An adviser on the Trump transition team turned heads Wednesday when he likened modern climate science to the ancient belief that the Earth was flat.
“I know that the current president believes that human beings are affecting the climate,” Anthony Scaramucci, a member of the president-elect’s presidential transition team executive committee, said Wednesday on CNN’s “New Day” program. “There are scientists that believe that that’s not happening.”
Scaramucci continued, “There was an overwhelming science that the earth was flat and there was an overwhelming science that we were the center of the world. We get a lot of things wrong in the scientific community.”
“It’s called ignorance,” New Day co-host Chris Cuomo interjected. “You learn over time.”
It’s true there’s a small percentage of scientists who believe human activity has not affected the climate — but the overwhelming majority (around 97 percent, research suggests) believe human-caused climate change is occurring. And theories like geocentrism were, in fact, overturned by the development of new scientific practices and technologies that allowed for better observation of the world — much the way modern advancements have helped expose the changes that are occurring in the world’s climate.
Scaramucci isn’t the only one to make such an analogy, though. Last year, Ted Cruz compared climate doubters to Galileo, who was attacked by the Catholic Church over his idea that the earth revolves around the sun. But as experts pointed out at the time, this comparison doesn’t make any sense either. Galileo found himself pitted against the Church — the major existing authority — not fellow scientists.
To say that there was “overwhelming science” to support the idea that, say, the Earth is the center of the universe is starkly misleading in this way. In fact, there just wasn’t enough science at the time to suggest otherwise.
President Obama actually made a similar comparison back in 2013, only with climate doubters rather than mainstream climate scientists. During a speech at Georgetown University he reportedly said he would not spend time debating with those who deny the science of our involvement in climate change, adding, “We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society. Sticking your head in the sand might make you feel safer but it’s not going to protect you from the coming storm.”
Scaramucci’s comments might be among the most eyebrow-raising this week — but the Trump team’s record on climate change has already been controversial enough until now. The president-elect has been adding climate doubters to his transition team left and right over the past few weeks, particularly to hisEnvironmental Protection Agency “landing team,” which will help shape the new administration’s environmental policy. And his recent nominees for heads of the federal energy and environment agencies are noted skeptics of what is known as anthropogenic climate change.
Uncertainties for the future of U.S. climate policy are high, with a potential withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, end to the Clean Power Plan and renewed expansion of the fossil fuel industry among the greatest concerns. And some experts are worried about the future of basic U.S. climate science as well. A Trump campaign adviser has already suggested curtailing NASA’s climate research, and now, some climate scientists are actually scrambling to copy and archive public U.S. climate data, fearing that it might be lost under the incoming administration.
For his part, Scaramucci added, “I’m not suggesting that we’re not affecting the [climate] change — I honestly don’t know, I’m not a scientist.”