House approves measure that prevent scientists in the Energy Department from doing science.

So this happened.

On July 10, the House approved the fiscal 2015 Energy and Water Appropriations bill on a 253-170 vote. In the bill, Congress unfortunately cut funding for such things as renewable energy, sustainable transportation, and energy efficiency; perhaps even more worrisome, however, were a series of amendments successfully attached to the bill. Each would, in its own way, specifically prohibit scientists at the Energy Department from doing precisely what Congress should mandate them to do—namely perform the best possible scientific research to illuminate, for policymakers, the likelihood and possible consequences of climate change.

Oklahoma Republican Congressman James Lankford’s amendment prohibited funding for “proposing or implementing any executive order related to the ‘social cost of carbon.’” In this way, the Energy Department would presumably be prohibited from embarking on studies that might calculate the possible benefits of legislation that limits carbon dioxide emissions or the economic risks associated with climate change.

A second amendment by Arizona Republican Paul Gosar prohibited funding for the Energy Department’s Climate Model Development and Validation program. One of the things that climate change deniers often pull out of their hats when arguing against acting to stem climate change is a claimed skepticism about the validity of existing climate models. I have recently countered one such skeptic on television here in Australia by accepting this skepticism—and then challenging him to present what his models predicted.  (Of course he didn’t have any).  The point was not merely rhetorical. If there is serious concern about the robustness of ongoing climate modeling, it is inconsistent with a desire to prohibit scientists from being able to improve their models.

A third science-defunding amendment, this time pushed by West Virginia Republican David McKinley, would prohibit the Energy Department from supporting climate change activities associated with the National Climate Assessment and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. 
That’s right: The Energy Department would be prohibited from responding to the two landmark reports that reflect the best international scientific scholarship available on climate modeling and the possible impacts of human greenhouse gas production, locally, nationally, and internationally.

Because why, in the 21st century, and era defined by advances in medical treatment, food production, transportation, the internet, etc., would we want policies to be informed by science?

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.


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