6 Key Steps: Colorado Scientists Among Hundreds Imploring Trump On Climate Change

December 12, 2016
Photo: CU Researcher One Of Hundreds Of Scientists Imploring TrumpAP
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt arrives at Trump Tower in New York, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016.

President-elect Donald Trump picked Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma's  Attorney General, last week to run the Environmental Protection Agency, a decision that's raised concerns from the scientific community because of Pruitt's stated views on issues like climate change. Trump himself has said he has doubts about the validity of man-made climate change, an attitude that's also held by a number of his trusted advisors and Cabinet appointments.

Given that, more than 800 Earth scientists and energy experts, including 71 from Colorado, recently sent a letter to Trump, urging him to take six crucial steps to address climate change. One of the signers was Alan Townsend, an ecologist and associate vice-chancellor for research at the University of Colorado Boulder.

While Townsend says he's hopeful the letter will solicit a positive response from the incoming administration, he adds that scientists also need to change their thinking regarding the approach to environmental issues. As an example, he said research needs to move away from pure academia and begin incorporating the people who are directly affected into discussions of the issues and how to resolve problems.

Townsend spoke with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner.

Read the letter from scientists to President-elect Trump:

To President-elect Trump

We, the undersigned, urge you to take immediate and sustained action against human-caused climate change. We write as concerned individuals, united in recognizing that the science is unequivocal and America must respond.

Climate change threatens America’s economy, national security, and public health and safety. Some communities are already experiencing its impacts, with low-income and minority groups disproportionately affected.

At this crucial juncture in human history, countries look to the United States to pick up the mantle of leadership: to take steps to strengthen, not weaken, this nation’s efforts to tackle this crisis. With the eyes of the world upon us, and amidst uncertainty and concern about how your administration will address this issue, we ask that you begin by taking the following steps upon taking office:

  1. Make America a clean energy leader. The vast majority of Americans - whether Republican, Democrat, or Independent - support renewable energy research and deployment. Embrace the enormous economic opportunities of transitioning to an energy-efficient, low-carbon society. Use part of your $1 trillion commitment to infrastructure development to expand democratized clean energy, boost U.S. competitiveness, and put America to work. Since 2008, the cleantech industry has created one out of every 33 jobs in the United States. “Wind technician” is the fastest growing job category in America, and the solar industry has hired more veterans than any other sector.
  2. Reduce carbon pollution and America’s dependence on fossil fuels. The majority of Americans are in favor of this. Assure them that the policies helping to cut greenhouse gas emissions, curb air and water pollution, and accelerate clean energy growth, innovation, and jobs - such as the Clean Power Plan, renewable energy tax credits, and auto-efficiency standards - will stay in place. Continued funding and flexibility of federal agencies to address climate change, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, are key to achieving these goals.
  3. Enhance America’s climate preparedness and resilience. In the past 5 years alone, storms, floods, droughts, and wildfires caused over $250 billion in damages. As climate change continues to increase the frequency and severity of these extreme events, so too grows the burden on all taxpayers to pay for disaster relief and recovery. Help protect and strengthen America’s communities, economy, and natural resources by investing in modern, climate-resilient energy, transport, building, and water infrastructure.
  4. Publicly acknowledge that climate change is a real, human-caused, and urgent threat. If not, you will become the only government leader in the world to deny climate science. Your position will be at odds with virtually all climate scientists, most economists, military experts, fossil fuel companies and other business leaders, and the two-thirds of Americans worried about this issue.
  5. Protect scientific integrity in policymaking. During your campaign, you said that your “administration will ensure that there will be [scientific] transparency and accountability without political bias16.” Uphold these standards by appointing scientific advisors, Cabinet members, and federal agency leaders who respect and rely on science-based decision-making. This would exclude many of your Cabinet and transition team appointees to date, who deny the scientific realities of human-caused climate change.
  6. Uphold America's commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement. Reneging from this treaty - the product of 25 years of negotiations between almost every country on Earth - would undermine our best chance to avoid dangerous climate change. It would also poorly represent the American people, the majority of whom support US participation in the Paris Agreement. The United States will lose its seat of influence at the international negotiating table, and will cede to China, the EU, and other countries its authority as a political, technological, and moral leader.

You have the support of the majority of companies, military leaders, scientists, engineers, and citizens to respond to the threats posed by climate change by reducing carbon pollution and expanding clean energy. Many of America’s largest cities and states are already committed to doing so. We urge you to decide if you want your Presidency to be defined by denial and disaster, or acceptance and action.