Can the world fight climate change in the era of Trump? Obama’s science adviser thinks so.
Dr. Holdren weighs in on climate science, denial, and why every president needs a science adviser.
By Kiley Kroh
Dec 22 2016
When asked what has kept him in his job for so long, the longest serving presidential science adviser in history answered without hesitation.
“What kept me in the job is working for the most science savvy president since Thomas Jefferson,” Dr. John Holdren said. “And in a situation where there’s a lot more science to be savvy about today than there was when Thomas Jefferson was president.”
Holdren was clear that the man in the Oval Office, that man’s respect for science and innovation, and his desire to elevate those fields across government all made the past eight years a once in a lifetime opportunity.
“I would not have jumped off this ship for anything,” said Holdren.
But the winds of change are blowing hard. President Barack Obama will vacate the White House in a month and the tenor of the group assembled to replace his administration, particularly with regard to science policy, could not be more different. President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly called climate change a “hoax” and recently said “nobody really knows” whether climate change is real. (In reality, scientists are quite certain it is both happening and largely the result of human activity.)
Trump has already amassed an alarming number of people who reject the scientific consensus regarding climate change, have deep ties to the fossil fuel industry, and are quite clear regarding their intent to undo or weaken the Obama climate legacy. His transition team has asked the Department of Energy to name staff who worked on Obama administration climate policy, and pressed the State Department about its international environmental spending.
In the face of this dramatic shift, the scientific community is bracing itself for an administration that could be dismissive, or outright antagonistic, towards science — some are even going as far as to copy government climate science data on independent servers to ensure its preservation.
Holdren is nevertheless optimistic that the forces moving the world toward progress on climate change are stronger than the pull of denial, and that the advancements made in the past eight years will serve as building blocks rather than targets. While as a political appointee he’s prohibited from discussing the policies of the president-elect, he had a lot to say about climate denial, the importance of his position, and where we go from here. Read on for the highlights from our recent interview.