Published in the May 10 – 23, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life
By Jerry McNerney
Science is not the only bastion of truth, but done without political interference, it is a cornerstone of truth in the modern world. During the past two to three decades, however, science has contradicted the policy goals of certain ideological groups, and a trend has emerged that dismisses science as irrelevant or false.
While President Donald Trump and his administration did not start the “war on science,” their efforts to de-legitimize the truth have taken this battle to a new level, flagrantly parading fantasy as fact. Before even entering office, the Trump transition team sent a shudder through the scientific community by requesting a list of Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy scientists who attended climate change conferences, prompting scientists to scramble to protect government data on climate change from being scrubbed from public record.
President Trump, who called climate change a hoax during his campaign, then doubled down and began his tenure by appointing a hard-core climate change denier to head the very agency meant to lead the fight against climate change. The Trump administration’s crusade against science is reminiscent of other battles in the war on science, like when big tobacco tried to raise doubts that its products are addictive and harmful.
Similarly, science was dealt a tremendous blow when the Office of Technology Assessment — an agency created by Congress to advise them on science and technical issues — was defunded by then-Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich (R-GA), making way for big oil and coal to take a page from the tobacco industry’s book, this time propagating doubts about the science of climate change.
This legacy of denial and duplicity continues through the Trump administration, as he proposes a massive reduction of the EPA’s budget, with his new budget director declaring the United States won’t be spending any more money to study climate change. This will set us back decades, making the United States the only developed country in climate denial mode.
Yet, throughout the history of our country, science and its applications have played a significant role in our economy and security. Americans have appreciated, elevated and respected science, fostering an environment where the world’s best universities and national laboratories have produced some of the most consequential scientific discoveries the world has ever seen. Moreover, our commitment to science and technological advancement is a pillar of our democracy. As science is a stalwart for truth, it gives comfort and hope to those seeking fact as their main objective. But those who deny science or undermine the importance of truth threaten our democratic way of life. While the apolitical nature of scientific work generally dissuades scientists from engaging in politics, today’s climate of deception and disbelief is preventing that from being an option.
A massive March for Science took place Earth Day, April 22, in our nation’s capital and in many cities across the country including San Francisco where I joined thousands of concerned citizens in a march down Market Street to Civic Center Plaza. I encourage anyone who believes in the importance of science and the integrity of truth to participate however possible, and to follow up with increasing awareness and involvement in the political process. Our country and our democracy need you.
Rep. Jerry McNerney represents the 9th District of California. He serves on the House Science, Space & Technology Committee and the Energy & Commerce Committee. He is a former engineer and the only member of Congress with a Ph.D. in mathematics. This column ran originally in The Hill, a newspaper based in Washington, D.C.
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