Federal Scientists Fear Trump “Witch Hunt” over Climate Change | WYPR

Federal Scientists Fear Trump “Witch Hunt” over Climate Change

Dec 13, 2016

President elect Donald Trump recently announced that his selection for the U.S. Secretary of State is the CEO of ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson.  His pick for EPA Administrator is the Oklahoma Attorney General, Scott Pruitt, a litigious foe of the EPA and lobbyist for his state’s large oil and gas industry.

Trump argues that unleashing American drilling and coal mining companies will create jobs. “Energy is under siege by the Obama Administration. Under absolute siege,” Trump said on the campaign trail. “The EPA, environmental protection agency, is killing these energy companies.”

That’s not factually accurate. A recent glut of natural gas, produced by technological innovation and hydraulic fracturing, is allowing gas to outcompete coal because gas is now much cheaper; and those same low prices are hurting the profits of oil and gas companies. 

But here's what is true: with Trump’s appointments, the takeover of the U.S. government by big business will be nearly complete. The only question remaining will be whether Trump will also succeed in taking over the truth and bending science and the public’s perceptions of reality to his will, especially on climate change, which Trump wrongly asserts is a hoax.

Bloomberg News reported last week that the Trump transition team had launched an inquiry into which Department of Energy scientists and other employees had attended meetings on climate change or worked on the issue.

U.S. Senator-elect Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat representing Maryland, said he objects to the investigation, which is also being resisted by the Obama Administration Department of Energy (in the few weeks the Obama appointees are still in power).

“This is a very alarming development, having the Trump transition team asking for the names of individual scientists who have been working on climate change issue,” said Van Hollen, currently a U.S. Representative serving the Washington DC and Baltimore suburbs and north central Maryland.  “It’s eerily reminiscent of the McCarthy era, when people were trying to hunt down phantom communists in the U.S. government.  That was the red scare. This is the green scare.”

Federal employees are worried about being fired for committing thought crimes by not agreeing with Trump on global warming.

“This was a very disturbing piece of news, because of course how could anyone fail to reach the conclusion that some kind of a witch hunt was going on?” said Jacqueline Simon, policy director for the American Federation of Government Employees. “I can’t tell you the number of calls we’ve had from federal employees, not just from the Department of Energy but throughout the government who are wondering, ‘what’s next?’

Trump appointed to his EPA transition team an attorney named David Schnare, whose organizations, including the Energy and Environment Legal Institute, have helped the energy industry and climate deniers by conducting intensive email investigations of climate scientists.

Michael Halpern, a Deputy Director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, wrote a report about efforts by Schnare's group and others to bully scientists.

“We do know that David Schnare has spent the past few years harassing climate change scientists by submitting Freedom of Information Act requests for decades of material – and otherwise calling into question their integrity – by finding information that they can take out of context to cast doubt on the research results,” Halpern said.

In an email, Schnare, denied he intended to harass anyone. He wrote, in part: “Release of communications of research faculty after completion of the research can only improve the public' confidence in the scientists and their work unless, of course, those communications reveal information that does not enhance public confidence.”

What does not enhance public confidence is an administration that appoints oil and gas executives and lobbyists to run the government, and then investigates scientists who accept the global scientific consensus and reject propaganda.

(Photo by the New York Times)