May 24, 2019

Representative Jared Huffman is my new hero.

At a House Subcommittee hearing on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife (WOW), Democrats invited three bonafide scientists from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. This is the organization made up of 132 United Nations member-states which issued the alarming report on extinction and climate change earlier this month.

Republicans invited a pseudo-scientist and a climate-hustler to testify. Both of them testified before Congress that climate change was not real, because they were invited by Republicans to do so. They got to sit next to UN-endorsed scientists and spew lies, because Republicans invited them to do so.

Rep. Huffman noticed the difference.

HUFFMAN: “You know, we tried hard to set up this hearing as a serious conversation with some of the world’s leading scientists about a deeply troubling international report warning us, not for the first time, that we were entering into an extinction crisis and that it was being driven primarily by human activities. I felt like, given our jurisdiction which actually begins with water, oceans, and wildlife in the title of this subcommittee, that’s a pretty square fit with what this subcommittee exists to consider. So it seemed like an important subject for us to explore together with some really esteemed scientists. We’re very grateful and honored by your presence.

I have to say I’m disappointed that our friends across the aisle seem to have taken a different tack with the witnesses they’ve called and the tenor of the conversation.

Mr. Morano, I have a political science degree, too, and I know the limitations of that degree. I don’t know what inspires someone to make a career out of trolling scientists or monetizing contrarian ideology on the YouTube and TED Talk circuit, but it’s just a very different kind of conversation than the science-based conversation I think many of us would like to try to have.

So, in the remaining time that I have, which is not nearly enough, Sir Watson, I want to come back to you because you’ve heard a lot of this stuff before. I mean, from the shadowy corners of these junior varsity think tanks that appear in these settings, you hear claims that high levels of CO2 concentration are actually good for bio-diversity, that there is no extinction problem, that extinction is actually slowing. We’ve heard some of this stuff drudged out again today. This is your chance to respond to that. I’ll give a similar opportunity to the other scientists.”

In an interview after the hearing, Huffman said this:

“There’s a narrative around here [in Congress] that Republicans are coming around on science and climate. Look no further than the witnesses they continue to dredge out of the fever swamp for these subcommittee hearings, and you’ll see that they’ve got a long way to evolve,” Huffman told Eos in an interview. “This is shadowy stuff, and we see it week after week: instead of scientists, people from these junior varsity think tanks that they keep dredging up. Apparently, witnesses from QAnon and Infowars”—a conspiracy theory group and website, respectively—”were unavailable, and so this is what we get.”

“It’s just a choice that the Republicans keep making in these hearings. Instead of serious policy conversations, serious science conversations, they want to do politics.”
Morano “brought a provocative, almost like a World Wrestling type of ethos to his testimony. There were very few facts and certainly no science. He admitted that, at the outset, he’s a political science guy, and he’s a former staffer to Jim Inhofe,” Huffman told Eos, referring to the Oklahoman senator who authored a book entitled The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future. “[Morano] is here to throw bombs. It’s just a choice that the Republicans keep making in these hearings. Instead of serious policy conversations, serious science conversations, they want to do politics.”

Huffman said the way to counter the attacks on science is to present expert witnesses. “Well, look, we just presented you with four of the world’s leading scientists, for God’s sake. That’s probably where you start in countering that,” he said. “Then people can weigh for themselves: Do they want to consider the overwhelming weight of the world’s best scientists or the shadowy junior varsity think tank from people that used to work for Jim Inhofe?”

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