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EDITORIAL: Give science its due

York Dispatch

So it has come to this.

In a country that once prided itself on its scientific expertise, that put a man on the moon, that made Edison and Einstein household names, people are now marching in the streets to show support for science.

Meanwhile, leaders in the White House and Congress scoff at facts that nearly every scientist in the world agree on and want to defund agencies that have done a good job of ensuring that we have air that is fit to breathe and water that is safe to drink.

There are consequences to ignoring scientists' warnings that policymakers seem comfortable to dismiss.

Last Saturday, people from around the country went to Washington, D.C., for the March for Science. Some wore hazard suits, many carried signs saying things like "There is no Planet B" and "I'm With Her" with a picture of Earth.

In this April 22, 2017 photo, demonstrators participate in the March for Science, which traveled through downtown Seattle from Cal Anderson Park to the Seattle Center. People in cities around the world spent the day rallying in support of science, truth and facts. (Genna Martin/seattlepi.com via AP)

This coming Saturday, thousands more are going to D.C. for the Peoples Climate March to advance solutions to climate change, protect the right to clean air, water and food and fund investments in sustainable energy, among other goals.

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The protesters plan to end the march by surrounding the White House to demand an end to the climate denial that has been a hallmark of the current administration.

There are sister marches in Hagerstown, Maryland, and in Philadelphia on Saturday.

President Donald Trump promised to accomplish many things in the first 100 days of his administration. Most of those promises haven't been fulfilled, but the one area where he has had unprecedented success is in cutting Obama-era environmental regulations.

Trump has revived the Keystone XL Pipeline project and seen the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, both of which were heavily protested. He's also lifted restrictions on coal mining and drilling for natural gas and started a review of the Clean Power Plan, which is meant to restrict greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants such as York County's Brunner Island.

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He has installed climate change denier Scott Pruitt as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency and proposed a budget that guts the EPA and many of its programs, including the Chesapeake Bay Program to clean up water throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed's six states, including Pennsylvania. He also wants to cut funding for NASA's climate research and satellites that meteorologists rely on for weather forecasts.

Congress is doing its part to deny science its due as well. Bills introduced by Republicans in the House this session include legislation that would limit the use of scientific data in making EPA regulations, stop the use of the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and one bill that would eliminate the EPA altogether by the end of next year.

At the same time our leaders seem to be doing their best to discredit science and scientists, here in York, and across the country, we are actively promoting STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) courses in schools, working to show children the fun, exciting and important work that can be done using knowledge and skills. York City is making plans to reopen the Edgar Fahs Smith school as a STEAM academy, and activities from Dallastown's Physics Olympics to Junior Achievement events encourage kids' natural curiosity about the world to get them interested in careers in those fields.

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As a country, we're sending mixed messages, and that needs to stop.

Science is the way we as a species discover the truth. Theories, trial and error and experiments have been the backbone of human achievement since we started using fire to cook food.

A Congress and administration full of deniers can't change the facts.

Americans need clean air and water. We need to deal with climate change and its effects now, before coastal cities feel further effects of rising seas and rising temperatures permanently disrupt ecosystems.

Our leaders need to look at these people who are passionate about science, listen to them and do what is necessary to preserve our country.

This is no time to continue debating facts that 99 percent of the world considers to be settled as truth. The U.S. needs to step forward as a leader in science once again and address these problems before it's too late.