The Death of Shame

Is a sense of shame, embarrassment, fear at being discovered central to what makes us fully human? The old story in Genesis suggests so - (from the King James translation):

And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. [...] And the serpent said [...] in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. [...] And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. [...] And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.

The first emotion of the couple awakened by knowledge of good and evil was not joy, but shame. To be human is to err, to make mistakes. To do things that are truly embarrassing. It's part of who we are. But it is not just the mistake-making, it's recognizing those mistakes. To actually be embarrassed, to feel shame, to be afraid of the consequences of what we've done. If we routinely do stupid things but don't even recognize that we've done anything wrong, we're living a paradise of ignorance, a pre-fall state of unconscious bliss.

It's become clear to me this is the state which US political and media culture is aiming for. A return to the Garden of Eden, where nobody can do anything wrong, and it is impossible for any public figure to ever feel shame. Where the media has no ability and feels no responsibility to distinguish between right and wrong, truth and falsehood, good and evil - except on those rare occasions where the bad guys are foreigners and everybody on our side can agree.

There are still occasional exceptions. Elliot Spitzer, briefly. You have to give the guy credit for disappearing from public view for a while after that business - and he was our governor too, a really powerful figure. He really, sincerely looked ashamed and embarrassed at the exposure of his sinful behavior. John Edwards is a worse story - and I and a lot of other people feel embarrassed about that one, I was a big supporter of the guy before his mess became public. But at least Edwards quit his campaign and really did look highly ashamed about his own behavior.

There have been a couple of minor congressmen resigning recently for stuff of that nature, but it seems to be pretty few and far between. Why is David Vitter still in the US Senate? John Ensign? Why did that Idaho senator and S. Carolina governor hang on until their terms ended? Yeah, yeah, Bill Clinton too. Though at least you could sort of feel his pain at times.

And those are just the sex scandals. When it comes to the more serious wrongdoing with respect to their actions in office, there seems to be no sense of shame at all, ever. John Murtha completely unrepentant. Charlie Rangel. Jack Abramoff, Tom Delay and friends. Ted Stevens in Alaska. The many scandals of the Bush administration (and Reagan before). Did any of those folks every admit that anything they did was wrong? Did you notice how governor Walker of Wisconsin reacted when the recent prank Koch call became public?

I am sure that reality shows and celebrity obsessions are a contributing factor in our culture of shamelessness. Perhaps that form of popular entertainment is a real source of harm, but I am far more concerned about the harm done by the lack of recognition of truth and falsehood, right and wrong, among our political and media classes. It almost seems brazenness in the face of what to regular people would be highly embarrassing is an asset for politicians.

My evidence that we have now reached the pinnacle of shamelessness in US politics is this markup hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, held on Tuesday March 15th. The subject of the hearing was House Resolution 910, titled the "Energy Tax Prevention Act". The committee, chaired by Fred Upton, makes the claim that their work to stop the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases will reduce gasoline prices.

Politifact examined Upton's claim on this and found it to be False. But at least the claim that regulations cause prices to rise and therefore is a little like a future "tax" (despite not involving taxes at all) has some rationale. So the bill title, while distorting the truth, isn't perhaps a completely implausible and blatant lie.

And one can understand that representatives might vote against something that on its face sounds like a good idea for legitimate reasons, or conversely for something that otherwise sounds like a terrible idea. Though the vote in committee on the final bill was pretty clearly against the facts of the matter, as this editorial in Nature put it:

It is hard to escape the conclusion that the US Congress has entered the intellectual wilderness, a sad state of affairs in a country that has led the world in many scientific arenas for so long. Global warming is a thorny problem, and disagreement about how to deal with it is understandable. It is not always clear how to interpret data or address legitimate questions. Nor is the scientific process, or any given scientist, perfect. But to deny that there is reason to be concerned, given the decades of work by countless scientists, is irresponsible.

Worse than the title and distorted spin from the committee chair are the actual words uttered by some of our duly elected representatives during that hearing. This is not just an intellectual wilderness, this is a moral wilderness where completely provably false statements are just accepted, treated as legitimate points of view, where nobody needs to apologize for being wrong, ever.

Brad Johnson (@climatebrad on twitter) "tweeted" an account of the hearing that details some of the jaw-dropping comments from the Republican side, from which I'll quote below. The context here is that the full energy and commerce committee was voting on a series of proposed amendments to a bill sponsored by Fred Upton(R-MI), the chairman, to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of the power to regulate greenhouse gases based on climate change concerns. The Supreme Court decided in 2007 that EPA did have this power under the Clean Air Act - and in fact

discussion of climate change is part of the congressional record in the original version of the law and its updates

but of course Congress does have power to change laws. If there are legitimate reasons for modifying the Clean Air Act, to change the rules by which the EPA determines whether something is a pollutant or not, that's certainly reasonable for Congress to make those changes. But much of the argument in the committee room that day was not on that subject at all, but claiming that the EPA was wrong to find greenhouse gases a pollutant. That's right, a bunch of politicians with essentially no scientific background asserting that this scientific report from the EPA was wrong.

Before we get to the bad ones though, there were a few comments from the Republican side that were actually reasonable (and a few from the Democratic side that were perhaps hyperbolic, though I can understand it in reaction to the bad stuff below). Here are the few somewhat reasonable and logically relevant comments from Representative Bilbray of California and Representative Bass of New Hampshire (times noted are those of Johnson's "tweets"):

Tue Mar 15 11:26:53 2011
Bilbray: "The amendment implies we're avoiding doing something about climate change."
Tue Mar 15 11:27:24 2011
Bilbray: "Let's not sell the American people an environmental placebo!"
Tue Mar 15 11:22:34 2011
Bilbray: "I'd ask we all get a grip on reality. The word "science" has been invoked here."
Tue Mar 15 11:23:28 2011
Bilbray: "17% reduction in a decade does not cure the problem being addressed here."
Tue Mar 15 11:23:58 2011
Bilbray: "My challenge to you is show me a scientific assessment that the EPA solution will address the problem"
Tue Mar 15 11:24:27 2011
Bilbray: "I am frustrated with those who deny the problem. But I'm more frustrated with those who deny EPA won't address the problem"
Tue Mar 15 11:24:56 2011
Bilbray: "Which scientist will say EPA action will avoid all the problems we're talking about?"
Tue Mar 15 11:25:42 2011
Bilbray: "We don't want to admit it's so big what's being proposed by the govt won't reduce the problem at all!"
Tue Mar 15 11:26:24 2011
Bilbray: "A lot of scientists say it's not close enough to reducing the problem."

Bilbray's point here was that the EPA's proposed course of action wouldn't do much to lower the pollution problem that the EPA found from greenhouse warming. He's basically right. But that's the same argument anybody makes in a situation where much needs to be done by many different people. Nobody wants to take the first step, and even after many others have taken steps (as they have in the case of greenhouse gases) each subsequent step can seem just as hard as the first. In fact the EPA action would have a significant impact on future US emissions, which still are a large fraction of the world's, so this step is a pretty big one in the scheme of things. Just because it doesn't solve the whole problem, does that mean it's not worth doing? Well, that's an economic argument, about which you could do legitimate cost/benefit analysis. Which is precisely what the EPA is supposed to do when they enforce any regulation! So, if that's all it boils down to, it's already in the rules.

Bilbray repeated his claim in later discussion:

Tue Mar 15 13:58:15 2011
Bilbray: "There is no scientific evidence to show that the EPA's stated strategies will address climate change"

Tue Mar 15 13:59:11 2011
Bilbray: "Last year's proposal was long on taxes and short on caps."

Tue Mar 15 14:00:20 2011
Bilbray: "Both sides have ignored science on this coming and going. There is no moral high ground on this issue."

Tue Mar 15 14:01:18 2011
Inslee to Bilbray: "Have you or any other Republican ever introduced a bill that would solve that problem?"

Tue Mar 15 14:02:14 2011
Bilbray: "Political agendas and hidden agendas seem to take precedence over science."

Reasonable comments. But as Johnson suggested, Bilbray ought to "look it the mirror" on the political and hidden agenda business.

Another amendment considered later in the hearing was one from Democrat Jim Matheson of Utah, which basically stated that the Congress recognizes climate change is happening and we'll need to do something about it. But as with St. Augustine's famous prayer, "sed noli modo" (not yet). Bass, a Republican from New Hampshire, echoed that sentiment amidst his otherwise reasonable comments - the whole discussion is interesting:

Tue Mar 15 13:45:22 2011
Charlie Bass (R-NH) introduces perfecting amdt to Matheson (D-UT) amdt "to further clarify the policy"

Tue Mar 15 13:48:34 2011
Bass secondary amendment agreed to by voice vote. Now Matheson discussing his amendment

Tue Mar 15 13:49:43 2011
Matheson: "I think that climate change is happening, this amdt makes the point things are changing."

Tue Mar 15 13:50:21 2011
Bass: "I believe that climate change is real. It's a problem that needs to be addressed. We need practical balanced solutions."

Tue Mar 15 13:51:49 2011
Bass: "I believe we can work to re-authorize the Clean Air Act to continue to address this issue at some future point"

Tue Mar 15 13:55:13 2011
Waxman: "This sense of Congress I would equate to a noodle."

Tue Mar 15 13:56:30 2011
Waxman on Matheson amendment: "Better lame than nothing, I suppose."

Tue Mar 15 14:03:04 2011
Matheson "noodle" amendment adopted by voice vote.

But that was about it for reasonableness. All other amendments proposed by the Democratic side, including recognition that humans are causing warming, that warming is really happening, that warming will indeed lead to certain forms of pollution causing harm, went down to defeat. Here's the remaining sequence of what to any reasonable person ought to be shame, in chronological order:

Tue Mar 15 10:25:23 2011:
Upton(R-MI) calls the hearing to order. ...

Tue Mar 15 10:27:37 2011
Waxman(D-CA) introduces amendment to accept global warming is unequivocal

Tue Mar 15 10:30:08 2011
Waxman: "The Republicans' own witnesses acknowledged that global warming is occurring."
Waxman is referring to the subcommittee hearing last week where indeed all the scientific witnesses agreed that warming is happening.

Tue Mar 15 10:31:05 2011
Waxman: "Pretending problems aren't real doesn't make them go away. Most of us learned this in grade school."

An amendment to at least accept that global warming is real, as did all the scientific witnesses at the actual hearing held on the matter. Responses:

Tue Mar 15 10:31:29 2011
Barton(R-TX): "scientists have a conclusion and try to make the facts fit"

Tue Mar 15 10:31:43 2011
Barton: "the science is going the other way"

Tue Mar 15 10:31:58 2011
Barton: "there are just as many glaciers that are growing that are shrinking"

Tue Mar 15 10:32:20 2011
Barton: "we have been in a warming period for the last 11,000 years. we may in fact be going into a cooling period"

Barton seems to contradict himself at the start - unless somebody other than "scientists" are doing "the science" these days. Either way his claims require a huge conspiracy of "scientists" for which there's absolutely no evidence. His claim on glaciers is just flat wrong. His claim about the last 11,000 years seems highly confused since we've been cooling since the Holocene maximum about 8,000 years ago. The last decade was the warmest in historical records with no signs of cooling off whatsoever despite continued predictions from all sorts of skeptics that another "little ice age" or worse was imminent.

Tue Mar 15 10:32:56 2011
Barton: "the amount of CO2 is going up, about 390 ppm. That is a fact. Once you go beyond that, tree rings and ice cores..."

Tue Mar 15 10:33:31 2011
Barton: "It gets pretty murky. We should not put the US economy in a straitjacket because of a theory that hasn't be proven."

Tue Mar 15 10:34:01 2011
Barton: "At one point in time I spent a lot of time reading the IPCC reports. the strongest forcing are clouds, or cloud cover"

Tue Mar 15 10:34:31 2011
Barton: "unless they've changed the models in the last year, clouds are the most important variable. they plugged in a value"

Tue Mar 15 10:34:41 2011
Barton: "they kinda made a guess and put it in"

I'm glad Barton at least acknowledges the rise in CO2. But what does he mean the theory "hasn't been proven"? Warming from a rise in CO2 was predicted as long ago as 1896. It has warmed, at an accelerating rate as the rise has accelerated. That match to theory is generally considered pretty good proof in science (mathematical levels of proof in physical science is logically impossible, so a sustained match between predictions and observations is the best we can have).

On clouds, Barton uses the technical term "forcing", but clouds cannot be a forcing according to the IPCC definition. Clouds certainly have an effect on the local balance of radiation, but that's a matter of weather, not climate. Something has to cause a change in the average levels of cloudiness for clouds to have an impact on climate, and that something is then the issue, not clouds themselves. There have been a number of proposals along those lines - cosmic ray changes, or much more importantly the indirect effect of changes in aerosols in the atmosphere. But there is no evidence in any model or report that these indirect cloud-changing agents are the "largest" forcing. Barton is possibly referring to uncertainties in cloud *feedbacks*, which are the largest source of uncertainty in present theoretical analysis of climate. But that uncertainty cuts both ways - clouds may well have a more strongly *positive* feedback effect than expected, driving warming even more.

Or perhaps Barton has some garbled version of Roy "6 trillion degree" Spencer's arguments about clouds in mind. Whatever he was thinking of, his comments made absolutely no scientific sense. If he was trying to point out that we are not certain of the effects of the rise in CO2 (which he acknowledges!), well, one key element of leadership is making decisions in the face of uncertainty. The decision he has made here, to ignore the problem altogether, will surely come back to haunt him.

Tue Mar 15 10:35:09 2011
Barton: "We know if we adopted Markey's bill in the last Congress we'd have to reduce CO2 by 80-85%"

Tue Mar 15 10:35:22 2011
Barton: "We'd have to go to emission levels of the 1870s."

Tue Mar 15 10:35:34 2011
Barton: "You can't do it. You just can't."

Tue Mar 15 10:36:14 2011
Barton: "Global warming is 'unequivocal'? It's just flat not true!"

Two true statements, followed by throwing his hands up in the air at his own lack of vision, and then denying the problem altogether instead of making any attempt at a solution. Ostrich leadership.

Barton finished and others took on the challenge:

Tue Mar 15 10:40:19 2011
Rep Cliff Stearns (R-FL): "Waxman's amdt goes totally against what we're trying to do here today."

Tue Mar 15 10:41:10 2011
Stearns: If Congress doesn't intervene, EPA cap-and-trade style system will cause gas prices to rise

Tue Mar 15 10:41:55 2011
Stearns (R-FL) "The fundamental fact is the Waxman amdt sets a precedent for the EPA to go ahead with regulation of GHG."

Tue Mar 15 10:42:52 2011
Phil Gingrey (R-GA): I oppose this because I also oppose the fact that cutting taxes cuts revenues.

Tue Mar 15 10:48:54 2011
Tim Murphy (R-PA) cites Galileo, Einstein. "There are very few facts. There are a lot of theories."

Tue Mar 15 10:49:48 2011
Murphy: "For Congress to declare a scientific finding, it is the most unscientific thing Congress could do."

Tue Mar 15 10:50:20 2011
Murphy: "I think it is dangerous science for Congress to declare climate theory a fact."

Tue Mar 15 10:51:41 2011
Murphy: "The bill does not say that the science is being changed. It challenges the ruling of the EPA"

Tue Mar 15 10:52:07 2011
Murphy: "Let's refocus on gathering facts."

Tue Mar 15 10:51:20 2011
Murphy: "It is absolutely unscientific! It is dangerous ground!"

Tue Mar 15 10:52:32 2011
Waxman: We are repealing science findings.

Tue Mar 15 10:53:02 2011
Murphy: I would submit the EPA is not a scientific panel does not have the authority to declare a scientific fact.

Stearns' claim regarding gas prices going up is exactly what Politifact declared False. Murphy's claim that the amendment in question was a declaration of scientific fact which congress has no point doing was a good one - except for what Waxman pointed out: the purpose of the committee meeting was to pass a bill to repeal a scientific fact, to have Congress similarly make a declaration on the science (as the first quote from Stearns highlights, Waxman's amendment was essentially a reversal of the bill). Murphy's claim that EPA also does not have that authority "to declare a scientific fact" is rather at odds with what the EPA has actually done, which is to fulfil that Supreme Court mandate from 2007 to report a "finding" on the science on the issue. If anybody in our society does have the authority to make such public "findings" regarding scientific facts and enforce them, it is regulatory agencies such as the EPA. And if you actually read the EPA report you will see they have done a huge amount of due diligence in this matter, responding to every possible objection (they received thousands of comments).

Tue Mar 15 11:00:40 2011
Bill Cassidy (R-LA) on global warming: "It could just be a shift on the axis!"

Tue Mar 15 11:01:35 2011
Stearns: Remember when Time magazine had on its cover warning about an epic period of global cooling in the 1970s?

Tue Mar 15 11:02:11 2011
Stearns on accurate climate science: "Nobody can do it!" "Why did we have this global cooling we were all so scared about?"

Tue Mar 15 11:06:27 2011
20 aye, 31 nay. Waxman amendment to accept that global warming is happening (not even mentioning why) has failed.

Time magazine is not Science. And of course we knew a bit less in the 1970s than we do now. This "ice age predicted in the 1970s" business is one of the most popular myths about the science - in fact, even back then, the vast majority of climate papers at the time predicted warming, not cooling, quoting from the SkepticalScience post:

around 1970 there were 6 times as many scientists predicting a warming rather than a cooling planet. Today, with 30+years more data to analyse, we've reached a clear scientific consensus: 97% of working climate scientists agree with the view that human beings are causing global warming.

Regarding Rep. Cassidy's theory - a shift in Earth's axis would affect a lot more than the weather!

The meeting continued to consider a new amendment:

Tue Mar 15 11:07:56 2011
Diana DeGette(D-CO): amendment that humans are causing global warming. "I know this committee will want to accept it by unanimous consent"

Tue Mar 15 11:08:37 2011
DeGette: #HR910 instructs EPA not to follow science -- EPA may not promulgate rules based on climate change

Tue Mar 15 11:09:58 2011
DeGette: Scientists have understood the greenhouse effect for more than 150 years.

Tue Mar 15 11:13:09 2011
Whitfield(R-KY): This amdt is more difficult to accept because it talks about human activity as a cause of global warming

Tue Mar 15 11:13:40 2011
Whitfield: "French scientist Claude Allegre is the most outspoken skeptic of global warming."

Tue Mar 15 11:16:40 2011
Whitfield: "The Clean Air Act is not the appropriate way to regulate something like this."

I'm gratified to hear Republican representatives calling on foreigners, particularly the French, for support! However, this particular "most outspoken skeptic" is pretty far out there - from this RealClimate review:

One might expect a certain degree of rigour from an author with such a pedigree, but on the contrary, nearly every explanation, graphic, or citation in this book is misleading or just plain wrong.
The truly astonishing thing though is how hermetically sealed and impervious to fact Allègre’s whole argument is. No-one is honest, every result is fraudulent (excepting of course, Allègre’s ‘true curves’), no-one is without an agenda (except Allègre of course, and possibly Michael Crichton) and any scientist espousing the mainstream view or journalist questioning him is a Stalinist. Any contradiction of his arguments is simply proof that you are part of the conspiracy. It is this error that is the equivalent of ‘dividing by zero’ – once you have convinced yourself that only your own opinion matters, you can prove absolutely anything to your own satisfaction – but, unfortunately, to no-one else’s.

The congressional discussion continued:

Tue Mar 15 11:33:49 2011
Burgess(R-TX): Everybody understands Republicans are uncomfortable with this. What about the scientific community?

Tue Mar 15 11:34:27 2011
Burgess: Scientific American poll: over 81% think IPCC is corrupt organization with a political agenda!

Burgess: "I can't sit here and be called a science denier by the ranking member."

Climate Progress was all over that one - the "Scientific American" poll in question (apparently originally sponsored by Shell!) was an online internet poll available to anybody, and was heavily promoted on certain "skeptic" websites. The results were not exactly scientific, to say the least!

Barton(R-TX): "The ranking member called me by name. I don't think CO2 is a problem, and therefore I don't think it needs to be regulated."

Tue Mar 15 11:36:11 2011
Barton: It is a fact that the amount of CO2 is a little less than 400 ppm. It's gone up more than 100 ppm. That's a true statement.

Tue Mar 15 11:36:52 2011
Barton: If you were growing tomatoes in a greenhouse, you'd be at 1000 ppm. Nuke subs routinely at 4000 ppm.

Tue Mar 15 11:37:23 2011
Barton: Health-based standard for CO2 wouldn't be 380ppm.

Tue Mar 15 11:37:51 2011
Barton: The data sets for these models have never been released to skeptics.

Tue Mar 15 11:38:15 2011
Barton: "We're not opposed to science. We are opposed to pseudo-science."

Tue Mar 15 11:48:38 2011
DeGette amdt to acknowledge human activities causing global warming fails 21 ayes - 30 nays.

Barton is right that the direct effects of CO2 at 380 or 400 ppm are not harmful to human health. But that was not the basis of the EPA action - and also not the issue at hand in the vote on the DeGette amendment. The issue is that CO2 at those levels around the world is causing significant warming, and will get worse if we don't act to curb emissions. Skeptical science has a page on the "CO2 is not a pollutant" theme that covers the issue pretty well. And Barton's claim that "data sets" have not been released is completely false - essentially all data for recent climate publications is publicly available. There's certainly no restricted data that is the basis "for these models". Some older climate information has restrictions on it or has been lost over time - but that's hardly unusual in science, and what's publicly available is perfectly sufficient to understand the problem.

The committee went on to the next doomed amendment, for which Brad quoted only the sponsor, Jay Inslee (D-WA):

Tue Mar 15 11:51:02 2011
Inslee: We do know that the earth is in a state of impending meltdown.

Tue Mar 15 11:51:15 2011
Inslee: "Never before have so many ignored a problem so large that endanger us so much."

Tue Mar 15 11:51:43 2011
Inslee: "Make no mistake: It is a war on science."

Tue Mar 15 11:52:39 2011
Inslee: We have a slow-motion tidal wave of CO2 engulfing the earth. There is zero peer-reviewed science that says this is not a problem.

Rep. Inslee amdt accepting EPA scientific finding on climate change fails on party line vote 21-31.

After lunch break, another doomed amendment:

Tue Mar 15 13:39:51 2011
Bobby Rush (D-IL) lists a few of the national scientific organizations that acknowledge GHGs are a threat.

Tue Mar 15 13:43:22 2011
Bobby Rush amendment voted down, no roll call requested.

Wikipedia has a comprehensive list. The national science academies of 32 nations have issued joint warnings since 2001. In the US, in addition to the national academy, the AAAS, ACS, AIP, APS, AGU, GSA, AMS, AMQUA, AAWV, AIBS, and many other major scientific societies have warned of the problem. The American Medical Association and many other medical associations in the US have warned of the extreme health threats from climate change.

Countering these many scientific organizations issuing warnings on the matter, there is *not a single scientific body* of national or international standing that rejects the findings of human-induced climate change.

Unless the Republican caucus in the US Congress now counts as a scientific organization.

Tue Mar 15 14:04:57 2011
Markey(D-MA) amendment: EPA can take actions to reduce demand for oil.

Tue Mar 15 14:21:15 2011
Scalise(R-LA): "Maybe the gentleman from MA's goal is to see gas prices continue to skyrocket more!"

Tue Mar 15 14:54:06 2011
Markey oil amdt fails 16-34.

Perhaps in Louisiana they teach a different version of economics, where lower demand causes an increase in prices?

Another doomed amendment:

Tue Mar 15 14:57:52 2011
Capps(D-CA) amdt: The bill will not go into effect until CDC director declares climate change is no longer a public health threat.

Tue Mar 15 15:02:21 2011
Capps amendment killed by voice vote.

And another one specifically on the ozone/asthma issue highlighted in the EPA's endangerment finding (as temperature warms we get more ground-level ozone, driving health risks such as asthma) - Brad quoted the Endangerment TSD: "Climate change is expected to lead to increases in regional ozone pollution...thereby aggravating asthma...":

Tue Mar 15 15:53:21 2011
Inslee(D-WA): "You can get people working with oil companies to blog all you want."

Tue Mar 15 15:54:11 2011
Inslee: "There's another casualty in the war on science, and that's the truth."

Tue Mar 15 15:55:09 2011
Shimkus(R-IL): "The fact is nothing in the EPA's record to regulate GHG supports this claim" (about asthma).

Tue Mar 15 15:55:46 2011
Shimkus: "My colleague can prey on the emotions by using children. The worst threat to health is poverty."

Tue Mar 15 15:56:05 2011
Shimkus: "Let's not raise the price of carbon use."

Tue Mar 15 15:56:40 2011
Shimkus: "The real fact is the public weighed in on this debate."

Tue Mar 15 15:58:20 2011
Whitfield citing testify from pro-DDT loon Roberts now.

Tue Mar 15 15:58:40 2011
Shimkus: "Facts on this issue are on our side."

Tue Mar 15 16:05:45 2011
Burgess: "First off, there is nothing in #uptoninhofe that prevents EPA from continuing to regulate criteria pollutants."

Tue Mar 15 16:06:57 2011
Burgess's latest argument is too dumb for me to tweet.

Tue Mar 15 16:07:30 2011
Burgess: "I have asthma. I know what triggers asthma for me. It's dogs, it's cats. It's not CO2. It never will be."

Tue Mar 15 16:07:59 2011
Burgess: "I exhale CO2. It is not a trigger for asthma."

Tue Mar 15 16:08:58 2011
Bilbray: "CO2, if it's a precursor to ozone, it's such a small one..."

Tue Mar 15 16:10:21 2011
Burgess: "Two years ago it was all ice caps. Then it's ocean acidification. Now it's asthma."

Tue Mar 15 16:13:28 2011
Bilbray: "Science modeling does not always work out."

Tue Mar 15 16:14:45 2011
Inslee: "Let me address the argument that CO2 is benign because we exhale it."

Tue Mar 15 16:15:12 2011
Inslee: "That's about as good an argument as saying a tsunami isn't dangerous because we drink water."

Tue Mar 15 16:19:19 2011
Inslee asthma-ozone amendment fails by voice vote.

It's nice that Rep. Burgess has been keeping track of some of the many different threats from climate change. It's not so nice that he seems to think the ones we've known about for a long time are no longer a problem. Bilbray's point, on the other hand, is a real quantitative question. In essence, how much asthma would the EPA's new regulations prevent? That would be a good subject for a hearing - but apparently they don't actually need to hear from real scientists to make these decisions, they just know it's "such a small" thing as not needing us to worry.

And one more doomed amendment:

Tue Mar 15 16:28:56 2011
Doris Matsui (D-CA) amdt: #uptoninhofe cannot take effect until EPA admin determines climate change does not threaten economy.

Tue Mar 15 16:31:37 2011
Matsui: Chinese companies produce 50% of solar panels, 30% of wind turbines. This is simply unacceptable.

Tue Mar 15 16:34:03 2011
Shimkus: New EPA health regs "are a five-pronged attack to raise the cost of fossil fuels and hurt the economy.

Tue Mar 15 16:35:25 2011
Upton: "The whole purpose of this legislation is to give a boost to manufacturing."

Tue Mar 15 16:37:32 2011
Schakowsky(D-IL): History has proven that clean air and economic growth go hand in hand.

Tue Mar 15 16:39:14 2011
Boxer(D-CA): "This is ridiculous! We already know how many lives have been saved by the Clean Air Act."

Tue Mar 15 16:39:46 2011
Boxer: If #uptoninhofe amendment passes, "people will die."

Tue Mar 15 16:41:07 2011
Schakowsky: "To repeal the EPA's authority to address climate change is breathtakingly irresponsible."

Tue Mar 15 16:41:31 2011
Matsui amendment fails by voice vote.

Matsui, Schakowsky and Boxer are right: the Clean Air Act is good for the economy and really does save lives, and this action by the EPA on greenhouse gases is right in line with previous Clean Air Act regulations and should be expected to do the same. This Grist article reviews a recent report on the costs and benefits of the Clean Air Act. Repeatedly throughtout its history the costs of compliance have been overestimated, and the benefits underestimated. Economic growth has been enhanced, not curtailed, by EPA regulations, with economic benefits outweighing costs by between 4 to 1 and 40 to 1.

Shimkus seems to be reiterating the claim Politifact found False here. The economic claims of the Republicans on this have no basis in actual investigation of the facts of the matter - but at least economic theory is a little shakier than climate science so perhaps one can let them off a little easier on this one.

There wasn't much more after this. The final bill (HR910) was passed by the committee: 34 aye, 19 nay (3 Democrats joined the Republicans in the vote). Only the one amendment from Matheson(D-UT) was approved; it appends to the bill the following:

It is the sense of the Congress that—
(1) there is established scientific concern over warming of the climate system based upon evidence from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level;
(2) addressing climate change is an international issue, involving complex scientific and economic considerations;
(3) the United States has a role to play in resolving global climate change matters on an international basis; and
(4) Congress should fulfill that role by developing policies that do not adversely affect the American economy, energy supplies, and employment.

(Item #4 came from Bass's amendment to Matheson's amendment).

A couple of the Republicans on the committee (Bilbray and Bass) at least argued from what appeared to be premises of reason, not utterly opposed to the conclusions of the world's scientists, even though they were arguing and voting for the same delay or ignoring of the problem the bill proposed. Unfortunately 3 of the Democrats ended up voting for the bill as well, including Matheson who I suppose was pleased his "sed noli modo" amendment was in there. Were the other two persuaded by the nonsense spouted by their colleagues from the other side?

From Representative Barton's implication of conspiracy and simply factually wrong claims on glaciers, cooling and clouds, to Rep. Cassidy's interesting theory that the Earth is somehow tipping over, to Rep. Burgess relying on a heavily spiked internet poll, to the utter hypocrisy on poverty, health and jobs from just about every Republican quoted, this committee debate has to be the worst example of political blindness I have ever heard of.

The Nature Editorial I quoted at the start was well titled, "Into Ignorance". It was not so much the bill itself that was the problem as it is probably doomed with a Democratic Senate and White House (though it was introduced in the senate this week as an amendment to another bill). Rather, as Nature put it:

It is the attitude and ideas behind the bill that are troublesome, and they seem to be spreading.

There is no sign that any of the members of the US House have been taken to task in any way by the traditional media or by their constituents for their blatant disregard for truth in this and other recent instances. Is there any force that can bring about a reckoning? Is there anything that can help them regain at least some sense of decency?

Or will the shamelessness just march on, growing ever bolder?


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Thanks so much for doing this

Thanks so much for doing this post. The hearing deserves to live in infamy. One follow up, which helps explain why Matheson, Ross, and Barrow supported Upton-Inhofe, is the huge pile of political contributions from Koch Industries and other carbon polluters -- over $350,000 from Koch alone at last count to the 34 politicians who voted for the bill.

There are two kinds of

There are two kinds of brazenness involved here, and I think it's helpful to distinguish between them:

1) Politicians involved in personal scandal react that way because they believe, IMHO correctly given how the media behave when it comes to such things, that keeping a stiff upper lip maximizes their chance of political survival. Sometimes they have to do a public mea culpa, but immediately afterwards it's time to put things behind them. It's hard to maintain a narrative with utter silence on one end.

2) Republicans understand very well that they are a political minority, and so the only way to get what they want is to stay unified and attack on all fronts. Of course this strategy requires that the Democrats be unable or unwilling to fight fire with fire, preferring instead to compromise. It's remarkable how this approach has moved the Overton Window on a number of fronts, again with the help of a compliant media. It's worked so well that Republicans have felt emboldened to move into the out-and-out denial of reality.