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    The New Chair of House Science Committee: Lamar Smith, Climate Change Skeptic

    Written by

    Derek Mead


    It’s easy to make fun of Congress and its tone-deaf politicking, but at the end of the day you hope that its members are smart enough to at least discuss policy rationally. But I guess that’s too much to ask. With that, I’d like to welcome Lamar Smith, a Republican who’s been a vocal SOPA supporter and who doubts that man is having an effect on climate change, to his new position as chair of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. I’m physically face-palming as I finish writing this sentence one-handed.

    Yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner announced that Smith had been recommended for the position, solidifying an all white male roster of House committee chairmen for the next Congress.

    To be fair, Smith isn’t as vocally anti-science as the man he’s replacing, Ralph Hall. As Hall once famously said of climate change:

    I’m really more fearful of freezing. And I don’t have any science to prove that. But we have a lot of science that tells us they’re not basing it on real scientific facts. And we need to listen to more. I’m willing to listen for more.

    Remember, the fact that the globe is getting warmer as a whole is the overwhelming scientific consensus. Even Smith notes that the climate is changing on his own website, which I suppose is a step in the right direction.

    But he still questions whether humans are having an effect, a side-stepping argument rooted in the fact that yes, the globe does undergo periods of cooling and warming. Yet the Earth is warming faster than it ever has in recorded history, which coincides with the incredible increase in output of greenhouse gasses that has happened in the last century. The effect has been quantified by a massive, and growing, body of studies. So while it’s good to have skeptical people on the science committee—skepticism is the mark of any good scientist—that Smith is still leading the charge for climate deniers is helping prevent Congress from making any meaningful changes. And there’s no doubt that he thinks climate change is still up for debate, like these 2009 comments about the media show.

    “The [ABC, NBC and CBS television] networks have shown a steady pattern of bias on climate change,” Smith said in a statement dug up by HuffPo. “During a six-month period, four out of five network news reports failed to acknowledge any dissenting opinions about global warming, according to a Business and Media Institute study. The networks should tell Americans the truth, rather than hide the facts.”

    Not that we should be surprised. A few months ago, spurred by Todd Akin’s infamous (that’s not even a strong enough word) “legitimate rape” comments, Motherboard’s Brian Merchant and Alex Pasternack put together an exhaustive list documenting how the House science committee doesn’t understand science. Behold:

    It comes down to a single issue: The United States has long been a leader in research and development worldwide, but that gap is being rapidly closed, and in some areas, eclipsed by Europe, Japan, and the BRIC nations. Squabbling over climate change takes the focus away from the millions of other things we need to be focusing on. Can we stop pretending climate change still needs to be argued and move forward?

    Image: AP

    Follow Derek Mead on Twitter: @derektmead.