Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), a climate change denier (in his words: “semi-skeptic”) who in 2012 became the hilariously inappropriate chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, is doing his gosh dang best—along with the rest of the Republicans in Congress—to fuck up the ongoing Paris climate talks from afar.
Since being put in charge of the committee’s $39 billion budget (which includes, terrifyingly, operations at NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Science Foundation) in 2012, Smith has used taxpayer dollars to attempt to cut NASA’s earth sciences budget, hold bullshit “hearings” giving climate change deniers a platform to spread their fanatical mistrust of the scientific method, and most recently, to harass and subpoena the records and communications of NOAA scientists whose widely accepted findings Smith, a non-scientist, disagreed with, despite the fact that their research data was already publicly available.
Smith, who has received over $600,000 from the fossil fuel industry over the course of his political career, has decided to take issue with a NOAA paper published over the summer; according to the New York Times:
Mr. Smith has focused on a paper published this year about a supposed “hiatus” in global warming for much of the past two decades. The pause, the researchers found, did not actually occur. The paper, produced by scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, found that when adjustments were made to compensate for inconsistent historical methods of measuring temperature, especially those involving seawater, the hiatus largely disappeared.
In a hearing on Tuesday aimed at undercutting the Obama Administration’s role in the Paris talks, Smith said NOAA’s employees “altered historical climate data to get politically correct results in an attempt to disprove the 18-year lack of global temperature increases.”
According to the Times, a definitely-beleaguered Democratic member of Smith’s committee, Eddie Bernice Johnson, wrote him a letter a few weeks back calling the inquiry an “ideological crusade.”
“Your ‘investigation’ appears to have less to do with uncovering waste, fraud or abuse at a federal agency, and more to do with political posturing intended to influence public opinion ahead of a major international climate conference.”
Preach, Bernice! But this unfortunately had no effect on Smith, who in his hearing statement characterized Obama’s Clean Power Plan—which the House just blocked—as “nothing more than a power grab.”
He continued: “The president attempts to justify his actions by scaring people with worst-case scenarios and biased data,” adding:
[S]tatements by President Obama and others that attempt to link extreme weather events to climate change are completely unfounded. The lack of evidence is clear: no increased tornadoes, no increased hurricanes, no increased droughts or floods.
Smith is, obviously, wrong, but his apparently willful inaccuracies are more dangerous than most. The reason Smith and those like him dismiss climate scientists as “alarmists” is because the (probably pretty conservative) data on climate change is very, very alarming, and there are many feeble-minded, greedy, cowardly, and/or corrupt people who would prefer not to believe it.
The pledges participating countries have signaled they will offer at the UN Climate Summit are not nearly enough to adequately address the potentially apocalyptic effects of climate change; the burning of carbon needs to stop literally right this second, not, for example, peak in 2030. But what Republicans in Congress are doing right now to derail these still-necessary talks from afar, by undermining the already woefully insufficient pledge Obama is able to make without their direct support, is so hideously villainous it’s almost hard to believe it’s actually happening.
Our oceans are dying, our seas are rising, our forests are burning. And a determined group of American idiots like Lamar Smith are trying to keep the United States—and, effectively, everyone else—from lifting a finger to stop it, putting their own immediate monetary interests and political ambitions over the lives of 6 billion human beings.
This man could reasonably be considered a mass murderer. Except, of course, he’ll get away with it.
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Image via Associated Press.