A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll on global climate illustrates the politicization of science in the United States:
Scientists themselves also come in for more negative assessments in the poll, with four in 10 Americans now saying that they place little or no trust in what scientists have to say about the environment [emphasis added]. That’s up significantly in recent years. About 58 percent of Republicans now put little or no faith in scientists on the subject, double the number saying so in April 2007. Over this time frame, distrust among independents bumped up from 24 to 40 percent, while Democrats changed only marginally. Among seniors, the number of skeptics more than doubled, to 51 percent. … [M]ore than six in 10 Americans see a lot of disagreement among scientists on the issue of global warming. That’s the view of nearly eight in 10 Republicans and about two-thirds of independents. A smaller majority of Democrats, 55 percent, see general agreement among the scientific community.
Indeed, as a scientist I have no traction with my Republican mother-in-law. She revels in how I am taken out of context in her favorite climate skeptic book. Makes no difference that I can explain how. Her own son, a nuclear physicist at Oak Ridge, gets no traction as well (and he had the enjoyment of climate bashing over the holidays). She is a very smart and accomplished woman, holding a Ph.D in economics. She must be doing something right…re-elected the mayor the sixth largest city in Georgia with 84% of the vote (three opponents splitting the rest). But wouldn’t it be simpler for her to explain why our economy cannot afford to stop carbon emissions, which may well be true, rather than accepting Republican mantra that the practice of science is flawed. (Or perhaps I’ve misjudged and her views are aligned not with Repuplicans but with other seniors?)
No wonder I fear for our new College of the Environment at UW, nearly all of its units rooted in the natural sciences. Are we now instantly less credibile? Perhaps the only saving grace is that we are located in a blue state.