Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Scientists Take on Trump and GOP Climate Denial

The March for Science that took place in more than 425 cities on Earth Day spearheaded critical resistance to the irrationality of the Trump administration and the GOP. The goal of the march was to  advocate for "evidence-based policy-making, science education, research funding, and inclusive and accessible science."

Climate science has garnered some of the most virulent anti-science opposition. The fossil fuel industry and their Republican minions have masterminded an anti-science crusade that has undermined climate action and this invites a climate catastrophe.

Science has improved our lives yet conservatives have shown blatant contempt for research. Republicans have been at war with facts for many years and they encouraged Trump's disdain for science.  Now that they control the White House and both legislative chambers they are busy trying to implement their anti-science agenda removing environmental regulations, climate action and scientific research. This is an unprecedented nightmare.

After a series of proposed cuts to scientific research at the EPA, NOAA, and NASA there is no escaping the dark truth that it is not just climate action that is on the block. Science itself is under siege in the US. The New York Times quoted Naomi Oreskes, a professor of the history of science at Harvard University as saying, "I can’t think of a time where scientists felt the enterprise of science was being threatened in the way scientists feel now." History will record that Trump and the GOP are enemies of the Earth.

"You have a clear enemy," Denis Hayes, the principal organizer of the first Earth Day in 1970 was quoted as saying in the New York Times. "You’ve got a president who along with his vice president, his cabinet and his party leadership in both houses of Congress have a strong anti-environmental agenda. He’s basically trying to roll back everything that we’ve tried to do in the last half-century."

GOP legislation

The fossil fuel industry is pushing legislation through their minions in the GOP. One such bill would allow industry scientists to weigh-in while eliminating the relatively more impartial academic scientists from contributing to federal advisory boards.

Republicans have passed a bill in the House that seeks to restrict the kind of scientific studies and data that the EPA can use to justify new regulations. The bill, like other legislation promoted by the GOP has the following facetious title, "Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment Act," or the HONEST Act." Earlier this year the House passed a pair of bills to rein in regulations across government — the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act and the Regulatory Accountability Act. The HONEST Act is similar to the Secret Science Act, which leaders in the House Science Committee passed in previous congresses.

As reported by the Hill, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), the Science Committee’s top Democrat said:

"The secret science bills the Republicans tried to enact over the previous two congresses were insidious bills, designed from the outset to prevent EPA from using the best available science to meet its obligations under the law. Those bills were constructed to hamstring the ability of EPA to do about anything to protect the American public," Johnson said. "In reality, this bill isn’t about science. It’s about undermining public health and the environment."

For a complete summary of Republican's deregulation efforts click here.

Trump administration

Trump's campaign and the first hundred days of his presidency have been steeped in hundreds and hundreds of lies. Trump is a man who disparages unflattering media coverage and invents stories that portray him favorably. Trump is even more irrational than his party. The GOP lies about climate change because they are paid to do so by big oil. Trump lies because he genuinely cannot seem to differentiate fact from fiction. Now more than ever we need science to rescue us from the abject irrationality of this administration and Republican policy makers.

The Trump administration is hell-bent on radical deregulation, particularly as it applies to environmental protection and climate action. They also want to dismantle efforts in support of renewable energy and energy efficiency.  The argument put forth for this radical regime of deregulation is that it hurts the economy. However, this has been shown to be untrue. Some business leaders and others have stood up to Trump and refuted this as a false narrative.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Scott Pruitt was Trump's pick to leads the EPA is a well-known climate denier who has sued the agency that he now heads. Pruitt recently said that scientists don't know whether human activity is "a primary contributor" to global warming. These are the kind of lies we are dealing with.

Climate change is one of the most studied phenomena in human history and the research clearly shows that human activity -- and the burning of fossil fuels in particular -- is the primary driver of global warming.

One of the first things that Pruitt did when he took office was to overrule his own scientists and move forward with a dangerous pesticide called chlorpyrifos. In doing so he ignored the recommendation of EPA scientists whose research showed that this pesticide is a neurotoxin that is known to cause nerve damage.

Stand up for science

The March for Science called attention to the importance of scientific information in political decision-making. We must continue to amplify that message. Science is a bulwark against the kind of ignorance that permeates the policies of this administration. A government that needs to deride facts to achieve its policy agenda should be met with extreme skepticism.  At a time when people are more polarized than ever, science can serve as a common language to understand and resolve differences of opinion. Instead it is being used as a political football.

While this trend is alarming, as evidenced by the March for Science, people are standing up and demanding that science return to civil discourse.

Andrew Rosenberg at the Union of Concerned Scientists said:

"During the Bush administration, scientists were slow to speak up against political interference. But today we are fully prepared and energized as never before to push back against assaults on science. Scientists around the country are ready to defend the scientific enterprise so that science can continue to provide the foundation for public health and environmental protections."

The political reality of the US necessitates that we stand up for science regardless of our political stripes. The disregard for research-driven policy, the preponderance of fake news and Trump's propensity to lie make science more important than ever.

The March for Science may be over, but just as Earth Day is meant to be everyday, the struggle to defend science from those who would destroy it is also an ongoing effort.

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