“I know there’s a lot of uncertainty here, from the election and from the announcements that have come out since that time: What are our budgets going to be like, are our priorities going to change?” Jewell said in a keynote address at the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting.
“It’s not productive for me to speculate what the next administration will do,” she continued, “but what I can do is give you a bit of unsolicited advice: When you sit in a chair like mine, you come in with a set of ideas and assumptions, but there’s a way of sitting in these chairs that will dump a bucket of ice water on any ideology.”
There was an unmistakable undercurrent of apprehension in Jewell’s speech, given the incoming Trump administration’s open hostility toward climate change research and science in general. Trump and many members of his potential Cabinet are noted climate change deniers, and recent appointments ― like Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson to lead the Department of State ― have led some environmental advocates to allege the government will soon be “of, by and for the oil and gas industry.”
Scientists have begun frantically saving data, fearing much of their research could soon vanish. And others worry the incoming administration could retaliate against people working on climate change issues.
We cannot win without good science. If we start speaking in a new language of business, we will start helping this administration understand why this is important. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell
Jewell, who has led the Interior Department under President Barack Obama since 2013, stressed that science should appeal to the business sense of any sound investor, especially when “we have a president-elect who likes to win.”
“We cannot win without good science. If we start speaking in a new language of business, we will start helping this administration understand why this is important,” she said, pointing to the threat rising sea levels pose to American communities. “When you have a president-elect of the United States that has a background in the real estate business, your science matters.”
During Obama’s presidency, the U.S. has racked up some significant environmental accomplishments ― establishing the largest ecologically protected area on the planet, creating the Clean Power Plan to limit emissions from power plants and signing the landmark Paris climate accord.
Much of that legacy could be dismantled under Trump, but Jewell said she was still hopeful about the future and urged those gathered at the meeting to continue to hold leaders accountable “at every level.”
“I am optimistic about your work. I am optimistic that my successor will quickly realize how important this work is,” she said. “I urge you to stay the course and keep up your commitment to the work. Make your voices heard and make them relevant to the people that you’re talking to.”