Sure the National Academy of Sciences says the median annual area burned by wildfires is projected to jump 200% to 500% in Montana by mid-century. And sure warming-driven bark beetles are infesting and destroying the trees around Helena now, as Marketplace reported. But while some merely want to deny the reality of human-caused climate change and the danger it poses, others actually want to pass laws asserting it doesn’t exist.
WonkRoom’s Brad Johnson has the exclusive interview with one such uber-denier.
A bill has been introduced in the Montana state legislature to declare global warming a “natural occurrence and human activity has not accelerated it,” and that it is “beneficial to the welfare and business climate of Montana.” State Rep. Joe Read (R-MT), a farmer and emergency firefighter who unseated a Democratic incumbent in the climate zombie wave of 2010, introduced HB 549 “to ensure economic development in Montana”:
The legislature finds that to ensure economic development in Montana and the appropriate management of Montana’s natural resources it is necessary to adopt a public policy regarding global warming.
(2) The legislature finds:
(a) global warming is beneficial to the welfare and business climate of Montana;
(b) reasonable amounts of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere have no verifiable impacts on the environment; and
(c) global warming is a natural occurrence and human activity has not accelerated it.
In an exclusive interview with the Wonk Room, the 55-year-old first-time legislator graciously explained why he filed this bill to outlaw science, which even he admitted was a “radical” act. Unlike the man who tried to get the Indiana legislature to redefine pi for a crank mathematical “proof” in 1897, Read’s motivation is primarily ideological. Read did not consult any climate scientists in the drafting of this bill, he said, relying instead on his own experience and understanding of the issues at play:
We can’t wait for this issue to be settled. So the legislature is going to come in, and prevent something that potentially could destroy the economy of Montana and the United States.
Read has also introduced a companion bill that asserts federal greenhouse pollution limits violate the Tenth Amendment (HB 550), modeled after Arizona’s so-called Freedom To Breathe Act. Both bills are scheduled for hearings this Friday, February 18, in the Helena, Montana capitol building.
Read said his anti-science bills are motivated by his desire to protect the state of Montana from an intrusive federal government, whose laws threaten the “progressive extraction policy” of the resource-rich state. He also expressed his anger at “outside sources” who are “attacking our infrastructure projects by lawsuits.” In recent years, Montana environmentalists have had mixed success challenging coal plant construction and coal strip mines.
Read also explained why he chose to write a set of scientific conclusions into law that go against the last 150 years of climate research and the political consensus of every government in the world:
Sometimes you have to do fairly radical things to address a federal government.
Climate policy, he believes, is essentially an attempt to steer money and control into the federal government, which has been dictating the direction of climate science research for decades. He rejects the counsel of scientists like the University of Montana’s Dr. Steve Running, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scientists whose research on global warming finds that the “only solution that adds up on a global scale is reduced emissions.”
“The purpose of this whole issue of carbon credits and pushing the agenda of global warming,” Read told the Wonk Room, “is about directing levies and fees for carbon credits so the federal government gets an income source.”
Faced with the prospect of regulation, the fossil fuel industry has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in the last thirty years to cast doubt on long-established scientific conclusions. However, Read believes the “science is being skewed” by the “federal goverment” through the grant process, which manipulates most scientists to deliver findings that support governmental power:
The science is driven by grant money. It’s all on the side for writing studies that global warming is happening. There’s nothing on the side that says I wish to write a paper that global warming is not an issue. Money has been flowing into the grant purse.
The peer-review process, he feels, does not insulate the scientific field from corruption, because it’s the “same group” of scientists receiving the same funding.
If you follow the money, the science has been pushed toward where the money is coming from. The money is coming from the federal government. I believe global science is an ideal, not a true science.
Unable to trust the expert opinion of climate scientists “” including Montana’s own experts, who warn of drought, infestation, wildfires and “large economic impacts” “” Read goes by his own instincts to judge how over a trillion tons of carbon dioxide might influence the global climate system.
“I’ve come to the belief about climate change,” he said, “that man is very ineffective in instigating that change except in a regional area.” He believes his state is sitting pretty, even if man-made global warming isn’t a scientific conspiracy:
Our weather is not going to change drastically. Even if it does get warmer, we’re going to have a longer growing season. It could be very beneficial to the state of Montana. Why are we going to stop this progress?
Read dismissed the changes that have happened to Montana “” Glacier National Park has lost 83 percent of its glaciers, seasons have shifted, insect outbreaks have devastated forests “” arguing that there has been recent “cooling” that counters those signs of harmful change.
“As a citizen legislature, we are inclined to believe with the sun on our hands and our face,” he said, “and we’re not seeing the global warming.”
When asked why he believed it is possible that the global institution of science could be so corrupt as to merit his renunciation in his first act as a legislator, he grew philosophical, concluding:
Every human has an agenda and most of them cannot recognize their own agenda until you get deep down into their soul.
— Brad Johnson, in a WonkRoom cross-post.