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Congress: Where The Bible Disproves Science, And A Senator Tries To Torpedo An Admiral

Earlier today at a hearing on approving the Keystone pipeline, Buzzfeed reports that Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) took a slight detour into biblical science.

I don’t think it’s a secret that I’m a proponent and supporter of the Keystone pipeline, so it’s somewhat redundant for me to ask too many questions. I would point out that people like me who support hydrocarbon development don’t deny that climate is changing. I think you can have an honest difference of opinion of what’s causing that change without automatically being either all in that’s all because of mankind or it’s all just natural.

I think there’s a divergence of evidence. I would point out that if you’re a believer in the Bible, one would have to say the Great Flood is an example of climate change and that certainly wasn’t because mankind had overdeveloped hydrocarbon energy.

Leaving aside all theological debates over when the flood happened in the narrative of the Bible itself, there is a place for theology and there is a place for science. Apocryphal details of one do not constitute proof in the other. Current carbon dioxide levels have not been this high for the last 15 million years — it has taken millions of years for carbon to be turned into fossil fuels, and the planet’s climate was very different back then, it is true. But the planet has also not seen such an exhuming and burning of carbon in such a dedicated way in such a small period of time … and we are seeing the effects in spiking CO2 levels, increasing temperatures, growing energy in the hydrological cycle, and sea level rise.

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While some Senators might discount the idea that 97 percent of climate scientists have concluded that humans are causing climate change, most people trust the experts.

Speaking of Senators, there was a hearing yesterday on the other side of the Capitol that illuminated a similar Congressional tendency to assume expertise over things best left to experts.

Yesterday Admiral Samuel Locklear, head of Pacific Command, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Last month, he said that changing climate “is probably the most likely thing that is going to happen . . . that will cripple the security environment” in the Pacific region. During the hearing, the ranking member — who had earlier said “I can’t recall a time in my life when the world has been more dangerous” — brought up the crucial national security issue of climate change in his first question. However, this senator was the senior senator from Oklahoma, James Inhofe.

What followed was an attempt to lead the witness that backfired. Senator Inhofe tried to get Admiral Locklear to take back his statement about the threat of climate change. Locklear responded that while of course North Korea and other powers were threats, he was talking about long-term threats posed by sea level rise and natural disasters. When he got to the efforts to plan for this with our allies, Inhofe realized he would not be getting his desired answer and cut him off. He then asked a completely different question about energy security, to which the Admiral replied that yes, it would be great to produce all our own energy. Inhofe may want to look beyond oil, because the U.S. has nearly 1.6 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves, while consuming about 19.2 percent of the world’s total energy.

Senator Inhofe’s constituents in Oklahoma are disproportionately feeling the effects of climate change according to a recent report and eight counties in Oklahoma have been hit by ten or more weather disasters since the beginning of 2007.

Transcript and video of the exchange after the jump.

SEN. INHOFE: Admiral, as you and I have talked before, I’d like to get clarification on one statement that was, I think, misrepresented. It was in the Boston Globe, it reported that you indicated, and I’m quoting now, from the Boston Globe, “the biggest long-term security threat in the Pacific region is climate change.” Now I’d like to have you clarify what you meant by that because I want to follow up with a couple things here….

ADM. LOCKLEAR: As you might expect, I gave a hundred or so interviews over the last year. And during those interviews, I can assure the committee that I always start by talking about the most pressing military threats that we have: North Korea, the rise of powers in the region, transnational threats, all the things that Chairman Levin laid out in his opening remarks quite well. And in this particular case, I did the same. Then we started to talk about the long term — the long, long term, and what are the implications of it. And I’d clarify my perspective this way: in the Indo-Asia Pacific region, projections are we’re going to go from about 7 billion people in the world to about 9 or 10 by this century. And about 70 percent of them are going to live in this part of the world. And about 80 percent of them live within about 200 miles of the coast, and that trend is increasing as people move towards the economic centers which are near the ports and facilities that support globalization. …

If you go to USAID, and ask how many people died due to natural disasters from 2008–2012, it was about 280,000 people. Now they weren’t all climate change or weather-related, but a lot of them were due to that. About 800,000 people were displaced, and there was about $500 billion of lost productivity. So when I look and I think about our planning, and I think about what I have to do with allies and partners, and I look long-term, it’s important that the countries in this region build the capabilities into their infrastructure to be able to deal with the types of things —

SEN INHOFE: OK, sorry I’m going to interrupt you here, because now you’ve used up half my time, and we didn’t get right around to — is it safe to say that in the event that this — that the climate is changing — which so many of the scientists disagree with — in fact, when the Boston Globe, coming out of Massachusetts, made a statement, perhaps arguably one of the top scientists in the country, Richard Lindzen, also from Massachusetts, MIT, said that was laughable. Let me just put it this way. First of all, CRS has told us that we could be totally independent from all other countries in terms of providing our own energy if we just develop our own resources. I believe that to be true. Wouldn’t it be a more secure world and specifically in your area, if we not only were totally independent but were able to supply our allies in your jurisdiction with their energy so they don’t have to depend on other sources?

ADM. LOCKLEAR: Absolutely.

SEN. INHOFE: Yeah. OK. Let me say something about China.