The war on evidence-based policy-making being waged by some in the House of Representatives continued this week, with three members in the running to become chairman of the important Committee on Space, Science, and Technology. Each is deeply skeptical of the widely held belief that human activities are a cause of global warming. Barring an unexpected reversal, either Representative Dana Rohrabacher of California, F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin, or Lamar Smith of Texas will head the committee, which, among other things, shares control of federal spending on almost all nondefense research and development.
Even if you happen to think that climate change is a hoax, the nomination of three people whose scientific credentials are shaky at best to head this committee should be alarming. The committee has influence over the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, among many others.
The problem is that Mr. Rohrabacher and the others apparently find it easy to side with the relative handful of climate change deniers, rather than accept the mountain of evidence that scientists the world over say points to humankind’s role in warming the planet. If their pick-and-choose approach to scientific research extends to areas of inquiry other than climate, any of the three would seem to be a poor choice to help run the government’s civilian research and development efforts. They are not alone among Congressional Republicans with a dim view of science; Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, for example, recently sidestepped a question about the Earth’s age — pegged at 4.5 billion years based on rigorous, verifiable data — and mused that it was one of the “great mysteries.”
Critics have said the United States is falling behind other countries in preparing young people for careers in math and science and, as a result, it may soon see its global dominance fade. Putting forward candidates like these to head this vital committee does not bode well for the country’s future — or the world’s.