Snowballs, witch-hunts, and a big measles outbreak.
In 2015, science was a favorite punching bag for many of America’s politicians. While leaders of nearly 200 nations met in Paris to hammer out a historic deal to combat climate change, the US Senate held a hearing—hosted by presidential hopeful Ted Cruz (R-Texas)—to debunk the science. It had a subtle title: “Data or Dogma?” In fact, 2015 did nothing to alter the notion that one whole American political party—and nearly all of its candidates for the White House—remains stuck on a murky spectrum from outright climate denial to the policy version of ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, as we wrote about all-too often this year.
There was, of course, the infamous snowball thrown on the floor of the Senate. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) claimed that global warming wasn’t happening because it was cold when he made the snowball. (Repeat after me: Weather does not a climate trend make.) But perhaps the more insidious attack on science was directed by Congressman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. Smith accused government scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of rigging climate data to disprove the so-called “global warming pause” (a contested but popular talking point often used to attack the science). He then attempted to depose the scientists and subpoena their documents. “Political operatives and other NOAA employees likely played a large role in approving NOAA’s decision to adjust data that allegedly refutes the hiatus in warming,” he told the Washington Post.
But if you can’t fight the science outright in public, why not simply try to ban the words? That was the ingenious tactic allegedly employed by the state of Florida, under Gov. Rick Scott (R). Employees from several state departments said they had been told not to use the phrases “climate change” and “global warming” in official state business. (The governor denied the allegations.)
2015 also saw yet another round of measles outbreaks, including one that spread at Disneyland in California. Public health officials blamed parents who don’t vaccinate their kids. That anti-vaxxer sentiment found a powerful megaphone in Republican front-runner Donald Trump, who at September’s televised GOP debate repeated the totally discredited—and dangerous—theory that vaccines cause autism. “Autism has become an epidemic,” Trump claimed. “Twenty-five years ago, 35 years ago, you look at the statistics, not even close. It has gotten totally out of control.” (Trump insisted he’s still in favor of vaccines, despite warning a national TV audience that they are endangering children.)
Watch the whole, not-so-splendid, anti-science show above.