After a summer of planetary upheaval, nobody can say the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology is ignoring the messages sent out by the quivering natural world.
After all, the committee scheduled a hearing on what we could learn from the solar eclipse.
It seems a fitting agenda for a committee that often seems to be operating in the dark.
“When we came back to the Capitol after (Hurricanes) Harvey and Irma,” explains Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., who’s spent years on the committee, “I suggested to the chairman that we should be having a conversation about climate change, and he said, they’re not climate change.”
To go with the special glasses used to watch the eclipse, the committee leaders may be using special glasses to watch the climate.
The science committee chairman, Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, warns against “so-called self-professed climate scientists,” and argues, “the benefits of a changing climate are often ignored and under-researched.” Plants respond well to warmer weather and more carbon in the atmosphere, he declares, and melting Arctic ice will open up more shipping lanes. Smith has used the committee to attack and subpoena climate scientists – and darned if there aren’t a lot of them – who warn of the dangers of rising global temperatures and sea levels.
And a summer that saw his state’s largest city – along with Puerto Rico and much of Florida – virtually drowned, as Houston was hit by its third 500-year storm in three years, hasn’t changed his mind.
A long way from the Gulf of Mexico, Bonamici also had reason to wonder about the summer’s atmospherics. “While they’ve had floods and hurricanes in the Southeast,” she notes, “the Northwest was burning up,” with massive forest fires in southern and central Oregon and the Columbia Gorge.
It’s not that climate change causes hurricanes or forest fires, but it does seem to fuel them. Warmer weather and warmer ocean water strengthens hurricanes, creating the 40 and 50 inches of…