Interview with legislator who introduced bill to declare global warming “natural” and “beneficial to the welfare and business climate of Montana”

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.

54 Responses to Interview with legislator who introduced bill to declare global warming “natural” and “beneficial to the welfare and business climate of Montana”

  1. Bryson Brown says:

    Somehow the old saying, “(a)nd why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” comes to mind…

  2. Bob Krawczyk says:

    One wonders if Mr. Read would put his state’s money where his mouth is, and propose legislation that would deny Montana any federal emergency assistance in the event of any catastrophic event in the state that any scientist could link, even casually, to global warming. Now, that would be a more confident statement of belief, and might even save the feds a few dollars some day.

  3. Some European says:

    This is salient, hilarious stuff!
    If the USA had its planet of it’s own, I’d be inclined to say: “serves them well”. The problem is that these cranks are dragging the other 98% of the world’s population down with them, not to mention all the other species sharing this planet.
    Put this story in a time capsule for future generations to be baffled…

  4. Rick Covert says:

    Radioactive radon contamination occurs naturally unlike the current human created climate change. Why don’t we declare it natural and the beneficial to the business climate too?

  5. Jeffrey Davis says:

    I think he should go further and just declare that the interests of the energy extraction industry are now the law of the land.

    Get it out in the open.

  6. Wes Rolley says:

    It is easy to sneer at such ludicrous policy, but Read’s use of the “get the Federal Government off of our backs” line almost guarantees success in parts of the US West.

    From the days of the Sagebrush Rebellion, the battle against regulation has been all over the West. Each side has won a few battles, after all we did take down the political career of Richard Pombo.. at that time Chair of the House Committee on Resources. But there are always other soldier with a chip on their shoulder to step forward.

    The mythology of the independent cowboy hero is still strong and efforts that restrict anything will always be attacked.

    We need Congress cut from the mold of Pete McCloskey, but don’t.

  7. Alice-in-Wonderland-, Mad-Hatter, Tea-Partyism !

    With none of the charming entertainment.

  8. Colorado Bob says:

    Four summers ago , Montana fried much like Russia in 2010 . July 2007 was the hottest month ever recorded in Montana.

  9. George Ennis says:

    From a philosophical perspective we are now seeing what happens when a democracy becomes corrupted and sinks to the lowest common denominator in terms of any real intellectual ability. I am sure in another time and place people like Mr. Read would be demanding that King Canute the Great order the incoming sea tide to go back.

    The fact that one even has to counter such idiocy shows how far the descent into madness has taken the country.

  10. PSU Grad says:

    “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.”

    Right, it’s called winter. Let’s revisit this next summer.

  11. Rattus Norvegicus says:

    He’s from Ronan. That explains everything, that part of the state consistently sends the most whack-job guys to the lege.

  12. Rick Covert says:

    Reed’s argument that taxes and levies are nothing more than a source of income for the government could easily be applied to the tax credits and tax abatements from the government that the fossil fuel industry gets. Reed is apparently fine with the latter though.

  13. Colorado Bob says:

    July 2007 –
    Missoula :
    30 days at 90 and above
    11 days at 100 and above
    Average temp for July was 78.1 …. DPTR FM NORMAL: 11.2
    All time record high 107 ….. THIS BREAKS THE PREVIOUS ALL TIME
    All time record high minimum temperature 71 …… THIS BREAKS THE OLD

    Kalispell (West of Glacier National Park)
    21 days at 90 and above
    1 Day of 102
    Average temp for July was 71.9 …. DPTR FM NORMAL: 8.4

  14. Colorado Bob says:

    State Rep. Joe Read (R-MT), a farmer and emergency firefighter –

    Joe needs to sign a pledge that Montana won’t ask for Federal funds to fight wild fires in Montana.

  15. Ed Hummel says:

    The background says he’s a farmer and emergency firefighter. I wonder what his tune will be if he gets burned out this summer. Probably say that it’s just nature doing its thing, so he’ll have to get some rebuilding money from the feds to help him get back into business. Too bad his “co-religionists” in Congress will be working hard this spring to gut domestic spending.

  16. Chris Winter says:

    Read is a farmer, yet he dismisses the changes he admits having seen? The melting glaciers, the insect infestations?

    One wonders how he can do that — and how he avoids applying his final comment, about agendas, to himself.

    It’s of Joe Read, a farmer,
    A tale I’d like to tell.
    He can’t see his state, Montana,
    May be turning into hell.

  17. tst says:

    Joe Read lives about an hour south of me in Ronan, MT. I just sent him an e-mail and asked him for a face-to-face meeting to discuss climate change. I told him I’ll be in Helena on Monday, where the legislature is currently in session, or I can drive down to Ronan. With a little luck, he’ll take me up on it.

    In any case, SB549 won’t make it past the Governor’s desk.

  18. Matter says:

    Perhaps they should pass a law outlawing gravity and make Montana much more competitive in the aeronautics business?

  19. Michael Tucker says:

    It is very simple…
    Montana is a coal state. They want to get rid of those pesky clean air and water laws that already exist and they want to stop any laws that might limit carbon dioxide release.

    They want to dig now and ship it to China while the getting is good. Eventually China will reopen some of their own mines and eventually coal will again flow from Australia.

    It is obvious that Read’s motivation is COAL!

  20. toby says:

    Jared Diamond has a whole chapter on Montana in his book Collapse.

    He had been visiting Montana since his teens, and now lives there for part of the year.

    One striking observation he made was that in his teenage years, the thing he loved most about Montana was the snowy peaks lasting through the year. When he returned there in middle age, the snow had almost disappeared as a year-round phenomenon. Funny thing was, few locals seem to notice, it had all happened so gradually.

    Diamond reckons that Montana will be a “big loser” from climate change because the rainfall is already barely adequate. Perhaps, increased precipitation will change that outcome, but this politician clearly relishes wallowing in ignorance rather than consulting anyone with some expertise.

  21. Scrooge says:

    Homo sapiens are stupid but they are the best this worlds got. Around 99 percent of the time of humans were spent in the stone ages. Just as intelligent as today but maybe not as well educated. Making bronze is not that difficult. Historically speaking science is a new field and looks like it has not made its way to Montana.
    It looks like the scientists are winning their battle. The war against science now is no more than the creationist gish gallop. The scientists can handle their war just fine.
    The war among average citizens is more like the civil rights war. Americans killed americans just to prevent children going to school. People were so afraid of a change in their way of life they were able to do some pretty stupid stuff. We like to look kindly on our past and say they did good for their times. They were just as intelligent as people are today, so I think they were just idiots.
    That is why we need the federal govt to put the laws in place. Where would civil rights be if we had left that up to the states.
    We elected that nice skinny kid next door whose grandmother taught well. The kid that figured out that being smart was the best way fix problems. Let’s support that concept.

  22. Robert In New Orleans says:

    Come on you guys, give Mr Read a break! He really just hoping the Yellowstone Supervolcanoe erupts so he can dodge all of the media scrutiny ;)

  23. Wizbang09 says:

    I’ve heard a similar idea before. The argument goes that since ice is “anti-life”, then less ice is indeed a good thing. Much of Russia and Canada could harbor much more life if the world were warmer.

    I’m not saying I agree with this at all, just that I’ve heard about it. I just created a claim on about this very topic. If you know of good arguments to tear it down, help me out.

  24. Prokaryotes says:

    Montana Fun Facts from Wikipedia

    The economy is primarily based on services, with ranching, wheat farming, oil and coal mining in the east, and lumber, tourism, and hard rock mining in the west. Millions of tourists annually visit Glacier National Park, the Battle of Little Bighorn site, and three of the five entrances to Yellowstone National Park.

    About 2000-3000 Chinese miners were in Montana by 1870, and 2500 in 1890. They were strongly opposed by labor unions, and public opinion grew increasingly negative in the 1890s and nearly half left the state by 1900

    In presidential elections, Montana was long classified as a swing state, though in recent years, Montana has been classified as a Republican-leaning state, as the state supported Republican presidential candidates in every election from 1996 to the present. The state last supported a Democrat for president in 1992, when Bill Clinton won a plurality victory. Overall, since 1889 the state has voted for Democratic governors 60 percent of the time and Democratic presidents 40 percent of the time, with these numbers being 40/60 for Republican candidates. In the 2008 presidential election, Montana was considered a swing state and was ultimately won by Republican John McCain, albeit by a narrow margin of two percent.

    Yellowstone County is a county located in the U.S. state of Montana. The population was 129,352 at the 2000 census;[1] its 2009 population was estimated at 144,797 by the Census Bureau.[2] It is the most populous county in Montana. Projections to 2025 show an estimated population of 170,088, a growth of 32 percent.

    In the 1996 movie Star Trek: First Contact, Montana is the location of the fictitious first contact between humans and an alien race, the Vulcans.

  25. tst says:

    “Diamond reckons that Montana will be a “big loser” from climate change because the rainfall is already barely adequate” — Depends on which part of the state. In an ironic twist, the area where Read lives will likely handle climate change as any place in the United States. Take a look at the photo.

  26. mike roddy says:

    Some of the wooliest deniers are timber people. They even deny that logging releases 400 million tons of CO2 every year in the U s alone.

  27. Ominous Clouds Overhead says:

    Read is one more example that Homo sapiens is an evolutionary experiment gone bad.

  28. dp says:

    “i believe, i believe, i believe.” poor man needs to re-read the constitution, his ‘science’ is covered under the first amendment.

  29. sydb says:

    If this sort of stupidity, unlike the inability of the Indiana Legislature to understand what transcendental numbers were, didn’t threaten the future of us all, it would be equally amusing. Unfortunately, this sort of arrogant ignorance can have devastating consequences. We seem to be reverting to a pre-Enlightenment society at an ever-increasing rate, just as the disastrous consequences of our inaction are unfolding before our eyes.

    Talking about the Enlightenment, I suggest amending a couple of well-known lines from Alexander Pope.

    Nature and Nature’s laws lay bathed in Light;
    Palin said ‘Let Read be’ and all was Night.

  30. Rob Jones says:

    This is simply sad. Even repeated climate linked disasters would not make this man see reality. It makes me think of the words “there are none so blind as he who will not see”.
    I don’t want to sail on this ship of fools

  31. Scrooge says:

    Well ominous clouds it may be that evolution is going backwards in Montana. I guess this could be an argument over scientific advancement. The law of nature is the weak and feeble minded are culled. Advancements have made it possible that the feeble minded get govt positions.

  32. DrJeannette says:

    re #10- Colorado Bob – there is also a Google gadget (!) that I have on my iGoogle homepage… wheee! what fun to watch the numbers run and dance

  33. toby says:

    Perhaps Read will win a Darwin Award… the one they give to idiots who manage to make themselves extinct e.g. the one who tipped over a Coca-Cola machine to steal the change, and got crushed to death underneath.

    Come to think of it, that’s a great metaphor for whole denialism gang and their greedy opportunism.

  34. Anonymous says:

    I can understand him not liking the brutal winters Montana usually gets and wanting milder winters, I think many of us feel the same way, although I doubt this was his motivation, he just knows that sells well to your average person as Montana’s winters generally are quite cold like most of the Northern US and their summers are rather short when considers their last frost usually comes quite late and first one quite early. But like anything, you disrupt the climate it will have negative consequences. Besides if he likes milder winters nothing is stopping him from moving to California, Arizona, or Florida where winters will be milder no matter what.

  35. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It’s Mencken’s world of rule by ‘..downright morons’. I would imagine that this creature is probably classic Dunning Kruger material, ie too stupid to understand the science and too stupid to realise just how stupid he is, and hence imagines, his ego being inflated, that he is a genius. His opinions, in his idiocy, he imagines to be as cogent as those of all the planet’s Academies of Science. Is there not abroad at the moment, on the Right, where human virtues wither and die, a mad infection where the smallest intelligences breed the greatest self-regard? Somehow the alternative plausible explanation, that Read is not intellectually challenged, but rather morally insane and is playing this card solely to garner the votes of ‘downright morons’, seems less frightening. I’m afraid it’s mass democracy in the age of FoxNews and the slow suffocation of neuronal activity under a surfeit of junk food letting us all down, again.

  36. sydb says:

    Thinking more about this, science by legislative fiat could be very useful. The laws of thermodynamics are so inconvenient, and mainly formulated by foriegners anyway. The McConnel-De Mint bill abolishing them will be seen as a ‘tipping point’ in our society. And J W Gibbs’ memorial in New Haven could be recarved into a bust of Ronald Reagan as retribution for his ‘unAmerican activities’.

    The bill to limit BMI measurements to a maximum of twenty-five will solve the obesity crisis, while the bill declaring all sub-prime mortgages good, means that all the TARP money can be shredded, thus lowering inflation. The opportunities are only bounded by our own imaginations!

  37. Villabolo says:

    @25 Wizbang09 says:

    I’ve heard a similar idea before. The argument goes that since ice is “anti-life”, then less ice is indeed a good thing. Much of Russia and Canada could harbor much more life if the world were warmer.

    …If you know of good arguments to tear it down, help me out.

    First of all, Wizbang, your argument should be something like:

    It’s not about how much life may grow up in Canada and Siberia but how much crops can adapt themselves to those environments when warmed.

    Most of Canada’s soil is thin and acid, which is not conducive to agriculture. Furthermore Canada just suffered major damage to its wheat crop due to intense rains. These intense rains are the result of more exposed and warmer Arctic seas, and the resulting increase in evaporation.

    As far as Siberia is concerned go to you tube and take a look at the condition of the melting permafrost.

    Some of it is turning to muck with people sinking knee deep into it. Can you grow a garden there let alone farm with heavy equipment?

    Also, the Siberian permafrost is a land of a million lakes. When the Permafrost defrosts you have extra lakes being created from the melted ice in the soil. How are you going to farm that?

  38. Wes says:

    One thing to remember is that Russia and Canada don’t get warm in an isolated ecosystem. The equatorial areas get hotter, too, and some will become uninhabitable. All those people will be moving – somewhere. Meanwhile the sea rises and the 30-40% of humans who live at sea level will also be moving. I wonder haw many Americans live on the East, Gulf and West coasts within 100 ft of sea level? But it’ll be warmer in Montana. Yeah, Montana might actually be a good place to be.

  39. Lou Grinzo says:

    Speaking of clocks to count energy and climate things…

    (Some of the numbers are a bit dated and need to be refreshed with newer data, but they’re close enough for demo purposes.)

  40. Cliff says:

    This confirms my basic belief that the root cause of inaction on climate change is sheer human stupidity in the population at large. It’s not the media. It’s not the politicians. It’s the people. People, especially in this country, are just too dumb and ignorant to think straight. Our only hope is that enough obvious negative effects will happen to convince even the dumbest out there that climate change is real before it’s too late.

  41. Mickey says:

    I suspect the beneficial part is more done to appeal to the public, but not the real reason. After all, most people like warmer weather as opposed to colder so this works, the problem is few understand how climate works and the impact. Who wouldn’t like the idea of lower heating bills, wearing fewer layers in the winter, being able to hit the golf course earlier in the spring and being able to sit out on the patio for dinner and drinks for a longer portion of the year. The problem is while those things may be good, there are many negative aspects which are far worse. In the case of Montana, a 5C rise would still mean winter temperatures would be below freezing and with greater precipitation it would mean greater snowfall. Also Montana is known for its wide variation between the coldest and mildest days and thus the thaws in the winter would temperatures in the 50s rather than 40s meaning a more rapid snow melt and greater risk of flooding. I should add as #39 and #25 mention Canada benefiting from global warming depends whether you look at Canada as an island of its own or impacted by others. For one thing 40% of its GDP comes from trade, Canada has the highest immigration rate in the world and a very liberal refugee system so it would probably get a lot of climate refugees never mind unlike almost every other country, slamming the door shut would be unpopular, as well as over 50% of Canadians have a relative living outside the country. So whatever benefits it got in isolation, it would be more than offset by the negative impacts elsewhere. I think global cooling would be just as bad as global warming, it is not a matter of warm or cold being better, it is rapid change that is bad. A 5C rise over 10,000 years may be beneficial as all life forms would adjust but not over 100 years.

  42. David B. Benson says:


    And pi=3, too.

  43. John Mashey says:

    this is a bit old, but I notice that Montana got more $$ from the Federal government than it paid, so if Joe Read doesn’t like the Federal government, I propose that that those of us who live in states that pay more than we get, stop subsidizing him. The Return/Paid for Montana was 134%, #6 highest of 50.

  44. The proposed bill says:

    (c) global warming is a natural occurrence and human activity has not accelerated it.

    But surely Montana, being just a US state, has no jurisdictional authority whatsoever over rest of globe. Ergo, ceteris paribus, mutatis mutandis, et cetera et cetera et cetera, the bill is automatically null and void even before it’s struck down.


  45. John McCormick says:

    RE # 36

    Annonymous, you said

    “Besides if he likes milder winters nothing is stopping him from moving to California, Arizona, or Florida where winters will be milder no matter what.”

    Heck, why go to all that trouble of moving the family and the hogs.

    Joe Read (what an irony there) should introduce a companion bill legislating that Montana’s daily temperature will range between 65 degrees F and 90 degrees F at least 90% of the calendar year. And, rainfall will be scheduled and amounts regulated to insure healthy harvest.

    That should get a super majority in the legislature and everyone, in Montana, will be satisfied that their gubmnt is lookin out for them.

    John McCormick

  46. Scrooge says:

    Maybe he just has other plans. He could be auditioning for the fox news network. Overton window comes to mind also but with this being more the tin foil hat area I’ll stick with fox news

  47. Sime says:

    In 2005 an article was was written by Charles P. Pierce for Esquire magazine, which to be blunt cuts through all the nonsense to the heart of the problem. The article was entitled (seriously)

    Greetings from Idiot America

    Creationism. Intelligent Design. Faith-based this. Trust-your-gut that. There’s never been a better time to espouse, profit from, and believe in utter, unadulterated crap. And the crap is rising so high, it’s getting dangerous.

    In 2005 the crap was rising so high, it was getting dangerous… It is now 2011 and as we can see exemplified by the above story the crap is now way above waist level.

    Please would any sensible American citizens out there kindly call a plumber and get this sorted out before it becomes too late to fix.

    Thanks (the rest of the world)

  48. David Smith says:

    Someone should annotate some of these acts of legislation, indicating in each section of each bill, who paid (influenced) for it, who benefits by it and who is hurt by it, keeping it simple, of course. The results would be posted publicly.

  49. yaosxx says:

    Well done Montana!!

  50. Chris Winter says:

    John McCormick wrote: “And, rainfall will be scheduled and amounts regulated to insure healthy harvest.”

    Perhaps he should simply declare Montana to be Camelot. “The rain may never fall till after sunset. By eight P.M. the moonlight must appear. By order, summer lingers to December…”

  51. John McCormick says:

    RE # 52

    Chris, I’m impressed. You came upon the lyrics. Now, hear them sung at

    John McCormick

  52. Russ Roland says:

    What an idiot! Who are the morons that pulled this mental midget out from under a cow pie and put him in office?