Scientists feel uncertain about the future
President-Elect Donald Trump’s ambiguity on global warming is causing some concern among UAF scientists.
“I think the facts of climate change speak for themselves,” John Walsh, chief scientist at the International Arctic Research Center, said. “15 of the 16 warmest years have just happened, the last two years have been the warmest on record. … As far as the presidential transition goes, I’m waiting to see what the President-Elect does.”
Over the course of the election year, Trump has made many statements skeptical of climate change, though he has recently seemed more receptive to the idea of human involvement in the trend.
“I have an open mind to it … I do have an open mind,” Trump said in New York Times interview Nov. 20, adding that he thinks “there is some connectivity” in terms of human activity causing climate change.
Trump’s attitudes may have an affect on international diplomacy as science has been an effective diplomatic tool, according to Doctorate Student Berill Blair.
“It’s not that we don’t know where the new administration might stand but how far they might take some their publicized positions on climate change,” Olivia Lee, a professor at the Arctic Research Center said. “Right after the election, it was pretty grim feeling by my colleagues and myself.”
On the same day that Trump met with the Times reporters he formally announced Myron Ebell as the head of his transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency. Ebell is the director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Ebell has been called a “climate criminal” by activist group Avaaz.
“Myron Ebell has been a political figure who has employed that type of misinformation that climate science is something you can believe in or not believe in,” Blair said. “He seems to have no issue with spreading misinformation and silencing actual climate scientists.”
Many of the scientists had strong feelings about maintaining the accuracy of scientific information that they collect.
The media hasn’t done a good job of emphasizing the amount of research that supports human-caused climate change, according to Uma Bhatt, an atmospheric science professor.
“They present the viewpoint of the skeptic as if it’s equal to the viewpoint of the expert or the body of evidence,” Bhatt said. “Make sure the facts you collect in the news make sure they’re right.”
Syun-Ichi Akasofu, a professor of physics and director emeritus, had similar concerns about a lack of accurate information available to the public.
“There’s so much misinformation, I think scientists should do more to clear it up,” Akasofu said.
Akasofu also had concerns that some weather events are wrongly attributed to climate change and greenhouse gases. He hopes that scientists will maintain a high standard of studying these weather events.
Other scientists also expressed hope.
“I think there will be continued action, things will happen at the grassroots level and will build up,” Walsh said.
Lee emphasized that scientists will keep trying to keep the public informed so that they and their representatives can make the best decisions. Although some of those scientists may not be able to do the work that they normally do.
“For faculty like myself that are purely grant funded, that is a very real concern for what the future might look like,” Lee said. “There hasn’t yet been anything that has come out that makes things catastrophic for us in the future, but we’re very much keeping informed.”
Walsh noted that though the previous administration made climate change a talking point, its budgeting never seemed to match the rhetoric.
“[Funding for Arctic research] hasn’t done all that well under the Obama administration,” Walsh said. “If you look at the funding for Arctic research it’s fairly level over the last eight years despite all the increased talk about the Arctic.”