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GOP Works to Defund Studies So They Can Deny Climate Change

05/14/2015 10:06 am ET | Updated May 14, 2016
Tom Williams via Getty Images

Rather than address or even face the impending issues surrounding climate change, the GOP has chosen instead to stick their fingers in their ears. Not only do they want to simply ignore the problem, but they are trying to make it difficult for the rest of us to even know that it exists.

Last week, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, headed by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), approved a bill that would slash at least $300 million from NASA's Earth-science budget. As Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) pointed out, "Earth science, of course, includes climate science." Rep. Smith claims that the White House's NASA budget request favored the Earth sciences "at the expense of the other science divisions and human and robotic space exploration." That actually makes perfect sense considering that the impending looming disaster might need to be examined a little more closely. You may very well want to increase funding into that area.  It's like saying you're not going to put out a fire at a particular house because you want to keep the other ones moist.

Once again, by defunding NASA's Earth-science program, the GOP has taken willful ignorance one giant leap for mankind, into the stratosphere. This bill essentially ensures not only that climate studies be ignored but that potentially useful data won't even be collected.

NASA, for its part, responded to the impending doom with howls of protest. Charles Bolden, the administrator of NASA, a retired United States Marine Corps Major General, and a former NASA astronaut, issued a statement saying:

The NASA authorization bill making its way through the House of Representatives guts our Earth science program and threatens to set back generations worth of progress in better understanding our changing climate, and our ability to prepare for and respond to earthquakes, droughts, and storm events.  

NASA leads the world in the exploration of and study of planets, and none is more important than the one on which we live.

In addition, the bill under-funds the critical space technologies that the nation will need to lead in space, including on our journey to Mars.

Marshall Shepherd, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Georgia and the former president of the American Meteorological Society (AMS), said that he couldn't sleep after hearing about the bill. "None of us has a 'vacation planet' we can go to for the weekend, so I argue that NASA's mission to study planet Earth should be a 'no-brainer,'" he wrote in the Washington Post. That's a particularly poignant statement coming from someone from the AMS when you consider that weather forecasters used to be among the country's biggest climate deniers. According to an article in Climate Progress:

Training to be a weather forecaster is completely different than studying to be a climate scientist. For years this divergence in knowledge has left weather casters with a bad rap when it comes to incorporating climate change into their coverage.

Marshall goes on to hint not so subtly that the study and understanding of the climate and its changes is a matter of national security -- something the GOP claims to be in support of:

I served on a National Academy of Science panel that examined national security implications of climate change on U.S. Naval Operations. This study was commissioned by the Navy itself. We found that Naval Operations depend on accurate knowledge of ocean-atmospheric processes (e.g., ocean currents, changes in sea ice or level, salinity, and so on). Since most of Earth is ocean or inaccessible terrain, satellite platforms are essential for military and civilian operations. This is even more critical as the United States takes over leadership of the Arctic Council.

Members of the GOP continue to deny that there's a problem. Some, like the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee chairman, James Inhofe, even make a mockery of the situation and are tossing snowballs on the floor of the Senate as "proof" that the climate isn't changing.

In an interview with VICE News founder Shane Smith released March 16, Obama discussed how politics have made climate change one of "the hardest problems to solve."

Smith pointed out the idiotic stunt by Inhofe, which was meant to show how unseasonably cold it was in February.

"Throwing a snowball would be funny if it weren't the fact that he's chairman of the Senate Committee on the Environment," Smith said.

"That's disturbing," Obama responds.

Obama also suggested that Congress is slow to act because of campaign donations.

"In some cases, you have elected officials who are shills for the oil companies or the fossil fuel industry, and there's a lot of money involved," he said, adding that committees that oversee energy policy are typically "populated by folks from areas that pump a lot of oil and a lot of gas."

In the meantime, places like Florida are seeing rising seas that threaten local homes, businesses and the economy.

The issue presents a public works challenge that could cost billions here and nationwide. Insurance giant Swiss Re has estimated that the economy in southeast Florida could sustain $33 billion in damage from climate-related damage in 2030.

The article also quotes Eric Buermann, a former general counsel to the Republican Party of Florida and a former water district governing board member, as saying, "If I were governor, I'd be out there talking about [sea level rise] every day. Unless you're going to build a sea wall around South Florida, what's the plan?" So what is the plan indeed?

Gov. Rick Scott is doing absolutely nothing. In fact, he's actually made it more difficult to even discuss climate change in the state, barring anyone who works for the state from mentioning it:

For example, an April 28, 2014, email approving a DEP scientist's request to participate in a National Geographic story came with a warning: "Approved. Make no claims as to cause ... stay with the research you are doing, of course," the DEP manager, Pamela Phillips, warned.

And like Congress' attempt to make it financially unfeasible to study or do something about the problem, Scott has applied a similar strategy to his own state:

Republican Gov. Rick Scott is skeptical of man-made climate change and has put aside the task of preparing for sea level rise, an Associated Press review of thousands of emails and documents pertaining to the state's preparations for rising seas found.

Despite warnings from water experts and climate scientists about risks to cities and drinking water, skepticism over sea level projections and climate change science has hampered planning efforts at all levels of government, the records showed. Florida's environmental agencies under Scott have been downsized and retooled, making them less effective at coordinating sea level rise planning in the state, the documents showed.

Members of the GOP continue to deny that the climate is changing or that humans have anything to do with it. There's a pretty extensive list of what some of them have said to defend their denial over at billmoyers.com. Here are just a few of the choice ones:

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas): "Contrary to the claims of those who want to strictly regulate carbon dioxide emissions and increase the cost of energy for all Americans, there is a great amount of uncertainty associated with climate science."

Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin): "I think that the science is inconclusive on this."

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Alabama): "I'm approaching the issue with a healthy degree of skepticism. If the evidence is there to prove it, then so be it."

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky): "I would challenge [President Obama] to show us the linkage -- the undeniable linkage -- between droughts and the change of weather, and some kind of human activity."

While it may make sense logically that members of Congress would hold out on forming an opinion while waiting for evidence, it makes absolutely no sense that they would then work fervently to eliminate any means of getting that evidence -- unless of course they have no interest in the truth or evidence. Why else would tossing a snowball on the floor of the Senate represent positive proof that climate change isn't happening?

CORRECTION: This post previously referred to the American Meteorological Society (AMS) as the American Meteorological Assocation (AMA).