Since Representative Lamar Smith became chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee four years ago, the San Antonio Republican has put his position to good use, going after government-funded climate scientists and their work, with a vim not seen since the McCarthy era.
But even though Smith has made a reputation for himself as a man who does not believe in climate change, he apparently didn't let the question of whether he believes in any of the work climate scientists are doing stop him from visiting the Arctic to check out their research on the congressional dime.
Yep, that's right, the guy who has challenged climate science research findings, issued subpoenas in search of scientists' emails and repeatedly tried to gut funding for research and make it against the law to keep the workings of said research confidential, went pretty far north to do some government oversight of the federally funded research currently being conducted at the Arctic Circle.
The tour, back in May, was organized by the National Science Foundation and was billed as a congressional delegation, a bipartisan effort of the kind that has to be approved by either the Speaker of the House or a committee chairman. Smith approved this congressional delegation, composed of at least eight House members, most of them on the Science, Space and Technology Committee. The weeklong stay featured closed-door meetings between politicians and scientists in which they could discuss research currently being conducted in the Arctic.
There were also social events for the members of the delegation and their families. And, in keeping with the usual protocol for these types of tours, the congressional visit was so on the down-low that word of the trip didn't come out until recently, partly because none of the politicians tried to drum up any publicity about it. On top of that, some scientists said they were instructed not to talk about it at all, Buzzfeed reports.
Still, we know Smith and company got out and saw some of the evidence that scientists have been pointing to for years as indications of climate change, like the enormous chunks of melting ice all over that part of the world. During an aerial tour, the representatives got to see how the "sugar top" ice cap in Greenland is shrinking. They also learned over the course of their weeklong stay about the ways the insect population has changed because of warmer temperatures, according to a summary of the trip's itinerary.
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“They were pretty clear that ten years ago they didn’t have mosquitoes in the summer and now they do,” Representative Jerry McNerney, a Democrat on the committee who went along on Smith's Arctic adventure, told Buzzfeed.
It's unclear what Smith thought of all this, but if he was swayed at all by the scientists' research, that would be something.
Of course, it seems more likely Smith took the opportunity to inform the scientists — the ones who live in the Arctic Circle and have dedicated years of effort to understanding what is happening to our climate — that he believes their work is pointless at best and politically motivated and potentially fraudulent at worst.
But, who knows, maybe the shrinking ice caps and the mosquito evidence got through to him. Maybe.