The White House, Washington, D.C. [Creative Commons license by dcjohn]Enlarge Photo
Months into Donald Trump's presidency, it is clear the administration has worked diligently to downplay the role of science in setting policy on energy.
Some moves to diminish scientists' roles have been more evident than others, but a new report details what has gone on behind the scenes.
In summary, scientists have been restricted, sidelined, and limited—and many now believe a "hostile environment" to factual analysis has become the norm.
The report, produced by the Union of Concerned Scientists, was described by The Washington Post after Joel Clement, an outspoken scientist at the U.S. Department of Interior, was reassigned from the position he held before Trump took office.
Clement went from managing 25 employees as Director of Policy Analysis to a minor role in accounting.
The scientist—who clarified that "I am not an accountant"—believes the reassignment shows one way the current government works to sideline input on policy from the scientific community.
BMW M3 M Performance exhaust
BMW M3 M Performance exhaustEnlarge Photo
His reassignment came after he raised alarms over the dangers posed to Alaska Native communities by climate change. He is one of fully 50 scientists at senior levels who was reassigned.
The Union of Concerned Scientists report highlighted four points that it says have already helped to “diminish the role of science in our democracy.”
Federal advisory committees have been weakened, the use of terms such as "climate change" has been banned or restricted, “science-based safeguards” have been revoked, and a managerial culture of fear and intimidation has ensued.
The "science-based safeguards" that have been eliminated include safe drinking-water standards and initiatives to prevent workers from exposure to harmful chemicals in various industries.
The mood at the Interior Department is "morbid," according to Clement.
“It’s like walking into the morgue at that place,” he said. “Everyone is looking over their shoulders. After the mass reassignment, everyone is thinking they are next.”
Coal-fired Nanticoke Generating Station, Ontario, Canada, now being converted to 44-MW solar farm
Coal-fired Nanticoke Generating Station, Ontario, Canada, now being converted to 44-MW solar farmEnlarge Photo
Following the report and the mass reassignments, eight Democratic senators urged the department's inspector general to investigate the reassignments and the department's reasons for them.
Clement notes that he is not a part of the Union of Concerned Scientists, but his story mirrors the group's most recent findings.
Remarkably, the Department of the Interior does not appear to be the agency most hostile to science. That role may go to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Similar stories of anti-science bias have emerged from the EPA under administrator Scott Pruitt, a climate-science denier who sued that agency more than a dozen times on behalf of Oklahoma's fossil-fuel producers to prevent it enforcing emission limits when he was the state's attorney general.
Pruitt's first budget for the agency proposed to cut one-third of its funding, eliminate thousands of staff, and end its role in helping communities address the effects of air, water, and land pollution.
He removed scientists from the agency's Science Advisory Board and installed in their place representatives of the industries being regulated.
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