POSTED BY MARTIN KICH
The New York Times Editorial Board has published a lengthy editorial on the Trump administration’s persistent efforts to deny scientific consensus and to place in positions of power people who share that disdain for scientific truths that conflict with narrow corporate interests and Far-Right ideological talking points.
The editorial begins by focusing on the decision to defund a long-overdue study of the health effects of mountaintop-removal coal mining, as well as the rationale that the administration publicly offered to explain the decision:
This was not persuasive to anyone who had been paying attention. From Day 1, the White House and its lackeys in certain federal agencies have been waging what amounts to a war on science, appointing people with few scientific credentials to key positions, defunding programs that could lead to a cleaner and safer environment and a healthier population, and, most ominously, censoring scientific inquiry that could inform the public and government policy.
Even allowing for justifiable budgetary reasons, in nearly every case the principal motive seemed the same: to serve commercial interests whose profitability could be affected by health and safety rules.
After a very pointed analysis of the actual political reasons for the termination of the study, the editors state:
This is a president who has never shown much fidelity to facts, unless they are his own alternative ones. Yet if there is any unifying theme beyond that to the administration’s war on science, apart from its devotion to big industry and its reflexively antiregulatory mind-set, it is horror of the words “climate change.”
This starts with Mr. Trump, who has called global warming a hoax and pulled the United States from the Paris agreement on climate change. Among his first presidential acts, he instructed Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, to deep-six President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants, and ordered Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to roll back Obama-era rules reducing the venting from natural gas wells of methane, another powerful greenhouse gas.
The editors then contrast Trump’s public assertions of sympathy for those most terribly affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma with his insensible rejection of the climate science that explains the increased scope and frequency of these sorts of natural disasters and provides direction in mitigating their effects:
Mr. Trump has been properly sympathetic to the victims of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, but the fact that there is almost certainly a connection between a warming earth and increasingly destructive natural events seems not to have occurred to him or his fellow deniers. Mr. Pruitt and his colleagues have enthusiastically jumped to the task of rescinding regulations that might address the problem, meanwhile presiding over a no less ominous development: a governmentwide purge of people, particularly scientists, whose research and conclusions about the human contribution to climate change do not support the administration’s agenda.
Mr. Pruitt, for instance, is replacing dozens of members on the E.P.A.’s scientific advisory boards; in March, he dismissed at least five scientists from the agency’s 18-member Board of Scientific Counselors, to be replaced, according to a spokesman, with advisers “who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community.” Last month the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration dissolved its 15-member climate science advisory committee, a panel set up to help translate the findings of the National Climate Assessment into concrete guidance for businesses, governments and the public.
In June, Mr. Pruitt told a coal industry lobbying group that he was preparing to convene a “red team” of researchers to challenge the notion, broadly accepted among climate scientists, that carbon dioxide and other emissions from fossil fuels are the primary drivers of climate change.
Andrew Dessler, a professor of atmospheric science at Texas A&M University, called the red team plan a “dumb idea” that’s like “a red team-blue team exercise about whether gravity exists.” Rick Perry, the energy secretary, former Texas governor and climate skeptic, endorsed the idea as—get this—a way to “get the politicians out of the room.” Given his and Mr. Pruitt’s ideological and historical financial ties to the fossil fuel industry, it is hard to think of a more cynical use of public money.
The editors note, with multiple illustrations, how the science denial has extended to petty preoccupations with the vocabulary permissible in official documents to very significantly misplaced funding priorities, to a continuing parade of political appointees with long records of antipathy toward the agencies that they are ostensibly heading.
The editorial closes:
From the beginning, Mr. Trump, Mr. Pruitt, Mr. Zinke and Mr. Perry — to name the Big Four on environmental and energy issues — have been promising a new day to just about anyone discomfited by a half-century of bipartisan environmental law, whether it be the developers and farmers who feel threatened by efforts to enforce the Clean Water Act, oil and gas drillers seeking leases they do not need on federal land, chemical companies seeking relaxation from rules governing dangerous pesticides, automakers asked to improve fuel efficiency or utilities required to make further investments in technology to reduce ground-level pollutants.
“The future ain’t what it used to be at the E.P.A.,” Mr. Pruitt is fond of saying of his agency. These words could also apply to just about every other cabinet department and regulatory body in this administration. What his words really mean is that the future isn’t going to be nearly as promising for ordinary Americans as it should be.
The complete editorial is available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/09/opinion/sunday/trump-epa-pruitt-science.html.