Trump's War on Science

​​​​​By Pat Parenteau, Senior Counsel and Professor, Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic

As a candidate, Donald Trump famously dismissed climate change as a “hoax” invented by the Chinese to gain a competitive advantage in the global marketplace. As President, Trump put Scott Pruitt, who disputes the scientific consensus that carbon dioxide is the primary driver of climate change, in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency.

In his first budget,​ Trump proposed to eliminate many climate change programs outright, and cut others sharply. The EPA, which focuses on significant climate science, would see its budget cut by 31%, reducing it to levels not seen since the 1980s. Four NASA climate-related projects would be terminated entirely. Grants supporting climate adaptation programs in coastal areas would be zeroed out. When asked about these cuts, Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, told​ Congress​​ "we're not spending money on that anymore. We consider that to be a waste of your money to go out and do that." Fortunately the response from many of the key members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, has been to dismiss Trump’s budget as “dead on arrival.”

Pat Parenteau discusses the issues with Trump's climate change policies

Trump has had more success stifling science through administrative moves. Climate information has been removed from many agency websites, including EPA and the Department of Energy. Concerned about the loss of important information, scientists, scholars, environmental organizations, and others have launched “data rescue” projects to collect and store this information. The City of Chicago downloaded all of the information deleted from EPA’s website and posted it on the City’s webpage.

Late last week, the president and Administrator Pruitt quietly fired half of the 18-member Board of Scientific Counselors, a panel that evaluates research done by EPA scientists, to ​help government regul​ators create the rules that protect clean air, water, and soil, among many other things. Trump also supports a bill in Congress that would replace independent scientists on EPA’s Science Advisory Board with industry representatives.

The science community as a whole is pushing back. On Earth Day, thousands of scientists, engineers, researchers, and their supporters staged a “March for Science” in cities all around the world. Another group called “500 Women Scientists” formed with the mission to promote a diverse and inclusive scientific community that brings progressive science-based solutions to local and global challenges.

Though it is unfortunate that citizens must take to the streets and social media to oppose the misguided policies and anti-science actions of the Trump administration, it is heartening to see the strong response coming from a broad cross section of professionals and academics. In the end the truth, rather than “alternative facts,” will prevail.

Vermont Law School does not endorse or oppose any particular view or position on this matter. This blog should not be construed as the school’s endorsement of, or opposition to, any particular view on this subject.

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SENIOR COUNSEL, PROFESSOR OF LAW — ENVIRONMENTAL AND NATURAL RESOURCES LAW CLINIC

VLS Professor and Senior Counsel, Pat Parenteau