More than 200 scientists have called on the American Museum of Natural History to cut ties with board member Rebekah Mercer, the billionaire backer of President Donald Trump who has also funded "climate denial" groups in order to protect the fossil fuel industry's pollution-causing extraction of oil and gas.
"We ask the American Museum of Natural History, and all public science museums, to end ties to anti-science propagandists and funders of climate science misinformation, and to have Rebekah Mercer leave the American Museum of Natural History Board of Trustees," wrote the group, which includes James Hansen, who first brought climate change to the U.S. government's attention in 1988, and other prominent researchers.
Mercer has held her position on the museum's board since 2013. Along with her billionaire father, Robert Mercer, she oversees the Mercer Family Foundation. The group has donated more than $2 million to organizations that deny the consensus that the earth is in a state of climate crisis driven by human activity.
The foundation's contributions include $800,000 to the Heartland Institute, which holds regular meetings promoting the denial of climate crisis, and $500,000 to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank which, as recently as this month, has published articles claiming that cold weather proves that the Earth is not warming.
"The most important asset any museum has is its credibility," wrote the scientists. "This can be damaged by ties to donors and board members who are publicly known for investing in climate science obfuscation and opposing environmental solutions."
Mercer has also sought to directly impact the Trump administration's climate policy. She reportedly suggested to the president that Arthur Robinson, who has called scientists' belief in climate crisis "a false religion" and distributed a widely-discredited petition signed by supposed experts which stated that global warming is not harmful, should be named the administration's chief science advisor.
Along with calling for Mercer's dismissal, the letter took issue with "misleading information on climate science in an Exxon-funded exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History," which environmental economist Jonah Busch drew attention to in a tweet last week.
"To its credit, the AMNH's response was swift: it committed to updating the outdated information to reflect the best available science," the scientists noted. "But the initial online public anger showed that trust in the museum is undermined by the museum's association with climate science opponents."