Yesterday, Kelly Knight Craft, newly named U.S. ambassador to Canada, appeared to channel one of this country’s finest songwriters during her nonsensical remarks about “both sides of the science” of climate change. It was the wondrous Joni Mitchell, recall, who sang of looking at clouds, and their magical ability to transform, from “both sides now” in her 1969 song Clouds. Mitchell concluded: “It’s cloud illusion I recall. I really don’t know clouds at all.”
Neither, judging from her comment, does Craft. She doesn’t understand the enigmatic role clouds play in climate change, nor does she comprehend global warming’s effect on glaciers, or rising sea levels or the rising incidence of “floods, droughts and heat waves” noted in communications from the U.S. government before the election of an anti-science ideologue whose administration has taken positions against human-induced climate change, evolution, vaccines, stem cell research—and on and on.
We could deplete precious oxygen dissecting Kelly Craft’s motivation, even her attempt to appear, in her equivocation, conciliatory with the Canadian government (or, for that matter, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers). Certainly there’s much to discuss: Craft’s husband, Joe Craft, a major Trump supporter, made his billions off the backs and health of Kentucky coal miners. The president who appointed her was elected, in part, due to his success shovelling lies that he’d give coal miners their jobs back.
But let’s just denounce the comment as an out-and-out falsehood and move on. One of the fact-challenged Trump administration’s most authoritarian strategies has been its concerted war on science, a discipline in which there are factual findings, not “sides” or points of view to debate. Censoring discussion of climate change has become a major front. In May, Trump took the unconscionable step of withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate accord. Only this week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency silenced three scientists from speaking about effects of climate change on the health of Narragansett Bay, New England’s largest estuary (spoiler alert: the effects to be discussed were very, very bad).
Trump’s war on science threatens another form of evolution: scientific. Science evolves by proving science wrong. Decades ago, for instance, clouds were believed to offer protection from climate change. Not so fast, NASA reported in 2000: “Clouds are not necessarily the white knight that will rescue us from climate change,” it concluded, stating that “our society should seriously consider reasonable steps to limit future emissions of greenhouse gases and soot aerosols as part of an overall strategy to reduce air pollution.” No one should be surprised that NASA too is in the Trump administration’s crosshairs: its fiscal 2018 budget request includes a $561-million decrease in funding, which will reduce the number of earth-science missions and eliminate the agency’s education office.
In Canada, meanwhile, we still have the freedom to focus on conserving and preserving our resources. And these include the creative genius who wrote these bleak, prophetic lines about clouds:
“But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way”
Nearly half a century later, they also apply to a newly anointed U.S. ambassador to Canada.