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Is Science Anti-Environmental? Democracy and Science in Environmental Health Policy Michele Morrone, Ph.D. Ohio University Definitions Environmentalism : The activity of protecting the environment from pollution or destruction. Science : the search for knowledge. Definitions

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is science anti environmental

Is Science Anti-Environmental?

Democracy and Science in Environmental Health Policy

Michele Morrone, Ph.D.

Ohio University

  • Environmentalism: The activity of protecting the environment from pollution or destruction.
  • Science: the search for knowledge.
  • Environmentalist: “anyone with a significant involvement with environmental issues, usually in an advocacy sense.”
  • Scientist: “a person who uses observation, experimentation and theory to learn about a subject”
role in environmental policymaking

Provide data

Advise decisionmakers

Serve as experts


Identify issues


Mobilize the masses

Role in Environmental Policymaking
integrating science with environmental policy
Integrating Science with Environmental Policy
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • No right answers
  • Role of uncertainty
  • Democracy
  • Media
  • Illiteracy
science literacy aaas
Science Literacy(AAAS)
  • A science-literate person:
    • Is familiar with the natural world
    • Understands key scientific concepts
    • Has capacity for scientific thinking
    • Is aware of interdependence of mathematics, technology and science and understands their limitations
    • Uses scientific knowledge for personal and social purposes
national science foundation science and engineering indicators 2002
National Science FoundationScience and Engineering Indicators, 2002

Adults:All (yellow),males (dark blue),females (light blue)

Education: No HS (yellow),HS only (dark blue),BS (light blue),graduate degree (gray)

Science education: 5 or fewer science classes (yellow),6-8 science classes (dark blue),9 or more science classes (light blue)

junk science
Junk Science
  • “Phony science concocted to further activist regulatory agendas and profitable litigation.”
  • “Faulty scientific data and analysis used to further a special agenda.”
setac s warning signs
SETAC’s Warning Signs
  • Statements of absolute certainty
  • Important variables overlooked
  • Unreported/inadequate sample sizes
  • Lack of useful standards of reference
  • Inferences of cause-effect relationships
  • Observer bias and vested interests
  • Conclusions based on personal stories
  • Unpublished findings
good science
Good Science
  • “accurate recordkeeping, openness, and replication, buttressed by the critical review of one’s work by peers.”
          • American Association for the Advancement of Science
science and food safety scientists v environmentalists
Science and Food Safety: Scientists v. Environmentalists
  • Human Health Issue
    • 76 million illnesses
    • More than 5,000 deaths
    • 325,000 hospitalizations
  • Cost
    • ERS estimates that Salmonella alone costs US $3 billion/year
food safety risks
Food Safety Risks
  • Microbiological
    • Bacteria
    • Viruses
    • Parasites
  • Chemical
    • Pesticides
food safety policy
Food Safety Policy
  • Food Code
  • Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP)
  • Food Safety Initiative
  • Federal Laws
food additives act
Food Additives Act
  • Not based on imminent public health threat
  • Based on concerns over long-term exposures to chemicals, pesticides and additives
  • How to define “additive”
what is food irradiation
Organic Consumer’s Association

Food irradiation is a key part of factory farming. By sterilizing meatat the end of the process, food irradiation perpetuates and even worsensthe unsustainable, unsanitary and inhumane conditions found on mostfactory farms.


“promising new food safety technology that can eliminate disease-causing germs from foods… treating food with ionizing radiation can kill bacteria and parasites that would otherwise cause foodborne disease”

What is Food Irradiation?
how safe is irradiation

“The existing science on the safety of food irradiation is totally inadequate for the FDA to unleash this technology on the public.”


“The foods are not changed in nutritional value and they are not made dangerous as a result of the irradiation. The high energy ray is absorbed as it passes through food, and gives up its energy”

How safe is irradiation?
irradiation science
Irradiation Science
  • More than 40 years of research
  • 1990 GAO report
  • American Medical Association
  • American Dietetic Association
  • American Veterinary Medical Association
irradiation policy
1963, FDA approved use in wheat and flour

Food Additives Act

Food labeling requirements

Irradiation Policy
science and global warming
Science and Global Warming
  • International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC):
    • “The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.”
ipcc findings from third assessment 2001
IPCC Findings from Third Assessment (2001)
  • The global average surface temperature has increased .6°C during the 20th century.
  • Snow cover and ice extent have decreased by about 10% since 1960
  • Global average sea level has risen between .1 and .2 meters during the 20th century
The 1990s were likely the warmest decade in the 20th century
  • 1998 the warmest year in the 20th century
global warming
Global Warming

Sierra Club:

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded by consensus that "increasing concentrations of anthropogenic greenhouse gases have contributed substantially to the observed warming over the last 50 years."

  • IPCC: “Concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases and their radiative forcing have continued to increase as a result of human activities.”
global warming27
Global Warming
  • Sierra Club: “Like the tobacco industry, the corporations that produce carbon dioxide pollution are seeking to deny the truth. Rather than admit that our increasing dependence on coal, oil, and natural gas is altering our climate, those who produce these fuels, along with the powerful auto industry, are spending millions of dollars in an effort to discredit the IPCC and global warming.”
policy response
Policy Response
  • President Bush reneges on campaign plan to limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants in the U.S.
    • "The policy challenge is to act in a serious and sensible way, given the limits of our knowledge. While scientific uncertainties remain, we can begin now to address the factors that contribute to climate change."
further policy response
Further Policy Response
  • “If, in 2012, we find that we are not on track toward meeting our goal, and sound science justifies further policy action, the United States will respond with additional measures that may include a broad, market-based program as well as additional incentives and voluntary measures designed to accelerate technology development and deployment.”
    • Global Change Policy Book from the White House
so is science anti environmental
So, Is Science Anti-environmental?
  • The better question is: does it really matter if scientists are environmentalists or not?
    • Because:
      • “Most policy making will proceed either with or without science”

Norse and Tschirley

University College of London


Public Confidence in Selected Institutions

SOURCE: J. A. Davis, T. W. Smith, and P. V. Marsden, General Social Survey 1972–2002 Cumulative Codebook (University of Chicago, National Opinion Research Center).

Recently, a group of prominent scientists charged that the Bush Administration is ignoring and distorting scientific evidence concerning the seriousness of environmental problems such as global warming. How much have you heard about this criticism before now: a great deal, a moderate amount, not much, or nothing at all?

Great deal: 8 %

Moderate Amount: 26 %

Not much: 40%

Nothing: 26 %

Source: Gallup Poll, 1005 US Adults, March 8-11, 2004

Who do you tend to believe in this matter: the scientists who claim that the Bush Administration is ignoring and distorting scientific evidence about environmental problems, OR, the Bush Administration, which denies ignoring and distorting scientific evidence about environmental problems

Scientists: 59%

Bush Administration: 32 %

No opinion: 9%

Source: Gallup Poll of 1005 US Adults, March 8-11, 2004

in science the majority does not rule william ruckelshaus former usepa administrator
“In science, the majority does not rule.”William Ruckelshaus former USEPA Administrator