The American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) annual week-long conference of 26,000 earth and planetary scientists from around the world took place in San Francisco this past week. This meeting is one of the largest yearly gatherings of scientists, and the first major gathering of climate scientists since Trump’s election.
Trump’s climate change denial and attacks on science were big topics of conversation throughout the conference. At the official AGU table, attorneys were handing out guides to “handling political harassment and legal intimidation” for scientists studying things like climate science. They have already been in the crosshairs of attack by anti-science Republicans in Congress—and they would be qualitatively more intensely targeted with a Trump regime. Some scientists have announced projects to save crucial climate data on non-government servers. They are anticipating outright destruction of data and accumulated scientific knowledge about climate change by a Trump administration. The Trump forces have already threatened to de-fund the satellite system run by the U.S. that gathers climate and other data for the entire world. This knowledge belongs to humanity—it is not for some Nazis in the U.S. to destroy to enforce blindness, ignorance and their savage rule.
Inside the conference, Sally Jewell, the outgoing Secretary of the Interior, made some shameful remarks that tried to normalize the threat Trump represents. According to the UK Guardian: “The Trump administration could not quickly gut federal research. Science would be ‘foundational’ to government, she told attendees: ‘We have a president-elect that likes to win, and we can’t win without science.’”
On the first day of the AGU conference, over 400 people, including prominent climate scientists, environmental activists, indigenous leaders, students, and others held a protest against attacks on science that are threatened with the election of Trump and further foreshadowed by his cabinet choices. The protest rally began with a procession of lab-coated scientists mounting a stage, with signs like “Science is Real” and “NO DAPL” (referring to the fight to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, which has been a hard-fought struggle for both indigenous rights and the environment). Other signs ridiculed Trump and his minions, like “Gravity Is a Hoax” and “Ice doesn’t have an agenda, it just melts.”
It is rare for scientists to organize public political protests, and this is a sign of how disturbed people are. The press release for the rally spoke of how scientists are starting to act “In the face of attempts to intimidate academics and undermine freedom of inquiry” and how this rally is “a notable exception” to the ways scientists normally express their views.
Naomi Oreskes, a prominent earth and planetary science professor at Harvard University, said, “We don’t want to be here. We want to be doing the work we were trained and educated to do, which is science. So don’t get upset, don’t get depressed. Get organized.”
Peter Frumhoff, a representative of the Union of Concerned Scientists, one of the organizers of the rally, said, “Science and evidence is at risk. It is on us to ensure it is protected.”
If you’re attending a scientific meeting, or better yet, if you’re organizing a scientific meeting, try to get a consensus letter or protest event on the agenda, and get your opposition to the Republican politicization of science on the record.