The Coming Assault on Climate Science


Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has made no bones about the fact that he plans to “investigate” climate science and climate scientists when he chairs the House Oversight Committee in the next Congress. Same goes for Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), who wants to keep the Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming alive only so he can make a mockery of the science.

So it was somewhat bizarre that Greg Sargent headlined a post yesterday, “GOP leadership cool to hearings into ‘scientific fraud’ underlying global warming.” The post says that Joe Barton (R-Tex.), who hopes to chair the Energy and Commerce Committee, doesn’t plan to hold hearings on the science of climate change—only on the Environmental Protection Agency’s planned regulations for greenhouse gases, the stuff that’s warming the planet.

Where to begin? Well, first, this ignores that Issa has stated very clearly that he intends to hold hearings on the subject, among the 280 hearings he has planned for 2011. We also have Sensenbrenner looking to rehash the science, though he, too, framed it as a regulatory oversight mission rather than an investigation of the science in an op-ed in Roll Call yesterday. “Now that Republicans have retaken the House, the Select Committee is more qualified than any other Congressional institution to ensure the administration doesn’t bend to unrealistic international demands—and that the EPA doesn’t attempt to do what Congress wouldn’t,” he wrote.

Here’s the deal though. The idea that hearings about EPA regulations are not going to be about the underlying science is patently absurd. Barton and Sensenbrenner want to paint this as all about jobs and whether greenhouse gas regs are worth any possible cost to the economy. But neither Sensenbrenner, nor Barton, nor the vast majority of their Republican colleagues think that the planet is warming due to human activity. Thus, they will never agree that the EPA is right in their finding that greenhouse gases are a threat that needs to be regulated, or that any action is “worth” it, whether from the EPA or Congress. Barton and friends reject the fact that, under the direction of the Supreme Court’s decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, the EPA determined that greenhouse gases do in fact pose a threat to human health and well-being and thus the agency is legally obligated to take action to reduce those emissions. Barton has been clear that he wants to go after the endangerment finding—which, by nature, is an assault on the scientific conclusion that these gases are warming the planet and putting humans in harm’s way.

Sargent’s post hints at the fact that the economic approach is just a different, more strategic way of coming at the issue, without recognizing that these same Republicans don’t think global warming is an issue in the first place:

Separately, the GOP leadership is apparently aware what a circus hearings into the allegedly fraudulent science underlying global warming would be — and how it would play into Dem efforts to paint Republicans as hostage to extremists.

“It’s just not the best strategy,” a senior GOP aide says. “The most effective way to fight the national energy tax is to talk about the economic effect and jobs.”

So GOP leaders realize that painting this as an assault on the science will only come across as loony to the American public, most of whom recognize that climate change is a threat. They’re shrewd enough to recast it as an economic issue, but all that doesn’t change the fact that we’re endangering ourselves by not taking action. Denying that is an assault on science, no matter how they frame it.

More Mother Jones reporting on Climate Desk

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate