Monday, July 17, 2017

What Did Lamar Smith Learn On His Taxpayer-Funded Trip To Greenland?


Texas Congressman Lamar Smith is a joke. NO, I don't mean he's a joke the way most of the Texas GOP delegation is a joke. Smith is a very special joke. When the House GOP leadership decided to make Lamar Smith chairman of the House Science Committee, it was a big yuck all over Capitol Hill. Smith is a crackpot Christian Scientist who doesn't believe in Science itself-- nor in the whole concept of "facts." The committee dates back to 1959 when it was established as the House Committee on Science and Astronautics. The committee's heyday was under a mainstream and conscientious Republican, Sherwood Boehlert of New York. But soon after, it used to be a joke to Boehner and Cantor that they had another Texas non-Science believer, ancient and very, very senile Ralph Hall, as the chairman. When he couldn't keep his bodily functions in check any longer they decided to go with Lamar who they were sure would be just as entertaining. And if you don't like Lamar, they always laugh, #2 on the committee is another fringe lunatic-- albeit a stoned one-- Dana Rohrabacher. Other anti-science circus performers thrown onto the committee include Frank Lucas (R-OK), Mo Brooks (R-TX), Bill Posey (R-FL), Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), Randy Weber (R-TX), Steve Knight (R-CA), Brian Babin (R-TX), Gary Palmer (R-AL), Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) and crazy old Daniel Webster (R-FL). But Lamar is the chief in the Republican Party's War on Science.

Last week we found out that Lamar Smith had a fabulous-- and secret-- adventure to Greenland last May. He and a delegation including a bunch of other climate change deniers from his committee, plus 3 Democrats, went to the Arctic to see the impact of climate change first hand.
It had the potential to be an awkward or even hostile visit. As chair of the science committee for the past four years, Rep. Smith of Texas has waged a public war with federal climate scientists, or “so-called self-professed climate scientists,” as he called them in March. He’s challenged their research and integrity, repeatedly subpoenaed their emails, and voted to gut their funding.

Billed as an oversight visit for the science committee, the May 8–14 trip included a series of closed-door sessions for the politicians to inspect facilities and learn about federally funded science conducted at research hot spots in the Arctic Circle, as well as social events for the lawmakers and their families. No one publicized the visit, and some scientists told BuzzFeed News they were instructed not to talk about it.

In this part of the world, the realities of climate change are hard to ignore. On an aerial tour of Greenland, for example, the lawmakers saw the retreating “sugar top” ice cap and connecting glaciers. Scientists told them about how warmer temperatures had even changed the local insect populations.

“They were pretty clear that 10 years ago they didn’t have mosquitoes in the summer and now they do,” said Rep. Jerry McNerney, a Democrat who joined the committee because he wanted to take action on climate, and who accompanied Smith to the Arctic. “There was some real direct, you know, concrete evidence that things are changing.”

...Smith wasn’t the only one who has voiced doubts about climate change or responding to the threat: Lucas, for example, has questioned whether carbon dioxide is a pollutant, and Babin applauded President Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the Paris climate agreement. [Mark] Sanford, though, was one of 17 Republicans who introduced a resolution in March to come up with "economically viable" climate change solutions.

...The first stop was the northernmost US city, Alaska’s Utqiagvik (formerly called Barrow). The people who live there face multiple climate threats, such as flooding from rising seas and infrastructure failures linked to the thawing of frozen ground.

At the Barrow Arctic Research Center, the group learned about microbial life in extreme conditions such as sea ice. And at the tribal community college Ilisagvik College, the lawmakers heard presentations on NSF-funded studies of indigenous languages and the effects of a warming climate on Arctic microbes.

“I was less than a month into my job role (Executive Director of Institutional Advancement) and a bit nervous,” Justina Wilhelm from Ilisagvik College wrote in an email. “Overall the visit was positive and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to provide a tour to the NSF congressional delegation.”

The next day, at the Barrow Atmospheric Baseline Observatory, the group learned about how scientists monitor the levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the air, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spokesperson confirmed.

The second half of the trip was spent hopping between US-run facilities in Greenland. The group arrived at the Thule Air Base, in western Greenland, on May 11. That evening they dined in semiformal wear with researchers at the base’s “Top of the World” officers’ club, according to two researchers who were in attendance.

Nimesh Patel, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said he got a heads-up about the visit a week before. He was already going to Greenland for a conference, and scrambled to coordinate flights to get to the remote base after. In Thule, he gave the delegation a tour of a massive telescope under construction.

“I was left with the feeling that they were really interested in the science,” Patel said. This confused him a bit, he added, given the committee’s history of being “not genuinely very supportive, it seems, of science, particularly Lamar Smith.”
Derrick Crowe is the progressive alternative to Smith in the central Texas district stretching from the UT campus in Austin through the Hill Country, San Marcos and New Braunfels and as far south as the South Texas Medical Center and Government Hill in San Antonio. Crowe hopes to build on the progress Tom Wakely made in his heroic challenge to Smith last cycle. Wakely announced today that he's running for governor. ("Today," he said in a statement, "I enter the Texas Governor’s race on the heels of Gov. Abbott’s attacks on labor, on women, on refugees and immigrants, on Hispanics and other minorities, on the LBGTQ community, on the poor in our state, on our environment and on our great cities. His attacks on our fellow Texans need to be responded to with the most forceful weapon we have at our disposal - the ballot box." Meanwhile Crowe is a quick learner when it comes to all things Lamar. "Unfortunately any trip Lamar Smith takes to a site to discuss federal climate research is likely a pretext for an effort to cut federal efforts to mitigate climate disaster. Smith has led the charge to deceive the public about the oncoming climate crisis and his political donors' culpability for it. He has a lot to answer for, and no publicity stunt can change that."

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home