Once upon a time, a man was arrested for a string of brutal bank
robberies. He said
"You know that bank on Elm Street? I never robbed that.
I swear! I've never been anywhere near that place!!
What's your problem???"
That was beside the point, because he wasn't charged with robbing
that particular bank. In fact, that was the only bank for miles
around that he hadn't robbed.
I mention this because on Monday May 20th Congressman Lamar Smith
(R-Texas) published an opinion piece in the Washington Post: "Overheated Rhetoric on Climate Change Hurts the Economy" It uses the same bank-robber logic.
Among other things, he says "global temperatures have held steady
over the past 15 years". Well … it turns out that there was a
tremendous temperature spike in 1998. Back in 2003, climate deniers
were saying temperatures had held steady for five years. In 2008
they said temperatures had held steady for 10 years. Now it's 15
years. HOWEVER … if you go back 14 years, or 16 years, or 17
years, or 30 years, or 100 years, or 1000 years, you see a dramatic
increase. The fact is, global temperatures are not holding steady.
USDA plant-hardiness zones have moved northward by half a zone. Glaciers are vanishing. The sea level is rising and accelerating.
Mr. Smith's piece came out on the same day that an exceptionally
violent storm struck Moore, Oklahoma; preliminary reports indicate at least 24 killed and hundreds injured.
He goes on to say
"the resulting increase in carbon dioxide emissions would
be a mere 12 one-thousandths of 1 percent (0.0012 percent)."
That just cracks me up. That's typical climate-denier arithmetic.
He cites an authoritative government source for that number, namely
a statement that he himself made during a congressional hearing a
week ago. He got the arithmetic wrong back then, too. (I'm pretty
sure that back here in the real world, 12 divided by 1000 is 0.012.)
The fact remains that no matter how you do the arithmetic, tar-sands
oil releases disproportionately more greenhouse gases than other
forms of petroleum, out of proportion to the net energy obtained.
His statements about the number of jobs created are similarly
dishonest. The pipeline will last for a long time, whereas the
construction jobs will not. The fact remains that the long-term
damage is far out of proportion to the number of long-term jobs.
His jobs number is fanciful — even if you take it as an estimate
of peak jobs — and even if it were true it would be beside
the point. Any proper business-case analysis would consider the
alternatives, such as renewable-energy projects … which create
This guy is not just a Member of Congress … he is the Chairman
of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. He's
obviously not lazy or stupid; it takes effort and ingenuity to
pack so much dishonesty and deception into a short article.