Climate scientists are reportedly facing escalating harassment and threats in the Trump era, bolstering fears of a McCarthy-style crackdown amid the fight against global warming—and prompting vows of resistance from the scientific community at-large.
Although threats against climate experts are nothing new, the Guardian reported Wednesday on growing fears amid the community that the election of President Donald Trump "has revitalized those who believe climate researchers are cosseted fraudsters." Trump himself has referred to global warming as a "Chinese hoax."
As renowned climatologist Michael Mann told the Guardian's Oliver Milman, it's one thing to receive the occasional unfulfilled threat from an anonymous harasser—now, with a climate denier in office leading a conservative Congress and moving to clamp down on environmental information, many of his colleagues in the field "fear an era of McCarthyist attacks on our work and our integrity."
Peter Fontaine, who represents Mann in a defamation lawsuit against two conservative groups, told Milman, "If you believe climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, as Donald Trump does, you will go after anything that opposes that view. A lot of people will be hung out to dry."
Lauren Kurtz, executive director of the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund, added, "We are hearing from scientists every week who are worried about what is going to happen. Trump himself is a bully and has emboldened a whole trove of people who have become bolder and meaner. That includes those who will target climate scientists."
But it has also emboldened the resistance.
"I stand in solidarity with brothers and sisters that work to protect human rights, human health, and the environment here in the U.S. and all over the world. The struggle continues."
Trump's climate denialism—and general disdain for facts—has prompted efforts like the upcoming Scientists' March on Washington and the Union of Concerned Scientists' new whistleblowing website. A group of scientists also launched an initiative to archive climate data before Trump took office, while campaigners with groups like 350.org announced a multi-pronged offensive against the White House.
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And increasingly, the resistance is coming from inside the administration.
Meteorologist Eric Holthaus on Wednesday published the account of an EPA employee who reached out to him after Trump's inauguration "to express profound concern over the threat now posed to their life's work."
The letter was sent before a federal judge ordered the release of thousands of emails between newly-minted EPA chief Scott Pruitt and various energy industry firms sent while he was serving as Oklahoma attorney general—but their publication this week exposed a cozy relationship during his tenure, confirming climate scientists' fears that Pruitt may work to defang the EPA.
"We appear to be entering an era in which environmental protection will officially be seen as an impediment to the will of industry. For EPA staffers who have devoted their lives and careers to preserving the planet, this is a heartbreaking development," Holthaus wrote.
Regardless, the new administration has helped to galvanize resistance among EPA employees. The letter, which Holtahus published in full in Mother Jones, concludes:
Despite the long odds we face, we will never stop working to protect every person's right to have a healthy place to live, work, and play. And if the new administrator casts me out of the job I love, I will not stop working toward the principles that have always animated my life. This is who I am, and that will never change. I stand in solidarity with brothers and sisters that work to protect human rights, human health, and the environment here in the U.S. and all over the world. The struggle continues.