Editorial: The Trump administration’s war on science is doing lasting damage

Editorial: The Trump administration’s war on science is doing lasting damage

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US scientists contradict Trump's climate claims

A haul truck with a 250-ton capacity carries coal from the Spring Creek strip mine near Decker, Mont. President Donald Trump is working to revive the industry with unfounded promises of "clean coal."

(AP Photo/Matthew Brown, File)

The Trump administration is dismantling the entire concept of science-based policy-making with the fervor of Galileo’s tribunal. Instead of the religious dogma invoked to persecute Galileo, today’s dogma is the protection of industrial and commercial interests at all costs.

The administration has punished government scientists for the heresy of putting science ahead of partisan ideology. The war on science now underway in Washington springs from an unholy alliance between President Donald Trump — a global-warming denier and vaccine skeptic — and his adopted Republican Party. Together they are unwinding environmental progress to advance industrial interests and build a dirtier, more hazardous, more ignorant world in which science is subservient to profits, ideological purity and feeding Trump’s ego.

Consider the government map amateurishly altered with a Sharpie to support Trump’s misstatement that Hurricane Dorian threatened Alabama. A president who respects facts and has a modicum of humility would have simply admitted the minor mistake and moved on. But Trump’s insistence on having his mistake validated reportedly moved Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to threaten the firing of government weather scientists who refused to lie publicly about the hurricane’s projected path.

Most other examples aren’t so comically bumbling. Trump moved quickly after inauguration to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement. The administration systematically placed scientific and environmental priorities under the control of former lobbyists previously paid to undermine those priorities.

These aren’t merely indications of an indifference to responsible science but rather overt contempt for it.

Among the administration’s anti-science lowlights, as reported in an exhaustive recent piece in The New York Times and elsewhere:

• The administration has steadily decimated scientific programs meant to provide data on environmental, economic and climate issues. It closed a key office that provided research on the economic effects of natural disasters and ended funding for 22 research centers that had addressed habitat loss and wildlife management.

• Environmental Protection Agency political appointees have overruled agency experts on topics including asbestos regulation, pesticides and smog standards, according to internal documents cited by the Times.

• After testifying to Congress about how global warming could affect America’s parks, National Park Service scientist Patrick Gonzalez received a warning letter from his superiors. “I saw it as attempted intimidation,” Gonzalez told the Times. “It’s interference with science and hinders our work.”

• Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue ordered two research agencies, employing nearly 600 people, to relocate from Washington to Kansas City. More than half quit rather than uproot their families. Then-Budget Director Mick Mulvaney publicly called the move a “wonderful way” to get rid of hard-to-fire federal workers.

• The administration canceled a $1 million study on the effects of “mountaintop removal,” an especially devastating form of coal mining. It yanked funding for health centers that studied the effects of pollution on children’s development.

EPA staffing is at its lowest level in a decade due to departures of researchers and hiring freezes. EPA is rolling back environmental standards on issues like wetlands, gas mileage and coal pollution, over the strong opposition of a panel of scientific advisers including Trump appointees.

The Trump administration, like those who persecuted Galileo four centuries ago, views objective science as a threat to its predetermined agenda. Four more years of this, and America truly will be back in the Dark Ages.

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