The 114th Congress convenes this week. The last time a Congressional anti-science caucus was this strong may have been during the Scopes Monkey Trial ninety years ago. But that’s not the worst part of it: The folks who want to gut government research and deny climate change are virtually guaranteed perpetual re-election and jobs for life.
Let’s get straight to the moral of this story: Entrenched anti-science isn’t going away. Not soon, maybe not in our lifetimes. Every one of the most ardent congressional climate deniers who chose to run won re-election, mostly by runaway margins, and probably have jobs for as long as they want them. A landscape of gerrymandered “safe” districts and wide-open campaign cash spigots make their futures even safer, even as their behavior helps make our own a little more bleak.
More examples than you may care to know about
Chris Stewart handily won a second term for his Utah congressional seat over a state senator. As a freshman, he chaired the House Environmental Subcommittee. In 2013, he dismissed human-influenced climate change in the Salt Lake Tribune, citing scientific uncertainty, “questionable” claims, and the motives of “radical environmentalists” as drivers behind a dubious debate.
Entrenched anti-science isn't going away. Not soon, maybe not in our lifetimes.But Stewart’s 27-point win was a squeaker compared to his committee boss. Lamar Smith is a veteran congressman from San Antonio who ran the full House Science Committee for the last two years. While Smith embraces the language of climate denial, his portfolio is wider than that. Otherwise a solid opponent of Big Government intervention, Smith has targeted about 40 National Science Foundation grants for congressional scrutiny. Democrats couldn’t muster a candidate to run against him in November, and he swamped two third-party candidates by capturing over 70 percent of the vote. Smith’s Science Committee Vice Chair is Dana Rohrabacher of California. The veteran scientist-kicker romped by 29 points.
When it comes to sneering at science and cringing at climate claims, the Texas Congressional delegation is in a league of its own. Joe Barton, who famously issued an apology to BP after its 2010 oil spill, is pushing a bill to open up oil exports. He powered to a 25 percent win over his Democratic challenger.