Scientific American has endorsed a presidential candidate for the first time in the widely respected magazine’s 175-year history. The editorial board members broke with tradition on Tuesday, writing in an editorial that they are “compelled” to endorse Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden — and urge readers to vote out President Trump.
“We do not do this lightly,” the editors write. “The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people — because he rejects evidence and science.”
Scientific American covers groundbreaking research and popular science and rarely wades into partisan politics, but the editorial board does not mince words in their editorial. They write that the “most devastating” example of Trump’s rejection of science is his “dishonest and inept” response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed 194,000 lives in the United States and counting. The president’s attacks on medical care, government scientists, environmental protections and public health research have severely weakened the nation’s ability to respond to the greatest challenges of our time, most notably COVID-19 and climate change, according to the editorial.
“In his ongoing denial of reality, Trump has hobbled U.S. preparations for climate change, falsely claiming that it does not exist and pulling out of international agreements to mitigate it,” the editors write. “The changing climate is already causing a rise in heat-related deaths and an increase in severe storms, wildfires and extreme flooding.”
The endorsement and editorial come shortly after Trump refused to acknowledge that climate change is fueling raging wildfires across the West, where at least 27 people have died and entire communities have either been destroyed, evacuated and choked in smoke. Trump said nothing publicly about the wildfires for weeks, conveniently ignoring a growing environmental and humanitarian disaster in states he is not likely to win in November. Facing attacks from Biden, Trump finally traveled to California on Monday to meet with firefighters and state officials.
“We come from a perspective, humbly, where we submit the science is in and observed evidence is self-evident: that climate change is real, and that is exacerbating this,” said California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, during a meeting with the president.
Trump, who has quietly signed disaster declarations for Oregon and Washington without issuing any statements of support for fire victims, pushed back with the climate denialism that guided his administration to pull the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord and embrace the fossil fuel industry.
“It’ll start getting cooler, you just — you just watch,” Trump said after hearing from Newsom and other officials.
“I wish science agreed with you,” said Wade Crowfoot, California’s secretary for natural resources.
“I don’t think science knows, actually,” Trump replied.
Science, in fact, does know, even if Trump disagrees and thinks he can predict the weather. While there are many variables that can determine the prevalence and intensity of wildfires, numerous scientific studies have found that higher temperatures, heat waves and droughts associated with human-caused climate disruption increase the risk of fires and create conditions for the unprecedented blazes in the U.S. and across the world. Scientific American has covered the link between wildfires and climate change for nearly a decade.
Biden pushed back on Monday, saying that climate change “is not a partisan phenomenon; it’s science” and calling Trump a “climate arsonist.”
According to the editors at Scientific American, Trump’s rejection of science and the advice of scientists and medical professionals in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic has been “catastrophic.” Trump repeatedly downplayed the dangers posed by the coronavirus and spread misinformation about the availability of testing, all while failing to implement a national response strategy despite repeated warnings from experts working with his administration. Trump repeatedly politicized the pandemic, undermining lifesaving public health efforts and contributing to a second surge in infections after certain states reopened too soon. They write:
It wasn’t just a testing problem: if almost everyone in the U.S. wore masks in public, it could save about 66,000 lives by the beginning of December, according to projections from the University of Washington School of Medicine. Such a strategy would hurt no one. It would close no business. It would cost next to nothing. But Trump and his vice president flouted local mask rules, making it a point not to wear masks themselves in public appearances. Trump has openly supported people who ignored governors in Michigan and California and elsewhere as they tried to impose social distancing and restrict public activities to control the virus. He encouraged governors in Florida, Arizona and Texas who resisted these public health measures, saying in April — again, falsely — that “the worst days of the pandemic are behind us” and ignoring infectious disease experts who warned at the time of a dangerous rebound if safety measures were loosened.
While Biden’s centrist agenda has frustrated progressives and raised concerns about voter enthusiasm within the Democratic base, Scientific American argues that Biden is offering “fact-based plans to protect our health, our economy and our environment” that are guided by scientists and experts.
Trump continues to argue against science anytime research and facts run counter to the narratives he feeds the media and his supporters. However, despite his attacks on public health experts, the percentage of U.S. adults who have a “great deal” of trust in scientists grew during the COVID-19 outbreak, although mostly among Democratic-leaning voters.
Biden’s campaign is now seizing on Trump’s anti-science record. The former vice president maintains an average seven-point lead in national polling, but Trump enjoys an advantage in the electoral college and several key swing states remain toss-ups.
Trump is a liar who will cling to any rhetorical ground that he perceives to provide political advantage, and the Scientific American’s unprecedented endorsement is evidence that Trump’s brazen rejection of facts is not something that even many “nonpartisan” scientists and journalists can stomach.