Environment

Louie Gohmert Asks Whether Man Could Change Orbits of Earth, Moon to Fight Climate Change

Does Louie Gohmert think the Forest Service can set the moon on a new orbit?
Does Louie Gohmert think the Forest Service can set the moon on a new orbit? "Caricature - Louie Gohmert" by DonkeyHotey is licensed under CC BY 2.0
While he’s not exactly known for embracing science, U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert pondered the climate change conundrum during a hearing this week. Rather than reducing waste or cutting carbon emissions, the East Texas Republican proposed another, less conventional method: Why not just move the Earth altogether?

In a clip from the hearing, Gohmert stated that a NASA director had told him the Earth's and moon’s orbits are slightly shifting. Then, the congressman asked whether a U.S. land agency could alter those orbits to fight climate change.

“Is there anything that the National Forest Service or BLM [Bureau of Land Management] can do to change the course of the moon’s orbit or the Earth’s orbit around the sun?” Gohmert said, directing his question to an expert. “Obviously, that would have profound effects on our climate.”

Well, yeah. Obviously.

After a couple of seconds, the expert chimed in.

“I would have to follow up with you on that one, Mr. Gohmert,” she said, laughing nervously.

“Yeah,” Gohmert replied. “Well, if you figure out a way that you in the Forest Service can make that change, I’d like to know."

Gohmert’s remarks attracted widespread derision after Forbes tweeted a clip of the exchange.

Walter Schaub, a senior ethics fellow at the Project on Government Oversight, responded to Forbes' tweet with a satirical Smokey the Bear poster, which read, “ONLY YOU CAN CHANGE THE MOON’S ORBIT.”

Some speculated Gohmert may have been purposefully spreading propaganda to trick his base into thinking that nothing can be done about climate change. Others stated the congressman’s remarks were made sarcastically.

And some assumed that when Gohmert asked if "BLM" could alter orbits, he was referring to the Black Lives Matter movement.

After the video clip began making the rounds on social media, writer Kurt Andersen tweeted out a quote of the exchange. Then, Gohmert accused Andersen of twisting his words.

“Exceedingly devious how you hid the context with an ellipses [sic] in your tweet,” the congressman said. “The hearing was about the BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT & climate change. BLM stands for the BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT. #FakeNews.”


Gohmert’s office did not return the Observer’s request for comment. Note, however, that he corrected the mistaken impression he was referring to the Black Lives Matter movement but didn't offer a "just kidding" about whether humanity could move the Earth. Those last three words, incidentally, compose a phrase we've never, ever connected with Gohmert.

But give the man a little credit. He's not suggesting a civil rights organization should build a fleet of spacecraft to move the planet. That would be silly. It's obviously a job for the nation's real estate management agency. Duh.

This isn’t Gohmert’s only far-out musing on outer space. In 2016, he horrified the LGBTQ community after launching into a rant about whether gay astronauts should be allowed to populate a space colony amid the apocalypse. (Answer: yes, because we're gonna need a hella-fun party to celebrate surviving the apocalypse.)

He’s also previously declared climate change a hoax, speculating that increased carbon dioxide emissions could actually be good for growing “more plants," according to Mother Jones.

Although his latest remarks seem similarly outlandish, Gohmert may actually have a point.

Some astronomers have theorized that adjusting the earth’s orbit isn't impossible in theory; it's just exceedingly difficult, according to the science and technology weekly New Scientist. To avoid getting cooked by the sun, scientists could change the "orbits of icy bodies in the distant solar system so they would pass close to the Earth, transferring some of their orbital energy to the planet.”

This was discussed as a thought experiment, not as something practical. The article noted that it would mean sending many enormous hunks of ice zipping through space near the Earth. If you want to know why this is a really bad idea, look up the Alvarez hypothesis and ask yourself when the last time was that you saw a live brontosaurus.

No, congressman, not "last Tuesday." Hush now.

Still, science has worked wonders before, so maybe Gohmert’s onto something here. Either way, with the climate change clock running out of time, we’ve got nothing to lose.
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Simone Carter, a staff news reporter at the Dallas Observer, graduated from the University of North Texas' Mayborn School of Journalism. Her favorite color is red, but she digs Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.
Contact: Simone Carter