U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, a Well-Known Climate Skeptic, Visited Arctic on Unannounced Trip in May, Report Says

Sean Breslin
Published: July 17, 2017

House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) holds up a copy of Time Magazine with a cover article about "near-Earth objects" during a hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building, March 19, 2013 in Washington D.C.
(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

A group of congressmen took an unannounced trip to the Arctic that has raised some eyebrows, especially because several of them are well-known climate-change skeptics.

According to a Buzzfeed News report, U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith led the week-long trip to Alaska and Greenland back in May. Smith, who represents a district in southern Texas that includes much of Austin, is the chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, and most of the approximately nine congressmen who accompanied him on the trip were also from that committee, the report added.

The tour, known as a congressional delegation, was likely unannounced because the members of Congress did not travel with security, Buzzfeed also said.

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Smith has been a vocal critic of those who believe climate change is happening and caused by humans. He has subpoenaed the emails of climate scientists, worked to cut their funding dramatically and labeled them "so-called self-professed climate scientists," according to the Austin American-Statesman.

In addition to Smith's past statements, Rep. Frank Lucas from Oklahoma has cast doubts on carbon dioxide as a pollutant, while Rep. Brian Babin of Texas was publicly supportive of President Donald Trump's decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord.

Still, reports say the bipartisan trip was both amicable and informative. Scientists who met with the congressmen at both Utqiagvik (formerly known as Barrow), Alaska, and Greenland said they were eager to learn more about the ongoing studies of climate experts in the region, and some of their meetings were lengthy.

"I was left with the feeling that they were really interested in the science," Nimesh Patel, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told Buzzfeed. He gave the representatives a tour of a telescope under construction at Thule Air Base in Greenland and said he was surprised by how interested Smith and the other congressmen were to gain more knowledge despite their past comments that didn't seem to support scientific research, or even science in general.

Greenland is a well-studied Arctic land mass because of its ice sheet, which is melting at a rapid pace. As it melts, the water that runs off will empty into the sea, raising sea levels. If the Greenland ice sheet melts completely, sea levels would rise by 20 feet, according to the New York Times.

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