The first 16 months of Donald Trump’s presidency have been pretty ugly for science. The administration has kicked inconvenient research to the curb in its decision making, pulled out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, removed sound science from public websites, and muzzled federal scientists.
Scientists are sick of it, and they’re letting the Trump administration know in a new letter under the banner of Scientists for Evidence-Based Policy.
Here’s their ask:
Scientific evidence and research should be an important component of policymaking. We therefore call on the Federal 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.
Seems pretty reasonable!
More than 300 National Academy of Sciences members have signed the letter. Ben Santer, a climate scientist who helped draft the letter, told Earther he expects more members—who are among the most decorated scientists in the world—to sign on in in the coming weeks, especially with the organization’s annual meeting less than a week away.
Letters from scientists have been plentiful in the Trump years. Santer and his fellow scientists themselves wrote one in September 2016 when then-candidate Trump expressed his disdain for the Paris Agreement, arguing that to leave the agreement was folly. Since Trump took office, science has only been further sidelined in decisions by the Interior Department (see the decision to rescind Bears Ears National Monument), the Energy Department (see the weird obsession with coal), and the Environmental Protection Agency (see basically everything).
With no science advisor on the horizon, Scott Pruitt and other agency heads firmly ensconced in their positions, and a president who doesn’t understand basic weather, the anti-science stance isn’t likely to shift anytime soon. And the scientists who wrote the letter are well aware, but they felt they couldn’t just take it lying down.
“Science is not valued by the administration, and has few (if any) advocates within the administration,” Santer told Earther. “Nevertheless, I firmly believe that remaining silent is not a viable option. It is important to speak science to power. The statement is an attempt to do that.”
Santer and Ray Weymann, a retired astrophysicist and another letter author, told Earther they see the letter as part of a larger ecosystem of actions including protests, continuing to speak out, and engaging friends and other colleagues. But there’s one action they both think can make the biggest difference.
“The ultimate change must come via the ballot box,” Weymann said.