Joe Barton’s Other Mistake (the List Goes On)

There are so many illogical aspects of Texas Republican Representative Joe Barton’s statements about the Biblical flood story and climate change that one could write for days without stopping and still leave something out.

“I would point out that if you’re a believer in the Bible, one would have to say the Great Flood is an example of climate change and that certainly wasn’t because mankind had overdeveloped hydrocarbon energy.”

Well, true—if one is a believer in the Bible one would have to say a lot of things, all of them inconsistent with not just science but with the common sense gained from daily human experience.

I don’t really need to comment on that aspect of Barton’s statements further, since others have already ripped it to shreds and if you’re reading this blog, then you’ve probably already made some similar conclusions. But there is one thing I’d like to point out about this ludicrous thesis, to highlight an error that needs to be immediately corrected but that will most likely continue to be omitted from the debate. Here’s the error:

One could believe in the Bible and deny climate science and think that humans are not to blame for the rapid heating of the Earth’s surface. Fine. But climate change is not the biggest threat to humans, nor is it the main problem with pipelines (and the machines and structures they support). One can deny that the Keystone XL pipeline is going to contribute to climate change, but one cannot deny that there is oil gushing into people’s yards (and groundwater, woops) in Mayflower, Arkansas, as I write this post.

Climate change is not our biggest environmental threat, chronologically speaking. We’re already rendering our planet uninhabitable through current actions and their consequences. There’s dioxin in breast milk right now. There’s mercury in fish right now. There’s a Texas-sized (coincidence?) island of plastic in the Pacific Ocean right now. You get the idea.

So I don’t even care that Barton denies the mountain of evidence that suggests we’re radically and irrevocably changing the climate in the short term (in geological time). He can think the global flood happened and that Noah somehow found room for two of each kind of beetle (there are about 400,000 species), let alone the lions. That doesn’t matter at all to my argument, which should be the argument of environmentalists: we’re poisoning our land and water now. Forget climate change (it’ll remind us of itself soon enough), there are dolphins being born without eyes today in the Gulf of Mexico.

There’s no time for discussing children’s children’s children. Yes, every action should be evaluated on its consequences to future generations of humans and nonhumans, but a debate about climate change misses the point completely. It takes as a premise that the pipeline’s danger lies somewhere in the distant future, and that the burning of fuel is the only problem. In reality it’s the entire process, from metal extraction to production of pipe in a factory to the destruction of ecosystems it takes to install the thing. Oh, and it’s also the oil that gushes out every time there’s an inevitable leak. I don’t need to be the least bit familiar with climate science (or with the Bible) to understand that such an exercise is environmentally catastrophic and morally wrong.

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