The House Science Committee Spent Today in a Climate Change Denial Echo Chamber

One way to continue denying climate change is to invite only other deniers to testify at your hearings.

May 29 2014, 6:30pm
Rep. Lamar Smith will probably need that umbrella a lot more in the future. Image: NASA

If one were to believe the same sorts of conspiracy theories that climate change deniers in Congress do, they'd find it fishy that the live stream of the Republican-controlled House Science Committee's circle jerk hearing about the follies of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change cut out—repeatedly and solely—when sane lawmakers were discussing their disgust with the proceedings. 

Alas, the rational side of me thinks that there were probably just some technical difficulties.

The idea, in name, was to "examine the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Process," which is an underhanded way of giving a soapbox to climate change deniers on the panel and three witnesses who either deny humans have an impact on climate, think that the rapid warming we've seen is part of a natural cycle, or think that warming won't have an impact on humans and other living species.

The opposition leader of the committee, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tx.), who made her opening statements available on her website, making it possible to read what she said while the feed cut out, said as much: "While the topic of today's hearing is a legitimate one, namely, how the IPCC process can be improved, I am concerned that the real objective of this hearing is to try to undercut the IPCC and to cast doubt on the validity of climate change research."

Richard Tol, who used to be on the IPCC but resigned his position. Image: Screengrab

And that's exactly what happened. Despite the overwhelming consensus that climate change is happening and is man made, here are the people who well-noted climate change denier Lamar Smith, the head of the committee, invited to testify:

  • Daniel Botkin, a University of California, Santa Barbara professor who said that the IPCC's "executive summary is a political statement, not a scientific statement" and, during the hearing, said that Florida's citrus crisis is a larger global problem than climate change.
  • Roger Pielke Sr., a former Colorado State University professor who believes that CO2 does not contribute much to global warming and refused to answer a question from Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy about whether he'd "rather live in a world with double the carbon emissions or half the carbon emissions."  
  • Richard Tol, a former IPCC member who recently resigned his position. He believes climate change is a result of human activity but has suggested the "impact of climate change is relatively small" and has written a paper called "Why Worry About Climate Change?"
  • Michael Oppenheimer, a globally-recognized climate change scientist who is almost universally respected in the field—perhaps not shockingly, he was the one witness selected by the Democrats, "because he's one of the foremost experts in the world and has been involved with the IPCC," a spokesperson for the Democratic contingent of the committee told me. 

For two hours, climate change deniers interrupted, berated, and cut off Oppenheimer, while the other three other witnesses fielded softball questions from conservative lawmakers and dodged tougher ones from Democratic ones.

In fact, at one point, Rep. Larry Buchson (R-Ind.), who, seconds before had interrupted Oppenheimer and said he wasn't interested in hearing his views, wanted to "apologize on behalf of Congress" to Pielke for the aforementioned "juvenile and insulting questions trying to disparage the credibility" of witnesses who didn't take climate change seriously.

Meanwhile, if you were playing Congressional climate change bingo, you'd be able to easily cross off most of the boxes within the first few minutes:

  • Pielke suggested that more climate deniers should be on the IPCC to get a "better consensus" on climate.
  • California's Dana Rohrabacher pulled out the air quotes when he said "global warming," and took offense to Oppenheimer not being able to "capsulize" all the reasons why he believes that climate change is a big deal in 10 seconds. 
  • Smith suggested that the "only thing we know about [climate change models] is that they will be wrong" and suggested that "even if the US was completely eliminated, it's not going to have any discernible impact on global temperatures in the near or far future." 
  • Botkin suggested mitigating climate change is impossible, so why bother.
  • Paul Broun of Georgia and Buchson noted their belief in the "scientific process" and suggested that they knew more about it because they are doctors (Broun is a dentist; Buchson is a surgeon).

"This hearing is a missed opportunity to consider the findings of the latest IPCC report and the kinds of actions the US should be considering," Johnson said. "I hope that we will have such a hearing in the coming months."

Meanwhile, California is burning, Antarctica might melt faster than predicted before, and 10 feet of sea level rise is all but locked in. Just another two hours wasted in Congress.