Climate scientists need to start fighting back nowby Philip Ball / November 28, 2016 / Leave a comment
Published in January 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
It’s not yet three weeks since Donald Trump won the US presidential election, but science is already under attack. This is not new in itself—recall the interference of the George W Bush administration into stem-cell research and climate change. In 2007 the US House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform concluded that “the Bush Administration has engaged in a systematic effort to manipulate climate change science and mislead policymakers and the public about the dangers of global warming.” At that time, Nasa’s chief climate scientist James Hansen told the New York Times that “In my thirty-some years of experience in government, I’ve never seen control to the degree that it’s occurring now.”
It’s a measure of how far we have come that Bush is now looking like one of the good guys in his refusal to vote for the Republican candidate. Bush’s right-wing agenda, although highly damaging to US stem-cell research (not to mention to the political stability of the Middle East), was unquestionably within the bounds of what we might accept as a valid outcome of the democratic process. Trump is not.
Like an errant child brought to the front of the class and asked to defend the posturing and jeering he has been conducting from the back, Trump seems a touch uncertain how to present his climate denial now. Previously he was happy to claim that climate change is a Chinese conspiracy to undermine US industrial competitiveness, and to tweet his contempt for the consensus of climate scientists whenever there was a cold snap. Now, when questioned by the New York Times he repeated an evasive little mantra about having an “open mind.” Who, after all, could complain about someone having an open mind?