An assault that is doomed to fail
This editorial appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
When the conservative government took power, one of its first steps was muzzling the nation’s scientists. Overnight, they had to get permission from political appointees to do media interviews. Government data archives began to disappear. Climate scientists were regarded as particularly suspect; one government expert on the fate of polar bears was trailed around a convention floor by handlers who interrupted reporters’ questions.
This was Canada under Tory Prime Minister Stephen Harper between 2006 and 2015. In its early days, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump is moving to replicate Harper’s embarrassing, and ultimately unsuccessful, experiment. In Harper’s defence, he learned the trick from former U.S. president George W. Bush.
Muzzling scientists does not work. They are too smart, and they find alternate paths to publish and archive their research. As Shakespeare said, truth will out.
Trump appointed anti-science activists to run the EPA and handle the transition at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. The EPA transition team argued the agency “does not use science to guide regulatory policy as much as it uses regulatory policy to steer the science.”
And then there’s the redoubtable Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, the chair of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. To say he’s a Trump fan is an understatement. “Better to get your news directly from the president,” Smith said in a floor speech Jan. 24. “In fact, it might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth.”
Smith’s past targets have included the National Science Foundation, NOAA’s climate research, the EPA’s Science Advisory Board, and anyone who cast doubt on ExxonMobil’s version of climate change.
This year, Smith has broader subpoena powers and a new weapon, the so-called Holman Rule. It allows Congress to single out individual government employees in appropriations bills and cut their salaries to $1.
The planet may be heating up, but those are chilling facts.