What’s become painfully clear over the past two and half years is the Donald Trump is the master of creating chaos, in part to create a distraction from the things he doesn’t want people to know about. Many of these things he wants to keep in the shadows relate to reversing any progress made on reversing global warming, loosening environmental protections, and removing any sort of limits at all on corporations.
I’ve written about this a few times already. In my November 2017 piece “If you thought science was dead under George Bush, wait until you see what Trump is doing“, I discussed how Trump put Scott Pruitt, a man who maligned the EPA throughout his career and sued them FOURTEEN TIMES, in charge of the EPA itself. I also talked about how Pruitt had issued a new directive that prevents any person who works for a college or university and who receives grant funding from the EPA from serving on three important advisory boards:
- Scientific Advisory Board, a panel of approximately 45 scientists, examines key scientific issues related to EPA regulations, and produces reports telling EPA what the current state of the science is.
- The Board of Scientific Counselors, with an executive committee of about 20 people, works more intimately with agency scientists, advising the agency’s Office of Research and Development on its research programs.
- The Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee which provides technical guidance specifically related to air pollution standards, such as questions about the potential health effects of different pollution levels.
[Descriptions courtesy of ScienceMag.org]
This was a move that Steven Hamburg, the chief scientist for Environmental Defense Fund in Washington, D.C. and former EPA Science Advisory Board member, the height of hypocrisy. “He is trying to gaslight Americans into believing that industry-funded scientists can offer EPA impartial advice,” Hamburg said, “While those with EPA research grants are biased.”
In a piece from April of last year titled, “Trump’s dismantling of the EPA continues apace, Scott Pruitt ready to outlaw critical science in the name of ‘transparency'”, I showed how Pruitt was really feeling the wind under his corporatist sails. He imposed a rule that prevents the EPA from using any scientific studies where the data is not all public. Because many studies include medical information about the people who participated in the study, this ruled out the use of an extensive body of science that could be used to make smart policy.
Finally, in a piece last month titled, “The Trump administration is murdering the primary chemical safety oversight group in America and even Big Business doesn’t like it“, I discussed how Trump was continuing to try to kill off the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), first by zeroing out its funding and, second, when Congress put the funding back in place, by refusing to fill vacancies. The five-member Board which investigates major industrial accidents, had only three members, all of whose terms expire by August 2020. Fortunately Trump eventually did fill one of the spots but we could be back down to three members again by the end of next summer.
With that summary in mind, we now turn to what Trump is doing NOW.
First, a member of Trump’s National Security Council, William Happer, was found to have been working with the Heartland Institute, a major industry advocacy group that denies the existence of global warming, “to challenge widely accepted scientific findings on global warming.” This is a move that Matthew Nisbet, a professor of environmental communication and public policy at Northeastern University, said is “equivalent to formulating anti-terrorism policy by consulting with groups that deny terrorism exists.”
More frightening, however, is Trump’s move last month to cut the number of advisory groups that help form policy for the U.S. government by an arbitrary one-third:
The Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies and departments June 14 were directed by President Donald Trump to eliminate at least one-third of their advisory committees, which have traditionally provided regulatory advice on a host of regulatory, scientific, and policy matters.
The White House executive order directs agencies to make those cuts by Sept. 30. […]
Many federal agencies rely extensively on the advice of advisory committees. At the EPA those advisory panels include the Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee (CHPAC); the Clean Air Act Advisory Committee (CAAAC) and the EPA Science Advisory Board. […]
Environmental and public interest groups said the move is only the latest salvo by the Trump administration targeting science.
There are currently nearly 1,000 of these important advisory committees and the executive order also caps the total number at 350 so new advisory committees will not be authorized until that number is achieved.
Here’s what Gretchen Goldman, research director for the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, had to say about this move to erase science from our country’s policy making:
For the past two years they have been shrinking and restricting the role of federal science advisory committees. Now they’re removing the possibility of even making decisions based on robust science advice. It’s no longer death by a thousand cuts. It’s taking a knife to the jugular.
So, while the rest of us have been preoccupied by the humanitarian crisis created by Trump and his minions on our southern border, Donald Trump has continued apace his drive to eliminate science from government policy making, knowing full well that most Americans won’t hear a thing about it. Remember that whenever Trump does something truly outrageous: it’s nearly always a smokescreen for something even more diabolical and heinous.