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San Diego Climate Scientists Are Not Optimistic About A Trump Presidency

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry holds his granddaughter as he signs the Paris Agreement on climate change at U.N. headquarters, April 22, 2016.
Associated Press
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry holds his granddaughter as he signs the Paris Agreement on climate change at U.N. headquarters, April 22, 2016.

San Diego Climate Scientists Are Not Optimistic About A Trump Presidency
They're worried about the effects his administration could have on international climate agreements and the future of global warming research in the U.S.

San Diego climate scientists are worried about the effects a Donald Trump presidency could have on international climate agreements and the future of climate change research in the United States.

Trump has called climate change a "hoax" and has vowed to "cancel" the Paris climate agreement adopted last year by the U.S. and nearly 200 other countries. In his first 100 days in office, Trump plans to take actions to "move forward" with the Keystone Pipeline, "lift the restrictions" on fossil fuel production and "cancel billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs."


Hundreds of scientists, including many in San Diego, have already expressed concern over the prospect of a Trump presidency. Now that it's a reality, local experts say hard-fought progress toward addressing global warming could crumble if Trump's policies conform to his previous statements on the issue. They also worry that researchers in San Diego, a major climate science hub, could be directly impacted by potential cuts to federal funding for research on climate change.

KPBS reached out to a number of San Diego climate scientists and policy experts for reaction to Trump's victory. Below is a sampling of their emailed responses, which have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Jeff Severinghaus, geosciences professor, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

"Trump's election is indeed a severe blow to the efforts to protect our climate. I suspect that the Paris agreement will founder, given that U.S. leadership was crucial to getting it. Funding for climate science research is also likely to suffer. We in the U.S. could see a similar situation as occurred in Australia six months ago, in which CSIRO climate research was slashed. Federal research in NOAA and NASA is vulnerable to presidential action; National Science Foundation research is somewhat more insulated. Nonetheless Congress has been pressuring the National Science Foundation to curtail its funding of climate change research, and this can be expected to intensify now that both houses of Congress are held by the GOP."

David Victor, professor, School of Global Policy and Strategy at UC San Diego


"It's going to cast a dark shadow over the international diplomatic process. The U.S. may well withdraw from one or more international climate agreements, and it almost certainly won't play the leading role it has played in the past... A key glue that held together the Paris agreement was large new funding to developing countries. The U.S. hasn't paid its share, and one of Trump's pledges for the first 100 days is to block any such funds. That will sour the atmosphere and make it harder to get cooperation. As for U.S. national policy on climate change, this clearly won't be the priority it would have been under Clinton. But beyond that, we really know nothing so far about how a President Trump (as opposed to a bombastic candidate Trump) will actually govern."

Walter Oechel, director, Global Change Research Group at San Diego State University

"To 'cancel' the Paris climate agreement would be unconscionable... The costs of controlling CO2 release and ameliorating global warming are much less than the costs of doing nothing and suffering the costs of drought, sea level rise, increased storm activity, hurricanes, coastal barricades and redesigned sewer and storm flow systems... If Trump is there for the people, as he says, and not in the presidency to do the biding of big business and the financial markets, he will reevaluate his position on climate change and work to increase the use of renewable energy and decrease our use of, and reliance on, fossil fuel."

Veerabhadran "Ram" Ramanathan, distinguished professor of atmospheric and climate sciences, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

"Climate change is not a political issue. It is a scientific and human issue. It is an issue of protecting nature (or creation, for the religious and spiritual) and humanity from calamitous changes. Actions to take on climate change rely mainly on fundamental science and data, which are already overwhelming and will become more so in the coming years and decades. I am confident the Paris agreement will serve as a building block. Scientists like me have to work doubly hard to take the compelling data and science to Mr. Trump."

Richard Somerville, distinguished professor emeritus, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

"I think there is plenty of reason to be very concerned at what a Trump administration might do in the area of climate change, based on statements made by Trump during the campaign. That said, we don’t yet know what the administration will do. In the past, Trump is known to have changed his mind on many issues. I don’t think he has given climate change the serious thought it deserves. He hasn’t been thoroughly briefed by experts yet. Trump faces the fact that he may well be the only head of state of a major nation who denies the reality and seriousness of human-caused climate change. Will he choose to be an international laughing stock, mocked and scorned by all his fellow heads of state? I hope not."

Richard Norris, professor of paleobiology, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

"If Trump follows the lead of the establishment Republicans who control the science committees in Congress, then we can expect even less federal support for climate science than has been on offer since the budget sequester was put in effect. The sequester has lead to large, damaging declines in real science purchasing power. Contrary to the fiction that climate sciences are a hog trough of public money, it is now extremely hard to fund students and research — the worst, by far, in my entire career. We are going to lose our edge with China as research follows support for the high tech tools and need to train new students that leads to most modern scientific discovery. That will lead to a decline in innovation and the decline of our research university system."