The Mercury News
Editorial: Trump names an anti-science blowhard as ‘chief scientist’. Help! Congress….
Sam Clovis, a talk radio host, calls climate change “junk science” and “not proven.”
Mercury News Editorial Board July 23, 2017
President Trump’s disdain for science apparently knows no bounds. He has now nominated climate change skeptic Sam Clovis, a talk radio host, to serve as the Department of Agriculture’s chief scientist — a slap in the face of the scientific community and a disservice to those responsible for the integrity of the USDA’s research.
The Senate should should reject the nomination. Naming an anti-science blowhard to a job meant for a scientist would be like Ford picking a CEO who rides a horse to work.
If confirmed as the Department of Agriculture’s undersecretary of research, education and economics, Clovis would be responsible for implementing the department’s mission of providing leadership on agriculture and natural resource issues “based on sound public policy, the best available science, and efficient management.”
The post, created in 1994 by Congress, demands someone who commands the respect of scientists. The 2008 farm bill clarified the requirements, saying the undersecretary “shall be appointed by the president, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, from among distinguished scientists with specialized training or significant experience in agricultural research, education, and economics.”
Clovis has none of these qualifications. His degree is in political science, and his chief claims to fame are as a conservative talk radio host and Trump’s national campaign co-chair.
The most recent undersecretary, Catherine Woteki, had a PhD in human nutrition, a bachelor of science in biology and chemistry and had served as Director of the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences.
Woteki, under the direction of the Obama administration, had focused the agency’s research dollars largely on trying to help farmers get a better understanding of how to deal with the impact of climate change — droughts, for example — on their crops.
She was vocal about this: “We really need to increase the amount of research that we’re doing to face challenges like we’re facing with this variable weather, and how can we increase productivity both in crops as well as in livestock to be able to produce more food on the same amount of land or perhaps less, depending on how climate might change over the next 30 to 40 years.”
It was bad enough that Trump’s choice as USDA Secretary, Sonny Purdue, thinks climate science is “obviously disconnected from reality” and “a running joke among the public.” This even though polls show 70 percent of Americans favor aggressive action to slow global warming.
Clovis calls climate change “junk science” and “not proven.” That goes against the consensus of more than 90 percent of climate scientists.
He’s entitled to his opinion. He’s perfect for today’s talk radio. He is not a scientist, let alone qualified to be a “chief scientist.” Congress needs to take a stand.