New Report: Politicians and Their Professors

Better Future Project is proud to announce the release of its 4th report: Politicians and Their Professors: The Discrepancy between Science and Policy (MA Edition), which details the discrepancy that exists between politicians and their alma mater universities on the issue of climate change. The report evaluates the climate stance of 16 current and aspiring members of congress from Massachusetts, along with President Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

The report evaluated the relevant faculty at 24 higher education institutions that were attended by the 18 current and aspiring politicians. Altogether, 2,086 professors from relevant fields were researched to discern which professors published in peer-reviewed journals on climate change. Collectively, 203 professors were found to have published on topics related to climate change. Of those, 202 – over 99.5% of them – agreed with the climate consensus.

Yet of the 18 politicians surveyed, only ten of them (55.5%) have publicly and unambiguously backed the scientific consensus that climate change is happening and people are responsible. Of the other eight, six – representing both Democrats and Republicans – have not taken a clear public position and two (Senator Brown and former Governor Romney) have varied their public statements on whether or not climate change is happening and people are responsible.

Report author and Executive Director of Better Future Project Craig Altemose explained that the report was released to push politicians to recognize the consensus. “We believed that politicians would find it harder to disregard the experts at the universities that they trusted enough, valued enough to invested tens of thousands of dollars and spent four years of their life at to gain knowledge. If they aren’t convinced by the experts at their own alma maters, then who will they trust?”

The one scientist found to disagree with the scientific consensus on man-made climate change works at Brigham Young University, former Governor Mitt Romney’s undergraduate alma mater. But the other six scientists at Brigham Young, or 86% of them, agreed with the consensus, as did 100% of the scientists at both Stanford and Harvard where Governor Romney spent his first year of college and four years of graduate school, respectively.

Romney’s Harvard Business School Classmate, small business owner, and military veteran Roger Shamel remarked: “Harvard Business School prides itself in educating leaders who will change the world.  As an alum, and someone with close ties to the school, I can assure you that HBS also tries to teach its future leaders, be they executives, administrators or politicians, to pay attention to facts and moral issues when making decisions.  In my opinion, knowing what I know, and what I believe Mitt Romney to know, he is doing neither.  In this sense, he is bringing disgrace to Harvard.”

Harvard Professor and former Chair of the American Association for the Advancement of Science James McCarthy said: “Massachusetts has an abundance of scientific and technical expertise in its colleges and universities.  This is major asset in the economy of the Commonwealth, and many of our elected officials and candidates for office have degrees from these local schools. It is unfortunate for the people of Massachusetts and the nation that some of our public servants do not take stands on important local and national issues relating to science and technology. But it is downright disturbing when others take positions that are the opposite of scientific findings that the faculty of these schools consistently report in their scholarly published work. Few of those who represent the people of Massachusetts in either our State House or the US Congress actually studied science in college.  However, many if not most faculty in our local schools readily make themselves available when public servants request information and advice on scientific and technical matters.  It is never too late to go back to school.”

Harvard students called upon Senator Scott Brown and Governor Romney (the two politicians in the report whose views have gone back and forth on climate change) to explain why their views on climate change have wavered over time. “The science supporting the consensus has only increased, but politicians continue to hem and haw while my future is at stake.” said Kristen Wraith, a third year environmental science student at Harvard College. “

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