Daines’ irresponsible votes on climate science

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Within the GOP, willful ignorance and denial of climate change and its cause is a litmus test for candidates. Steve Daines has made considerable efforts as a member of the House to pass it at all costs. 

This includes voting for two amendments: One prohibits our Defense Department from considering four expert scientific assessments of climate change in its national security planning, and the second prohibits any federal regulatory agency from taking into account the “social cost of carbon” in an environmental review or decision-making process. 

Daines’ attempts to justify his vote for the first amendment by claiming the four banned assessments are “anti-carbon.” In other words, they are inconvenient to his ideological belief that man-caused carbon emissions don’t contribute to climate change and hence don’t present any threats to our natural security. His vote is reprehensible because the amendment would censor material considered essential by one branch of our government to meet its mission simply because the banned assessments contains findings that happen to be inconvenient to Daines’ ideological beliefs. He presumes it’s appropriate to force the Defense Department to ignore the consensus of climate and military experts who have concluded that human-caused climate change is already threatening national security and military infrastructure at home and abroad and could lead to instability in foreign countries that suffer food and water shortages caused by climate change. 

Censorship for ideological reasons occurs in totalitarian countries, but it should never be tolerated in our government because it would set a dangerous and irresponsible precedent of allowing ideological beliefs to be the determinant of information our government has access to in decision making. Further, it is science denial at its worst because it undermines the fundamental basis on which informed analysis, planning, and policy-making depend, namely empirical evidence, facts, and ideas, not ideological beliefs that have no evidential basis. 

Daines’ sheer contempt for the use of scientific evidence by our own government to inform decision making is demonstrated by the fact that one of the banned assessments is produced by our own government under a specific legal mandate from Congress itself where he now sits as a member. 

Further, that assessment is based largely on government-funded research over more than 20 years under both Republican and Democratic administrations, authored by over 300 experts, and extensively reviewed by other experts, federal agencies, the public, and an expert panel of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. But Daines is so biased against scientific evidence and knowledge that he sticks his ideological “head in the sand” and votes to require the Department of Defense to do the same, an action that is irresponsible and indefensible, further demonstrating why he is unfit to serve in Congress.

The second amendment Daines voted for would prevent federal agencies with regulatory responsibilities from considering monetary damages associated with an incremental increase in CO2 emissions. 

Here again, he reveals his ideological denial of and bias against scientific reality by making sure industries can continue to reap the benefits of freely using the atmosphere to dump their carbon waste, but regulators have to ignore any costs borne by society as a result of those emissions. By his vote, he is telling Montanans that he doesn’t believe the climate each of us live in and depend on has any value so we must ignore and accept any and all financial costs resulting from damages associated with changes in it due to human activities. 

This is but another sign that Daines is more interested in protecting the vested interests of energy companies that both emit CO2 at no cost to them and support his campaign than about tprotecting the public, which has to deal with the effects of these emissions on climate and the environment. 

For Daines, ignorance is bliss, and knowledge and truth are misery. For any candidate running for an office empowered with the responsibility of deciding on public policies that can affect everyone, willful ignorance and bias against the truth is dangerous because it is a sign they don’t care to know for purely ideological reasons. 

Daines is more concerned about passing the litmus test of denial to maintain his ideological purity and protect his self-interests. His words and action demonstrate that he has little or no regard for the impact of his self-serving policy positions on society as a whole. This is not a desired trait in anyone running for or serving in public office. History tells us this never leads to good outcomes. 

By his own words and actions, Daines has repeatedly demonstrated that he is an unfit candidate for the U.S. Senate, and Montanans should not vote for him in November.  

Jerry W. Elwood, of Kalispell, is the retired director of the Climate Change Research Division in the U.S Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

 

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