Monday, November 15th 2010, 3:34 PM EST
"Bring it on" should be the Democrats' response to the new House Republican majority's pledge to hold investigatory hearings on the Obama Administration's environmental policies.
If Republicans want to use an open forum to debunk human-induced global warming and challenge the legitimacy and wisdom of the executive branch to regulate greenhouse gases, go right ahead. Their partisan zeal could very well trigger an embarrassing public backlash.
Democrats should welcome the opportunity for expert witnesses to testify in behalf of the necessity to curb global warming as well as the specific need for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to limit industrial greenhouse gas emissions. There are articulate environmental scientists (and the Democratic minority will make sure they are on the witness list if the GOP majority won't) who can present in laymen's terms with persuasive documentation the case for President Obama's "green" strategy. These experts need to come to the hearings not just to deliver a positive message with clarity. Under the glare of television cameras, they must be prepared to directly dismantle any global warming deniers' claims advanced at the session, and do so unsolicited if need be.
All the Republican demagoguery in the world won't break down witnesses who know their stuff, have the skills to communicate it in a simple, straightforward way, and possess the temperament not to be rattled by heavy-handed, derisive interrogation.
Let the Republican lawmakers at public hearings deny the reality of human-induced global warming even as they are confronted by the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence. They are going to look foolish to all but their most committed followers with preconceived notions set in stone.
Let the GOP majority object to mandated remedies that in their own right make sense even if the global warming threat turns out to be overblown (e.g. increased energy efficiency, reforestation, and a shift to clean renewable fuels). The legislators will come across as out of touch. Let the American public see that these Republican "muckrakers" would rather gamble with the nation's future than choose the "better safe than sorry" approach to climate change.
If, as expected, Republicans go after the EPA for regulating greenhouse gas emissions without congressional authorization, government regulators can testify that the agency is ready to step aside when the lawmakers meet their responsibilities. In the meantime, EPA can justify its decision on the grounds that public health takes precedence over economic growth, the latter being a euphemism for electric utilities' profit margins. What good are jobs, EPA officials can ask, if the climate becomes so inhospitable that people are too ill or otherwise indisposed to report for work. It is a point of view that makes eminent good sense and should resonate with the general public.
An environmental witch hunt is an extremely risky proposition, given that polls show it starts out with the majority of the electorate skeptical of its objective. Americans may dislike regulations that generate a huge amount of red tape, but rules mandated to protect their health and that of their surroundings are quite another matter.
Unfortunately, the House Republicans who will hold investigatory oversight hearings seem either unwilling or unable to make that distinction. If they persist, the odds are it will come back to haunt them.
Edward Flattaus fourth book "Green Morality" is now available.