Lamar Smith Bum Steer

Illustration by Rami Niemi

In November, San Antonio Republican Lamar Smith announced that he would be retiring from Congress at the end of his term. A longtime climate-change skeptic, Smith is the chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, a distressingly powerful post for someone at odds with the scientific community. Just about any knowledgeable person agrees that the climate is changing, that human activity has contributed to it, and that the effects could threaten the planet.

Smith, on the other hand, isn’t so sure, and at various times he has squared off against staffers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Science Foundation. Almost no one has done more to delay addressing climate change in the U.S. than Smith. In addition, his reluctance to embrace decarbonization works against the interests of Texas, which is a global leader in natural gas, wind, and solar power. Smith’s denialism isn’t just bad for the planet, it’s bad for his constituents.

Between now and the end of his term, here are five things he could do to help repair his reputation, help Texas, and help the world.

No. 1: Do a 180! Smith should repudiate his stance on climate change. He should say that it’s real and lead the effort to address it. His fellow Texans along the Gulf Coast will thank him.

No. 2: Admit it! The “lull” in global warming earlier this century—a piece of data that climate-change deniers often cite to make their case—was based on faulty research. He should say so.

No. 3: Stay out of the way! Smith should walk back his notion that politicians should help select National Science Foundation grant recipients. Leave that to the peer-reviewed panels.

No. 4: Pony up! Texas has great universities with top-notch STEM departments; shouldn’t we do everything we can to fund them in ways that will help them become part of the
solution?

No. 5: Turn Texas loose! Support Texas-based solutions to climate change. A market that penalizes coal power incentivizes natural gas, solar, and wind power, which works in Texas’s favor.

And Bum Steer number 7 is . . .

Editor’s Note: Congressman Smith’s office sent us the following response to his being named to the Bum Steers list:

It’s hard to believe that Texas Monthly wouldn’t make a minimum effort to find out the facts about my record. Had you done so, you would have discovered that the truth is completely contrary to what was asserted.

  • STEM Education. In the last Congress, my STEM Education Act, which expanded the definition of STEM education to include computer science, was signed into law. More federal funding will go to training teachers in the STEM fields and scholarships for STEM degrees.
  • National Science Foundation. The NSF has funded questionable projects like spending $1.5 million to study pasture management in Mongolia and $1.95 million to study fishing practices at Lake Victoria in Africa. The bipartisan American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, enacted last year, included my national interest criteria for grants. This ensures transparency and accountability by requiring a national interest justification for all taxpayer-funded research projects.
  • Climate Change. More government mandates and higher taxes are not the solution to this complex problem. Instead, the federal government should invest more in basic research that will lead to technological innovations. Technology has always solved our nation’s challenges, and any negative impact of climate change can and should be addressed the same way.

With stories like yours, it’s no wonder that the liberal media is accused of disgorging fake news.