Politics & Government

Scientists get political after government gag order and climate change reversal

Many scientists seem to be fighting back against certain actions by the Trump Administration.
Many scientists seem to be fighting back against certain actions by the Trump Administration.

It’s been a busy 24 hours for scientists employed by the federal government.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture placed a gag order on its main research division, BuzzFeed reported Tuesday morning, which includes bans on sharing scientific summaries of papers, social media posts and talking to the press.

The USDA confirmed the gag order was sent out, but then lifted the ban Tuesday evening following public outcry, BuzzFeed reported. That outcry included several scientists speaking publicly about the harm of telling scientists they couldn’t communicate their taxpayer-funded findings to the public.

Additionally, anonymous sources at the Environmental Protection Agency told Reuters that President Donald Trump’s administration told them to scrub information about climate change from the agency website on Tuesday. The Trump administration has not confirmed those reports, though just minutes after Trump was sworn in the White House website was updated and all mentions of climate change were removed.

“If the website goes dark, years of work we have done on climate change will disappear,” one of the EPA staffers allegedly told Reuters. They said some employees were trying to save the information housed on the website.

In a wide-ranging interview focused on South Florida issues on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016, Donald Trump talks about climate change and Cuba policy, and for the first time, says that Congress should set aside money to fight Zika.

Some scientists are choosing to fight back. Before those incidents Tuesday, a scientists’ march on Washington was announced on Saturday. They have updated the march page to now include points against the restrictions being placed on taxpayer-funded research. The march has not been scheduled yet, but the creators said that will only be the beginning.

“There are certain things that we accept as facts with no alternatives. The Earth is becoming warmer due to human action. The diversity of life arose by evolution,” the website reads. “Politicians who devalue expertise risk making decisions that do not reflect reality and must be held accountable. An American government that ignores science to pursue ideological agendas endangers the world.”

Some people at the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday had science-related messages.

The Badlands National Park Twitter account started tweeting facts about climate change on Tuesday, which many took as a protest against Trump and the gag order on the USDA. National Park Service rangers also started sharing anti-Trump and pro-science information on an “alternative” National Parks Twitter account.

A group called 314 Action (creators named it after the first three digits of pi, because “pi is everywhere”) took it a step further, calling on scientists to run for office.

“314 Action champions electing more leaders to the U.S. Senate, House, State Executive and Legislative offices who come from STEM backgrounds,” the website reads. “We need new leaders who understand that climate change is real and are motivated to find a solution.”

The nonprofit group also is looking to strengthen the voice of the STEM community and increase communication among scientists, politicians and the public.