Nature has a news summary that reminds me just how surreal America has become in the 21st century. Here we have one of the most respected and prestigious scientific journals on the planet saying this:
Science advocates are cautiously hopeful after Lamar Smith, a quiet Texan who is known to be a strong supporter of US innovation, was named as the next chair of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology in the US House of Representatives.The very next paragraph notes the significance of this position:
Smith will become the gatekeeper for much of the science-related legislation that reaches the House floor during the next Congress.
This congressional representative will essentially control funding for science in America. Nothing he dislikes will make it to the floor for a vote. So what does this Christian Scientist with no background in science think about climate science?
Like many of his Republican colleagues, Smith has expressed doubts about the reality of anthropogenic global warming and has criticized the media for “a steady pattern of bias on climate change”. But his tone has been more moderate than that of his challengers for the chairmanship, Dana Rohrabacher (Republican, California) and committee vice-chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (Republican, Wisconsin). He is also less outspoken than Hall, who invited several staunch climate-change sceptics to testify before the committee last year.This is what passes for a moderate on climate science in the Republican parallel universe. Not only does he get his talking points from Marc Morano, Anthony Watts, and Lord Christopher Monckton, he voted to support fossil fuels as the foundation of our energy policy and voted against clean energy research, development, and deployment in every conceivable form. Smith even voted against energy conservation efforts like raising fuel efficiency standards. In other words, he gets two thumbs up from the Dick Cheney energy dream team.
Smith's claim to fame on innovation is that he co-sponsored the America Invents Act, which streamlined the patent process, and supports increasing visas for foreign students to study science, engineering, and mathematics in the United States. He was also the brains behind the Stop Online Piracy Act, an attempt to give corporate media the ability to censor the internet.
From a climate science perspective, the nicest thing you can say about Smith is that he is no worse than the other Republican dinosaurs in the House and Senate. The problem is Smith will have very large say in the reauthorization of NASA. NASA has long had a pivotal role in climate research. That means he will be in a position to blind our eyes in sky and starve cutting edge research programs. Money that does reach NASA will likely be for propulsion system research.
“Americans are coming to the realization that we have lost something important with the retirement of the space shuttle,” Smith said. “I just don’t like to see us pulling back and that’s what makes me a little bit concerned about the future of NASA... that’s not the role of a leader in space to be buying seats from other countries.Maybe that is not a bad thing. We will need the ability to find a Planet B when we screw up this little blue marble.
At least Smith knows how to dress to please the fashion police.
Smith made his case for the job wearing "a tie decorated with planets and spaceships," according to The Hill newspaper—a sartorial nod to the panel's oversight of NASA and other space-related research.