Articles by David Roberts
David Roberts was a staff writer for Grist. You can follow him on Twitter, if you're into that sort of thing.
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.
No presidential debate has ever provided much succor for environmentalists, but last night's was literally devoid of any mention of environmental issues, save one: In a discussion of Bush's tendency to be "certain but wrong," Kerry wedged "global warming" into a list of subjects about which the president is ignoring facts.
What's significant is not just that green issues were passed over, but that they were passed over in a debate focused on foreign policy. In the U.S., environmentalism is still considered a matter of domestic politics, a "special interest." It is frequently portrayed as a lifestyle quirk, a preoccupation of the leisure class -- as when Dick Cheney notoriously dismissed energy conservation as a "sign of personal virtue."
But in years to come, environmental problems will likely manifest primarily as foreign policy issues. Sir David King, Tony Blair's chief science advisor, got an avalanche of press recently for baldly asserting that climate change is a greater danger to the world than terrorism.
It was an artless way of making a perfectly legitimate point.