From the same people who told you that cigarettes were perfectly healthy: Mercury in our food is just fine, too. Smog in the air? No problem. To top it off — we don’t need to do a thing about climate pollution, either. And let’s just get rid of NASA’s world class research on our own dear earth’s systems. Who needs it?
Vice President-elect Pence has just interviewed a potential EPA Administrator, Kathleen Hartnett White, to wage the Trump administration’s all-out war on science. That’s what White has been doing for years with the Texas Public Policy Foundation. She denies astonishing, internationally-respected scientific data that shows exactly how excess carbon in our atmosphere is causing our earth to warm. She’s being paid to do so — by the same fossil fuel polluters who have had Myron Ebell, Trump’s chosen chief of the EPA transition, on their payroll. Talk about a swamp.
Meanwhile, from the Cato Institute, we got a Thanksgiving surprise in the form of a legal brief denying the science behind the toxicity of mercury. The polluters cannot wait to get rid of the mercury rules that keep antiquated coal-fired power plants from spewing poisons into the air — poisons that end up in our fish and rice. Cato’s Patrick Michaels is heralded as Cato's guiding authority on science. He is thoroughly discredited as a climate denier—on behalf of the fossil fuel companies that have paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars for his testimony. Now he’s focusing his crooked science on mercury.
Mercury interferes with the developing brains of fetuses. It is shocking that Pence, a self-avowed evangelist, would turn to advisors who ignore in utero protection. It will also be shocking to fellow evangelists, who fought hard for those very protections on behalf of the unborn. Mercury is truly awful. But corporate polluters don’t care.
The Clean Air Act, a jewel in America’s crown, has cleaned up pollution across the country. Without it, our air would look like the thick, toxic stew people are breathing in China and India. We know, because our air used to be terrible, too.
Science is the cornerstone of the Clean Air Act. Regulations must be science and health-based. That’s the law. Of course costs are considered, always, as well. But science and health drive the process. The reason we have protections from mercury, smog, acid gases, and other toxins is because scientists have proven that toxic pollution harms growing brains, lungs, and hormonal systems.
Science is now under assault. The incoming administration has signaled its intention to stop funding NASA’s research on earth systems. The administration wants to get rid of our health protections — even while the fossil fuel industry is making record profits — and to do it, they’ll deny the science that underpins the rules. This is the same playbook the Koch Brothers used to disrupt progress on climate pollution. Now the field is wide open.
I doubt that Trump would want Ivanka’s babies to be exposed to mercury, chromium, acid gases, or any of the other nasties his people will welcome back into our air — in the name of even greater fossil fuel profits. Instead of draining the swamp, the Trump administration is teeing up a Science Brain Drain.