Aaron Parsons, a campus associate professor of astronomy, wrote an open letter to President Donald Trump soon after Trump’s inauguration to convey the widespread consensus among scientists that anthropogenic climate change is real.
The letter garnered signatures from 2,390 UC and California State University faculty members from a wide range of departments. The letter asked that the Trump administration maintain and increase the United States’ commitment to mitigating the effects of climate change, beginning with the Paris Agreement. About 480 current campus faculty members were among those who signed the letter.
Parsons clarified his motive behind the letter, stating that scientists have specialized skills that policymakers should rely on, such as an awareness of bias. He added that, as a result of the letter, he has made connections with academics at other universities who he has been communicating with on how to continue to motivate scientists.
“Regardless of your political beliefs, when facts start being called into question, academics around the world have a duty to step in,” Parsons said. “It’s about standing up for science as science and knowledge as knowledge.”
Raymond Jeanloz, campus professor of astronomy, said scientists often gain their technical knowledge with the support of taxpayer money, and so they have an obligation to share their findings with the government and the public.
Jeanloz said he did not sign the letter, as he did not have the chance to study it. He said, however, he supported scientists in voicing their opinions and providing their expertise.
“When tweeted nonsense has come to substitute for both truth and thinking, and when monetary and political interests overwhelm care for the future, the most important thing scientists can do as citizens is to insist on the legitimacy of their work,” said Wendy Brown, campus professor of political philosophy and signatory of the letter, in an email.
Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof emphasized that there are no restrictions on professors for expressing their political beliefs.
“Our university is dedicated to science, the pursuit of knowledge and its dissemination,” Mogulof said. “Educating the public about climate change and advocating for action to reduce greenhouse emission is completely consistent with Berkeley’s public mission.”
Contact Shayann Hendricks and Aleah Jennings-Newhouse at [email protected].