Top Science Organizations Call for Presidential Science Debate
A group of scientific and engineering organizations is trying to get the presidential candidates to commit to a debate on science in America: Quest for Science Debate Continues.
As CJR points out, in the last election both John McCain and Barack Obama gave fairly detailed written responses. I have no doubt Obama would gladly participate again, but what are the odds that Mitt Romney will commit to something like this, in the anti-science era of the religious right and the Tea Party?
On Thursday, 15 top science and engineering organizations, from the American Organization for the Advancement of Science to the Union of Concerned Scientists, released a list of 14 questions that they would like the presidential candidates to answer, preferably in a televised debate.
The group was organized by the nonprofit science advocacy organization ScienceDebate.org, which launched during the 2008 race in order to press Obama and his then challenger into a parley about scientific matters of national significance. Although over 38,000 scientists, politicians, journalists, and other supporters signed the call, the debate didn’t happen, but Obama and US Sen. John McCain did provide written responses, with a useful amount of detail, to that year’s list of 14 questions.
This year’s list—again crafted from suggestions from thousands of scientists, engineers, and others—hasn’t changed much. Questions about: the role of science and technology in innovation and the economy, climate change, energy, education, pandemics and biodiversity, ocean health, water, space, public health, and federal support for basic research remain basically the same as the last go-round. Questions about critical natural resources, the Internet, and food safety replaced ones about national security, genetics research, and stem cells. And a question about scientific integrity was reworked into a question about science in public policy.
Here’s the proposed question about climate change:
2. Climate Change. The Earth’s climate is changing and there is concern about the potentially adverse effects of these changes on life on the planet. What is your position on cap-and-trade, carbon taxes, and other policies proposed to address global climate change—and what steps can we take to improve our ability to tackle challenges like climate change that cross national boundaries?
I see a problem right there in the first sentence for Romney; as in many of his formerly moderate positions, he’s flipped toward the far right position on climate change. In a recent speech, Romney would not concede that humans are causing climate change, embracing the denialism rampant in today’s GOP:
“My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us. My view with regards to energy policy is pretty straightforward. I want us to become energy secure and independent of the oil cartels. And that means let’s aggressively develop our oil, our gas, our coal, our nuclear power.”
I hope Mitt Romney does accept the challenge and debate Obama on science issues. It would be very interesting to see how he spins his answers to avoid angering the loonies in his party.