President Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord last Thursday is a disheartening blow to the longstanding idea that sound science should play a role in the formation of public policy in our country.
This notion, in fact, was central to the creation of the National Academy of Sciences by the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Lincoln and the Congress charged the Academy with providing independent, objective advice to the nation on matters related to science and technology.
The National Academy and the overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree that human activity is a major contributing factor to global climate change – there is essentially no disputing this fact. Despite this robust consensus, which serves as the motivation for 195 other nations to join forces in committing to a cleaner energy future for the benefit of future generations, our own government has committed to skepticism, short-sightedness and ignorance (literally, “the act of ignoring”)..
It seems distressingly untenable to assert American exceptionalism on the one hand while on the other resigning to retreat from a unique and urgent global challenge. This is not a traditionally American position, it is an embarrassing shirking of responsibility, an unforced error motivated by ideology, not by reasoned judgment. Our country, in a complicated world where reason has long been one of its guides, has always done better than this.