Eating the Seed Corn: Science Policy Reading List for April 7, 2017

“The Pillars of Science Denial”, from

The US President still has selected no science adviser, leaving scientific information assessment and scientific findings absent from policy making in the White House. The blindness and deafness to scientists and scientific assessment has re-emboldened science denialism in the U.S., evidenced by recent events. Scientific information relating to climate, energy, and society that could guide policy or future studies is slowly disappearing from executive branch and agency websites.

Here is your science policy reading (and listening!) list for April 7, 2017.

  • Why President Trump needs to finally name a science advisor”. John Holdren. STAT. April 5, 2017. Former science adviser to President Obama, John Holdren, gives his perspective on the reasons the U.S. President needs a science adviser and raises awareness about the fact that our current president has so far selected no science adviser, nor a leader for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. It’s worth noting that while science didn’t suffer overall, per se, under Obama, he wasn’t overly friendly to most areas of basic research either. Nonetheless, Holdren makes excellent points.
  • Arctic researcher says White House is deleting her citations“. Quirks and Quarks. April 1, 2017. The Canadian Broadcasting Company’s “Quirks and Quarks” weekly science program discusses one climate researcher’s perspectives on her work disappearing from U.S. executive branch websites, including science agencies where such information should have been available. Host Bob McDonald interviews climate researcher Victoria Herrmann. You can read her op-ed in The Guardian below.
  • I am an Arctic researcher. Donald Trump is deleting my citations“. The Guardian. March 28, 2017. As mentioned above, climate researcher Victoria Herrmann discusses, in her own words, finding out some of the past work done through U.S. federal research agencies is beginning to disappear, making it hard, if not impossible, to actually cite that work any longer as established knowledge.
  • A political organization that doubts climate science is sending this book to 200,000 teachers“. Angela Fritz. March 29, 2017. Washington Post. The science is clear: humans have been pouring CO2 into the atmosphere since the beginning of the industrial revolution, CO2 traps heat and puts even more greenhouse gases (water, methane) into the air, amplifies warming, traps more heat, and changes the climate. The Heartland Institute hosted a fake conference, cleverly named the “NIPCC” to make it sound related to the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), collected a bunch of ideas for how to argue that there is no consensus on climate change, and collected them into a slick book that they are trying to use to trick teachers into doubting that scientists know about the nature and cause of current climate change. What I think is also interesting about this story is the softness of the headline; the Heartland Institute, founded in part to reject scientific criticism of tobacco and its link to cancer, does not just doubt climate science; they actively undermine the scientific process to prevent the American people and its representative government from taking policy action of any kind.
  • Climate doubters gather, call for killing EPA’s finding that carbon dioxide endangers public health“. Hannah Hess. E&E News. Published in Latest News by Science Magazine. March 24, 2017. Following on the theme of empowering science denialists, this piece explores the kind of organized action being called for by organizations that actively work against the scientific assessment of climate change and its causes. They are working to deny that carbon dioxide should be classed and assessed as a hazard to the environment.
  • Lamar Smith, unbound, lays out political strategy at climate doubters’ conference“. Jeffrey Mervis. Published in Latest News by Science Magazine. March 24, 2017. Lamar Smith, member of the House of Representative, Texas congressman, and head of the House Science committee doesn’t speak much, but he spoke a lot recently when he felt relaxed around a like-minded group of climate science denialists. He even “…acknowledged that the [science] committee is now a tool to advance his political agenda rather than a forum to examine important issues facing the U.S. research community,” asserting that “‘Next week we’re going to have a hearing on our favorite subject of climate change and also on the scientific method, which has been repeatedly ignored by the so-called self-professed climate scientists.'” Of course, the only person who doesn’t seem to understand the scientific method is Rep. Smith himself, who rides his ignorance as a proud steed ahead of the science committee of the House.
  • Trump wants to slash funds for the outside experts who make sure EPA gets the science right“. Chris Mooney. The Washington Post. April 4, 2017. The President has sent more recommendations about how to cut money away from the Environmental Protection Agency, and as part of that recommends shrinking the external panel that advises the EPA on the scientific reliability and basis of regulations and actions. This appears, from the outside, not to be a cost-cutting move but rather a way to further avoid having the scientific method, the best way humans have devised to determine reliable information about the natural world, from playing a role in policy making related to issues where science should be central.

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