In the wake of their victory in the midterm elections, congressional Republicans have rededicated themselves to fighting the science of climate change and the Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to regulate greenhouse gases. But one GOPer who's on his way out, per an intriguing theory put forward by National Journal's Jason Plautz, may be trying to leaving behind his own, small climate denial legacy.
Representative Steve Stockman, a Texas Republican who didn't seek reelection, last week introduced H.R. 5718, otherwise known as the "Stockman Effect Act," in order to "study the effect of the Earth's magnetic field on the weather." Strangely, however, Plautz could find no Stockman Effect in the scientific literature -- at least, none that pertained to Earth's magnetic field. Stockman's office refused to say where the name for this so-called theory came from, but it seems pretty obvious that the congressman himself (who is not a scientist) first invented it and then named it after himself.
It is true that Earth's magnetic field is weakening, as H.R. 5718 claims, but scientists say that any link to our recent spate rapid warming is "very tenuous" at best. Stockman's bill would require the director of the National Science Foundation to investigate the phenomenon's potential to influence the weather anyway. But Plautz points out that it would also serve a much more immediate purpose: getting Congress on the record as conceding that a "decrease in magnetic fields could impact global temperatures," an admission akin to challenging the scientific consensus that global warming is being primarily caused by the human emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
That'd be a pretty big win for Stockman, whose other claim to climate denial infamy -- his insistence, during an infuriatingly obtuse House hearing on climate change, that climate models fail to take so-called "global wobbling" into account -- was treated to a thorough takedown in the New York Times written by the very scientist whose words Stockman misrepresented. And knowing what we do of the lengths House Republicans will go to in order to make the EPA's job harder, it doesn't seem that far-fetched to assume this is but the latest creative attempt to do just that.