One of my mentors, Admiral David Titley, once said, “The ice doesn’t care if you’re a Democrat or a Republican, it just melts.” He pointed out that while people see climate change as a political problem, it really isn’t. Despite its uncertainties, consensus science is pretty clear. Politics and fear are more rooted in solutions and inequalities related to climate disasters. Throughout the Trump administration, there was a general feeling that science was being attacked and undermined, even if dedicated scientists moved on. Whether climate science, COVID-19 or the environment, a “fog” hung over the scientific community. However, with President Biden’s inauguration, there appears to be a new optimism. Here are three reasons why.
WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 21: Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and … [+]
The uplift (and restoration) of science within the Biden administration is one of the most immediate reasons for optimism. Geneticist Eric Lander has been named Science Advisor to the President and Director of the Science and Technology Policy Office (OSTP). This position was vacant for a year and a half at the start of the Trump administration and was eventually filled by Kelvin Droegemeier. Biden also announced that Lander would be part of his cabinet, which is unprecedented and huge in science.
Another reason for optimism is the feeling of freedom. Freedom is a basic principle and an expectation of our great country. It was also something that many of my ancestors aspired to in the era of slavery. It’s ironic and sad that I’m talking about this from a scientific point of view. In a post-inaugural White House briefing, Anthony Fauci articulated this point better than I can write. The country’s best infectious disease and COVID-19 expert told reporters, “The idea that you can stand up here and talk about what you know, what the evidence is, what the science is, and know it is – let the science speak. It’s a liberating feeling. ”
I recently shared with my wife how much I liked Dr. Fauci admires because he “took one for the collective team, us”. The prior administration was at times quite loose with coronavirus science, according to many experts, and gave questionable advice on hydroxychloroquine and household cleaning products. At times, Dr. Fauci even removed from the public eye when the virus raged in the summer of 2020. Despite these adversities, Dr. Fauci out. He seemed to see a bigger mission. I firmly believe that history will adequately capture his selflessness and patriotism.
Dr. Fauci also said during that meeting at the White House: “I can tell you, I have absolutely no pleasure in contradicting the President. So it was really something that you didn’t feel like you could actually say and there would be no impact on it. “That’s fear. I have spoken to many colleagues who are optimistic that the veil of fear, retribution and contradiction has disappeared. Others felt this fear too. In 2019, The Guardian published an insightful and troubling story about six scientists who said they were silenced or bullied by the previous administration. These scientists worked at the EPA, the National Park Service (NPS), and the Home Office.
Towards the end of the Trump administration, many experts questioned some of the later appointments with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Washington Post reported that these appointments were likely to disrupt the upcoming National Climate Assessment (NCA) report. If that was the plan, it has failed because the Biden administration is now in charge and the so-called “Climate Change Flyers” are published.
CALABASAS, CA – MARCH 11, 2014: Mark Mendelsohn, biologist with the National Park Service Eng … [+]
Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
It was so bad for scientists that “alternative” social media sites of the science agency came into being. According to CNN, the @ AltNatParkSer website came about after the administration ordered them to stop publishing for sharing photos comparing the Obama and Trump administrations crowds. The Alternative National Park Service gained thousands of followers, and over fifty alternative sites like this one sprang up. For example, the Twitter profile @AltNOAA or Alternative NOAA says: “The NOAA’s unofficial persistence team. Account not taxpayer subsidized. NOAA studies the oceans and the atmosphere to understand our planet. “
As a scientist, I feel the same effervescence that Dr. Fauci is now broadcasting even as the pandemic rages on. COVID-19 is a serious problem and nothing to celebrate. However, the refreshing optimism is not necessarily rooted in the change in political ideology. Science has thrived when both sides of the hallway are in the White House. Scientists just want to do our job and help the nation. Science is not the enemy. If you rely on a smartphone, GPS, medication, weather forecast, or air travel, you should thank science.
I remember when the film “The Day After Tomorrow” was released. I was a young scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center at the time, and one of the experts often asked to speak to the media on geoscientific topics. Initially, we were ordered not to speak to the media about the film. Andy Revkin provided the context when he wrote in the New York Times: “But the prospect of moviegoers alerted enough to blame the Bush administration for its inattention to climate change has alarmed the space agency, scientists there say . ” NASA ultimately relaxed this stance. There were no “alternate Twitter handles” at the time, but it appears that a simple email passed to Revkin by an “unnamed” senior NASA scientist did the trick.
KIVALINA, ALASKA – SEPTEMBER 11: In an aerial view from a drone, caribou hunters are seen on … [+]