Today's Congressional Hearing on Climate Change Was a Colossal Train Wreck
In the midst of today's
The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
fell off the flat Earth's edge
into a profoundly anti-science abyss years ago. Hearings like this one crop up every now and then, often with the same cadre of questionably-credentialed witnesses offering up the same tired fallacies that serve to question the overwhelming scientific consensus that
Presiding over this shitstorm was, of course, Texas Republican
, who has been Chair of the committee since Republicans took the House in 2012. No one would claim that Smith held back when it came to climate change while President Obama was in office, but having
fellow climate deniers installed at the White House
seems to have given him an extra bit of
joie de vivre
. Nothing like some honest-to-god momentum toward planetary destruction to add a little spring to one's step!
Speaking of momentum, the hearing came a day after President Trump signed an executive order aimed at rolling back progress the Obama administration made on climate, ostensibly to bring back coal jobs ( not happening , ever ), and a couple of weeks after a "skinny budget" from the White House suggested cutting just about everything science-related you can think of, and climate-related programs in particular . It featured one widely-respected climate scientist-Michael Mann, professor of atmospheric science at Penn State-and three Republican invitees whose views on climate change, if we're being charitable, lie somewhat outside mainstream scientific consensus: Judith Curry, professor emeritus at Georgia Tech; John Christy, professor and director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama at Huntsville; and Roger Pielke Jr., professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado.
The witnesses, along with some of Committee members, repeated a number of claims that the GOP has clung to for decades now: The climate models don't match reality ( yes they do ); extreme weather events, like hurricanes and droughts, are in no way linked to climate change ( yes they are ); there was a consensus in the 1970s that the world was cooling ( not even close to true ); and so on. Multiple people even brought up the ClimateGate "scandal," involving hacked emails and accusations of fiddling with data, which was investigated to death with no evidence of wrongdoing years ago.
As Democratic Congressman Bill Foster-the only member of
It was, overall, a horrendously depressing display of scientific illiteracy, but there were some odd bits of optimism to be found. The witnesses all agreed at various points that yes, the climate is changing and that humans play a role (though they disagreed, contrary to overwhelming evidence, on the magnitude of that role), and they also agreed that the Trump administration's proposed cuts to Earth-observing systems at NASA, NOAA, and elsewhere are a monumentally dumb idea .
What's more, perhaps the best point was made by one of the GOP witnesses, Roger Pielke, Jr.: "Scientific uncertainty is not going to be eliminated on this topic before we have to act."
In other words, not knowing everything is not a justification for doing nothing. But that's just what opponents of action seize on all the time-uncertainty, to them, means
is certain. "Before we impose costly government regulations, we should evaluate scientific uncertainties and ascertain the extent to which they make it difficult to quantify humans' contribution to climate change," Smith said in his opening statement, ignoring the vast piles of evidence on that very topic.
Smith calls hearings like this in an attempt to discredit climate science in general, to question the consensus that human carbon emissions are overwhelmingly responsible for global warming, and to repeatedly inject false talking points into the public record and public consciousness. He makes us write stories like this, where we are forced to entertain the unhinged rantings of the Dana Rohrabachers of the world.
"Those who disagree with the mainstream are being brutalized into silence!" Rohrabacher raved, just before the gods of the internet teased us all with the possibility that the seas had already swallowed Washington and this was all just a bad, drowning dream. But no, the feed returned eventually, in time to hear Congressman Barry Loudermilk quote a 1970s National Academy of Sciences report as if no further science has been done since, to hear Congressman Daniel Webster use the natural causes of the last ice age as "proof" that humans aren't responsible for warming, and to hear Judith Curry spout the denier favorite, "the climate is always changing!"
More mud was slung, more science misrepresented, more tax dollars spent, until Smith mercifully put the hearing out of its misery, having accomplished nothing except raising my blood pressure.
This is all so stupid.