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Reader View: Promoting ignorance

May 21, 2017 GMT

Right after Donald Trump took office, climate researcher Victoria Herrmann discovered that public online archives of climate research papers were being removed by the new administration. Research reports from decades of work funded by the American people went missing. Her discovery opened the shades on efforts by the Trump administration to not only deny global warming but to thwart and suppress climate research across the U.S. government.

In the Trump administration, we see climate change denial move beyond spreading misinformation. Under Trump, political appointees are bent on silencing the scientific institutions and instruments that gather basic information on global warming used by most of the world’s policy and scientific community.

The U.S. government under Donald Trump is trying to force ignorance of climate science on the public. While Trump’s environmental policy leaders and agency heads (largely drawn from the oil industry) are actively erasing public climate information, Trump’s budget proposal for 2018 (if enacted) would begin to dismantle our nation’s ability to monitor and research weather, climate change and related field sciences directly related to public safety and human survival.

Trump promises deeper budget cuts each year the administration remains in office. Climate-focused agencies would be hit hard, For example:

• The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration laboratories in Colorado and elsewhere that study weather and climate would suffer a 17 percent budget cut in 2018.

• The satellites the U.S. uses to study weather and various effects of climate change are launched and maintained by NASA. Trump proposes a first-year 22 percent cut to the Earth satellite program and termination of two critical research satellites, the Deep Space Climate Observatory and the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3. Deep cuts for the planned next generation of climate-focused satellites could ground these programs.

• Trump proposes a 40 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Research and Development, which employs 1,700 scientists working on climate, pollution and related topics to inform government policy. The EPA’s $50 million grant program for university scientists would be eliminated, shutting off thousands of research projects and discouraging a new generation of scientists.

• Colorado’s National Center for Atmospheric Research is funded by the National Science Foundation, which receives no funding at all under the Trump 2018 budget.

• The U.S. Geologic Survey, which conducts field science for the National Park Service and other public lands agencies, would suffer a 15 percent budget cut that could end research related to Western wildfires and climate change in New Mexico and elsewhere.

• On top of these science cuts, the Trump team proposes deep cuts to renewable energy programs like the Advanced Research Projects Agency, which gives grants to research energy technology. Not only would Trump stop the government from understanding climate change knowledge, the administration would hobble efforts to solve the problem.

Donald Trump’s nostalgic fixation on coal and oil damages America’s future at a time when the U.S. is already shifting to renewables and natural gas. Trump’s apparent ignorance of science creates an opening for the oil industry to attack long-standing scientific institutions that belong to the American people and are part of the public trust.

Do the Koch brothers and the Heritage Foundation people directing this institutional bloodbath really believe their own narrative that climate change is a hoax? Is their cynicism so great that they would risk the future of the human race with their complete disregard for the precautionary principal? Do they imagine that their wealth will shield them and their offspring from the ravages of a hot world with dead oceans? One wonders.

Tom Ribe is a Santa Fe writer specializing in science and nature, and executive director of Caldera Action.