As the new chairman of a key House subcommittee on the environment, Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) will be one of the GOP's leading actors when it comes to the Environmental Protection Agency and the growing threats from climate change. So with his first hearing as chairman on tap for Wednesday, what does the freshman Republican—and end times novelist—think about anthropogenic global warming?
He's not sure.
In response to an inquiry from Mother Jones, Stewart's office emailed a statement suggesting that more study was needed before he could safely say whether—as 97 percent of scientists believe—humans are responsible for rising global temperatures. And even if they are, he explained, that doesn’t mean we should act:
The world's climate is changing. That has always been true. Our global climate is always in flux, and always will be. So while I accept that our climate is changing, I also understand that a great deal of research still needs to be accomplished to understand why, as well as to discover the impacts man might be having on that change.
Climate change is also an extraordinarily complicated discipline. Because of this, it is vital that we ensure that policy decisions are based upon sound science. Before we make any long-lasting policy decisions that could negatively affect our economy, we need to be certain that the science behind our decisions is sound.
Here's Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas), critiquing the Violence Against Women Act to National Review's Betsy Woodruff:
"This is a truly bad bill," he says of the Senate version, which includes provisions regarding homosexual, bisexual, and transsexual victims of domestic violence. "This is helping the liberals, this is horrible. Unbelievable. What really bothers — it's called a women's act, but then they have men dressed up as women, they count that. Change-gender, or whatever. How is that — how is that a woman?"
Stockman, who I profiled in January, was elected to his second term in the House last year with 71 percent of the vote.
Possible Kentucky Senate candidate Ashley Judd has an "unnerving" "obsession" with rape, according to a conservative comedian who performed at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday. Fox News contributor Steven Crowder was winding up his monologue from CPAC's main stage when he decided to mock Judd's suggestion that people who use high-tech appliances (herself included) are indirectly contributing to human rights abuses:
By the way, in breaking news, Ashley Judd just tweeted that buying Apple products, again, is akin to rape. From her iPhone. Rape—now she knows how my brain felt after Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Oh, she said it. What is this obsession with Ashley Judd and rape? It's pretty unnerving.
Here's one reason why Ashley Judd talks about rape a lot: She is, in her own words, "a three-time survivor of rape." (I didn't have to look very hard for that; she talked about it at length in a nationally televised public appearance last month.) Talking about it is not just part of the recovery process—Judd feels it's her obligation: "I gave that shame back, and it's my job to break my isolation and talk with other girls and other women." That's also, not coincidentally, a large part of what she does internationally as a public health activist. There is literally a chapter in her memoir called "The Republic of Rape." It's about the Democratic of Republic of Congo, of which she has reported, "100 percent of the women I had interviewed had been gang-raped multiple times by armed militia."
On top of all of this, the original joke doesn't even make sense. Crowder's punch-line is that Judd is oblivious to the obvious hypocrisy of condemning Apple products while using them. What an idiot! But Judd's comments came in a long essay (not a tweet) about the angst she felt about using products that came from conflict zones.
Given the physical and emotional trauma experienced by countless women on a daily basis, it's not especially surprising that Judd is "obsessed" with rape; the better question is why Steven Crowder isn't.
Wayne LaPierre was a hit at CPAC. The National Rifle Association's executive vice president, who in the three months since the Sandy Hook massacre has fiercely opposed any form of gun control legislation, whipped the audience of conservative activists into a frenzy on Friday with a speech that took aim at Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and the automatic budget cuts known as the sequester (or at least the prospect of releasing people from ICE detention centers).
But LaPierre saved the most firepower for President Obama's proposal to expand background checks to include all private gun sales. The push to close the so-called "gun show loophole," in LaPierre's view, is nothing more than a "placebo" that would do nothing to stop gun violence. (Never mind that placebos are actually quite effective.) He alleged that improved record-keeping would leave the United States vulnerable to foreign countries like China and Mexico (video above):
It's gonna be people like you and me. That's who they're tracking. That's who they're after. The names of good, decent people, all across this country, who happen to own a firearm, to go into a federal database with universal registration of every lawful gun-owner in America. That's their answer to criminal violence? Criminalize 100 million law-abiding gun owners in a private transfer? Build a list of all the good people? As if that would somehow make us safe from violent criminals and homicidal maniacs? That's their answer? Are they insane?
What's the point of registering lawful gun-owners anyway—so newspapers can print those names and addresses for gangs and criminals to access? You know that's happened before! So the list can be hacked by foreign enemies like the Chinese, who recently hacked Pentagon computers? So the list can be handed over to the Mexican government that, oh by the way, they've already requested that list from our government? In the end there are only two reasons for the government to create that list of registered gun owners: to tax them, or to take them.
We shouldn't track firearms sales because if we do, Chinese hackers will find out where all the guns are, and then...what, exactly? Go door-to-door in Northern Idaho to confiscate them? LaPierre, as is his wont, didn't get into specifics. The paranoia speaks for itself.
In 2012, scientist Peter Gleick leaked confidential documents from the climate-denying Heartland Institute. At CPAC, Heartland fights back with cotton t-shirts.
Walter Cunningham—a former Apollo astronaut and Marine fighter pilot who now gives talks about climate change for the conservative Heartland Institute—can only find one piece of evidence to support the view, held by 97 percent of climate scientists, that the Earth is getting warmer. He moves to the next slide on his Powerpoint presentation at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and the audience of about three dozen or so activists bursts into laughter.
It's a chart tracking the shrinking size of undergarments, from last century's long johns, to the 21st century's thongs.
Climate scientists, Cunningham suggests, are simply conflating correlation and causation—something he helpfully illustrates by charting rising global temperatures and the number of pirates worldwide. (They track pretty closely!) But his fellow panelists at Friday's breakout session, "The Right Climate Stuff," don't even go that far; Thomas Wysmuller, whose credentials include a degree in meteorology and a five-year internship at NASA, talks up icy winter temperatures in Moscow and Siberia as evidence the Earth isn't warming at all. Harold Doiron, a former rocket scientist who by his own admission has "only been a serious student of global warming for maybe two years," suggests we're making a big fuss about nothing.
"If sea level's rising, it's not a global problem," Doiron says. "It's not happening in the Rocky Mountains." (Sorry, Tuvalu.) Besides, he says, even if carbon dioxide were a problem, it's simply not in the United States' best interests to take action unilaterally—not when China is refusing to get on board. The reports that China is actually moving ahead with a carbon tax haven't made it to National Harbor, Maryland. Maybe they use Google Reader.
That none of the panelists critiquing climate science have any professional training in climate science isn't lost on the group. But lack of qualifications is itself a qualification at CPAC. Recommending another book that purports to debunk climate science, Doiror talks up the author thusly: "John is not a climatologist...He works in the semi-conductor industry." Doiron's own conclusions on the shortcoming of climate science rely on, in his words, "proven data analysis processes used in astronaut safety-critical situations."
Afterwards, I caught up with Cunningham, who was autographing his 17-page pamphlet, "Facts vs. Faith." Why, I asked, did he think so few climate scientists were willing to come on board with his arguments? He rejected the premise. "I don't think there's few climate scientists," Cunningham said. "I think only a few climate scientists have bought into this nonsense."
But on one thing, everyone seems to agree. "This is a controversy that should not be resolved in the court of public opinion or the political arena," Cunningham told his audience. Instead, it should be resolved in the scientific community. Wise words—although perhaps there's a better messenger than a retired astronaut at a political confab.