Paging Captain Marvel: Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert asks Forest Service to alter Earth’s orbit, or the moon’s, to fight climate change

U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican, appeared to stun a Forest Service official by suggesting the agency fight climate change by altering the orbits of Earth or the moon.

The question came during a live-streamed national parks, forests and public lands subcommittee meeting of the National Resources Committee on Tuesday and was followed by social media mockery. 

“I understand from what’s been testified to, the Forest Service and the (Bureau of Land Management), you want very much to work on the issue of climate change,” Gohmert began his question to Jennifer Eberlein, the associate deputy chief for the National Forest System.

Gohmert said he understood NASA’s data shows the Earth’s and the moon’s orbits are “changing slightly.”

“And so, is there anything that the National Forest Service or BLM can do to change the course of the moon’s orbit or the Earth’s orbit around the sun? Obviously, that would have profound effects on our climate.”

What was conveniently left out under the ellipses:

Eberlein paused before responding, “I would have to follow up with you on that one, Mr. Gohmert.”

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

Gohmert’s question was widely mocked on social media, including by members of Congress.

“I know the answer to the question by Rep. Louie Gohmert,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu, a Democrat from California. “Captain Marvel. She can alter planetary orbits with her superpowers. I’m going to work on a bipartisan resolution asking for her help.”

Gohmert’s idea was shot down by theoretical astrophysicist Katie Mack. She suggested two “equally distressing possibilities” explained Gohmert’s question.

If the congressman believes the Forest Service or BLM could possibly move the orbits of Earth or the moon, “he does not understand how orbits work,” Mack tweeted.

Or, Mack suggested Gohmert was being sarcastic, suggesting fighting climate change is as impossible as changing those orbits.

There are two equally distressing possibilities for explaining this.

1) Gohmert thinks we can adjust the orbits of the Earth or Moon or tweak solar activity.

2) He’s knows that’s impossible & is being sarcastic because he thinks addressing climate change is always impossible.

Gohmert responded to the backlash on Twitter by pointing out that Tuesday’s hearing “was about the BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT & climate change.” 

USA TODAY has reached out to National Forest Service for comment. The National Forest System includes nearly 200 million acres of land managed by the Forest Service, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Gohmert has a history of making scientifically dubious claims. Last summer, Gohmert suggested he may have contracted COVID-19 because he was wearing a mask, despite health guidance encouraging mask-wearing to reduce the spread of the virus.

Contributing: Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAY

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