Quantcast

'Science Under Siege' From Trump Admin: New Report Warns We Have Reached 'Crisis Point'

Politics
A March for Science demonstration in Miami, Florida on April 22, 2017. Jeffrey Greenberg / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

The Trump administration's attacks on science have reached a "crisis point," according to policy experts and ex-government officials who published a report on Thursday that "highlights how our government research and data are being increasingly manipulated for political gain."


Proposals for Reform Volume II is the second report from the National Task Force on Rule of Law and Democracy, a nonpartisan group housed at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School. The first Proposals for Reform report, which features recommendations to strengthen the rule of law and ethical conduct in government, came out last year.

The new report details the dangers of President Donald Trump's war on science and calls for various congressional actions to combat "the growing politicization of government science and research and the breakdown of processes for filling key government positions."

"Let's face it, without credible science the fundamental responsibilities of our government are threatened," Thomas Burke, who was a senior official in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) office of research and development during the Obama administration, told The Guardian. "I fear the public has lost faith in our agencies, and our best and brightest are being discouraged and blocked from federal service."

"As a former federal scientist and veteran of the appointment process I often ask, 'Why would anyone want to serve at the highest levels of our science-based agencies in this time of science denial?'" Burke said. "We have to protect our scientists and the integrity of their work."

Concerns about politically motivated interference in government science take on added weight given the current state of the earth. Atmospheric and ocean temperatures are climbing because of human activities like burning fossil fuels that spew planet-heating emissions. Last year, a landmark U.N. analysis warned that the international community has about 12 years to limit climate catastrophe, underscoring the need for "rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented" reforms on a global scale.

The task force's report points out that "federally funded climate science has led to government action to improve air and water quality, prevent property damage due to severe weather, protect wildlife, and reduce the spread of diseases that have become more prevalent because of climate change."

However, the report says, now climate science is "under siege" from political appointees of the Trump administration at multiple agencies, including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the departments of State, Defense, Energy, Commerce, and Health and Human Services — with serious consequences for the United States and the world.

"Without access to objective government-sponsored climate research," the report warns, "healthcare professionals and urban planners lack the tools necessary to prevent and respond to diverse issues such as asthma, mosquito-borne illnesses, and flooding. Insurers and property owners cannot make informed decisions about where and how to invest in durable construction. The absence of climate policy based on federal science creates chaos for manufacturers that have committed to reducing carbon emissions."

The report includes 11 key proposals for federal lawmakers split into two sections.

To ensure that government research and data is unbiased and accessible, Congress should:

  • pass legislation that establishes scientific integrity standards for the executive branch and requires agencies to create policies that guarantee those standards.
  • pass legislation requiring agencies that perform scientific research to articulate clear standards for, and report on, how political officials interact with career researchers.
  • pass legislation to define and prohibit politically motivated manipulation and suppression of government research and data in the executive branch. It should also prohibit discrimination and retaliation against government researchers on the basis of their scientific conclusions.
  • pass legislation to ensure the proper functioning of science advisory committees.
  • enact legislation requiring proactive disclosure of government research and data.
  • enact legislation requiring disclosure of the nonpolitical expert regulatory analysis that underlies agency rulemaking.

To overhaul the appointments process for senior roles in the administration, Congress should:

  • fix the Federal Vacancies Reform Act to prevent presidents from cutting the Senate out of the appointments process.
  • take concrete steps to streamline the nomination and confirmation process.
  • amend the federal anti-nepotism law to make clear that it applies to presidential appointments in the White House.
  • adopt additional statutory qualifications for certain senior executive branch positions.
  • reform the White House security clearance process.

"The Trump presidency has highlighted pressure points in American democracy where rules and norms are not strong enough to stop abuses of power," former U.S. attorney and current task force co-chair Preet Bharara said in a statement. "It's long past due for Congress to take action to reinforce these rules and prevent these abuses going forward."

The task force's other co-chair, Christine Todd Whitman, is the former Republican governor of New Jersey. She also served as EPA administrator under former President George W. Bush.

In the task force statement Thursday, Whitman pointed to a controversial incident in September when Trump appeared in the Oval Office with a government-generated map of Hurricane Dorian's potential path. The map was doctored with a marker to include Alabama, which generated confusion over where the storm was headed and renewed concerns about the lengths to which the president will go to serve his own interests.

"SharpieGate is just one of many examples of recent presidential administrations distorting the work of scientists," said Whitman. "When executive branch officials alter or suppress government data and research, it can jeopardize the public's safety and impede our nation's economic progress. Scientific research by the federal government has led to safer road and air travel, life-saving drugs, and so much more. We must protect its independence and integrity."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Tinnakorn Jorruang / iStock / Getty Images

By Dan Nosowitz

The budding research on cannabidiol, or CBD, attracts a great deal of interest in the agricultural field.

Read More Show Less
Oksana Khodakovskaia / iStock / Getty Images

By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

The loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) is a tree native to China that's prized for its sweet, citrus-like fruit.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released new numbers that show vaping-related lung illnesses are continuing to grow across the country, as the number of fatalities has climbed to 33 and hospitalizations have reached 1,479 cases, according to a CDC update.

Read More Show Less
During the summer, the Arctic tundra is usually a thriving habitat for mammals such as the Arctic fox. Education Images / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Reports of extreme snowfall in the Arctic might seem encouraging, given that the region is rapidly warming due to human-driven climate change. According to a new study, however, the snow could actually pose a major threat to the normal reproductive cycles of Arctic wildlife.

Read More Show Less
Vegan rice and garbanzo beans meals. Ella Olsson / Pexels

By Alina Petre, MS, RD (CA)

One common concern about vegan diets is whether they provide your body with all the vitamins and minerals it needs.

Many claim that a whole-food, plant-based diet easily meets all the daily nutrient requirements.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A fracking well looms over a residential area of Liberty, Colorado on Aug. 19. WildEarth Guardians / Flickr

A new multiyear study found that people living or working within 2,000 feet, or nearly half a mile, of a hydraulic fracturing (fracking) drill site may be at a heightened risk of exposure to benzene and other toxic chemicals, according to research released Thursday by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE)

Read More Show Less
Pope Francis flanked by representatives of the Amazon Rainforest's ethnic groups and catholic prelates march in procession during the opening of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region at The Vatican on Oct. 07 in Vatican City, Vatican. Alessandra Benedetti / Corbis News / Getty Images

By Vincent J. Miller

The Catholic Church "hears the cry" of the Amazon and its peoples. That's the message Pope Francis hopes to send at the Synod of the Amazon, a three-week meeting at the Vatican that ends Oct. 27.

Read More Show Less

The crowd appears to attack a protestor in a video shared on Twitter by ITV journalist Mahatir Pasha. VOA News / Youtube screenshot

Some London commuters had a violent reaction Thursday morning when Extinction Rebellion protestors attempted to disrupt train service during rush hour.

Read More Show Less