Earlier this month, BuzzFeed News reported that Congressman Lamar Smith of Texas—perhaps the most relentless critic of mainstream climate science on Capitol Hill, aside from Senator Jim Inhofe—went to the Arctic to meet with climate scientists. He didn’t publicize the trip on social media or his website, and scientists who met with him “were instructed not to talk about” what happened. Smith, who was joined by some of his colleagues on the House Science Committee, also cancelled an interview about the trip at the last minute.
The secrecy led some to express hope that Smith would change his tune on climate science. Alas, Smith penned a column in the Daily Signal on Monday titled “Don’t Believe the Hysteria Over Carbon Dioxide”:
The benefits of a changing climate are often ignored and under-researched. Our climate is too complex and the consequences of misguided policies too harsh to discount the positive effects of carbon enrichment.
A higher concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere would aid photosynthesis, which in turn contributes to increased plant growth. This correlates to a greater volume of food production and better quality food. Studies indicate that crops would utilize water more efficiently, requiring less water. And colder areas along the farm belt will experience longer growing seasons.
Smith is still relying on tired, well-debunked tropes. The “CO2 is plant food” argument is overly simplistic; as the website Skeptical Science notes, plants don’t live on CO2 alone—they need water. And contrary to Smith’s claims, plants absorbing more CO2 need extra water, “both to maintain their larger growth as well as to compensate for greater moisture evaporation as the heat increases.” What’s more, climate change will increase deserts and other dry lands—not great for crop production or plants that need more water. Indeed, the vast majority of studies show climate change is a threat to global food security, not the other way around.
This is to say nothing of the fact that the excess carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere, which is caused by humans, is the main reason for global warming. But such arguments won’t change Smith’s mind. Honestly, if a week-long trip to the Arctic doesn’t do it, nothing will.