The Weekly Carboholic: Texas Representative baffled by continental drift, CO2 toxicity


Today was the first of what will probably be many, many hearings on the Waxman-Markey climate change bill in the House of Representatives. One of the more… interesting exchanges occurred when Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) asked Energy Secretary Stephen Chu to explain where the oil in the Arctic came from. Here’s Chu’s response:

In other words, the oil was created somewhere else on the earth and then continental drift moved it up to what is now the Arctic. Yet Barton claimed on his Twitter account that he “baffled” Chu with his question. You watch the piece and tell me which one of the two men was baffled.

In case you’re not sure based on the first video, here’s another one that might help clear that up. It gets interesting at around 50 seconds:

I would have thought that a Representative from Texas would have watched the movie “Apollo 13” and known that carbon dioxide (CO2) will kill you if there’s too much of it in the air. Of course, Barton doesn’t represent Houston, so maybe he can be excused.


Medieval Warming Period likely regional in extent

New Scientist reports that the Medieval Warming Period (MWP) in Europe was a regional phenomenon caused by an unusually strong North Atlantic Oscillation and a consistent La Nina in the Pacific. If this conclusion is found to be accurate upon additional review, then it pretty much scuttles one of the more common climate disruption denier memes, namely that the MWP was warmer than now.

Put simply, if the MWP was local to the area around the North Atlantic and the rest of the world was locked into La Nina conditions, the the global temperatures were almost certainly not warmer than modern temperatures.

My apologies for the short post this time, after so long a hiatus.

9 replies »

  1. Okay, I’m writing this moron to let him know how embarrassed I am of him. Not that I really adopt Texas, but sharing a state with him, even one as large as Texas, embarrasses me.

  2. I wonder if I should point out that one method used to euthanize animals in scientific experiments is by, guess what, exposing them to high concentrations of CO2. Someone should send this bone head the AVMA guidelines. Here it is. Starts on page 7.

    Click to access euthanasia.pdf

    Of course, that’s just for animals. Humans are probably different. Yeah. That’s it.

    Actually, if it wasn’t for that first clip, I wouldn’t think it was possible that someone would be this stupid. If he’s arguing that it’s a bitch to figure out the concentration that’s actually dangerous, particularly a level that works for large populations of people, I can almost see his point. We have that argument for just about everything that’s hazardous. Like radiation. How much can you take before you get sick or die? And sometimes, what’s considered hazardous at some concentrations may turn out to be GOOD for you at a very very very small concentrations (again, like radiation).

    Wanna hear something I bet you didn’t know? To grow mammalian cells in culture, we usually have to use an incubator that actually pumps in 5% CO2 to keep the cells happy. Without it, the cells die or do weird things. So, I can almost see where he’s coming from with his confusion. But after that first clip? I’m wondering if this guy has actually set foot in a science class. He’s obviously never even turned on the Discovery Channel during Dino Week, either.

    I kept thinking he was going to say “But…but…but…the universe only began 5000 years ago! My great great great great great grand daddy use ta’ go coon’ huntin’ with his pet T-Rex!” But I don’t think he’s smart enough to even make THAT many connections.

  3. While you can find plenty of other things Barton (and his boy Inhofe) is a dunce at, this entire post is a horrible example. Chu has said some stupid things and has routinely made absurd claims during hearings/presentations which are out of his area of expertise. The source of Oil in the Arctic being due to drift is one such case. The reason why Barton was so happy was because the actual research suggests that Chu just made up his answer on the spot (he should have just sidestepped the question) and was completely wrong.

    I’ve cited some papers and articles which clear this up (including a Revkin article):


    And be VERY careful with the Trouet paper you reference as it only used 4 proxies (and manipulated them in some puzzling ways) and is currently fodder as one of the poorer papers out there by those trying to refute AGW deniers on places like climate audit (These are some technical but not too dense posts analyzing the paper):



  4. I seem to recall that I said “If this conclusion is found to be accurate upon additional review…” regarding the paper. As for your comment about the oil, I thought that most of the oil was old enough that it had probably formed elsewhere, but apparently not.

    Thanks for the correction.

  5. No. Chu got it partly wrong and partly right. Plates do move (he is right). But Alaska used to be a lot wramer (like the congressman says). Same for Antarctica. There was no sea level ice before about 5 million years ago, including at the poles, Alaska and Antarctica; plate do not move that fast. Of course, the age of the oil is much older than that, and its antiquity is more than enough for plates to move.
    I am not sure which is more embarrassing, a Congressman who is so scientifically illiterate to not know about plates, or a Secretary of Energy who does know enough paleoclimatology to say: “Right Congressman, Alaska used to be a lot warmer than it is today, but the principal oil deposits there came when Alaska’s plate was nearer the equator”. But then again, Chu is a physicts.