Secretary Perry, don’t fight science

Last week, I came across a puzzling tweet from the Department of Energy’s press team: an op-ed titled “In the fight between Rick Perry and climate scientists — He’s winning” by Ross McKitrick, a scholar at the right-wing Cato Institute.

As Secretary Perry should know, the DOE portfolio reaches far beyond energy. The Office of Science is the largest funder of basic physical science research in the world (for now). The DOE hosts 17 national laboratories and supports research at over 300 universities. DOE’s labs alone employ nearly 60,000 scientists. At Perry’s confirmation hearing, he vowed to fight for the scientists who work for him. Now his DOE press team is endorsing their attackers on Twitter.

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Mr. McKitrick alleges that scientific institutions have become biased and politicized on “the climate issue.” In reality, they are victims of politicization of basic facts, evidenced by his own writing. For example, he claims the American Meteorological Society provided evidence of their bias by writing a letter of protest to Perry for publicly denouncing the fact that climate change is caused by carbon dioxide, while staying silent when President Obama “falsely” stated that 97 percent of scientists agree that climate change is caused by humans.

These statements from McKitrick are misleading. The statistic 97 percent comes from a peer-reviewed study, which analyzed peer-reviewed climate change research and found that over 97 percent of conclusions supported that climate change was caused by humans at least in some part. Our national defense agencies have asserted that climate change is a real national security threat.

McKitrick also claims that the American Meteorological Society’s own membership survey “showed nearly half of its members doubted either that climate change was even happening or that CO2 played a dominant role.” This statement is false, taking statistics out of context. The conclusion of the report states that “93% of actively publishing climate scientists indicated they are convinced that humans have contributed to global warming.”

Fact checking an extreme opinion piece before endorsing is important. The exhausted right-wing dialogue that Ross McKitrick provides in his op-ed is misleading, dishonest and dangerous. More concerning is that the DOE itself seems to support the War on Science, and publicly endorsing opinion pieces is inappropriate and borderline illegal for executive branch agencies.

From Kelly Fleming, Ph.D., Washington, D.C.


Are we getting our money’s worth?

In the last 16 years (George W. Bush and Obama administrations), we have watched our national debt rise about 340 percent (from $5.7 trillion to $20 trillion). We have heard volumes spoken about immigration and tax reform, but “zero” definitive action taken. We have had a healthcare law (ObamaCare) foisted on us that was based on lies/mistruths (choose your own word) that continues to collapse. And lastly, we have spent about $6 trillion in interest payments alone on our national debt. For these major disasters, “we the people” have paid over $2 billion in Congressional salaries! 

When you factor in their pensions, healthcare and other perks, that figure will probably double. Given all of this, can you now ask yourself if we are getting our money’s worth? But I feel like one among millions who could care less, vote less, and so willingly pass our costs on to future generations. We all want the best healthcare, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and education but refuse to confront that the money is soon going to run out. Maintaining our democracy requires some minimal level of participation by its members, yet we seem unable to achieve it.

From Tom Tyschper, Gilbert, Ariz.