Environmental Policy
Daily Earth Science

Science and Environmental Policy

Informed decision making is a relatively straight forward proposition, or is it? Collect the data, analyze the data, and then make a decision based on a careful analysis. This process seems reasonable, but it turns out to be quite difficult, as recently pointed out by EPA scientists. These scientists claim that the current rewrite of federal water pollution rules has no scientific basis.

Decisions based on weak data and analysis also create obstacles in addressing environmental decline and climate change. For some, decisions made using data and facts are often inconvenient. The answer may not be the one people would like. 

The concept of “if we say it is true, then it must be true” is more useful in politics than being burdened with making decisions based on a sound analysis of data. It is also true that, in politics, decision making which ignores the facts, can provide favorable short-term results. But, this type of policymaking does not provide a sound basis for guiding long term growth. 

Environmental policy decisions

Decisions about climate change and the environment connect closely to a web of money, power, social opinion, and politics. Profit is a powerful motive and thus the economics of climate change matter to vested interests who are protecting their financial assets. Money and politics go hand-in-hand, so actions that limit profits are attacked by those who stand to lose money.

From the standpoint of environmental protection, power translates into developing and implementing effective government policy. Money and financial leverage are strong influencers of political power and how it is used. However, social opinion is also a factor in many countries. Political structures ultimately rely on sufficient sustaining support from the societies they govern. The degree to which social opinion influences a government varies across a spectrum of government types ranging from democracies to authoritarian regimes and dictators.

Without social pressure, political leadership will easily operate contrary to valid scientific analysis. The pressure from vested financial interests will continue to garner their support. Simply being elected does not guarantee that a politician has the intellectual bandwidth to review and understand the messages that scientific research presents. Without pressure through social dissatisfaction, many politicians will be happy to stay on their current path.

Voter pressure

Politics can work to move climate and environmental issues forward. Politics, however, is subject to the whims of those in power, and it is just as easy to move forward as backward. When science ceases to be a basis for policymaking, then poor long-term decision making will be the rule of the day. 

In democracies, the individual’s power to vote is one of the most potent weapons in the arsenal for creating change. Therefore, those who want positive change must actively pursue it. Educate yourself on the facts. Engage with others in meaningful discussions, so you understand their point of view, and they understand yours. Know what you stand for and vote for your position at every opportunity. When enough people do this, we will have reached a social tipping point. Then, perhaps we can move towards a future where humans can exist in a long-term balance with the rest of the biosphere.

Sources:

EPA Scientist Slam Trump’s Water Rule Rewrite – (Bloomberg Environment) – https://news.bloombergenvironment.com/environment-and-energy/epa-scientists-slam-trumps-waters-rule-rewrite?context=search&index=0&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=ehsdesk&utm_campaign=915CF5A4-2C32-11EA-80E5-962E50017A06 Also:

Feature Image: The dome of the US Capitol building (by Diliff) (Modified) – This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

William House
William is an earth scientist and writer with an interest in providing the science "backstory" for breaking environmental, earth science, and climate change news.

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