More Than A Thousand Scientists Denounce Trump’s Denigration of Science

Photo: AP

By Julia Fine, ODP Contributing Writer

1,240 National Academy of Science (NAS) members have “registered their personal concern about the Trump administration’s denigrations of science,” Inside Climate News reported this week. The open letter, first written in 2016 has amassed hundreds of signatures in just the past few weeks.  The letter reads, “The dismissal of scientific evidence in policy formulation has affected wide areas of the social, biological, environmental and physical sciences. It has been particularly egregious in climate science.” The letter ends by exhorting the government to “maintain scientific content on publicly accessible websites, to appoint qualified personnel to positions requiring scientific expertise, to cease censorship and intimidation of Government scientists, and to reverse the decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement.”

Why This Matters: In the midst of a global pandemic and horrifying examples of the effects of climate change, we need science-based policies more than ever. And yet, the Trump administration continues to disparage science, and seeking to “block billions of dollars in funding for coronavirus testing and contact tracing efforts even as cases rise across the U.S.” A Trump official even posted a cartoon attacking Dr. Anthony Fauci. The signatories hope “that by standing together behind the open letter that they can make a difference” and impact the public’s thinking on these important issues.

Links Between Climate Change and COVID-19

While climate change and coronavirus may seem like two separate issues, they are intimately linked by the administration’s disavowal of scientific policies aimed to address them. As Charles S. Manski, a Northwestern economist, noted in Inside Climate News, “All of the societal effects– the effects on schooling, the effects on the economy– are just being viewed as political matters. We’re not looking at the totality of these effects.”

These matters, as astrophysicist Ray Weynmann said as reported by Inside Climate News, “These consequences really are a matter of life and death,” both in the short-term in terms of the pandemic and the long-term in terms of climate change.” Because of this, he says, “more and more scientists are unwilling to be bystanders anymore.”

Moving Forward

These scientists unwilling to be bystanders are now demanding the government adopt science-based policies to address these critical issues. Manski believes the government must convene an “interdisciplinary group of the best applied scientists to address the coronavirus, just as past presidents did in finding solutions for the Great Depression economy and mounting the national defense with the Manhattan Project.”  This is, as climate scientist Benjamin D. Santer noted, a “teachable moment…And the hope is that the lesson learned from the past few months is that science matters. Ignore it at your peril.”

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