Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the new chair of the House Science and Technology Committee, wrote an op-ed in Monday’s Washington Post that contains several misrepresentations of fact. He argued for increased fossil fuel production, against the scientific consensus that humans cause climate change, and for a “wait-and-see” approach to cutting carbon emissions.
Two years ago, the Washington Post’s Editorial Page Editor wrote that “The GOPs climate-change denial may be its most harmful delusion.” Apparently it is a delusion the Post is happy to spread. Below is a fact check of the seven worst parts of Smith’s piece:
Integrity of Climate Science
Smith opened with a general appeal for a clear discussion of the facts: “Climate change is an issue that needs to be discussed thoughtfully and objectively. Unfortunately, claims that distort the facts hinder the legitimate evaluation of policy options.”
However, with a look at his record, Rep. Smith did not have such a clear discussion in mind. After he became chair of the science committee, his first move was to schedule a hearing that aimed to take issue with the science of climate change. He has criticized “the idea of human-made global warming.” More dangerously, he has made headlines for authoring legislation that would politicize research conducted by the National Science Foundation. Of course, there is strong, 97%-grade consensus on human-caused climate change in the scientific literature, as a recent study confirmed.
With the House set to vote on Wednesday to force the approval of the Keystone tar sands pipeline, Rep. Smith argued that opposition to the Keystone tar sands pipeline hurts the economy and would not decrease carbon emissions. He said the “State Department has found that the pipeline will have minimal impact on the surrounding environment and no significant effect on the climate,” and would create “more than 40,000 U.S. jobs.”
This just isn’t true. The Environmental Protection Agency submitted a public comment on the State Department’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement, finding that, among other things, State needs to make revisions on the true impact of the project’s carbon emissions and about how dirty tar sands oil truly is. Additionally, tar sands oil extraction is not inevitable because transporting it by rail is not feasible — the pipeline is really their only option. Smith’s claims about 40,000 jobs are also quite inflated. The project would create just 35 permanent jobs, along with 51 coal plants’ worth of carbon dioxide each year.
Smith went on to argue “that U.S. emissions contribute very little to global concentrations of greenhouse gas.”
In fact, annual U.S. carbon emissions rank just behind China’s, despite having only a quarter of China’s population. The U.S. is by far the world’s biggest contributor to global concentrations of CO2, the main greenhouse gas, since that depends on cumulative emissions.
Despite advances in energy efficiency and renewable energy, the United States remains a significant part of overall global carbon emissions. Domestic coal use is on the rise again in the U.S., and coal exports reached a record high last year, beating the record set in 1981. America is also the world’s number one fossil fuel subsidizer.
Rep. Smith made the case that “global temperatures have held steady over the past 15 years, despite rising greenhouse gas emissions.”
This is simply not the case. The overall trend line shows continued warming. 2010 was the hottest year on record. Every year of the decades of the 2000′s was warmer than the average temperature in the ’90s.