Although 97 percent of scientists agree that climate change is a real threat, the Trump administration maintains that global warming is a “hoax” – and it’s gutting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Under administrator Scott Pruitt the EPA has scrubbed climate science from its website, and now it’s eliminating thousands of employees — including dozens of scientists — by failing to renew their contracts in August.
The Washington Post reports that members of the Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC) were alerted via email that their terms will not be renewed in August. While they do have the opportunity to re-apply by September, the news came as a shock to many – on average, scientists serve three terms and are re-elected to a fourth if they are willing to serve.
Peter Meyer, an economist with the E.P. Systems Group, resigned from the board’s sustainable and healthy communities subcommittee as a form of protest. Meyer said: “We were told quite explicitly by the leadership of the sustainable and healthy communities group … that our assignment was a four-to-five-year assignment. That was what we were told at our first meeting. That produces an assumption that you’re going to get reappointed so that you can complete the job.”
Deborah Swackhamer, chair of the board’s executive committee and professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Minnesota, added, “It effectively wipes out the BOSC and leaves it free for a complete reappointment.”
Because this is the second time this year the agency failed to renew scientists’ terms, some claim the Trump administration is politicizing the agency, which exists to benefit wildlife and preserve the environment. In response, EPA officials stated that the cuts provide a new opportunity to reach out to a broad array of applicants and draw on their expertise. “EPA is grateful for the service of all BOSC members, past and present, and has encouraged those with expiring terms to reapply,” said agency spokeswoman Amy Graham. “We are taking an inclusive approach to filling future BOSC appointments and welcome all applicants from all relevant scientific and technical fields.”
The BOSC advises the agency’s Office of Research and Development on whether its research can adequately address important scientific questions. Due to cuts, only five scientists remain on the executive committee. The ultimate fear is that the EPA could eliminate members that hold different opinions than the Trump administration, and fill those positions with people who are more favorable to the communities being regulated by the agency. Reportedly, the agency’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) and Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) will also be changed in the near future.
“This gives me a great deal of concern about the erosion of science in this administration,” said Robert Richardson, an ecological economist and associate professor in Michigan State University’s Department of Community Sustainability. “It’s hard to understand the rationale behind a decision like this. I understand they might simply want to repopulate [the board] with people of their own choosing. However, this could also be a way of just weakening advisory boards, of diminishing their role by not replacing members.”
Via Washington Post