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Kurt Gottfried Climate Change and Nuclear Power CLIMATE SCIENCE AND PUBLIC POLICY SURELY IT IS EVIDENT THAT SCIENCE— A N D RATIONAL TH O UG H T IN general—has had little influence on the federal governm ent’s energy policy recently. That had better change fast, because it is clear that w hat climate science has been telling us for m any years is basically correct. It is climate change and the growing wealth of billions of erst­ while poor that will be the dom inant political factors of this centuiy. Many troubling features of globalization can be modified if there is the political will to do so. But the greenhouse gases we have pum ped and will continue to pum p into the atm osphere cannot be recalled by acts of Congress. Now, finally, there is m ounting recognition that the worldwide quest for economic growth, and the energy needed to fuel it, are on a collision course w ith nature. We owe this recognition to scientists across the globe who have devoted their lives to reading nature’s response to hum an activity. Fifty years ago one of climate science’s pioneers, Roger Revelle, warned that “hum an beings are now carrying out a large scale geophys­ ical experim ent” on our planet. For m ost of those 50 years, very few listened. But that has changed. In this country, many states and cities have com m itted themselves to reducing their emissions. So have many European governm ents. A growing num ber of m ajor corporations are adopting plans to exploit the business opportunities presented by climate change. social research Vol 73 : No 3 : Fall 2006 1011 In short, the climate scientists have had a huge impact on world politics. Thanks to them millions have come to understand that continu­ ing with business as usual is putting us on a collision w ith nature, and that in such contests nature ultim ately wins. Many political and corpo­ rate leaders have decided to act on this understanding. On February 10, 2006, during the New School conference on science and politics, I had said that “W ashington, however, is still in denial. It seems unable to see this train coming down the tracks. Nobody was surprised that the words ‘clim ate change’ and ‘global w arm ing’ were not in last w eek’s State of the Union address, but I was aston­ ished to hear them spoken by only one talking head during two hours of comments on the speech.” Now, just three m onths later, the m ental ice in W ashington is finally beginning to crack. Many powerful voices in the m edia and across the political spectrum are recognizing th at clim ate change is real, and that it appears to be coming on m ore swiftly than expected by m ost of the experts that were for so long ridiculed by the skeptics. The W hite House had not just ignored the climate issue. Thanks to James Hansen, everyone now knows th at the adm inistration has gone to great lengths to stifle governm ent climate scientists. His experi­ ence is only the latest example. Three years ago the W hite House tried to distort a clim ate im pact report by the Environm ental Protection Agency (EPA) to the point where the EPA decided to squelch the report rather than release a scientifically insupportable document. And in its April 6 issue, Time revealed a new case in which the EPA adm inistrator m isrepresented his scientific advisory com m ittee’s opinion about air pollution. Climate change and air pollution are not the only issues on w hich the adm inistration has distorted scientific inform ation and pressured government scientist to stick to the party line or to be silent (UCS, Scientific Integrity, n.d.). This has occurred in the Departments of Agriculture and Interior, at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and especially in Health and Human Services—at the 1012 social research National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, and the Food and Drug Administration. These are not irrelevant academic spats; they have serious im plications for the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-768X
Print ISSN
0037-783X
Pages
pp. 1011-1024
Launched on MUSE
2014-04-30
Open Access
No
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