Fed up with climate-change naysaying, a few dozen Austinites descended on the South Austin field office of a congressman to give him a “Flat Earth” award.
U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, who has accused federal scientists of altering data to get “politically correct results” on global warming during recent hearings in Washington, was not on hand to receive the award.
The award’s citation said it honored Smith’s “tireless work rejecting well-established and obvious scientific fact in the grand tradition of flat Earth believers everywhere, and his skillful use of Congressional power to undermine uncomfortable and inconvenient scientific research.”
It was signed by the Flat Earth Foundation of Texas’ “President of Pseudoscience” and “Alchemist-in-Chief.”
A hearing chaired last week by Smith and one Tuesday convened by presidential hopeful and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, titled “Data or Dogma? Promoting Open Inquiry in the Debate over the Magnitude of Human Impact on Earth’s Climate” come as negotiators from around the globe meet in Paris to talk about what steps they are willing to take to address the problem.
On Monday, before delivering the award — a banner that looked like a certificate — the Austinites, a mix of baby boomers, 20-somethings and retirees, brought together by environmentalists with the Texas Drought Project and other organizations, rallied and play-acted by an Interstate 35 frontage road. Some, dressed up in pinstripe suits, waved dollar bills and chanted, “Drill, Baby, Drill” — they represented the oil and gas industry, which was the largest contributor to Smith’s campaign in the 2014 election cycle. Others, the scientists, wore white lab coats and murmured warnings about more drought and wildfires. In between were the parents, concerned about their kids and grandchildren — one woman, 70 year-old Joan Quenan, wore a T-shirt that said, “Never underestimate a grandma with a mathematics degree.”
Smith, who chairs the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, said at a hearing last week that a paper written by scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that disproved a supposed “hiatus” in global warming over much of the past two decades, was part of an Obama administration effort to promote its “extreme climate agenda.”
Associations of scientists have railed against the Smith hearings, suggesting they are politically motivated witch hunts that will have a chilling effect on scientific research that informs potentially controversial policy matters.
Smith’s office says it is exercising lawful and prudent oversight of the government scientists.
“I will continue supporting domestic energy production and working to stop the extreme policies that threaten to increase the cost of electricity for Americans,” he said in a statement issued by his office Monday. “I will also continue asking tough questions of this administration because the American people deserve to know the truth about its extreme agenda. Texas has led the nation in energy production, but few states would be hit as hard as Texas by this administration’s climate regulations.”
In a Dec. 1 letter to U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, Smith demanded that the government hand over, by Dec. 15, copies of all communications by NOAA officials that refer to the paper, which appeared in the journal Science.
Quenan, a retired math teacher, said Smith’s investigations are a “stupid waste of taxpayer dollars.”
One man, Terry Coyle, 68, dressed as a pirate. He explained: “Even in the 1600s we knew the Earth was round. Some today feel it’s flat. Lamar Smith is one of those people.”
Beki Halpin shouted at the office building that houses Smith’s field office, “Congressman Smith, you can’t put your head in the sand.”
“Scientific facts are not something that’s negotiable,” said Kaiba White of the government watchdog group Public Citizen.
After the rally, the group filed into the office building — “Young people to the front!” said Jere Locke, one of the organizers — and presented the award to John Horton, Smith’s community liaison and the sole person in the office.
He politely received the award and folded it up.
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