In one very narrow sense, Rep. Bill Johnson is a scientist, as he claimed during a recent interview while opposing environmental protections. In another, more accurate, sense, Johnson is a man with a degree in computer science who is awash in oil and gas money and denies climate science, asserting in 2011, “ I am not an alarmist that believes that greenhouse gas emissions coming from the coal industry are causing major problems.”
Appearing on Herman Cain’s radio show Monday to discuss fracking, Johnson mentioned an exchange he had with an Environmental Protection Agency administrator during a House hearing that he was particularly proud of. Johnson asked the administrator whether he had an educational background in hard sciences like chemistry, physics, or geology. When the administrator said he did not, Johnson told him he doesn’t “know the first thing about science” and said the EPA isn’t “basing their rules on sound science.” The reason Johnson knew, he told Cain, is “because I am a scientist.”
JOHNSON: Lisa Jackson was supposed to come to a hearing we did back in the 112th Congress, and she didn’t show up. She sent one of her administrators. He was so slick in avoiding the questions that they were asking. So when it came my turn to ask questions, I took a little bit of a different track. I said, “Sir, let me ask you a question. What is your background?” He said, “I was on then-Sen. Joe Biden’s staff, I’ve been on this committee’s staff in the Senate.” I said, “No, what is your education background?” He had a degree in international business or something soft. I said, “Have you ever taken a chemistry course? You ever take a physics course? You ever take a geology course?” “No” to all three of those. I said, “Well then, you don’t really know the first thing about science. How can you, as an expert, as an administrator in the EPA, come and tell me, this panel, the American people, that the EPA is basing their rules on sound science?” Because see I know that they’re not, because I am a scientist. […] I said, “So you don’t know the first thing about science and its disingenuous for you to come and try to pass yourself off as an expert and convince the American people that you’re doing the right things.”
Listen to it:
Johnson graduated from Troy University in 1979 with a degree in computer science, followed by a master’s degree in the same subject from Georgia Institute of Technology in 1984. He spent his career in information technology, not climate science. Information technology is an important area, to be clear, but he is no more a “scientist” who can speak as an expert on climate change than someone who graduates with a degree in political science.
If Johnson were actually a climate scientist, he would recognize the connection between carbon emissions and global warming, wouldn’t have accepted more than $350,000 in donations from dirty energy companies that try to suppress climate science, and wouldn’t have voted against measures that would combat climate change.4