House Science Committee Chair Says Climate Change Is A Good Thing

WASHINGTON Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) who has spent his career cozying up to fossil fuel interests, dismissing the threat of climate change andharassing federal climate scientists is now arguing that pumping the atmosphere full of carbon dioxide is beneficial to global trade, crop production and the lushness of the planet.

Rather than buying into hysteria,Americans should be celebrating the plus sides of a changing climate, Smith argues in an op-ed published Tuesday in The Daily Signal, a news website published by the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Smith who has used his power as chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology to push his anti-science views kicks off his op-ed by claiming Americans perception of the phenomenon is too often determined by their hearing just one side of the story.

The benefits of a changing climate are often ignored and under-researched, Smith said. Our climate is too complex and the consequences of misguided policies too harsh to discount the positive effects of carbon enrichment.

Increased carbon dioxide, Smith writes, promotes photosynthesis, resulting in a greater volume of food production and better quality food and lush vegetation that assists in controlling water runoff, provides more habitats for many animal species, and even aids in climate stabilization, as more vegetation absorbs more carbon dioxide. Warmer temperatures, he notes, results in longer growing seasons

Smith goes as far as to make a case for why a rapidly melting Arctic, which scientists warn could cost tens of trillions of dollars by the end of this century,is a positive thing.

Also, as the Earth warms, we are seeing beneficial changes to the earths geography, he writes. For instance, Arctic sea ice is decreasing. This development will create new commercial shipping lanes that provide faster, more convenient, and less costly routes between ports in Asia, Europe, and eastern North America. This will increase international trade and strengthen the world economy.

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), despite being chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, has a long history of dismissing mainstream climate science.

The op-ed comes roughly two months after Smith led a group of lawmakers on what BuzzFeed described as a secret tour of the melting Arctic. The unpublicized, weeklong, multi-stop outing included meeting with climate scientists and learning about how they track the levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, according to BuzzFeed.

While Smith reportedly canceled an interview with BuzzFeed to discuss the trip,Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.) told the publication that he and Smith had productive discussions about the climate.

Mondays op-ed would suggest that, while Smith may have accepted the reality of the threat, hes opted for the when-life-gives-you-lemons-make-lemonade approach.

Michael Mann,a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University who sparred with Smith during a March hearing on climate science,told HuffPost via email that it is clear Smith is slowly advancing through the stages of denial … having apparently now moved from its not happening, to okits happening, but IT WILL BE GOOD FOR US!

One step at a time I suppose, Mann wrote, but at least there is some apparent progress toward the truth (that climate change is real, human-caused, and already a problem).

Joseph Kopser, an aerospace engineer and Army veteran from Austin, Texas, is one of several Democratic candidates vying for a chance to unseatthe 16-term Republican in the 2018 midterm election. Reach Monday by phone, Kopser described Smiths op-ed as stunning. And he said it is exactly what the late English author George Orwell warned about in his dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.

He is acknowledging the warming planet, Kopser said. And hes trying to use Orwellian speak to say that, No, no, no These terrible things that scientists have talked about and proven and explained why they are terrible for our planet, are actually good things.

What Smith is doing, Kopser said, isequivalent to telling somebody whos in a flood, Oh no no, all this water is going to be great. Just think how much more drinking water youre going to have available. Or somebody in a burning house, No no, think, you now no longer need a furnace because you have this wonderful heat source all around your house.

First elected in 1986, Smith is the 14th longest-serving member of the current U.S. House. The San Antonio native has receivedmore than $700,000from the oil and gas industry over those years. In his five years as chairman of the science committee, he has worked to defund climate research andharassed federal climate scientists,whom he has accused of playing fast and loose with data. He has alsosprinted to defend the fossil fuel industrynamely Exxon Mobil Corp.from investigations into their own records on climate change and used his power tostack hearings with coal and chemical lobbyists and climate skeptics.

Burning fossil fuels, Smith writes in his op-ed, has helped raise the standard of living for billions of people.

The use of fossil fuels and the byproducts of carbon enrichment play a large role in advancing the quality of human life by increasing food production to feed our growing population, stimulating the economy, and alleviating poverty.

Bad deals like the Paris Agreement would cost the U.S. billions of dollars, a loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs, and have no discernible impact on global temperatures. Instead of succumbing to fear tactics and exaggerated predictions, we should instead invest in research and technology that can help us better understand the effects of climate change.

Smith is among a trio of Republicans that nonprofit political action committee 314 Action istargeting for their anti-science views.Smiths office did not immediately respond to HuffPosts request for comment Monday.

In a statement Monday, 314 Action founder Shaughnessy Naughton blasted Smiths op-ed as the latest of his industry-funded attacks on scientific consensus around the issue of climate change.

Rather than playing the hits to the Heritage Foundations mouthpiece, I challenge Mr. Smith to explain the benefits of climate change to the displaced people of Isle de Jean Charles or Tangier Island, said Naughton, referring to two U.S. islands vanishing as ocean levels rise. If climate scientists cant convince him, maybe our countrys first climate refugees can.

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