Cli­mate sci­en­tists ad­just as Trump builds team Wor­ries over bud­get cuts over­shadow re­searches

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

SAN FRAN­CISCO: Cli­mate sci­en­tists wor­ried that Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump will slash their bud­gets and side­line their re­search are en­ter­ing sur­vival mode, trim­ming the words “cli­mate change” from study pro­pos­als, em­pha­siz­ing busi­ness ap­pli­ca­tions of their work, and safe­guard­ing data that shows global warm­ing is real.

The early re­ac­tions, gath­ered by Reuters in more than a dozen in­ter­views, may fore­tell a broader shift in the US cli­mate sci­ence com­mu­nity, which had en­joyed solid po­lit­i­cal and fi­nan­cial sup­port un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama but could be iso­lated un­der a new ad­min­is­tra­tion skep­ti­cal of cli­mate change and com­mit­ted to ex­pand­ing oil drilling and coal min­ing.

“I think it is maybe re­ally nec­es­sary to re­fo­cus what you are do­ing and how you are la­bel­ing it,” said Andreas Prein, a sci­en­tist at the fed­er­ally funded Na­tional Cen­ter for At­mo­spheric Re­search, who pre­vi­ously had changed the term “cli­mate change” in a project for the oil in­dus­try and ex­pects such lin­guis­tic twists to pro­lif­er­ate. Trump has ques­tioned whether cli­mate change ex­ists and has raised the pos­si­bil­ity of with­draw­ing US sup­port for a global ac­cord to re­duce car­bon diox­ide emis­sions, which an over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of sci­en­tists be­lieve is driv­ing sea level rise, droughts and more fre­quent vi­o­lent storms.

Trump is also pre­par­ing to nom­i­nate cabi­net mem­bers with close oil in­dus­try ties, in­clud­ing Exxon Mo­bil CEO Rex Tiller­son as sec­re­tary of state and former Texas Gover­nor Rick Perry as en­ergy sec­re­tary. A mem­ber of the tran­si­tion team fur­ther raised con­cerns among sci­en­tists this month by send­ing a ques­tion­naire to the Depart­ment of En­ergy seek­ing the names of re­searchers there who worked on cli­mate change is­sues, a move Trump’s team later dis­avowed.

Fed­eral fund­ing for cli­mate change re­search, tech­nol­ogy and in­ter­na­tional as­sis­tance hit $11.6 bil­lion in 2014, from $2.4 bil­lion in 1993, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Govern­ment Ac­count­abil­ity Of­fice. While Trump has not ex­plic­itly said he would cut such fund­ing, one of his ad­vis­ers told The Guardian news­pa­per last month that cli­mate re­search at NASA would be elim­i­nated. A Trump tran­si­tion team of­fi­cial did not re­spond to re­peated re­quests for com­ment.

Prein at Na­tional Cen­ter for At­mo­spheric Re­search said he had re­placed the po­lit­i­cally charged term “cli­mate change” with “global change” in a project he sub­mit­ted for the oil in­dus­try.

He said that re­gard­less of how it is la­beled, in­ter­est in cli­mate re­search would likely en­dure given the im­por­tance of ex­treme weather fore­cast­ing to a broad ar­ray of in­dus­tries, like in­sur­ance and en­ergy. How­ever, he was con­cerned the longer-term work cru­cial to un­der­stand­ing the scope of global warm­ing could lose crit­i­cal sup­port. Cli­mate sci­en­tist Ben San­der­son, also at NCAR, told Reuters he is ap­ply­ing to re­new fund­ing for as­sess­ing un­cer­tainty in cli­mate change. “Now the pro­posal would have to be de­fen­si­ble with­out re­fer­ring to cli­mate change ex­plic­itly, so to talk about weather risks in gen­eral,” he said.

Tracey Hol­loway, an air qual­ity sci­en­tist at the Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin, said she be­lieved sim­ple word changes some­times could help sci­en­tists avoid trou­ble. Us­ing the term “weather” in­stead of “cli­mate change,” for ex­am­ple, could work for stud­ies that deal with a short-term time scale, she said.

But Eric Holthaus, a me­te­o­rol­o­gist who writes for on­line mag­a­zine Slate, has taken ef­forts to pro­tect sci­en­tists and their work a step fur­ther. He spear­head an ef­fort, with the sup­port of the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia and the Univer­sity of Toronto, to let sci­en­tists move their data onto pub­licly avail­able non-govern­ment servers. The project, called “DataRefuge,” is in­tended to elim­i­nate the chances of po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence with the data, he said.

The sig­nals from the Trump tran­si­tion team on cli­mate change have also put mem­bers of Obama’s out­go­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion on edge. Cur­rent In­te­rior Sec­re­tary Sally Jewell told sci­en­tists at a con­fer­ence in San Fran­cisco this week they must con­front cli­mate change de­niers and speak up if Trump tries to side­line them.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest later said in a press brief­ing he be­lieved the con­cerns of the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity about Trump were “le­git­i­mate.” “If the in­com­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion de­ter­mines that they want to base their pol­icy on some­thing other than sci­ence, it looks like they’re go­ing to get at least four years to try that out and we’ll have an op­por­tu­nity to see how it works,” he said.

Other sci­en­tists were deal­ing with the stress of a new ad­min­is­tra­tion us­ing hu­mor. Univer­sity of South Florida glaciol­o­gist Ja­son Gul­ley said his team had a list of joke projects for sci­ence un­der Trump. “How could we weaponize glaciers?” he asked, and what is the best real es­tate cur­rently hid­den un­der Green­land ice sheets. — Reuters

SAN FRAN­CISCO: Kurt Wech­sler holds an im­age of the earth dur­ing a rally by sci­en­tists in con­junc­tion with the Amer­i­can Geo­phys­i­cal Union’s fall meet­ing in San Fran­cisco. The rally was to call at­ten­tion to what sci­en­tists be­lieve is un­war­ranted at­tacks by the in­com­ing Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion against sci­en­tists ad­vo­cat­ing for the is­sue of cli­mate change and its im­pact. —AP

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