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Trouble Ahead for Climate Science Meetings?

Credit: MacXever on Thinkstock by Getty Images

While conferences held by non-governmental organizations recently got a reprieve from the four-year-old crackdown on government employees’ participation in their conferences, those whose content centers on climate change may see more of a big chill under a Trump administration.

The president-elect’s transition team recently surveyed all government employees and contractors to find out who has participated in conferences having to do with climate change policies, according to this article in the New York Times.

Among other things, the article said,

“The questionnaire asks for lists of employees involved in key climate change programs, including all those who have attended United Nations climate change conferences. It also asks for lists of employees involved in designing a metric known as the Social Cost of Carbon, a figure used by the Obama administration to measure the economic impact of carbon dioxide pollution, and to justify the economic cost of climate regulations.”

Given that the PEOTUS has repeatedly said that he believes global warming is a hoax, and that he wants to rescind President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and cancel the Paris Climate Agreement, it wouldn’t be a stretch to believe the latest move by his transition team is the beginning phase of a reduction, if not elimination, of government scientist participation in scientific meetings that discuss the latest developments in the field.

However, he has backed off some of those statements lately, and, despite having selected a state attorney general who has sued the Environmental Protection Agency to lead the EPA, has also met with vocal environmental advocates like former Vice President Al Gore. So I may be premature in trying to parse the meaning of his transition team’s survey.

According to an interview on Fox News Sunday,

“When asked where he stood on the environment and climate change, Trump would not be pinned down. ‘I'm very open-minded. I'm still open-minded. Nobody really knows,’ Trump said. ‘Look, I'm somebody that gets it and nobody really knows. It's not something that's so hard and fast. I do know this: other countries are eating our lunch.’”

So all we know for sure is that “Trump indicated his interest is in making the government more efficient and responsive to business.” How that will trickle down to government employee participation in meetings remains to be seen. But if I were planning a climate change policy conference in the near future, I would include in my risk-management plan contingencies for a potential reduction in, if not ban on, U.S. government scientist participation as speakers and attendees, just in case. 

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