House Science Committee Holds More Hearings On Aliens Than Climate Change

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

The House Science Committee, which held a hearing on “Astrobiology and the Search for Life in the Universe” on Wednesday, has held more hearings on aliens than it has climate change.

In the same amount of time, the committee has held seven hearings to discuss global warming and 15 on space exploration, the NationalJournal reported.

The Democrat-controlled Senate is also more interested in alien life. The Senate Commerce Science and Space Subcommittee had one hearing on climate change and four on space. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has held three hearings on climate change. Meanwhile, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hasn’t heard single hearing on climate since 2012.

Committee Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, has held 15 hearings on space exploration, three of which covered the search for life in space, since 2013.

Smith noted before the Wednesday hearing that interest in astrobiology has spiked in recent years. The room was reportedly packed with spectators interested in strategies used in the search for extraterrestrial life.

Space is hot right now. With the remake of Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey,” host Neil deGrasse Tyson has noted that science events he’s been a party to for decades are suddenly widely popular.

For example, this year the American Museum of Natural History held its annual Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate. This year the panel was comprised of companies and organizations from the private space travel industry. Usually attended by a dry academic audience, the event was a blowout. If the turnout gets any larger, AMNH might need to find a new location to hold the debate.

NASA’s Kepler program announced in February that it found 715 exoplanets, all from multi-planet systems, suggesting that many have the potential to have liquid water on their surface – the key ingredient for life as we know it.

Dan Werthimer of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute, or SETI, told the Wednesday hearing, “If we discover that we are alone, we'd better take really good care of life on this planet.”

But while Smith may believe in little green men, he’s less inclined to buy into global warming.

"Climate change is an issue that needs to be discussed thoughtfully and objectively," Smith wrote in a Washington Post column in 2013. "Contrary to the claims of those who want to strictly regulate carbon dioxide emissions and increase the cost of energy for all Americans, there is a great amount of uncertainty associated with climate science."

Sources: NationalJournal, The Wire