Schmitt withdraws from NM Energy appointment

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Feb. 11 2011 11:23 AM

Schmitt withdraws from NM Energy appointment

It looks like Apollo 17 Moonwalker and climate change denier Harrison Schmitt will not be stepping in to run New Mexico’s Department of Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources. How about that?

As I wrote a few days ago, Schmitt was appointed to be the head of that department. Given that he is a well-known denier of climate change, Schmitt was an, um, interesting choice by the NM Governor. Things really hit the fan a few days ago when it became clear that in a report about the climate written by Schmitt, he used obviously wrong (at best, cherry-picked) data to say that the arctic sea ice extent in 2009 was back to where it was in 1989. In reality, arctic sea ice extent has dropped since then, and the volume of ice has dropped dramatically.

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Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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As Chris Mooney reports at The Intersection, it's hard to believe the blogs had much to do with Schmitt's name being withdrawn, but it's curious. The Washington Post reports that Schmitt refused to sign a waiver dealing with a background check by a private investigator. I must admit I'm scratching my head over that one; Schmitt was a NASA astronaut and for a term was a U.S. Senator for New Mexico, so getting hung up on red tape for a background check is weird. I don't like to speculate on such little info, but I am not convinced we're getting all scoop here.

Either way, this particular climate change denier won't be running the NM department responsible for energy, so in my book that's a good thing. However, the governor of New Mexico, Susana Martinez, already has a history of being a climate change denier herself (a quick search reveals loads of info, like, say, this), so I expect whoever she appoints won't have progressive ideas about it. We'll just have to see what the next move is.



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