By John Kerr 10/11/2016 2


Donald Trump has been elected to the be the next President of the United States. What does this mean for science? 

Already journalists, academics and pundits are scrambling to analyse the impact his presidency will have on every facet of, well, everything.  Here at Sciblogs we’ve rounded up some of the key points on science emerging from the coverage.

Scientists respond

The reaction from scientists in the US has been marked by surprise and trepidation.

Speaking to Nature immediately after the election, Michael Lubell, director of public affairs for the American Physical Society, expressed deep concern: “Trump will be the first anti-science president we have ever had,” he said. “The consequences are going to be very, very severe.”

The implication of many of Trump’s expected policies extend beyond the US. “I think at the very least it would put a chilling effect on the interest of scientists from other countries in coming here,” said Kevin Wilson, director of public policy and media relations at the American Society for Cell Biology .

Science magazine also collected reaction from high-level US researchers. Andrew Rosenberg, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, called on scientists to stand up and be heard on the key science policy issues that will be tackled by a Trump administration.

“They can’t just hunker down in their labs and say that they won’t get involved because the election didn’t go the way they wanted it to,” he said.

What are the key issues? The best indication of Trump’s stance on science issues thus far is captured by Scientific American and ScienceDebate.org which canvassed candidates across a wide range of science policy topics.

Climate change

Trump’s intended actions on climate change have been first and foremost in much of the post-election science coverage, mainly because this is the topic he has been most clear about his position. He has previously described climate change as a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese government and made clear that if elected he would withdraw the US from the historic Paris agreement.

What does Trump mean for climate change?
NASA

His official campaign response on the issue of climate change to ScienceDebate.org, was less severe, but still couched in sceptical language:

There is still much that needs to be investigated in the field of “climate change.” Perhaps the best use of our limited financial resources should be in dealing with making sure that every person in the world has clean water.  Perhaps we should focus on eliminating lingering diseases around the world like malaria.  Perhaps we should focus on efforts to increase food production to keep pace with an ever-growing world population. Perhaps we should be focused on developing energy sources and power production that alleviates the need for dependence on fossil fuels.  We must decide on how best to proceed so that we can make lives better, safer and more prosperous.

The election came slap bang in the middle of the latest UN summit on climate change, currently taking place in Marrakesh, Morocco.  Reporting from the conference, Reuters detailed the sombre mood at meeting, but noted a sliver of optimism:

Many delegates expressed hopes Trump as president would accept mainstream scientific findings. A U.N. panel of climate scientists says it is at least 95 percent likely that man-made emissions are the main cause of rising temperatures since 1950.

Average global temperatures this year are set to be the hottest in records dating back to the 19th century, beating 2015. “Even Donald Trump cannot do anything about the laws of physics,” said Laurence Tubiana, France’s climate ambassador.

A climate sceptical US government could also have indirect impact on New Zealand research.  The United States and New Zealand work together on a range of scientific areas, especially research in the Antarctic. Christchurch is the staging area for joint logistical support operations serving U.S. permanent bases at McMurdo Station and South Pole, and New Zealand’s Scott Base.

Broadly, Trump is not a fan of Antarctic research given it tends to focus on climate change. This was apparent in his 2014 response to the news that a research vessel carrying 52 Americans had become trapped in sea ice in Antarctica.

Vaccines and public health

In the past Trump has also been vociferous on the issue of vaccines, making a number of statements and tweeting about the long discredited link between vaccines and autism. For example:

His official response to ScienceDebate.org was more measured and appeared to be supportive of an evidence-based policy on vaccines:

We should educate the public on the values of a comprehensive vaccination program.  We have been successful with other public service programs and this seems to be of enough importance that we should put resources against this task.

vaccinevials

However, on the broader issue of funding for public health research he had some sharper language:

We cannot simply throw money at these institutions and assume that the nation will be well served. Our efforts to support research and public health initiatives will have to be balanced with other demands for scarce resources.

You can read the full responses from Trump on questions relating to space exploration, biodiversity, innovation and much more at Scientific American

“Facts are facts”

The future Trump administration’s final word on science is somewhat bizarre given their election campaign was objectively been shown to have been fast and loose with the facts. Nonetheless, perhaps scientists can find a glimmer of hope in the final response to ScienceDebate.org:

Science is science and facts are facts.  My administration will ensure that there will be total transparency and accountability without political bias.  The American people deserve this and I will make sure this is the culture of my administration.


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