Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, suggested at a congressional hearing that climate change could be combatted by altering the orbit of the moon and asked a U.S. Forest Service official whether there was any way the agency could do it.
Gohmert made the comments Tuesday during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on four bills as he was questioning Jennifer Eberlien, an associate deputy chief of the Forest Service.
"I understand, from what's been testified to the Forest Service and the BLM, you want very much to work on the issue of climate change," Gohmert said, referring to the Bureau of Land Management.
"I was informed by the immediate past director of NASA that they've found that the moon's orbit is changing slightly and so is the Earth's orbit around the sun. We know there's been significant solar flare activity," he said. "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."
Eberlien responded, smiling, "I would have to follow up with you on that one, Mr. Gohmert."
"If you figure out there's a way in the Forest Service you could make that change, I'd like to know," Gohmert said.
Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., offered his own solution to Gohmert on Twitter on Wednesday, suggesting that Marvel Comics' character Captain Marvel could handle the job.
"She can alter planetary orbits with her superpowers. I'm going to work on a bipartisan resolution asking for her help," Lieu tweeted.
As for the "immediate past director of NASA" Gohmert referred to in his remarks, that would probably be Jim Bridenstine, a former member of Congress from Oklahoma who had been a climate change skeptic, who argued years ago that humans aren't responsible for global warming.
"Global temperature changes, when they exist, correlate with sun output and ocean cycles," he said in remarks on the House floor in 2013.
He said that position had evolved by 2017, when then-President Donald Trump nominated him to be NASA's administrator. Bridenstine told The Washington Post that after having heard from experts and reading up on the topic, "I came to the conclusion myself that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that we've put a lot of it into the atmosphere and therefore we have contributed to the global warming that we've seen."
"And we've done it in really significant ways," he said.
Bridenstine could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Gohmert, an outspoken opponent of Democrats' plans to combat climate change, has said he does not believe it is a manmade problem.
"We can't do anything substantive about the climate change right now, when the moon's orbit is apparently changing some, the Earth's orbit is changing some, according to NASA," he told Fox Business Network last month.
In a statement to NBC News, the space agency said orbits aren't to blame for the current rate of global warming.
"Past climatic changes driven by small variations in Earth’s position relative to the Sun, known as orbital or Milankovitch cycles, take place over tens of thousands of years," the agency said Thursday. "These orbital cycles are not producing the changes we observe in our satellite and surface climate records, including rapid warming and CO2 levels that are unprecedented for millions of years." It added, "scientific evidence shows that human emissions of greenhouse gases, primarily through burning fossil fuels and land use, are driving climate change now."
"Understanding that greenhouse gas emissions are overwhelmingly responsible for the observed warming allows the scientific community to inform policymakers about how decisions regarding energy sources and land management will determine the amount of future climate change," the statement said.
The agency's website says "the current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely (greater than 95 percent probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over millennia."