Editorials in the most important scientific journals and the flagship journals for specialized fields in the sciences indicate that most scientists around the world are concerned about what is happening with the Trump administration, as well as the Republican controlled congress and current or upcoming nominees to the courts (including the current SCOTUS nominee). Can scientists make Trump and friends irrelevant? No, not entirely. It is true that science is being attacked by executive orders, proposed legislation, and constitutionality of these orders and planned laws. Scientists cannot ignore that fact – we need to continue to advise the federal government using as many approaches as possible. However, policy in DC can still be made less relevant if science informs policy for states, private companies, banks, and international organizations that make things happen, such as accessibility of alternative energy or funds for sustainable projects.
Take the negative impacts of anthropogenic climate change, for which there is an incredibly strong scientific consensus. State and local governments, environmentally friendly companies, and even banks can render some federal policies irrelevant by abiding by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement. The most visible example of this is California – Jerry Brown signed unprecedented climate change legislation last September and has vowed to fight back against Trump’s unwise climate denial policies. However, it is conservative CEOs and investment bankers who are leading a quieter push to determine how to minimize financial risks that are associated with climate change. There are myriad examples, such as a task force set up by former NYC mayor, Michael Bloomberg that includes some of the world’s biggest banks; this task force focuses on using science to help calculate financial risks of climate change and to prevent those risks through sustainability policies.
When corporations and banks the IFC, UBS and HSBC require sustainability training and enforce strict policies focused on curbing climate change, there is some hope that the climate deniers and aggressive carbon huggers will have no buyers for their misinformation and their reckless pathways towards increased CO2 equivalents in the atmosphere. It is like the coal jobs promised by Trump – if there are no buyers for excess coal or nobody willing to go after new coal leases offered by republicans, their promises are effectively just more hot air.
So what to do? Thank and support state and local politicians that enact tough environmental regulations and protect public lands. Offer advice and support to powerful organizations that have substantive sustainability plans. Support local and private organizations that aggressively pursue alternative energy or that protect threatened species or ecosystems. So there is the classic “act local” advice… eat less meat, ride your bike, get some solar panels, fly less, be kind to others, teach, don’t buy crap at the big department stores, etc. But for scientists, there is another “think global, act local” action that could make a world of difference: invite sustainability directors or teams to come do research with you! And be sure to provide a very well-crafted talk about climate change, evolution, federal funding of research, vaccination, or another aspect of science that is under siege. Of course, keep calling and writing to federal senators and representatives and keep criticizing the anti-science rhetoric and actions flooding out of DC. But diversifying your methods is always a good thing for science.
References to be provided in the full version…
A team of bankers, doing climate change research