sequestration, a process that segregates and stores carbon dioxide emissions that is frequently touted as a key solution to addressing climate change.

“We cannot ask the American people to pay a heavy price in jobs and consumer costs in the name of ‘solving’ global warming, only to discover that there is almost no environmental benefit,” he said.

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