Lamar Smith Doubles Down

Credit: International Union of Concerned Scientists

Credit: International Union of Concerned Scientists

Rep. Lamar Smith (R, Denial) isn’t content to attack NOAA for doing its job. You’ll recall Rep. Smith said,

An example of how this administration promotes its suspect climate agenda can be seen at the National Oceanographic [sic] and Atmospheric Administration. Its employees altered historical climate data to get politically correct results in an attempt to disprove the eighteen year lack of global temperature increases.

Never mind that there’s no evidence that NOAA scientists did anything but their jobs. It doesn’t matter that there is no eighteen-year lack of global temperature increases. It’s irrelevant that the update to NOAA’s dataset had been in the works for years. NOAA provided Smith with personal explanations of how the work was done and why. All the data has been publicly available all along. And NOAA has provided Rep. Smith with the e-mails between staff (but not scientists) he demanded. Never mind Rep. Smith couldn’t care less about the facts.

The truth has nothing to do with Rep. Smith’s agenda.

Now he has broadened his anti-science, anti-law, anti-reason efforts.

There’s further proof Rep. Smith, the Chair of the House House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology,1 isn’t interested in science at all. WC refers to Rep. Smith’s defense of Exxon’s concealment of its own data from as early as the 1970s showing CO2 emissions are a grave hazard to the planet. Exxon, of course, lied to the pubic for years about the truth to protect its profits. In October, 2015, Bill McKibben wrote in The Nation that Exxon “knew everything there was to know about climate change by the mid-1980s, and then spent the next few decades systematically funding climate denial and lying about the state of the science.” No one has refuted any material element of McKibben’s essay.

Rep. Smith has written a series of letters alleging collusion between the 17(!) attorneys general and environmental groups constituting “an abuse of prosecutorial discretion.” The letters call the state AGs’ Exxon investigations as “a coordinated attempt to attack the First Amendment rights of American citizens and their ability to fund and conduct scientific research free from intimidation and threats of prosecution.”

The state AGs’ investigation involves possible securities fraud. When did securities fraud become a First Amendment issue? The state AGs’ investigation involves lies told by Exxon to the American public. When did telling lies become a First Amendment issue. The First Amendment protects against prior restraints of speech. The investigation by the state AGs involves speech long since uttered. And ExxonMobil, the world’s 8th largest corporation by revenue, is a multinational corporation and not an “American citizen.”2

ExxonMobil has been caught in a huge lie about the most important issue facing humanity and the planet. And Rep. Smith is trying to stop the investigation.

Shouldn’t Rep. Smith’s efforts be best viewed as a crime against humanity? Rushing to the defense of a company with total revenue of more than a quarter of a trillion dollars? Oh, wait. ExxonMobil is headquartered in Texas. Rep. Smith represents3 Texas.

But how does that make it alright? Let’s assume there was an axe murderer in Rep. Smith’s 21st Congressional District (now THAT’S gerrymandering), who claimed he chopped ten people to death exercising his First Amendment rights. Do you think Rep. Smith would rush to the defense of the axe murder’s “First Amendment rights”?

What ExxonMobil did – intentionally, knowingly and deliberately lying about the effects of fossil fuel emission on climate change to protect its profits – makes any hypothetical axe murderer seem like a dyspeptic clown in comparison. Thanks in large part to ExxonMobil’s disinformation campaign, we’re on our way to an epic disaster.4 And Rep. Smith wants to stop an investigation of what ExxonMobil knew and when it knew and what the multinational did in response?

WHO projects anthropogenic climate change will kill 250,000 people a year from 2030-2100. ExxonMobil was a big part, maybe the largest part, of the effort to delay the world’s response to the crisis. Rep. Smith is fighting to keep the company from being held to account. It’s beyond despicable.


  1. WC still finds it terrifying – and WC doesn’t use that word inadvisably – that this anti-science buffoon is the Chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. This should be on the short list of What’s Wrong with Government. 
  2. Except in the mind of Mitt Romney, of course. 
  3. For a given definition of “represents.” 
  4.  A range of projections suggested possible sea level rise by the end of the 21st century of between 0.56 and 2 meters, relative to sea levels at the end of the 20th century. Let’s think for just a moment about what that would do to the Texas Gulf Coast.