Rep. Lamar Smith continues witch hunt on science
March 31: This week in science attacks — and resistance
We knew they were coming, but this week’s attacks on science were brutal.
Trump’s executive order threatens to roll back much of Obama’s environmental legacy, including one of the pillars of US climate policy, the Clean Power Plan. Flanked by miners and coal executives, the signing ceremony Tuesday solidified Trump’s campaign promise of eliminating federal climate policy. He has no intention of reducing carbon pollution and is unleashing his executive power to punish the people the most vulnerable to climate change.
However, people continue to fight back against the war on science. The same day the order was signed, cities, states and even other nations reaffirmed their commitments to clean energy, climate action and the Paris Agreement. It is crystal clear that Trump is trying to “slay an invisible dragon” by taking aim at Obama’s climate policies: coal is in decline and the renewable energy revolution is here. His policies won’t bring back coal jobs or reinvigorate the economy.
Trump is not a one man army in the war on science. Before we even had time to process the full scope the EO, Rep. Lamar Smith held another hearing of the House Committee on Space, Science, and Technology designed to propagate climate denial. The hearing, titled, “Climate Change: Assumptions, Policy Implications, and the Scientific Method,” placed three well-known climate deniers against a single reputable climate scientist, Dr. Michael Mann.
This behavior is no aberration for Smith. He has continually led an inquisition on climate scientists, using his position as chair of the committee to heckle anyone who threatens the fossil fuel industry simply by doing their jobs.
Still, the hearing was an embarrassment. Three of the four panelists tried to use this governmental pulpit to misinform the public while Dr. Mann fought back at every turn. Smith even went so far as to criticize Science magazine, one of the most well respected scientific journals, saying it “is not known as an objective writer or magazine.”
Wednesday was a particularly good day for Lamar Smith’s science witch hunt. His bill, the Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment Act (yes…HONEST), which would restrict the use of scientific research in the EPA, passed the House 228–194.
The bill claims to improve transparency in lawmaking by requiring the EPA to only use scientific studies that are publically available and whose results are easily reproducible. This may sound nice, and that is exactly the strategy. The true purpose of the bill is much more sinister than its acronym would suggest. The HONEST Act seeks to systematically prevent much of the EPA’s efforts by adding significant delays and expenses to the regulatory process. If passed, the EPA would need to get permission to release private data like health studies, essentially mandating the agency to use science it conducts itself.
This attempt to hobble science the EPA is a tactic pulled directly from the tobacco industry’s playbook. It would mean institutionalizing a long-term threat to science and the EPA’s ability to regulate based on scientific research. Sneaky, right?
The bill now moves to the Senate, which is busy with other more serious matters, like Russia’s potential influence in the election and collusion with Trump campaign. While many think it is unlikely that the bill will pass the Senate, it could be slipped into an appropriations bill that must be passed by the end of April.
Are you as angry about this as I am?
More than ever, we need to speak out against this administration’s war on science. Want to make your voice heard by more people than just your 84 Twitter followers? Get involved in the local (or even national!) media conversation by writing an opinion piece or a letter to the editor. Engaging in the media whirlwind can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Stand up for science, vent your frustrations, and inform your community at all the same time. Stay outraged, friends. This is not normal.
Garrett Blad writes for I Heart Climate Scientists and other publications on climate change, policy and social change. You can follow him @gblad. Giggles are free.