Laugh Till You Cry: the Next Act in Trump’s War on Science

April 7 : This week in science attacks — and resistance

Source: John Davis

Ancient theater-goers in Athens understood it very well: Tragedy and comedy are two sides of the same coin. The annual Dionysia theater festival in Greece featured tragedies and comedies alongside one another. Today, masks featuring tragedy and comedy are always side-by-side, a visual representation of how these emotions are deeply connected.

Attacks on science show no signs of letting up, so we’re trying to find some grim comedy amongst the tragedy. The Trump administration is trying really hard to take the United States back 50 years, and some of their efforts are laughable. Like how they went so far as to change the Bureau of Land Management’s homepage from a picture of a family hiking to a giant mountain of coal.

This was the photo: Bureau of Land Management

It’s unsurprising that the White House is unleashing a full on war on science at the same time it gives free lunches to the fossil fuel industry. A new report from the Center for American Process reveals that six White House staffers hold over $12 million in stock in energy companies. Companies like Exxon Mobil.

All comedy aside, let’s be clear: the tragedy created by the Trump administration — attacks on science and climate policy — will have serious impacts on people’s health and the well-being of our communities, especially the poor and people of color. The message from the White House is crystal clear: less science and more industry.

The message from the White House is crystal clear: less science and more industry.

This week did also have rays of hope. And sometimes, resistance happens in the most unexpected places.

It is no surprise that blue states are suing Trump over energy-efficiency standards, or that progressive cities are stepping up efforts to address climate change or that Democratic icons like Senator Cory Booker and Rep. Frank Pallone are headlining rallies.

These traditional hubs of opposition are obvious by now, but who expected resistance to spark in coal country? And not just anywhere in coal country, at the Kentucky Coal Mining Museum in Benham, KY, which installed dozens of solar panels on its roof and converted its operations to solar power.

Even coal companies, the hackneyed “victims” of Trump’s energy narrative, are not exactly pleased with Trump’s actions so far. They claim his policies will not do what he says they will. Cloud Peak Energy CEO Colin Marshall sent a letter to Trump on Thursday giving a powerful testimony to the impact (or lack thereof) Trump’s executive order will have on coal. “We still need your help. Critically, I am not aware of any utilities who have announced they are changing their coal plant closure plans since your election.”

Marshall even argued for Trump to acknowledge climate change and stay in the Paris agreement. “As a coal producer,” he says, “we do not want to ignore the two-thirds of Americans who believe that climate change is happening and that CO2 emissions play a role.”

And while Republicans in the Senate successfully pushed forward Trump’s appointment of Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, we have a lot of gratitude for the Senate these days.

The House, on the other hand has introduced several bills since January seeking to dismantle the proper use of science at the EPA. Bills to prevent the treatment of CO2 as a pollutant, a measure to end federal oversight of fracking and even one that abolishes the EPA altogether have all be put forward by members of the House.

These bills could undermine the basic regulatory operations of the federal government. The HONEST act, for example, is a sneaky bill disguised as a “transparency measure” which really seeks to overburden the EPA with unnecessary regulations on scientific studies, essentially eliminating the agency’s capacity to issue regulations entirely. If not for the Senate, many of the most extreme bills attacking science and climate policy would be implemented.

The piece-de-resistance of this week, however, came from the least likely of places: Fox News. On Sunday, anchor Chris Wallace pushed back on EPA head Scott Pruitt’s erroneous claims that CO2 is not a control-knob for global warming. “Mr. Pruitt, there are all kinds of studies that contradict you,” Wallace interrupted while Pruitt tripped over his previous false claims about climate change. This forced Pruitt to concede that human-produced CO2 does have warming potential, though he still claimed we don’t know how much of the warming is caused by humans.

Still, we must give kudos to the Kentucky Coal Mining Museum, to Colin Marshall and especially to Chris Wallace. Even in the darkest of times for science and truth, it gives us hope to know we can find allies in the most unexpected of places.

Garrett Blad writes for I Heart Climate Scientists and other publications on climate change, policy and social change. You can follow him @gblad. Giggles are free.



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