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

By Chris Mooney | February 17, 2011 9:10 am

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.


Comments (21)

  1. Dunc

    I love how they’ve made the good old “it’s not happening, and if it is happening it’s not our fault, and it’s a good thing anyway” line of “argument” completely explicit. That’s always an indication that you’re flailing.

  2. Matthew

    No, no. It makes sense, sort of.Â
    “Reasonable amounts of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere have no verifiable impacts on the environment”

    Since CO2 emissions HAVE been verified to cause global warming, this implies that our current CO2 production is unreasonable. 

    He also admits that global warming is good for Montana. At least the activities that contribute to global warming (e.g. coal mining) is good economically in the short term. 

    What is left unsaid, is how to balance reason and short term economic gain. If history is a guide, then politicians will choose short term economic gain over reason every time. 

  3. Joe Read is a hero (though any real legislation must top 2000 pages as a sop thrown to the paper industry). More than 120 million Americans know (plus South America, Britain, and Europe), frozen feet to ice-encrusted nostrils, that the “warmest year in recorded human history” is a clown car of crapweasel criminality. Montana sits upon more than a cubic mile of dragline-mineable high quality coal, about 3 billion tonnes.

    Do you want to pay $0.05/kWh from coal-fired power plants like in China, or do you want to pay $1.00/kWh from burning sun-dried cabbages? (pressure)(volume) = energy, 101.325 J/liter-atm. If you want to sequester CO2, $2/kwh. Running a 300W computer 8 hr/day 5 days/week would then cost you $96 dollars/month not $2.40, $1250/year not $29.

    Then… the E*L*E*C*T*R*I*C car! Oh, wait, Federal subsidies! You get your travel for free by paying for everybody’s travel, just like healthcare insurance has made unlimited healthcare available to everybody for free. Look how Federally subsidized fuel ethanol has crashed the cost of gasoline (and economy of corn production at scale crashed the price of food).

    Are you going to believe what you are told or what your own lying eyes see? Anybody who disagrees is thereby proven unfit to judge. The Enviro-Emperor is resplendent in his new clothes. Conservation means somebody else in the tenebrous future deserves to consume it; and not them, either.

  4. Bobito

    I take issues with two pieces of this post. Otherwise, taken individually, you can only disagree with the intent not the content. I was in Montana in August once and got almost a foot of snow, so “global warming is beneficial to the welfare and business climate of Montana” sounds reasonable to me.

    I take issue with these two bits:
    @Joe Read “human activity has not accelerated it”: This statement is certainly false. The only argument is to what degree human released CO2 has accelerated GW or to what degree human released CO2 has caused the current warming.

    @Chris Mooney “And there has been a catastrophic release.” I could accept “potentially catastrophic” here. I think saying that we have a catastrophe, at this point, is conjecture not fact…

  5. Willi H Bleimeister

    Think what would happen if the Law of Gravity would be repealed–no more need to diet, savings on fuel, shoes wouldn’t wear out, Wall street bankers wouldn’t die jumping out of windows (when the next crash comes–& could there be a market crash without gravity?) We’ve already essentially banned the Law of Supply & Demand. Yes, it is within the powers of our legislators to ban the Laws of Science. And they say our education system is inadequate. No French Politician would have the intelligence to ban the Laws of Science. All these guys we elect should be awarded the Nobel Prize for Alchemy.

  6. Someone should tell the Montana Climate Office that Joe has concluded they are wrong.

  7. Steve Case

    We had a legislator in these parts discuss how increasing the CO2 in the atmosphere would get him better crop yields of wheat – after all greenhouses use it. He never much thought about germination suppression.

  8. Roger

    I can’t help but wonder what Read thinks would qualify as “catastrophic.” And where would this release come from? Is God fixing to release a massive CO2 belch on us? Is there a massive can of Coke under the Earth’s mantel? Surely it can’t be clathrate deposits because those could never be released (as global warming is a myth).

  9. Gaythia

    I think that it is interesting to realize that Montana is pushing hard to get Washington (or Oregon) to provide a port so that Montana can export coal to China. China would rather use our coal now and figure out how to use their own coal later. Ours is higher quality, and we are apparently selling it at such a good price that the overseas transport still makes it a good deal. So China is going to reap much of the short term economic benefits of burning this coal. We won’t even own the port (that’s an Australian company).

    Want a job digging or loading coal? We get to be the third world nation left with a giant hole in the ground.


  10. Nullius in Verba

    “I can’t help but wonder what Read thinks would qualify as “catastrophic.””

    He could be thinking of something like the late Permian event, compared to which the present day increase in CO2 would be an invisibly tiny blip. There’s a famous graph of CO2 and temperature over geological time showing the relationship between them. Note the scale on the left.

    Although, I initially read it as making the distinction between “global warming” an actual warming of the globe versus “global warming” the belief system of theories, claims, policies, and so on involving fossil-fuel CO2 causing a global climate catastrophe. In which case the “catastrophic” CO2 release is not what Read thinks would be catastrophic, but what you do.

  11. Ozonator aka Robert Rhodes

    Joe Read can’t be serious without using 5-Watts’ gift shop temperature station, Roy ‘d-rage’ Spencer’s NASA satellite that he uses to avoid hurricanes, FSU lyin’ Ryan Maue’s environmental racism to fluff his ACE numbers by ignoring 10 months of South Indian Ocean tropical cyclones, and Bastardi’s sunspots to hid behind and wrestle young men.

  12. Mike H

    From the perspective of the planet, the last 200 years are just the tiniest flicker in time.

    Good point Mr Mooney. Ill remember that the next time a forecast of the earth’s climate is made using a relatively imperceptivity small slice of data.

  13. Jon

    Ill remember that the next time a forecast of the earth’s climate is made using a relatively imperceptivity small slice of data.

    Huh? Chris didn’t say all the *data* was from the last 200 years, let alone the fact that you can collect tons of data from the last 200 years, and still have it be a short period, relatively speaking.

  14. Matt B.

    Joe Read needs to take a calculus class so he can understand that minute amounts add up to large amounts. Dumbass.

  15. I wonder if the catastrophic release refers to the possibility that a previous mass extinction may have been caused by volcanoes. Maybe Read consulted with a denialist geologist – there are a few of them, esp. in the fossil fuel industry for obvious psychological reasons.

  16. Semper Fi

    Global warming deniers are a clear and present danger to the United States of America and should be dealt with like the terrorists they are- without trials, without Congressional overview and without appeal to the courts. They should be systematically hunted down, hooded, cuffed, flown to black op sites, and the names of their confederates elicited from them.

    People who attack the United States of America should be shown no pity and no mercy and no second chance. Global warming is real and caused by humans and a failure to take steps
    to stop it is a threat to America we will not tolerate.

    No pity for terrorists. No mercy for terrorists. No rights for terrorists. Only sudden, swift and certain justice delivered to you courtesy of the U.S. of A.

    Mess with the best, die like the rest.

    That includes you Montana.

  17. XOches

    So much natural beauty in Montana, but so much ignorance. Just like Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, etc.

  18. bosnianxcii

    I live in Montana. Global doesn’t exist but I wish it did. If the average surface temp were to raise 5 degrees, instead of winters low being -30 it would only be -25. I would welcome any increase in temperature.

    And if the sea level rises, it’s going to have to raise 1800 feet to wash it’s waves upon the kootani river before any Montanan has to roll up his jeans. Perhaps you fret over the demise of polar bears? Here in Montana we hunt, kill and skin bears. And wolves.

    Burning coal for electricity is cheap and effective and an economically obvious choice

  19. We live at the expense of economic and technological development. It doesn’t matter, if we accept global warming or not. Human’s activity has an impact on climate changes if you like it or not…

  20. SueDoeNim

    Reading the replies, I’m reminded why it needs to be renamed Global Climate Change because the ignorant masses can not grasp the concept that it isn’t just about warming. It’s about extreme weather patterns, not just about overall warming. Duh.


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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.


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