Trump and his cabinet picks have aired many views that swerve away from the general agreement among scientists on various issues. (His nominee to lead the Office of Management and Budget once questioned the need for government-funded research at all.) I was curious to learn what some scientists still see in Trump, despite all that.
Many of the Trump-friendly scientists I spoke with diverge from the scientific consensus on climate change, arguing instead that climate change is either not driven primarily by human activity or is not as dangerous as it’s made out to be. These “climate-skeptic” scientists have been pushed to the margins of their field, and some are sensing a rare moment of empowerment with Trump.
Others, though, simply found him to be the lesser of two evils, like so many other voters did. “His manner is quite unpleasant,” said Dan Kleitman, a retired Massachusetts Institute of Technology mathematics professor. “I felt I could hardly listen to him for more than a minute at a time.”
However, “I found that his opponent, I couldn’t listen to for more than 30 seconds at a time.” Kleitman finds Republicans’ proposals on poverty, education, and foreign policy more persuasive.
But ... but ... okay, for example, Trump said that global warming is a Chinese hoax. How could a person with a Ph.D. stand by someone who thinks that?
The “Chinese Hoax” line has been widely misinterpreted, says Judith Curry, the former chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She’s politically independent, but she did once testify before Congress that “efforts to link dangerous impacts of extreme weather events to human-caused warming are misleading and unsupported by evidence.”
In the broader context, she argues, “Trump was not making a statement about the ‘science’ of global warming; rather he was discussing the economic consequences of climate-change policies.”
Those economic consequences were important to James Enstrom, an epidemiologist who departed the University of California, Los Angeles in 2012 after what he said was a politicized controversy over his research on air pollution, some of which was industry-funded. “The prior president didn’t mind shoving down the entire state of West Virginia with no consideration of the socioeconomic impact,” he told me, referring to the Obama administration’s coal-mining regulations.
Some of them just don’t find Trump’s policies as egregious as many liberals do. Richard Lindzen, a former meteorology professor at MIT, said Trump’s statements are being exaggerated. “I have the feeling that there is Trump derangement syndrome,” he said. “People are reacting to anything he does and going on a rampage.”
Lindzen said political correctness had reached stifling levels; he welcomes some relief. “I don’t think your generation appreciates it, how oppressive that has been for many people, especially at universities,” he said. “Trump was attacked for being anti-Semitic, that was an incredible accusation. As someone whose family was killed in the Holocaust, comparing him to Hitler seemed bizarre.”