The Many Losses of Health, Welfare, National Scientific Capabilities, and International Import by the Trump Administration’s Abandonment of Science

The Many Losses of Health, Welfare, National Scientific Capabilities, and International Import by the Trump Administration’s Abandonment of Science

 

The United States has incredible fortunes in investments in scientific talent, institutions, and industries, that are being not only squandered, but also dismantled by the Trump Administration just for tax cuts for the wealthy, canceling needed regulations, and a military expansion.  The modern world is based on science and technology, and cutting back on the future sources of this knowledge, funded by the government, will have serious economic consequences.

 

The EPA is being subjected to attacks on all facets, by an expert opponent, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, previously Oklahoma Attorney General backed by oil oligarch Howard Hamm. EPA may be subject to a 30% budget cut, and 22% manpower cut, or 3,200 out of 15,000 employees. This was not enforced in the 2017 continuing resolution, and may not be in the 2018 budget. Yet, early retirement is being offered now to start unapproved cuts. A lot of senior, experienced and knowledgeable experts may be unnecessarily lost.

 

The house has passed the HONEST act, requiring that the only science to be considered in justifying regulations has to be fully documented, including all data and programs used. This has slowed the use of science. The Senate must pass it and the President sign it. There is also the SAB (Science Advisory Board Reform Act, H.R. 1431), also passed by the House which does not allowed any EPA advisors that have been funded by EPA in the last three years. However, industry experts don’t have that restriction. If these restrictions stay in effect, and we get a Democratic President next, he can change the EPA administrator, but not the laws.  Also, 10 of 20 advisory scientists have not been renewed, but will be replaced by industry types.

 

NOAA’s climate research in the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research will be cut 22% from $514 million to $400 million.  In the Dept. of the Interior, 200 advisory panels are being suspended.

 

The National Science Foundation (NSF) will be cut 11.3% or $820 million from $7.47 billion.  Unfortunately, the Graduate Fellowships program will be cut in half, from 2000 to 1000.  That is how I got to go to Stanford to obtain my Ph.D. In particle physics at the SLAC lab.  This will act to cut the future science talent of the US.  It has little to do with climate science or clean energy, and will hurt all Universities and industries.

 

The Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science’s budget would fall 17% to $4,473 billion. The high energy physics programs, with no connection to energy or climate science, will also be cut 18.4% to $673 million. This will be done by cutting the operational budgets of labs to a fraction of what they were, making our facilities effectively useless.

 

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) has been cut from $2.1 billion to $0.636 billion, or 70%.   Personnel will be cut 30%.  Their website shows that for the $12 billion investment in EERE, it has had an economic benefit of $230 billion.  The EERE is now headed by Daniel Simmons, who opposes public funding for renewable energy, and is from a fossil fuel think tank, the Instititute for Energy Research.   The ARPA-E, new approaches for energy research, will be eliminated.  The energy R&D activities totally will be cut $2.3 billion to $1.9 billion.

 

The earth science research will be cut $59 million in grants. DOE’s Earth and Environmental systems (EESE), which does atmospheric monitoring and modeling, would be cut 61% to $124 million. Advanced computing will be increased 11.6%, but it’s not clear what will be left to use it.

 

The EPA also enforces greenhouse gas limits as atmospheric pollutants. They are being dropped by executive orders. The Fuel Economy Standards can be lowered, but won’t be changed for three years.

 

Initially, we thought the talk would be on whether government scientists can speak out freely. Now that they are being let go, they can speak out much louder than ever before. In the cut back DOE (Department of Energy) budget, supervised by Secretary Rick Perry, while listing the cuts for each division, they speak highly of the important work that they are cutting.

 

California badly needs an earthquake early warning system, which can give up to a minute notice from a San Andreas Fault quake. The current federal request in USGS for this is $8.2 million. The total cost to build is $38 million, and $16 million a year to run. If Trump won’t build it, the state must.

 

The NIH budget is cut 22%, from $34.6 billion to $25.9 billion, including the grants that it administers. The budget claims that university indirect costs can be cut from 30% to 10% like in private industry. Hospital and NGOs indirect costs actually average 38% and can run from 60-90%. This would be a shock to universities, and would seriously cut back in research. Universities really have to inform their local Congresspersons about the effects on local medical research. The 22% cut will mean a reduction of 5,000 to 8,000 research grants in medical research.  Congress has called their budget a non-starter.

 

There are many science issues or scientific sides of issues that cannot be addressed by Trump because he has not appointed a Science Advisor, or filled the 45 positions in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. This shows that Trump doesn’t want real scientific input, because they interfere with letting industries run the show. In particular, climate change is ruled out because it interferes with coal and oil profits, and also air and water pollution. The rising costs of droughts, fires, and floods could rival the amounts spent on mitigating climate change with cleaner energy. Superstorm Sandy cost $65 billion. The Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill, from not following regulations, cost $62 billion.  Hurricane Katrina may have killed 1,800 people, and cost $125 billion.

 

The Defense Department has known that results of climate change such as sea level rise and droughts killing farming and water supplies can motivate rebellions and millions of refugees, and land invasions. Increasing military spending without addressing climate change only works to correct which could have been prevented, at the sacrifice of a million lives.

 

Trump and Scott Pierce purposely misinterpreted and MIT study on the effect of the Paris Agreement cuts on climate change.  The temperature drop from the cuts in Paris will be 0.9 degrees C or 1.6 degrees F at the end of the century, not the 0.2 degrees C they quoted. However, without further cuts, the temperature will rise about 3.1 degrees C or 5.6 degrees F since pre-industrial times by 2100.  So far, the temperature has risen about 0.8 degrees C or 1.4 degrees F from pre-industrial times.  It is important to know that part of the CO2 we create will stay in the atmosphere for a century, so we can’t wait another term to continue reducing it.

 

The Paris Agreement was just a set of voluntary goals, not a “deal”.   They will be reset every decade or so.  Even Trump’s withdrawal will not take effect for four years.  There is no renegotiation required.  Again, Trump and Pierce have misled Americans about the nature of the Agreement.   Withdrawal will give us a bad name as far as exporting our energy technology and products.  196 nations are included in this agreement.  We are ceding energy leadership to China and Europe, for no apparent reason, but to give in to the oil and coal lobbies.

 

Our Paris Climate Goal was to reduce our emissions 26-28% from our 2005 peak by 2025.  We have achieved 11.5% in a decade by switching from coal to cheaper natural gas from fracking.  However, without the Clean Energy Plan, we will only achieve a 14-19% reduction below 2005.
I recalled that Ronald Reagan had industry people in his administration. Wikipedia puts it this way: 138 Reagan officials were investigated, indicted, or convicted. There were also over 10 scandals: Iran-Contra; HUD rigging scandal; Lobbying Scandal; EPA Scandals; Inslaw Affair; Savings and Loan Crises; Operation Ill Wind; Wedtech Scandal; and Debategate. As far as science advice, at the end we found out that Reagan was planning events guided by Nancy’s astrologer.  We are 5 months into Trump’s reign, and have 17 more to go until the midterm election.

 

What can we do? We have to make our representatives know when science cuts affect us and our local jobs, industries, universities, students, and medical progress.  Mimi Walters is on the Science and Commerce Committee.  Dana Rohrabacher is on the Science, Space and Technology Committee.  Representatives are supposed to defend their districts. We can join environmental groups. We have to strengthen our states’ battles for science education and labs, and defend the people of our state from unfair criminal prosecutions on drugs, and from unfair and unnecessary deportations. We have to fight our coast from unnecessary oil drilling, since inland shale oil is abundant. We can unseat our Southern neighbor, Congressman Darrell Issa, who led the Clinton persecution, and is in a 50-50 district.  Our coastal representative, Republican Dana Rohrabacher, won by a large margin of 58.5% to 41.5%.

 

Our representative, Republican Mimi Walters of CA 45th, votes 100% with Trump, despite the fact that Trump lost her district by 5.4%. Walters won over Ron Varasteh 59.0% to 41.0%.  Under Trumpcare, 47,500 will lose healthcare coverage in her district.  She will be challenged by UCI law professor Katie Porter who worked with Kamala Harris and is endorsed by her and by Elizabeth Warren.  Prof. Porter foresaw the 2008 mortgage fraud causing the financial crash, and monitored California’s distribution of the settlement.  Dave Min, also of UCI Law, is also running for the seat.  He is a mortgage and housing finance expert, who has worked for the SEC.  He was a finance advisor for Chuck Shumer.  He is endorsed by Sukhee Kang and Mary Ann Gaido.  Naively, Trump supporters don’t have to turn out for the midterm vote, but angry Democrats may be motivated much more than usual.

 

If the same number of Democrats who turned out in 2016 turn out for the 2018 midterm, and if the Republicans only turn out at the 2014 midterm level, we can unseat Mimi Walters, Dana Rohrabacher, and Darrell Issa.  This will also mean that the entire California coast is protected by Democratic representatives.   Just to pursue this scenario, we  would beat Walters by 55-45, beat Rohrabacher by 53-47, and beat Issa by 61-39.

 

This talk is on my website:  sites.uci.edu/Energyobserver.  It is to be given to the Laguna Woods Democratic Club on Wednesday, June 14, 2017.

 

About Dennis SILVERMAN

I am a retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at U C Irvine. For a decade I have been active in learning about energy and the environment, and in lecturing and attending classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UC Irvine.
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