Ostensibly, the mission of the Congressional Committee on Science, Space and Technology is to shape America’s national policy on scientific matters ranging from space exploration to basic scientific research. A look at the views of some of the current committee members suggests that it might be time to rename the Committee on Science, Space and Technology to the Committee That Is Afraid of Science. There are 40 members on the committee, 22 Republicans and 18 Democrats. The committee has budgetary control of approximately 40 billion dollars and is not an inconsequential congressional committee. The committee has oversight on such federal agencies as NASA, the Department of Energy, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The funding and general ‘direction’ of these agencies is largely determined by this one committee. Too many members of this committee are simply unqualified to hold membership on this important committee.
A career politician and a Republican from a heavily gerrymandered district in Texas, Lamar Smith, is the Chairman of the Committee. This man is not the most rabidly anti-science person in American politics, but a cursory review of some of his past remarks and votes demonstrates that he is remarkably unqualified to be the Chairman of this committee. Smith has been a true profile in courage by casting votes against raising CAFÉ standards, eliminating oil and gas exploration subsidies, providing tax credits for renewable energy sources and most egregiously, he voted to exclude greenhouse gases from being regulated by the Clean Air Act. He is a proud signatory to the No Climate Tax Pledge sponsored by the ultra conservative group, Americans for Prosperity (AFP). The No Climate Tax Pledge states: “I pledge to the taxpayers of my state, and to the American people, that I will oppose any legislation relating to climate change that includes a net increase in government revenue." This ‘pledge’ was dreamed up by AFP to fight the Clean Air Act. How can a man who has expressly announced his opposition to any legislation that could result in either a direct or indirect ‘carbon tax’ serve as Chairman of the very committee that should be setting governmental policy to address climate change? At least Smith acknowledges that climate change is actually occurring. Compared to some of the other people on the committee, Smith is a regular science geek.
Dana Rohrabacher is the Vice Chairman of the committee. In May of 2011, during a congressional hearing, the California Republican asked a State Department official, “Is there some thought being given to subsidizing the clearing of rainforests in order for some countries to eliminate that production of greenhouse gases?" Yes, you read that correctly. The gentleman from the Great State of California would like to know if America should be subsidizing the clearing of the world’s rainforests. Obviously, he was trying to make a point that he does not believe in climate change. However, his statement revealed not only an unscientific mind, but a mind that simply is unable to grasp the basic importance of protecting the world’s environment. Rohrabacher is a hardcore denier that human activity is contributing to climate change. Even if climate change is happening, Rohrabacher says it is not concerning. Indeed, he devotes an entire section of his personal congressional webpage supporting this assertion. He has a frighteningly stupid section titled: No Need to Panic about Global Warming. I am not providing a link to his website. I find him to be an embarrassing part of my government. Be warned, reading his odious views is the mental equivalent of drinking 200 proof alcohol and might actually result in the loss of functioning brain cells.
Finally, there is the committee’s Chairman Emeritus, Texan Republican Ralph Hall. Of all the anti-science people in government, Ralph Hall is in a league of his own. Mr. Hall was born in 1923 and is the oldest man to ever serve in the House of Representatives. He has been one of the staunchest deniers of climate change ever elected to Congress. Until 2004, he was a member of the Democratic Party. He switched affiliations and became an ardent supporter of the Bush Administration and stated, “The country is at war. When the country is at war you need to support the president. Some of my fellow congressmen have not been doing that." Ah, yes, the song of the patriot. In a 2011 interview with The National Journal, Hall was asked if he thought that climate change was making the Earth warmer, “I don’t think it’s the cause. I don’t think we can control what God controls.” When he was told that 97% of climate-science researchers believe that human activity has caused climate change, Hall said, “And they each get $5,000 for every report like that they give out, I don’t have any proof of that. But I don’t believe ’em.”
There are other members of the committee that have made statements so idiotic that they have to be read to be believed. This is not a philosophical committee. The mission of the committee is not to concern itself with matters of religious ideology. Again, remember the name of the committee is the Congressional Committee on Science, Space and Technology. The world just experienced the hottest decade in modern times. There is no debate on either the causes or the dangers of climate change. The ignorance of these representatives is not only breathtaking, it is dangerous. The government does have a role to play in dealing with climate change. Putting people like this in positions of power will cost lives.