Adults Behaving Badly: Climate Edition

September 20, 2019 | 11:40 am
Ben Stansall/Getty Images
Rebecca Boehm
Former Contributor

Today, millions of children and their adult allies across the globe strike to force action on the climate crisis. All of us should feel hopeful, inspired, grateful, but not at all surprised that young people are leading the charge to save our and their future. While young people have and always been a strong force for social change in our world, in my opinion, they shouldn’t have to organize a global climate strike. That’s our job.

Yet, as children seize the moment to force change, adults are behaving badly, especially those in the Trump administration. In less than four years, this Administration has made it a priority to dismiss, suppress, and ignore climate change and its impact on our society and environment.

For example, just yesterday, Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow released a 600-page document containing 1,400 climate-related studies authored by US Department of Agriculture scientists which were hidden from public view over the last two years. Two of the studies on the list happen to be my own. Typically, USDA issues press releases on studies its own authors complete, but things changed when Secretary Sonny Purdue took the reins at USDA.

The 600-page document comes on the heels of two explosive reports earlier this summer which found that USDA was intentionally and systematically keeping climate studies under wraps and prohibiting its own scientists from speaking with the media about their research. Even before these reports, USDA forced many of its researchers to label its research as “preliminary” in an attempt to de-legitimize findings that were counter to the Administration’s political objectives. What is more, USDA has pushed out hundreds of its own scientists through a poorly managed, rushed, and potentially illegal “relocation”. Unfortunately, this kind of censorship and muzzling of researchers isn’t confined to USDA. It’s happening across our government’s science agencies.

When the adults in charge are acting naughty, no matter what their motive is, we all lose. We urgently need as many innovative ideas and solutions as we can muster to solve the climate crisis. Many of these solutions can from the dedicated and hardworking researchers in our government science agencies. But if their research is hidden, never making it into the hands of the public or policymakers, it has little impact. The badly behaving adults attempting to keep the research quiet know this.

Fortunately, the next generation is taking things into their own hands. They’ve inspired me and countless other adults already. Hopefully, they can inspire the adults in power to behave better and do the right thing on climate.