Presidential candidates on science
It would be an exaggeration to say that science is a top issue in this election … or ever, really. But the scientific community itself is far more involved and engaged than usual. There was the Union of Concerned Scientists open letter accusing the Bush administration of distorting science for political ends. And just recently, a group of science-types formed a group called Scientists and Engineers for Change, explicitly devoted to booting Bush from the Big House.
These developments, combined with the drip-drip of science-related miniscandals coming out of the White House — on salmon hatcheries, peer review, global warming, etc. ad nauseum — have raised the profile of science somewhat.
All of which is by way of saying that tens of … tens of people will be interested to read the flurry of science-related interviews with the candidates that have come out recently.There’s these interviews in Nature (warning: annoying Flash interface), and these, in Science (warning: PDF), two in Natural History (not available online, but described here by Chris Mooney), and most recently, these in Physics Today.
As far as I can tell, Kerry responded to all of these individually, with targeted answers. Bush, it seems, just pointed interviewers toward his prior public statements and his website (Natural History‘s editor admits as much). It shows — the answers are boilerplate, and in some cases comically non-germane.
In every case, Bush responds to the global warming question by playing up “uncertainty.” Here’s how his answer in Physics Today starts:
Global climate change is a serious long-term issue. In 2001, I asked the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to provide the most up-to-date information about the science of climate change. The academy found that considerable uncertainty remains about the effect of natural fluctuations on climate and the future effects climate change will have on our environment.
This also happens to be his answer, verbatim, in Nature. In Science, he shook it up a little:
In 2001, I asked the National Academy of Sciences to do a top-to-bottom review of the most current scientific thinking on climate change. The nation’s most respected scientific body found that key uncertainties remain concerning the underlying causes and nature of climate change.
The point is: Note the careful phrasing. Of course uncertainties remain. Science without uncertainty is religion. But as the NAS report clearly states — and you can read it in full here — in its very first sentence: “Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth’s atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise.” The report as a whole clearly expresses the consensus scientific view that global warming is happening and we’re partly to blame.
Anyway, read the interviews for yourself.