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THE PRESIDENCY AND SCIENCE

The following article by Alan Northcutt was published in the Waco Tribune Herald.

The 2020 presidential campaign will explore myriad issues, but none are more vital than a candidate’s record and positions on science, including the environment, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the climate crisis. Although underrecognized, contemporary civilization is built on a foundation of science.   We will review Mr. Trump’s relationship to science, which we believe should preclude him from reelection.

Attacks on Scientists. The Trump administration has conducted an intense attack on scientists, physicians, and other academics. The Columbia Law School “Silencing Science Tracker” has documented hundreds of instances of the Trump White House interfering with the scientific process.  This interference consisted of terminating scientists, replacing scientists with industry lackeys, censorship, budget cuts, and hindering of research.  If scientific knowledge conflicted with Trump’s viewpoint, no matter how ridiculous, he attempted to obliterate the scientific reality.  His campaign has even led researchers to relocate to France or other appreciative countries.

Dangerous Environmental Deregulation.  A major goal of the Trump administration has been to dismantle environmental regulations that protect Americans and natural resources, to benefit only the obscenely rich fossil fuel industry.   An ongoing compilation of this deregulation, prepared by the Harvard and Columbia Law Schools, has found 70 completed reversals of environmental protections, and 30 in progress.  The following are representative examples:

  • Ecologists observe that we are living in the 6th mass extinction, with species vanishing from the Earth at 1000 times the normal background rate. In this setting, Trump decreased protections of the Endangered Species Act, ensuring the loss of more wondrous flora and fauna—forever.
  • The Trump administration eliminated President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, at the cost of 1,400 American lives per year, according to Trump’s own Environmental Protection Agency.
  • The ban on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) was lifted, threatening the creatures of one of the most pristine places on Earth. Experts believe a spill will happen—it is just a matter of time.
  • The requirement that sea level rise be considered in new federal infrastructure projects was eliminated. This is the definition of an irrational policy.

COVID-19 Pandemic Failure.   At this writing, the United States tops the world in COVID-19 cases and deaths, reflecting a lack of presidential leadership.  When the experts in the field, the epidemiologists and infectious disease specialists, called for social distancing and masks, Mr. Trump refused to act, tweeting, “Nothing is shut down. Life & the economy go on.”   Research from Columbia University revealed that if Trump had called for social distancing just two weeks earlier, 83% of lives or 54,000 Americans, would have been saved.   The failure to understand, respect, and heed science proved deadly.

The Climate Crisis Worsened.  Although the pandemic has been a massive challenge, it will be dwarfed by the climate crisis.  In fact, the pandemic has been called the pop quiz, and the climate crisis the final exam.  This reflects the fact that the climate crisis requires global action in all economic sectors, with a complete transition to clean energy by 2050.  We now observe a 100-degree Arctic, melting glaciers with flooding cities, flaming California and Australia, deadly superstorms, dehydrated crops, and 400,000 annual deaths. Yet Trump calls this glaring reality a “hoax” and pursues policies that make the tragedy worse, primarily by promoting fossil fuels and impeding the growth of renewables.

The Election.  A candidate who disrespects scientists and physicians, reverses life-saving environmental protections, failed the COVID-19 challenge, and deepens our climate emergency does not deserve our vote on November 3rd.  If still in doubt, one should ask the question: “Would I trust Trump with the federal response to another pandemic, to an accident at Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, or to an impending meteorite collision?”  Would Trump follow the expert recommendations on these disasters, or again claim they would “disappear like magic?”

 Alan D. Northcutt, M.D.

Waco, Tx

August 22, 2020

 Alan Northcutt (anorthc@aol.com) is a Waco physician and Director of the climate action and education group, the “Waco Friends of the Climate.”

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