Over the last few years there has been a distinct move within leading political parties against experts. This was particularly clear in the run up to the Brexit vote, where the ‘vote leave campaign became increasingly cross with ‘experts sticking their nose in’. Having won the referendum by a narrow margin, any one who points out that the remain campaign had made valid points are attacked (not being patriotic enough etc). Bizarrely this has not been challenged effectively
However, in the USA Donald Trump has pushed this to extreme proportions. The one place that had continued to look at Trumps absurd claims in a realistic way are the comedians on the evening chat shows. The problem is that with Trump leading America, science and reason have been forced to take a back seat.
The situation had got so bad, in April 2018 600 scientists jointly called out Trump’s attacks on all sides of science. The problem is that due to Trump’s positron as president, he doesn’t have to have a coherent argument – he can simply decree a new governmental line.
Scott Pruitt as he ad of the EPA has declared that we need a red team blue team debate (a debate with two teams from opposing viewpoints) on climate change. In areas where debate has not reached a conclusion, red team blue team is useful. Climate science is not one of those – indeed science in general works asking these lines- new theories are presented in published papers, and then all scientists can read them and when they disagree submit dissenting papers. Over time a consensus is reached. Scott Pruitt’s idea is particularly stupid as after this process had gone on for the last 50 years a consensus had been reached. As I wrote in my article looking at the regularly quoted 97% consensus on climate change, looking at papers published in the last few years by serious scientists (as opposed to oil companies’ scientists who know at the start what their research must say) well above 99.9% of articles from the last couple of years agree, the climate is warming and humans are causing it.
In another article in the Guardian, the author argues that the republicans have so damaged the EPA, the only way to reverse this is by a change in government. Some of the changes brought in actually make it harder for the EPA to use science as a reason for anything. Thankfully, Trump has so irritated a large part of the voting population that it is possible he will lose House or Senate or both, however until then there are people trying to defend these attacks. Under Pruitt, the EPA has become a body to promote business rather than looking after the natural environment of the USA.
A Republican senator attacked the idea that climate change and melting ice sheets were causing sea level rises. Instead he pointed at the cliffs of Dover and similar – he claimed that the world wide sea level rises are caused by rock falls, along with silt and mud washed down rivers. This demonstrates such a lack of scientific understanding as to be highly concerning he got into the Senate.
Quite apart from anything, given the vast area covered by oceans (361 million square km), one cubic km of rock would raise one million square miles of oceans by 1mm, so to raise world oceans by 1mm you would need 361 cubic km going into the oceans – an astounding amount, especially as this is for 1mm sea level rise – 1 metre rise requires 1000 more rock. He also insisted the Antarctic ice sheet has grown recently despite all scientists agreeing the data show it has shrunk by over 1000 square km.
The UK is also currently engaged in a quiet push to get the EU to weaken climate laws. It is not surprising that this attempt is surreptitious, as it goes against all scientific evidence. The UK tried and failed to add similar legislation to the 2012 climate agreement. I have to say that I find this behaviour from Westminster embarrassing, and it worries me, that it is about to lose its brake on stupid moves that currently exists in the form of the EU.