While Congress has left Washington, D.C., for its August recess, the effects of climate change on the West--including record-breaking drought conditions and wildfires--will be the subject of two field hearings by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Aug. 15 and 17 in Santa Fe, N.M. 

The hearings come on the heels of findings released Aug. 8 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that July 2012 was the hottest month on record for the United States since 1895.

The NOAA findings, along with other research released in the past few months, appear to have senators poised to renew debate over climate change, with Democrats calling for action and Republicans scoffiing.

As detailed in an Aug. 8 World Climate Change Reportarticle, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said it is time for skeptics to stop denying the science of climate change. Shooting back, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Energy and Public Works Committee, said his skepticism about climate science has been vindicated by the failure of cap-and -trade legislation in 2009 and any efforts by Democrats to introduce new climate legislation since then.

NOAA Advisory Meeting on Agenda

On Aug. 15, NOAA's National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee will  hold a public meeting in Washington, D.C., on the National Climate Assessment, which is expected to be submitted to Congress in late 2013. An assessment is due to Congress every four years under the Global Change Research Act of 1990. Only two reports have been completed since the law was passed, however—one in 2000 and one in 2009. The national assessment is being developed by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, a group of 13 federal departments and agencies that coordinates federal research on climate change. The 2013 assessment is expected to focus on how the United States can mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.

EPA to Host International Conference on Emission Inventories

The Environmental Protection Agency will host a conference Aug. 14-16 in Tampa, Fla., on "Emission Inventories: Meeting the Challenges Posed by Emerging Global, National, Regional, and Local Air Quality Agencies." In addition to inventories for criteria pollutants, the conference will focus on how inventories need to be adapted to support emerging climate change issues, such as how multi-pollutant strategies for air quality can also address climate change.

Regional Program to Hold Stakeholder Webinar

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative will hold a stakeholder webinar Aug. 13 to solicit input on the Integrated Planning Model (IPM), which is used to analyze the projected impact of U.S environmental policies on the electric power sector. Industry groups have argued that IPM does not accurately reflect actual emissions. The review of the modeling is part of a wider review RGGI is undergoing. The key item under review is the carbon dioxide emissions cap and whether it should be lowered. 

RGGI, which covers greenhouse gas emissions from large power plants, includes the six New England states, plus New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland.