The House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology certainly isn’t the most powerful in Congress. It doesn’t wield the budgetary clout of Appropriations. It doesn’t oversee massive agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services.
But it’s a historic fixture of postwar, science-centered America—a committee originally formed after the Soviet launch of Sputnik, and one that today oversees the major research agencies: NASA, NOAA, NSF, and numerous others. For much of its history, whichever party controlled Congress, the committee was therefore run by a legislator with a sympathetic understanding of the scientific community—leaders like George Brown on the Democratic side, and Sherwood Boehlert for the Republicans.
That’s why it’s pretty alarming that the committee’s current leadership appears highly unsympathetic to the views of the U.S. scientific community, and particularly U.S. climate science researchers.
First, there’s committee chairman Ralph Hall of Texas. He’s a former Democrat, now a Republican, and insists he is not a climate skeptic. And certainly he’s not as extreme on the issue as Rep. Dana “Dinosaur Farts” Rohrabacher, whose challenge Hall fended off to head the committee.
Still, Hall has said that the ‘ClimateGate’ pseudo-scandal suggests there’s a “dishonest undercurrent” in the scientific community. Actually, it shows a “dishonest undercurrent” in the community’s critics. If Hall can’t see as much, then one can legitimately worry about his chairmanship.
And if Hall is planning to conduct climate science investigations and potentially subpoena climate scientists, that makes things even worse. According to ClimateWire, such hearings may be on the table—and Hall may let the next anti-science GOP leader of the committee head them up: Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin.
Sensenbrenner will serve as Hall’s vice-chairman. He’s long been on the warpath against climate science, and speaking to Politico late last year, Hall was blunt about Sensenbrenner’s “bad cop” role: ““With his background, his insistence, he can do the mean things that we don’t want to do. I’m a peaceful guy; he likes combat.”
The Union of Concerned Scientists dubs Sensenbrenner the most likely member of the new Congress to attack climate scientists, and details some of his prior statements casting doubt on global warming research. Sensenbrenner, for instance, has accused the researchers involved in “ClimateGate” of “scientific fascism. As UCS goes on to note:
But we’re not finished yet. You see, the new science committee will also feature, as chair of the Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee, Paul Broun of Georgia (pictured above).
Broun likes to fling the word “socialist” around, even though there aren’t any in mainstream American politics. But of course it depends on how you define socialism. For instance, Broun rather infamously found it at the CDC:
It’s not just the fruit and vegetable police Broun is worried about. It’s also attempts to rein in greenhouse gas emissions—which, Broun says, will quite literally kill people. On the floor of the House in 2009, he argued that “cap and trade” legislation would lead to skyrocketing electricity prices—and among elderly in the south, a body count:
Broun, I forgot to mention, is a medical doctor. And, he calls global warming a “hoax.”
It is, in sum, quite the Science Committee that we’ll be looking at for the next two years. Scientists beware.