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Academics oppose lawmakers' global warming bill

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Scientists in Utah on Friday pushed back against some state lawmakers' attempts to dismiss global warming, saying that a resolution approved by the House earlier this week is misleading about the science on the issue.

The measure approved by the House on Tuesday said the Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to regulate carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act is based on "questionable" science and could hurt the economy.

University of Utah and Brigham Young University scientists are asking lawmakers to table the resolution. University of Utah engineering professor Joe Andrade said Friday there's a clear, scientifically established connection between human-caused emissions and the Earth's changing climate.

Among the panel of Ph.D. holders and scientists, there was an unexpectedly-young voice: 13-year-old Brian Gregory.

"Even I, an eighth-grader, know the politicians do not know more than the scientists when it comes to science," Gregory said.

His speech summed up the confusion and frustration of the panel in regards to House Joint Resolution 12, which attacks the idea of global warming and urges the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to halt its carbon dioxide reduction policies

"The main message it will send is: ‘Don't bother considering our concerns, because we are not willing to participate in an authentic discussion about this topic,'" said fellow panelist, and BYU assistant professor, Dr. Barry Bickmore.

Critics of the science underpinning climate change have in recent months pointed to errors in a 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The report attempted to translate what global warming might mean to daily lives around the world.

But scientists -- including top U.S. government officials -- argue that the bulk of the four reports issued that year are sound.

The fundamental point of global warming remains and, in some cases, the effects on glacier and ocean acidification is happening faster than previously anticipated, Andrade said.

"There's really no question that this stuff is happening," he said.

In recent weeks, Utah lawmakers have offered a more skeptical view.

"I do believe there has been a real effort on the part of some people who are in support of the cap and tax proposals to make sure the other side of the story isn't heard," said Rep. Kerry Gibson, R-Ogden.

Meanwhile, a House committee approved a resolution Friday urging Gov. Gary Herbert to pull out of the Western Climate Initiative, an alliance of several Western states and Canadian provinces aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

"The science is not definite," said Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, who sponsored the bill.

He and others have worried about the economic effects of additional regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, especially in the state's resource-rich regions.

"If we're going to take Draconian measures to implement these policies, we better, better make sure the science is correct," he said during a hearing Friday morning.

Angie Welling, the governor's spokeswoman, said Friday that Herbert plans to stay with the Western Climate Initiative. Even though he has concerns over proposals like a cap-and-trade program, "he thinks he can be more effective having a seat at the table rather than withdrawing," Welling said.

House Joint Resolution 12 -- the resolution approved by the House on Tuesday -- initially included language referring to a "climate data conspiracy" and "tricks" used to support global warming data. Those phrases were stripped out, but the approved version includes skepticism about "climate alarmists" and "a well organized and ongoing effort to manipulate global temperature data."

Utah scientists refuting the resolution say it cherry-picks facts and isn't based on the robust body of science on climate change.

"There are very few (if any) scientifically legitimate statements located in the text of the resolution," Andrew Jorgenson, an environmental sociologist at the University of Utah, said in a statement.

He said he's hoping lawmakers call on scientists at the state's universities to offer their help and expertise.

Fifteen scientists from BYU approved a detailed letter earlier this month refuting many of the statements in the joint resolution passed Tuesday.

"Sound scientific investigation, over many years and by many scientists, strongly supports the idea that emitting large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere poses considerable risk to humans and their environment," the letter said.

But that conclusion doesn't mandate a particular political solution, the scientists wrote.

"And even if all the political solutions are flawed, this does not justify politicians in attacking the science that indicates there is almost certainly a serious problem," the letter said.


Story compiled with contributions from AP writer Mike Stark and KSL's Sarah Dallof.

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