The Scientific Method

Two years ago, Bill McKibben suggested that America’s climate scientists should go on strike:

[A]t this point it’s absurd to keep asking the scientific community to churn out more reports. In fact, it might almost be more useful if they went on strike: until you pay attention to what we’ve already told you, we won’t be telling you more. Work with what you’ve got. We’re a quarter-century ahead – when you deal with the trouble we’ve already described then we’ll tell you what’s coming next.

Or, better yet, the scientists could join the rest of us in the growing climate movement – they could come out in the streets. A few already have, great leaders like NASA’s James Hansen. But we need many more to follow – at this point the white lab coats would be better used drawing attention to sit-ins and protests than drawing yet another set of ignored conclusions.

America’s climate scientists should not go on strike. (They shouldn’t be shilling for nuclear power, either, but that’s another issue for another day.) Instead, these courageous scientists–who have done so much to raise awareness about the precious state of our physical climate–should also raise awareness about the precious state of our political climate as well…by forcefully denouncing the “Bernie or Bust” movement as the abhorrent force it is.

Members of the #NeverHillary crowd are behaving with reckless disregard for the welfare of future generations. By staying home on Election Day and allowing either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz to seize control of the White House, the “Bernie or Bust”-ers will bear partial responsibility for the sabotage of President Obama’s extensive actions to curb carbon pollution.

What will the “Bernie or Bust”-ers say when President Trump or President Cruz starts censoring reports about climate science, as Bush 43 did? What will they say when President Trump or President Cruz packs the Supreme Court, the federal appellate courts, and the federal district courts with anti-science ideologues who will make Antonin Scalia look like William O. Douglas? What will they say if President Trump or President Cruz nominates an science-scorning scoundrel like Chris Christie or Ken Cuccinelli as Attorney General?

This is why the climate science community must speak out against the demented dangerousness of the “Bernie or Bust” movement. We have made much progress in the fight against climate change over the past eight years, but if a denier becomes the 45th President, all of that progress will be reversed. A denier in the White House means an all-out federal effort to kill the nascent clean-energy industry. A denier in the White House means the gutting of the Environmental Protection Agency and its bold efforts to address the climate crisis. A denier in the White House means more Sandys and more Katrinas.

A denier in the White House is what we could have as a result of the “Bernie or Bust” movement–which is why America’s climate scientists must stand up, with one voice, to denounce this threat. Any condemnation of the “Bernie or Bust” movement by the climate science community should not be construed as an explicit or implicit endorsement of Hillary Clinton: one can strongly disagree with Clinton’s views on fracking (as McKibben does) while also recognizing that Clinton is manifestly not the moral equivalent of Trump or Cruz on climate.

A denier occupying the White House from 2017 to 2021 (or 2025) would be far more dangerous to future generations than even the Keystone XL pipeline would have been. The climate science community–which courageously led the charge against KXL–must now lead the charge against the pipeline of perversity known as the “Bernie or Bust” movement, and the crude product running through it.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.