“Let’s stop fighting over who we believe created the planet, [and] work together against those that choose to destroy it.”
— Jack Barker
There exists a very real problem in American politics and the consequences could be dire. Extremely dire. Consequences that could lead to intense suffering — famine, pestilence, and potentially, the final chapters of the human experiment, and not to mention the experiments of a variety of other living (and in some cases, sentient) systems on Earth.
The denial of science.
I’ll admit, there was time when environmentalism bore little importance to me. It’s not that I was necessarily naive to the fact the climate was changing or that I was standoffish to the fact human industrialism shoulders some (if not most) of the responsibility. I looked at change as a lost cause. However, in the last couple of years, I have grown to become an environmentalist of sorts. I’ve read the science. I’ve listened to the men and women who realized the science. I have also listened to those who deny its legitimacy.
It was announced not long ago that the Senate’s scientfic leaders will be Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), and Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida). This change came about due to the reddening of the American political landscape. Unfortunately for us, these three men are notorious in their denial of scientific legitimacy, and they are responsible for governmental action on land, in the oceans, in the atmosphere, and in space.
With Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota) ratified as the chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, Senator Cruz has been tapped to head the Subcommitee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, meaning he will oversee NASA, as well as several other science programs. Senator Cruz has a history of pandering to the far-right when it comes to science denial, and while he may have said in 2013 that it was “critical that the United States ensure its continued leadership in space,” he is also on record as being skeptical of the “so-called scientific theory” of global warming, citing that “data [does not support] what the advocates are arguing” and that “there has been no recorded warming” in the last fifteen years (CNN Political Ticker 2014).
When Senator Cruz shut down the government in 2013, ninety-seven percent of NASA employees were barred from going to work and interns were temporarily displaced, as NASA-provided housing was closed as well (Alman 2015). In a 2013 article published by Scientific American, scientist Andrew A. Rosenberg, Ph.D., director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, writes at length about the impact the government shutdown had, not just in regard to space, but other scientific and public health projects. During the 2013 government shutdown, The National Institutes of Health had to suspend new clinical trials, food and safety inspections were suspended, key tests for the James Webb Space Telescope (which will ultimately replace Hubble) were suspended, the delay in Antarctic research meant scientists lost half a year of data, the Environmental Protection Agency was forced to cancel an emergency visit to a contaminated water supply in New Mexico, and the population numbers for endangered gray wolves could not be checked (Rosenberg 2013).
Now, Senator Rafael Edward Cruz is in chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness.
Along with the appointing of Senator Cruz, Senator Marco Rubio, another denier of climate change, will head the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard. Senator Rubio is another junior senator who panders to the far-right when it comes to environmental matters, having famously announced (along with several other Republican congressmen) that he is not a scientist and that he isn’t qualified to answer a question regarding the age of the Earth and the universe (Rubio 2012). Despite Rubio’s self-confessed disqualification in matters of a scientific nature, he will head a subcommittee responsible for legislation and oversight in matters concerning our oceans, coasts, and climate, including coastal zone management, marine fisheries and marine mammals, oceans, weather, and atmospheric activities, marine and ocean navigation, ocean policy, and will even oversee the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.
In what may be the most egregious appointment of the bunch, Senator James Inhofe has been re-appointed to chair the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Senator Inhofe is famous for his denial and politicization of climate change, at one time comparing the environmentalist movement to The Third Reich in an interview with and the Environmental Protection Agency as the Gestapo (source: Wikiquote). The same Senator Inhofe also said this: “You might remember, it was 2003 when I made the statement that the idea that manmade gases, CO2, are causing catastrophic global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people. I was hated at that time, but now people realize I was right. That, by the way, is the title of my book that’s going to come out in January” (Inhofe 2011) and this: “Well actually the Genesis 8:22 that I use in there is that ‘as long as the earth remains there will be seed time and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night,’ my point is, God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous” (Tashman 2012).
A man who chairs the Senate Committe on Environmental and Public Works has likened environmentalists to the Third Reich, the Environmental Protection Agency to the Gestapo, believes catastrophic global warming and man-made climate change to be the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people, and believes that humans cannot change the actions of a God whose existence is not supported by any credible, scientific evidence whatsoever. Given his position, Inhofe is likely the most powerful man in Washington, at least as far as sciences are concerned, and he doesn’t have any knowledge of it or any respect for it.
What we have here is a fundamental breakdown in what qualifies someone to hold a position, especially positions such as these, that carry significant rammifications on the citizenry of not just the United States, but the population of the world. It doesn’t make sense for someone who is not knowledgeable of a sport to be a referree for that sport. It doesn’t make sense for someone who lacks an education and credentials to be a teacher. It doesn’t make sense for someone who lacks the necessary training in auto repair to fix a car. It doesn’t make sense for someone who has not passed their state’s bar exam to practice as a lawyer. It doesn’t make sense for someone who is not knowledgeable of anatomy, medical terminology and application, and the Hippocratic Oath to be doctor. It absolutely doesn’t make sense for people who have no training or education in fields of science to be heading portions of the government responsible for legislation and oversight of scientific activities, especially when these people also deny the legitimacy of scientific evidence and endeavors for the sake of pandering to the extremes of their partisanship.
This is the same thing as allowing Bernie Madoff to supervise your bank accounts.
And the rammifications could be dire. Current concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are the highest they’ve been in 800,000 years (Amos 2006), the icesheet on Greenland is rapidly melting (source: United States Government), the West Antarctic Ice Sheet appears to be in irreversable decline (Howard 2014), and the rate of acidification in the oceans continues to escalate (Orr, et al. 2005), to the point where predictions dictate that by the year 2100, the world’s oceans will be as acidic as they were 20 million years ago.
But apparently, those in charge of environmental sciences within the United States Congress shouldn’t have to understand what any of the above information means.
Alman, Ashley. “Ted Cruz, Longtime Foe Of NASA And Science, Will Oversee NASA And Science In New Congress.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 12 Jan. 2015. Web. 14 Jan. 2015.
Amos, Jonathan. “Deep Ice Tells Long Climate Story.” BBC News. BBC, 04 Sept. 2006. Web. 14 Jan. 2015.
CNN Political Ticker. “Cruz to CNN: Global Warming Not Supported by Data.” CNN Political Ticker RSS. CNN, 20 Feb. 2014. Web. 14 Jan. 2015.
Howard, Brian Clark. “West Antarctica Glaciers Collapsing, Adding to Sea-Level Rise.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 12 May 2014. Web. 14 Jan. 2015.
Inhofe, Jim. “Sen. Inhofe Talks to NewsBusters About Global Warming, Gingrich, and Politico’s Energy Policy Maker of the Year.” Interview by Noel Sheppard. Sen. Inhofe Talks to NewsBusters About Global Warming, Gingrich, and Politico’s Energy Policy Maker of the Year. NewsBusters, 30 Nov. 2011. Web. 14 Jan. 2015.
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Rosenberg, Andrew A., Ph.D. “The Government Shutdown Was Temporary, Its Damage To Science Permanent.” Scientific American Global RSS. Scientific American, 17 Oct. 2013. Web. 14 Jan. 2015.
Rubio, Marco. “Marco Rubio Interview.” Interview by Michael Hainey. All Eyez on Him. GQ, Dec 2012. Web. 14 Jan. 2015.
Tashman, Brian. “James Inhofe Says the Bible Refutes Climate Change.” James Inhofe SAys the Bible Refutes Climate Change. Right Wing Watch, 8 Mar. 2012. Web. 14 Jan. 2015.
United States Government. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. NASA Scientists Detect Rapid Thinning of Greenland’s Coastal Ice. NASA Scientists Detect Rapid Thinning of Greenland’s Coastal Ice. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 20 July 2000. Web. 14 Jan. 2015. <ftp://ftp.hq.nasa.gov/pub/pao/pressrel/2000/00-112.txt>.
Wikiquote. “James Inhofe.” James Inhofe. Wikiquote, n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2014.