Year 4, Month 9, Day 8: They’d Only Ask Me About You

The San-Antonio Express News takes on Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, who is, mirabile dictu, an idiot:

The newest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, leaked to media last week, is frightening and conclusive.

The panel of several hundred scientists, which won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, says the odds are at least 95 percent that humans are the principal cause of climate change. The panel predicts an increase of 5 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century and warns that a rise of that magnitude would cause “extreme heat waves, difficulty growing food and massive changes in plant and animal life, probably including a wave of extinction,” according to the New York Times.

Yet U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology, claims the science is uncertain about how much of the warming is caused by humans.

As a result, he has urged U.S. policy-makers to take a skeptical view of “overheated” rhetoric about climate change. He’s called for relaxing, not strengthening, regulations on carbon emissions from power plants. And he’s urged moving forward with the Keystone XL Pipeline, even though on a daily basis it would carry 830,000 barrels of tar sands oil — one of the world’s dirtiest fuels, which, according to the Congressional Research Service, generates at least 14 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oils do.

Sheesh. September 2:

Would you trust a heart surgeon who believed in the medieval theory of “humours”? Would you fly in a plane with a pilot who didn’t understand aerodynamics? Would you eat in a restaurant whose cook didn’t “believe” in sanitation? Then why would you want a Congressional Committee on Science and Technology to be chaired by someone who rejects the methodology and conclusions of contemporary science?

Lamar Smith is an excellent demonstration of what happens when scientific illiteracy is perceived as a cultural virtue. Five decades ago, America launched the space program in response to a perceived threat from the Soviet Union. We lionized scientists, increased funding for math and science education, and recognized the crucial role scientific understanding plays in our society. And we reached the Moon.

Now we face a far more profound threat than Soviet domination of outer space. The climate crisis is all but certain to bring massive destruction and loss of life on a global scale over the coming decades. Rep. Smith thinks the science is “uncertain,” but an inability to understand climatology is hardly a valid argument. Is it just coincidence that his corporate paymasters would find their astronomical profits reduced if Congress took responsible action to address the threat?

Warren Senders

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