The Sciences

Montana Legislator Seeks to Repeal Physics (Unless it Benefits the State)

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyFeb 17, 2011 2:10 PM


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Via Peter Gleick, I come across this amazing story. Joe Read, a state legislator in Montana, has introduced a bill entitled ""AN ACT STATING MONTANA'S POSITION ON GLOBAL WARMING; AND PROVIDING AN IMMEDIATE EFFECTIVE DATE." Here's the text:

Section 1. Public policy concerning global warming. (1) The legislature finds that to ensure economic development in Montana and the appropriate management of Montana's natural resources it is necessary to adopt a public policy regarding global warming. (2) The legislature finds: (a) global warming is beneficial to the welfare and business climate of Montana; (b) reasonable amounts of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere have no verifiable impacts on the environment; and (c) global warming is a natural occurrence and human activity has not accelerated it. (3) (a) For the purposes of this section, "global warming" relates to an increase in the average temperature of the earth's surface. (b) It does not include a one-time, catastrophic release of carbon dioxide.

So, as far as I'm concerned, this law would essentially repeal physics, because there is simply no doubt that carbon dioxide molecules in the atmosphere have an impact, and this is due to their basic radiative properties. Gleick agrees. But drill down a bit, and the legislation becomes kind of interesting. Despite its incoherence, Read's bill does suggest at points an awareness that carbon dioxide can be involved in climate change--but then offers this weird idea that "reasonable" amounts of carbon dioxide don't matter, it's only "a one time, catastrophic release" that matters. Maybe it depends on what you mean by a "one time, catastrophic release." From the perspective of the planet, the last 200 years are just the tiniest flicker in time. And there has been a catastrophic release.

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