Climate Science Day on Capitol Hill

A few weeks ago I participated in the fourth annual Climate Science Day organized by the ASA and a host of other professional and scientific societies. There's a nice write up of the event written by Steve Pierson over at Amstat News. There were a number of statisticians there besides me, but the vast majority of people were climate modelers, atmospheric scientists, agronomists, and the like. Below is our crack team of scientists outside the office of (Dr.) Andy Harris. Might be the only time you see me wearing a suit.

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The basic idea behind the day is to get scientists who do climate-related research into the halls of Congress to introduce themselves to members of Congress and make themselves available for scientific consultations. I was there (with Brooke Anderson, the other JHU rep) because of some of my work on the health effects of heat. I was paired up with Tony Broccoli, a climate modeler at Rutgers, as we visited the various offices of New Jersey and Maryland legislators. We also talked to staff from the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee.

Here are a few things I learned:

  • It was fun. I'd never been to Congress before so it was interesting for me to walk around and see how people work. Everyone (regardless of party) was super friendly and happy to talk to us.
  • The legislature appears to be run by women. Seriously, I think every staffer we met with (but one) was a woman. Might have been a coincidence, but I was not expecting that. We only met with one actual member of Congress, and that was (Dr.) Andy Harris from Maryland's first district.
  • Climate change is not really on anyone's radar. Oh well, we were there 3 days before the sequester hit so there were understandably other things on their minds. Waxman-Markey was the most recent legislation taken up by the House and it went nowhere in the Senate.
  • The Senate HELP committee has PhDs working on its staff. Didn't know that.
  • Staffers are working on like 90 things at once, probably none of which are related to each other. That's got to be a tough job.
  • I used more business cards on this one day than in my entire life.
  • Senate offices are way nicer than House offices.
  • The people who write our laws are around 22 years old. Maybe 25 if they went to law school. I'm cool with that, I think.
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