Climate and energy experts speak out on Trump’s views

The record-hot months of 2016 compared to the past 137 years. Credit:

The record-hot months of 2016 compared to the past 137 years. Credit:

David Titley, a professor of meteorology and director of the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk, and Michael Mann, a distinguished professor of atmospheric science and director of the Earth System Science Center, were quoted in a recent Scientific American article about President-elect Donald Trump’s potential impact on future climate and energy research. Here’s an excerpt:

Michael Mann, paleoclimate researcher at Penn State: A Trump presidency might be game over for the climate. In other words, it might make it impossible to stabilize planetary warming below dangerous (i.e. greater than 2°C) levels. If Trump makes good on his campaign promises and pulls out of the Paris Treaty, it is difficult to see a path forward to keeping warming below dangerous levels.

“It is time for introspection and contemplation. I’m still in the process of letting this sink in. …

David Titley, climate and weather risk researcher at Penn State: Many black swans have taken flight this year. One thing science teaches you is that systems frequently revert to the mean. So, as dark as everything looks at this moment for fixing our climate, we need to have hope that we won’t realize the worst case. If there is a silver lining it’s that Trump does not seem bound by whatever he has said previously. So perhaps he will see the wisdom or at least self-interest, in investing in non-carbon, U.S.-produced, energy.

“The climate community has a huge challenge ahead, to frame this issue in a way that will resonate with the likely president-elect. It may not be possible but it would be negligent to not even try.”



Other related articles quoting Penn State researchers today include:
— Under President Trump, what will happen to climate policy? –
— Donald Trumps’s climate policies could mean ‘game over’ for the planet: scientists –

Election 2016: What’s ahead for scientific research?

Image credit: Penn State Harrisburg

Image credit: Penn State Harrisburg

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The president of the United States can have a profound impact on funding for scientific research. Susannah Gal, associate dean for research and outreach at Penn State Harrisburg, knows this from her years as program officer for the National Science Foundation, where she walked past a portrait of the president every day.

Susannah Gal

Susannah Gal

Her role there included evaluating the merit of requested grants with the help of panels of scientific experts. Other federal scientific bodies, such as the National Institutes for Health, are also charged with evaluating hundreds or thousands of grant requests, many from academic institutions. While the president and Congress might not weigh in on individual grant requests, they can dramatically affect the priorities for handing out money.

“Presidents have power over the direction of scientific research on a very large scale,” Gal said, “which is an important factor for voters to consider when making their choices for elected officials.” Scientific pursuits that could be deeply affected by this year’s presidential choice include research into climate change, clean energy, biodiversity, the environment, mental health, opioid addiction, nuclear power, and space, she said.

Gal has examined past presidential initiatives that have translated into scientific priorities. Many illustrate the impact that a president has on the direction of research.

In 2001, the president imposed a ban on publicly funded stem cell research over the concerns of pro-life activists. In 2009, the current administration reinstated federally funded stem cell research. “This complete reversal of direction, based on the values of the president, is one of the more dramatic examples of the extent to which a change in administration can have a profound effect on science research,” Gal said.

Administrative emphasis on defense strategies have also weighed heavily on scientific research support, Gal said. In 1940, prewar concerns spurred President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to create the National Defense Research Committee. More than 40 years later, President Ronald Reagan launched his Strategic Defensive Initiative, dubbed “Star Wars,” to develop an anti-ballistic missile defense system. According to the Fiscal Times, more than $100 billion has been spent on this and related research to achieve the goal described by Reagan as “eliminating the threat posed by strategic nuclear missiles.”

More recently, the Obama administration announced the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) collaborative, a public-private research initiative, to better understand brain functions. This effort reflects the increased interest by the administration in dealing with such public health crises as Alzheimer’s disease and autism.

“It is not completely clear how each of our current presidential candidates might affect the research agenda,” Gal said, noting that several organizations are attempting to better gauge where the candidates stand on science-related issues.

Scientific American recently showcased the answers of the four presidential candidates to 20 questions devised by a group of scientific institutions representing more than ten million scientists and engineers. The questions were facilitated by the nonprofit and covered such topics as innovation, research, climate change, biodiversity, space exploration, energy, and public health. The findings are here.

One of the questions involved the importance of literacy in the STEM disciplines — science, technology, engineering and math. “This is exceedingly important for our schools and for higher education institutions like Penn State Harrisburg because we provide the pipeline for qualified engineers, scientists, teachers and others,” Gal said. “A focus on STEM also helps to maintain the broader conversation and understanding of the role of science in our lives.

“History has clearly shown that political issues and the priorities of each presidential administration affect the direction of scientific research and the resources to support it,” Gal said. “I think voters should consider this information during their deliberations prior to Nov. 8.”

Why the GOP is trying to stop the Pentagon’s climate plan


World map showing surface temperature trends (°C per decade) between 1950 and 2014. Source: NASA GISS

World map showing surface temperature trends (°C per decade) between 1950 and 2014. Source: NASA GISS


The director of the Penn State Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate RiskDavid Titley, was recently interviewed for an article at Politico.

David W. Titley

David W. Titley

Titley, a retired rear admiral who spent 32 years in the military, is quoted as saying, “While this thing looks pretty innocuous, it has the potential to be pretty important.”

Here is an excerpt from the story:

“Titley, who formerly led the Navy’s Task Force on Climate Change, said that he was careful how he referred to policies during his time in government. ‘There’s a program I got through the Department of Defense called our system prediction capability,’ he said. ‘We take forecasts out to 30 years. Some people might call that short-term climate. I didn’t. The word climate is nowhere in that budget document.’

“The Senate’s defense spending bill, which passed the Senate Appropriations Committee in late May but has not yet received a vote on the floor, leaves the climate change directive intact. …

“But experts worry that if it does find its way into law, the risks are high; such preparations are necessary now, they warn, before it’s too late. ‘It’s like people who drive down the road and all they can do is look 10 feet in front of them on the bumper and they’re all going about 75 mph,’ said Titley. ‘That’s great until three cars up there are stopped. You don’t see it until you’re all of a sudden slamming on the brakes.’ ”

Read more at Politico.

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