The new majority of the House continues to amass a remarkable record of science denialism. On March 15th (the ides of March) the House Energy and Commerce Committee, a political body of (mostly) non-scientists, voted to repeal the scientific consensus that greenhouse gas emissions can be a danger to the public health.
By a vote of 19-34, the Committee adopted the Upton bill (HR 910) to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from taking science into account when considering how to protect the public from the potentially devastating effects of excess carbon pollution in the atmosphere.
Even for a politician, this can be a dicey position to take. It makes one appear less than grounded in reality.
During the debate, several amendments were offered by Democrats to test whether any Republicans on the Committee were willing to break with the orthodoxy from Chairman Upton (R-MI).
Rep Waxman (D-CA) offered an amendment whereby Congress would accept the scientific consensus that the climate system is warming.
No Republican voted for it.
Rep. DeGette (D-CO) tried again, offering an amendment to accept the scientific consensus that climate change is occurring in large part due to human activity.
No Republicans voted for that either.
Rep. Inslee (D-WA) tried a third time, asking the Committee to accept the finding of the nation’s premier environmental and public health agency that human-caused climate change is a threat to public health and welfare.
Still no Republicans voted for it.
In short, there were no obvious cracks in the GOP wall that is keeping facts from intruding on ideological fervor and political convenience.
Galileo was invoked on both sides. Rep. Murphy (R-PA) suggested that Galileo’s celebrated fight with the Catholic Church was an example of science discredited at the time eventually emerging as truth, and urged his colleagues to view climate skepticism in the same light. But Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) had the more logical – and apt – interpretation of Galileo’s unwillingness to ignore science – that Galileo was confronting the orthodoxy of the Church, the Church was less interested in the facts than in maintaining the order of the day, and science be damned (literally!).
In 1633, the Inquisition tried Galileo for his heresy and sentenced him to house arrest for life. In 1992 – 359 years later -- the Church issued a posthumous apology.
If the Upton bill passes the House – and it appears it will – I wonder how long it will take the science deniers of today to get around to apologizing to the millions of climate refugees it is sentencing to suffer climate disruptions far worse than house arrest.
Portrait of Galileo Galilei, 1636 - Justus Sustermans (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)