NH Global Warming Hearing

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In Franconia, New Hampshire, the new House Select Committee on Global Warming and Energy Independence heard special testimony on the impact of global warming on New England.

As WBUR's Meghna Chakrabarti reports, in this election season, politics took center stage in the climate change conversation.TEXT OF STORY

SOUND OF CANNON MOUNTAIN TRAM ANNOUNCER: Good morning, next tram will be leaving in 5 minutes, please get your ticket at the ticket window.

MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI: It's a bit of Congressional wordplay, but the House Global Warming Committee called this meeting a "summit"... and convened at the 4000 foot summit of Cannon Mountain. The congressmen took the quickest way to the top: an aerial tram.


CHAKRABARTI: Massachusetts congressman Edward Markey is the committee chairman. He declared the White Mountains the perfect place for this first-ever U-S field hearing.

REPRESENTATIVE EDWARD MARKEY: If we don't cut global warming pollution, we may have to one day rename the White Mountains because there may be no more snow.

CHAKRABARTI: But even if Washington came to New Hampshire, Beltway Hardball wasn't left behind. And the toughest player at the table was the committees' ranking Republican, Wisconsin Congressman James Sensenbrenner.

JAMES SENSENBRENNER: While this magnificent mountain provides a great vantage point to see the surrounding countryside, I am not sure this location will help bring realistic solutions into view.

We need a mountain high enough to see to India and China, but I doubt that the summit of Mount Everest is one of the destinations Mr. Markey has on our agenda.


CHAKRABARTI: So far, a fact-finding mission to the world's tallest mountain isn't on the committee schedule. The New Hampshire hearing focused on expert analysis of the local impacts of global warming.

EXPERT 1: If global warming continues, the existence of the US maple industry beyond the next 50 to 100 years is jeopardized.

EXPERT 2: In three years, we've had three hundred-year flood events in New Hampshire. Consequences of tremendous damage somewhere upwards of $35 million to roads, bridges and private property.

EXPERT 3: It's not uncommon these days to see white snowshoe hares running around in the snowless woods.

CHAKRABARTI: The panel included testimony from Cameron Wake, professor at the Climate Change Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.

CAMERON WAKE: Perhaps the most striking statistic is that our winters have increased over the last thirty years by 4.4 degrees Fahrenheit. That's the equivalent of taking a Boston wintertime climate and moving it South to Philadelphia.

CHAKRABARTI: That assertion stuck with Sensenbrenner. New England's economy relies a lot on tourist dollars, doesn't it, the congressman asked.

SENSENBRENNER: If that's the case, you know, what's so wrong about having a shorter winter season, perhaps a longer spring and fall season when people want to get outdoors and enjoy the outdoors a little more?

WAKE: What's at stake here is the very nature of what it means to live and work and be from New Hampshire and New England. It's central about our quality of life.

CHAKRABARTI: That drew applause on Cannon Mountain. Little else did. Few concrete policies emerged at the meeting, but Connecticut Congressman John Larson said he will be introducing legislation supporting a tax on carbon emissions, as part of a bevy of green bills House Democrats plan to push this summer.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN LARSON: In the House we will pass this legislation. We will pass a series of legislation that relate to the environment, moving to July 4th, what we wanted to use symbolically as an independence on foreign oil.

CHAKRABARTI: And another summit convenes this week. This one with President Bush on the international stage. The G-8 in Germany, where the Europeans have put climate change at the top of the agenda.

For WBUR, I'm Meghna Chakrabarti.

This program aired on June 5, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.

Meghna Chakrabarti Twitter Host, On Point
Meghna Chakrabarti is the host of On Point.