The fight is on. Last month, on January 23, the Union of Concerned Scientists filed a lawsuit against the EPA for limiting the involvement of certain scientists from serving on its advisory committees, specifically scientists from academia and nonpartisan non-profit organizations.
The move came after President Trump’s EPA director Scott Pruitt called for an “open, honest” talk about climate change. For the scientific community, the EPA’s effort to limit scientist involvement represents anything but “open” and “honest.” They are suing largely because they see the EPA’s actions as a thinly veiled effort to give corporations unfair influence over policy.
The Union of Concerned Scientists called it “an attack on science itself.” Pruitt’s approach seems to be tame, conversational, and disarming—which is dangerous if your perspective is that climate change is a pressing problem.
He recently commented that he thought global warming might not “necessarily” be “a bad thing.” This represents a shift from his earlier stance questioning whether global warming was occurring at all. Essentially, the head of the EPA pivoted from denying the scientific community’s consensus, to arguing that they might be correct, but it’s not important.
Climate change and global warming clearly represent one of the great challenges of our time. Pruitt’s approach might seem reasonable on its surface – he speaks in measured tones and likes to pose questions – but we shouldn’t assume that this isn’t a tactic.
All Pruitt has to do is stall. If climate change is the problem scientists say it is, urgent action is needed. If Pruitt meets this urgency with a “wait and see” approach, he directly ignores the scientific consensus, leaving the door open to special interests for as long as the debate is dubbed unresolved.
If we understand it this way, we see that Pruitt doesn’t really have to prove anything. If he is in fact attempting to subvert the scientific community in favor of big business, he doesn’t need to prove climate scientists wrong, all he has to do is perpetuate a story that there’s more debate to be had.
In this context the lawsuit makes a lot of sense, even if the head of the EPA is calling for “open, honest” discussion. At this point, the discussion he hopes for may not actually be intended to reach a solution, but instead as a stalling tactic meant to undermine trust in the scientific community.