"The temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here"

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Jonathan Meador, "Kentucky Lawmakers Attack Climate Change Science In Discussion on Carbon Regulations", WFPL 89.3 FM:

State lawmakers' discussion Thursday of the effect of new EPA carbon emission regulations on Kentucky focused more on political attacks than hard science.  [...]

“I won’t get into the debate about climate change," said Sen. Brandon Smith, a Hazard Republican. “But I’ll simply point out that I think in academia we all agree that the temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here. Nobody will dispute that. Yet there are no coal mines on Mars. There’s no factories on Mars that I’m aware of.”

Smith  owns a coal company on Earth.

Here's the quote, with a bit more context:

I don't see you as being one of the enemies,  I know you've got a-
a very tough job to do,
but as you sit there in your chair with your data, we sit up here
in ours with our data and the constituents and stuff behind us.
I- I don't want to get into ((the)) debate about
the climate change, but I will just simply point out
that I think that in academia we all agree that the-
the- the temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here.
Uh nobody will dispute that, yet there are no coal mines on Mars, there's no
factories on Mars that- that I'm aware of.
Uh so I think what we're looking at is something much greater
uh than what we're going to do.

Other commenters have also attributed to Mr. Smith the absurdly ignorant view that temperatures on Mars are the same as temperatures on Earth.

But it makes more sense to interpret him as referencing an old claim that climate on Mars is also warming. What he meant to say, presumably, was something like "temperature trends on Mars are exactly as they are here".  That idea seems to have been thoroughly discredited several years ago, but it's not absurd on its face.

Unfortunately for Mr. Smith, what actually came out of his mouth is an even better fit for the "climate change deniers are ignorant" meme.

 



11 Comments

  1. Sili said,

    July 6, 2014 @ 9:26 am

    Even if it were true, it wouldn't have any influence on the question of whether the recent temperature trend on earth is due to humans or not.

    Venus is much, much warmer than Earth, but there are no coal mines there, either. (I think. It's hard to look through all that sulphuric acid.)

  2. quixote said,

    July 6, 2014 @ 9:26 am

    Under pressure of public speaking, you more or less have to run your mouth while your brain works on the next sentence. I know that (I've been a teacher my whole professional life) and I know it can lead to slip-ups.

    But.

    It never leads to complete nonsense if you know it to be nonsense. No matter how automatic the pilot, nobody says "The sun was scorching at 2AM" or "With all the water there, it was way too dry to plant beans."

    So, even though I'm sure you're right that he was referring to trends (which you're also right are NOT the same across planets), the fact that he could make a floater of such enormity is indicative of much hot air in his brain.

  3. tpr said,

    July 6, 2014 @ 9:32 am

    What he meant to say, presumably, was something like "temperature trends on Mars are exactly as they are here".

    That's the line he's taken in a clarification on Twitter:

    #clarify: climate shift we see on earth comparable to those occurring on other planets in our solar system #commentstakenoutofcontext

    (source)

  4. Emily Berk said,

    July 6, 2014 @ 9:49 am

    The words he spoke sound operatic to me. They should be sung, accompanied by the crashing of cymbals, each line punctuated by a trill in a minor key.

  5. Aaron said,

    July 6, 2014 @ 11:55 am

    "It never leads to complete nonsense if you know it to be nonsense. No matter how automatic the pilot, nobody says "The sun was scorching at 2AM" or "With all the water there, it was way too dry to plant beans.""

    Really? I hear perfectly intelligent people accidentally say the opposite of what they mean all the time. Of course, they usually correct themselves once they hear what they've said, but brain farts do happen and I don't think there's any evidence that they're meaningful, unless perhaps you have some to share?

  6. Michael Watts said,

    July 6, 2014 @ 12:26 pm

    @quixote:

    This error isn't indicative of much. You can get a perfectly sensible sentence with the desired meaning with a trivial change: "the temperature on Mars is [behaving / acting / doing / any of a number of verbs with very little semantic content] exactly as it is here". Leaving out a word you planned to say, as you think ahead to what you need to say next, is an easy mistake to make; it happens to me with some frequency.

  7. Peter Taylor said,

    July 6, 2014 @ 1:52 pm

    The selection of pronoun is curious too.

    I think that in academia we all agree that

    He seems to be a businessman and politician rather than an academic. Is this an unintentional slip from third into first person?

  8. Jerry Friedman said,

    July 6, 2014 @ 5:29 pm

    I like "#commentstakenoutofcontext". The context doesn't help him. What he needs is #slipsblownoutofproportion and #evenwhatimeantiswrong.

  9. Lauren said,

    July 7, 2014 @ 12:03 am

    I don't know that "climate change deniers are ignorant" is a "meme" in any sense of the word. It's more of a general fact.

  10. David Scrimshaw said,

    July 7, 2014 @ 2:28 pm

    Or was the senator referring to the meme going around last winter during the polar vortex that the temperature in various places in North America was colder than temperatures on Mars?

  11. Norm said,

    July 10, 2014 @ 11:53 am

    It's a stretch to say that adding 13 seconds to a soundbite provides "a bit more context." Adding context would be letting us know who the speaker was that he is responding to, and what that speaker had said. No doubt someone here can find that with two or three mouse clicks, but it is beyond my skill, unfortunately.

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