Former EPA administrators speak at IU

By Anne Hedin

Two major champions of the environmental movement visited IU Bloomington in January: Gina McCarthy, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Obama, and Janet McCabe, her colleague and EPA Acting Assistant Administrator, one of the lead architects of the Clean Power Plan.


If you missed Gina McCarthy's feisty speech on January 18, there is a video recording online, thanks to the Environmental Resilience Institute. The ERI and the Concerned Scientists @ IU co-sponsored both McCarthy’s and McCabe’s appearances. McCabe is now IU’s Assistant Director for Policy and Implementation at the ERI and Professor of Practice at the McKinney School of Law, IUPUI.

In her talk on January 25, McCabe spoke of the greatest threats facing the EPA and shared her view of where the Concerned Scientists group could have the greatest impact. Approximately 50 top-level people at the EPA (and other agencies) serve at the pleasure of the president and come and go with the administration, she said, but the civil servants and scientists remaining serve the mission of the agency. What is happening to them is a cause of great concern to her.


The EPA budget office has been cut 50%, to the detriment of funding for science.  Morale is down and retirements – even from senior career positions – have increased. After one year in office, President Trump does not have a Science Advisor. The staff that carries on in the absence of a Science Advisor numbers 40 people. By contrast, Obama had a staff of 130 people in that office. EPA research used to be the gold standard in the courts and with policy makers. McCabe is worried that personnel losses and funding cuts will erode the credibility of EPA research. And what will happen to grad students and young scientists when grants go away?


McCabe’s advice to the scientists in the audience was to provide comments on proposed environmental rules, especially in areas such as clean fuel standards that the Trump administration has targeted. By law, the EPA has to respond to technical comments, to give reasons for accepting or rejecting them, and to cite evidence. Job impacts belong in the comments as well. By engaging in this fashion, scientists outside the agency can help ensure that proposed rules get the necessary level of scrutiny, thereby carrying some of the load for scientists inside the agency.


At the state level, for example, Indiana is scheduled to get $41 million from the Volkswagen emissions settlement, which is to be spent on mitigating damage due to burning diesel. McCabe urged the audience to look at a draft rule on the matter that IDEM (Indiana Dept. of Environmental Management) has just posted for public comment. 


The role of scientist as citizen is more important than ever. McCabe recommended going to hearings and legislative meetings, writing op-eds and letters to the editor. Multiply your impact by volunteering to help the Hoosier Environmental Council analyze data and formulate talking points. Leverage resources such as the Environmental Protection Network ( which focuses on budget documents and Denver-based Save EPA Alums ( which offers advice on rule-making and procedurals.


Last but not least: Keep doing science and keep the faith. The EPA’s  2009 Endangerment finding that greenhouse gases are pollutants has been challenged and upheld in court. So long as it remains in force, carbon dioxide has to be regulated.


Reprinted from Time to Choose Coalition newsletter, February 10, 2018


Effective Communication with Legislators Or… How to be a Lobbyist for Science


in collaboration with


Union of Concerned Scientists,

Environmental Management & Sustainable Development Association (EMSDA), and

Students for Equity in Public Affairs (SEPA)


are proud to present 


Dori Chandler

Union of Concerned Scientists

Are you a Scientist? An Advocate for Science? Proud of the work you do?  We are!  Join Concerned Scientists @ IU and Union of Concerned Scientists to let your member of Congress know that they should care too!  Learn how to plan, conduct, and follow up on an in-person meeting with your United States senators. The training will be followed by opportunities to lobby in-district, including a lobby day the following day in Indianapolis on Friday, February 23rd. 

Interested in taking part in the UCS/CSIU Lobby Day?  RSVP and Questions:

Michael Hamburger (CSIU) at or Dori Chandler (UCS) at


Thursday, February 22, 12:30 – 2:00 PM

Room S201 (Patten Room) Geology Building

The workshop is free and open to all interested participants

Lunch will be provided!

The Candidates Forum

What do the current candidates for office running in the 9th District think about Science and Science policy? Would you like an opportunity to hear their thoughts and ask questions?

CSIU will sponsor a Candidate's Forum on Science and Policy for 9th District House of Representatives candidates.  The Forum will take place on Wednesday, March 28 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the Monroe County Public Library Auditorium.  Democratic primary candidates Liz Watson, Dan Canon and Rob Chatlos are confirmed participants.  We will be sending them, as well as all other candidates (including Trey Hollingsworth) who might want to supply written responses, a set of written questions at the beginning of March.  These questions are envisioned to form the backbone of the Forum discussions, but will be interspersed with questions from written audience submissions either before or during the Forum.


Union of Concerned Scientists to meet with us at IU Bloomington


Liz Schmitt

Union of Concerned Scientists

Washington, DC


Sidelining Science

Defending science during the Trump Administration


Join the Concerned Scientists @ IU for a visit from Liz Schmitt of the Union of Concerned Scientists (Washington, DC) to find out how we’re working together to defend science, and scientists, from the latest attempts to sideline science in Washington. Get the latest update from Congress and the White House, and find out how you can get involved.


Thursday, September 14, 7:00 PM

State Room East, Indiana Memorial Union

Please join us for refreshments after the talk


For additional information about Concerned Scientists @ IU, please contact Michael Hamburger (

How can I help?

·         The President’s FY2018 budget proposes draconian funding cuts for science research, for example:

o   -29% for Environmental Protection Agency and -16% for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – eliminates most climate change research and data collection

o   -22% for National Institutes of Health – cuts deeply into biomedical research

o   -17% for Department of Energy Office of Science – cuts deeply into R&D on renewable energy sources and energy storage, surrenders U.S. leadership in basic research

o   -13% for National Science Foundation – surrenders U.S. leadership in basic research


This Week’s Primary Science Issue:   The President’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget chokes off nearly all climate research in the U.S. and seriously endangers U.S. leadership in other areas of research.  For example, support for Regional Climate Centers that collect and archive climate data and model projections is cut by 82%, and many climate research programs are eliminated.  EPA Director Scott Pruitt says that climate science is “unsettled.”  Why, then, does he support cutting off funding for research to settle the science?
Template for Telephoning Your Legislator (you will normally speak with a staffer who will take your information without challenging you):


Hi, My name is [NAME], and I’m a constituent from [CITY, ZIP CODE],


I am calling to express strong opposition to the draconian budget cuts for climate science research across several federal agencies in the President’s FY2018 budget.  I don’t understand how it makes sense to claim that the science is presently unsettled, but then to choke off any research that might settle the science on an issue of such fundamental importance to the future of our planet.  The Administration’s actions suggest wishful thinking that the problem will just disappear, but the Earth and human activities may not care what the Administration wishes.  I expect [REP NAME] to support an FY2018 budget that provides robust funding for climate change research across several federal agencies and for scientific research more generally.  The strong return on investment in scientific research has been an economic driver for decades.


[IF LEAVING A VOICEMAIL: Please leave your full street address to ensure your call is tallied]


Contact information for Indiana’s Federal Legislators and Governor


Senator Joe Donnelly:                                               Senator Todd Young:


720 Hart Senate Office Building                                B33 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20510                                             Washington, D.C. 20510

Office phone: (202)224-4814                                     Office phone: (202)224-5623

website:                          website:



Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (9th district):                     Rep. Larry Bucshon (8th district):


1641 Longworth House Office Building                   1005 Longworth House Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20515                                             Washington, D.C. 20515

Office phone: (202)225-5315                                     Office phone: (202)225-4636

website:                             website:



            Rep. Todd Rokita (4th district):                                 Governor Eric Holcomb:


2439 Rayburn House Office Building                        Office of the Governor

Washington, D.C. 20515                                             Statehouse

Office phone: (202)225-5037                                     Indianapolis, IN 46204-2797

website:                                           Office phone:  (317)232-4567                                                                                                                        website:                                                                                                                                                    


When Ideology Trumps Evidence, Governments Fail Their Citizens

(Guest Column submitted to Herald-Times by Steve Vigdor, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Indiana University, on March 30, 2017 – published April 6, 2017)

Effective governments foresee problems that threaten the quality of citizens’ lives and develop acceptable solutions to mitigate their effects.  The mitigation is challenging even with the best available information, as complex problems usually defy simple solutions.  Healthy democratic debate over priorities should be fueled by evidence gained from scientific research, economic forecasting, intelligence gathering and credible investigative journalism – all avenues the present U.S. administration seeks to discredit.

When some politicians fear facing problems and choosing among possibly distasteful solutions, they deny or suppress evidence, labeling it a “hoax” or “fake news.” They eliminate funding for research that underpins it.  They substitute “alternative facts,” based on their own ideology, greed, donor demands, or resentment of “elites.”  History teaches us, repeatedly, that citizens pay the hefty price for their politicians’ willful ignorance.

An egregious example occurred when Joseph Stalin deemed genetics a “bourgeois pseudoscience” incompatible with Communist ideology.  He promoted a scientist of peasant stock, Trofim Lysenko, who shared Stalin’s disdain, while firing and imprisoning a generation of Soviet geneticists, sending Lysenko’s former mentor Nikolai Vavilov to the gulag.  Lysenko promised dramatic, “truly communist,” agricultural advances, based on irreproducible claims that southern plants could be trained to grow in the north, grains could be transformed into other species, and other unsubstantiated ideas.  Lysenko’s unscientific methods produced chronic crop failures and innumerable starvation deaths, including Vavilov’s.  The political elite survived. 

Many U.S. politicians seem poised to augment this sorry history by unilaterally dismissing climate science.  Reproducible measurements have established irrefutably that global temperatures, atmospheric carbon dioxide and sea levels have all risen at unusually high rates over recent decades.  Ice core samples reveal a strong correlation between carbon dioxide levels and surface temperatures, going back nearly a million years. 

These data are cause for serious concern.  Earth’s climate is a complex system with many natural, as well as human-induced, drivers.  But the natural drivers have quite different characteristic time scales, much shorter or very much longer than the recently observed changes.  Climate change skeptics often ignore or confuse these time scale differences.  

Worrisome projections of Earth’s future climate evolution admittedly have modeling uncertainties, as do predictions of the future paths of severe hurricanes.  Scientists seek to reduce these uncertainties by improving the models and constraining them better with new measurements, so they form an even more robust basis for policy discussions. 

In contrast, the President’s budget proposal eliminates funding for most of this research, with the apparent rationale: “The science is unsettled.  Therefore, the last thing we need is further evidence to settle the science.”  This is rather like advising people within a hurricane’s projected path to stay put because, after all, the projection has some uncertainty.  Among other losses, the denial by the administration makes it likely that other countries will reap most of the rapid job gains anticipated in the renewable energy sector.  The government sets misguided policy, but citizens are left with the risks.

Research establishing climate change, but essentially none of the skeptics’ erroneous claims, has passed rigorous peer review.  Lamar Smith, House Science Committee Chair, offers a chilling response to this embarrassing fact.  He promises legislation to establish “government standards for peer review” and punish scientific journals for publishing research that the government doesn’t approve.  When politicians with no science background aim to intervene in standard-setting for research reviews, the scientific method, evidence-based decision-making and citizens’ well-being are in serious jeopardy.

We invite you to join Concerned Scientists @ IU, our community of scholars and citizens committed to defending the integrity of the scientific process.  Send an email to

CSIU Legislative Action Team Meets with Senator Donnelly's Staff

A CSIU legislative action team meeting with Brandon Herget, Deputy State Director in the office of Senator Joe Donnelly to discuss concerns over executive and congressional actions that threaten the health and independence of scientific research in the United States. The broad-ranging discussion explored issues of administrative appointments related to science, failure to consider scientific research in critical policy decisions, interference in the conduct of independent research, and threats to science funding. The team used the opportunity to introduce the Senator's staff to the CSIU organization and explored specific areas of potential collaboration.

 Left to right, Michael Hamburger, Brandon Herget, David Kehoe, Patricia Foster, and Steven Vigdor.

Left to right, Michael Hamburger, Brandon Herget, David Kehoe, Patricia Foster, and Steven Vigdor.