Long live climate science! Hail to heroes of the Resistance!

    Scientists hold signs during a rally in conjunction with the American Geophysical Union's fall meeting Tuesday

    Scientists hold signs during a rally in conjunction with the American Geophysical Union's fall meeting Tuesday

     With Trump’s enthronement just 37 days off, we badly need a resistance movement. Happily, a few heroes are already showing us the way.

    The civil servants at the federal Department of Energy are refusing to name names.

    I know this story isn’t as compelling as the bright shiny object of Trump standing in a gilded lobby with the likes of Kanye West, but what the heck, I’ll tell it anyway:

    Last week, the Trump forces asked Energy to “provide a list” of all the employes and contractors who have worked in climate change, who have attended climate change meetings, who have sent emails about the climate change meetings, and who have circulated materials that were created “in anticipation of or as a result of those meetings.” The Trump forces also wanted a list of all the publications that Energy’s lab employes have written for, dating back three years. 

    If you smell the stench of ’50s McCarthyism in these requests, your nose is working. Given the fact that Trump believes climate change is “a hoax” (one tweet), and “bullshit” (another tweet), and given the fact that he’s packing his regime with science deniers, it’s no surprise that the Energy professionals viewed Trump’s request as a partisan witch hunt.

    Yesterday, they told Trump to buzz off.

    Ever since a paltry 46.1 percent of the voters put Trump on top, there have been few cheerworthy moments. But this is one such moment, courtesy of Energy spokesman Eben Burnham-Snyder: “We are going to respect the professional and scientific integrity and independence of our employes at our labs and across our department…We will not be providing any individual names to the transition team.” (His boldface, not mine.)

    It’s not exactly the spontaneous chorus of Le Marseillaise in “Casablanca,” but hey, it’s a start. Some people still have standards, and they’re willing to push back against the enemies of reason. Tony Reardon, president of a civil service union, said yesterday, “These are all civil servants who do their jobs. They have no wish to be caught up in political winds – they are nonpartisan employes – scientists, engineers, statisticians, economists, and financial experts. (The union) will do all it can to ensure that merit system rules are followed.”

    The fear is not that climate change professionals will be fired for political reasons; federal rules forbid that (although, natch, the Trump team has made noises about loosening the rules). No, the fear is that climate change professionals will be marginalized on the job, punished for the Trumpcrime of working, on behalf of the scientific consensus, to stem a global crisis that the Pentagon has long recognized as a dire threat to national security. The intimidation tactic is obvious: Ignore the science, or risk your career.

    As science advocate Michael Halpern says, “There is a fine line between being paranoid and being prepared, and scientists are doing their best to be prepared.” Hence, this laudable act of resistance: Climate scientists in multiple locations are feverishly working to copy government data onto independent servers, just to ensure that Trump’s apparatchiks don’t try to erase it.

    Yes, this is what’s going on. It’s like in 1940, when French museum curators spirited their priceless artwork out of Paris in advance of the German occupation.

    In recent days, there have been meetings at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Toronto, and at the American Geophysical Union’s autumn confab in San Francisco. The goal, according to researchers, is to “stand up for science” and protect the data. Andrew Dessler, a professor of atmospheric sciences gives us a succinct summation of Trumpthink: “If you can just get rid of the data, you’re in a stronger position to argue that we should do nothing about climate change.”

    It’s pathetic, in this supposedly enlightened day and age, that such steps need to be taken, that one is even forced to contemplate the possibility that the incoming political team could seek to dismantle the government’s climate data, but this is where we are. On climate change, and countless other fronts, the only option is resistance.


    By the way, if you’re looking for resistance heroes, you won’t find them in the Democratic leadership. As a senior editor at Slate and a Drexel University law professor point out today, “there’s no shortage of legal theories that could challenge” Trump’s anointment, but the Democrats, being Democrats, have been predictably supine. Contrast that with the GOP:

    If Mr. Trump had lost the Electoral College while winning the popular vote, an army of Republican lawyers would have descended on the courts and local election officials. The best of the Republican establishment would have been filing lawsuits and infusing every public statement with a clear pronouncement that Donald Trump was the real winner. And they would have started on the morning of Nov. 9, using the rhetoric of patriotism and courage…

    The Republicans (in the 2000 Florida recount battle) threw everything they could muster against the wall to see if it stuck, with no concern about potential blowback; the Democrats in 2016 are apparently too worried about being called sore losers…As Monday’s Electoral College vote approaches, Democrats should be fighting tooth and nail. Instead, we are once again left with incontrovertible proof that win or lose, Republicans behave as if they won while Democrats behave as if they lost. What this portends for the next four years is truly terrifying.

    We’ll always have “Casablanca.”


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