The week began weird and then got weirder. First, it was reported that a Kentucky state senator said climate change is implausible because Earth and Mars share the exact same temperature. And then a U.S. congressman linked the climate change debate to the ozone hole "hoax" and the fluorination of water.
So, let's begin with Kentucky State Senator Brandon Smith (R-D30), the majority whip and owner of a mining company who lashed out at a witness during a Natural Resources and Environment Committee meeting:
As you [Energy & Environment Cabinet official] sit there in your chair with your data, we sit up here in ours with our data and our constituents and stuff behind us. I won't get into the debate about climate change but I'll simply point out that I think in academia we all agree that the temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here. Nobody will dispute that. Yet there are no coal mines on Mars. There's no factories on Mars that I'm aware of.
Meteorologist Dan Satterfield, blogging over at the American Geophysical Union, was swift and merciless in his response:
A statement like this from a 5th grader would be alarming, but from someone (State Senator Brandon Smith) who makes laws is downright frightening. What is more frightening is that the science literacy of his constituency is so low, he'll likely be easily reelected. In case there are any doubts I looked up the weather on Mars today. We can do that thanks to a set of meteorological instruments aboard NASA's Curiosity Rover.
The fact that he owns a coal mine might have something to do with this. As Sebastian Unger said in the Jungle, "It's nearly impossible to convince some of anything, if their paycheck depends on it being otherwise". Your grade school should cancel your diploma Senator. Your voters should fire you.
And then yesterday, Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) was a guest of honor at the 9th International Conference on Climate Change, a three-day denial-fest sponsored by dozens of organizations, including the Heartland Institute, an oil and gas industry-funded think tank.
During Congressional hearings, Rohrabacher uses air quotes when he says "global warming" and once demanded that a scientist "capsulize" all the reasons why he believes that climate change is a big deal in 10 seconds.
At the climate change conference, he didn't disappoint. First, he ranted about the ozone hole and how environmentalism hurts the poorest members of our society:
What about the ozone hole? I'm sure there are scientists here who know a lot more here than I do. But my reading of that is that the ozone hole is sort of like global warming. It was an exaggerated position on some readings and we ended up with the ozone hole… And, in fact, the ozone hole after a few years just disappeared. Yet, we were all told this was a huge crisis, and what happened after that huge crisis hit? We had to get rid of Freon, we had to get rid of all the stuff in the spray cans. How much did that cost us? When we spend billions of dollars needlessly because someone has frightened us into accepting the position, it damages people in our society. When you have less wealth, the people at the lowest rungs of our economic sphere are the ones who feel it the most. [applause]
Where to begin? (1) The ozone hole hasn't disappeared, but is stabilizing and well on on its way to making a full recovery by 2070. (2) The international treaty to act against the ozone hole was a huge success — and epitomizes the type of global agreement that Republicans in Congress refer to as a plot to "redistribute wealth among nations."
And then, Rohrabacher had this to say:
"I don't know whether or not fluoridating the water helps people's teeth become better or not…But I do know that in this country, we should be the ones who should be deciding what we put into our bodies one way or the other, not the federal government or the local government putting fluoride into our water!"
Really, he makes it almost too easy: