UPDATE, APRIL 11, 12:15 P.M.: So what happened when three Ph.D.s walked into a Surfin’ Congressman’s office? Let’s get a rundown from Kevork N. Abazajian, a UC Irive associate professor of Physics and Astronomy who was accompanied by Kathleen Treseder, a UCI professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, vice chair of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and OC Climate Action spokeswoman; Jessica D. Pratt, a UCI assistant teaching professor in Treseder’s department; and Anna Kwa, the UCI graduate student in Physics who shot the accompanying photo of them:
Kathleen Treseder, Jessica Pratt and I successfully delivered the letter [Monday] in person to Rep. Rohrabacher’s District Office, speaking with District Representative Constance Towers. There are a couple of photos of the delivery here. Constance refused to be photographed.
The District Office also refused to set up a meeting with us, claiming that they could not do so because we are not constituents. I asked if that is a rule that they do not meet with anyone else. Constance said that they “prioritize the 770,000 constituents.” Rep. Rohrabacher was traveling abroad, they said, as part of his role on the House Foreign Relations committee, which seems to betray that he is not prioritizing constituents since it is District Work Week. I also pointed out that climate change is a global issue and is important for all Americans, and also that Rohrabacher is our senior California representative on the House Science Committee, and represents an area quite near UC Irvine. I also pointed out that I have met with Members of Congress that were not my representatives but play important roles on House Committees in charge of wide ranging national issues. Constance suggested an exception could be made and that he maybe could meet with us. I have emailed Constance and Rohrabacher’s assistant to follow up on the potential meeting.
Some signatories and other supportive UCI faculty that have not yet signed are constituents that I will coordinate with if somehow the office claims to only meet with constituents despite the wide-reaching impact of U.S. federal policy on climate change.
ORIGINAL POST, APRIL 10, 6:30 A.M.: Some UC Irvine professors will hand deliver a letter today on the importance of addressing climate change to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach)—or, at least, to a staffer for the notorious global warming denier.
“We the undersigned are calling on you, in the most urgent terms possible, to meet with us to forge a path forward in how to use your role on the House Science Committee to position America as a global leader in technologies and strategies that sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions while promoting economic prosperity,” reads the letter signed by 18 local physical and biological scientists (17 from UCI, one from UC Berkeley).
“The Earth’s climate is entering a state that has not been experienced in human history,” the letter continues. “Continuing to produce greenhouse gases at current rates will have potentially catastrophic, irreversible consequences for our environment, our economy, and our country. Climate change impacts on agriculture are already threatening our ability to feed the nation. Bold and decisive action may still avoid the worst scenarios, allow for adaptation to the changes, mitigate the damage, and bring new economic opportunities and working-class jobs to our country.”
(The full open letter to Rohrabacher is at the end of this post.)
“Too often, when Congress is asked to pass environmental legislation, the legislation is based on emotional junk science rather than data based on reproducable, rigorous, tested, peer-reviewed results,” Rohrabacher has famously said. “In no area has this been more obvious than climate change.”
Among those who will show up to the Surfin’ Congressman’s district office is Kevork N. Abazajian, a UCI associate professor of Physics and Astronomy, an executive board member of the campus Center for Cosmology and the California coordinator and advising board member for 314 Action, a nonprofit that was founded by political activists, grassroots supporters and members of the STEM community.
They explain the name this way: “Pi is everywhere. It’s the most widely known mathematical ratio both inside and out of the scientific community. It is used in virtually everything we encounter in our daily lives. 314 Action is concerned that STEM education in the United States is falling further and further behind the rest of the world, that our political leaders continue to deny scientific facts and that Congress fails to fully fund scientific research so we can solve pressing environmental issues like climate change and social problems like gun violence.”
On Earth Day (April 22), 314 Action plans to take a page from the Women’s March and hold a March for Science at locations nationwide.
Now for that letter …
An Open Letter to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Member of the House Committee on Science, Space & Technology
Dear Congressman Rohrabacher,
As citizens, scientists and intellectual leaders of our Universities and communities, we are asking to meet with you regarding the urgent nature of the challenges we face due to climate change. We aim to express the broad consensus and agreement on the facts of climate change. The basic facts about climate change are as certain as they can be in science. There is widespread consensus in the scientific and academic communities that human-caused climate change is real, with consequences that are already being felt.
The science of how greenhouse gases trap heat is incontrovertible. During the last three years, global temperatures have successively broken past records, so that the planet today is nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than what it was in the late 1800s. Fossil records from pre-human times show much higher sea levels and a reorganization of vegetation patterns when greenhouse gases were higher and Earth’s climate was much warmer than today. Increasing levels of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere set in motion regional variations in weather, weather extremes, the loss of major ice sheets, and declining biodiversity, all of which have been associated with mass extinctions in Earth’s past. As stated recently in a recent climate scientists’ letter to EPA Chief Scott Pruitt, “Just as there is no escaping gravity when one steps off a cliff, there is no escaping the warming that follows when we add extra carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.”
The University of California, Irvine has a proud history of providing science that helps solve severe environmental challenges. In 1974, Professor of Chemistry Sherwood Rowland showed that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were destroying ozone in our upper atmosphere. The ozone hole would have left people exposed to harmful ultraviolet radiation. America led the world in defending us from this environmental threat, by banning CFCs spray cans in 1978 and leading a global ban by the 1980s. The increasing extent of the ozone hole then stopped in 2006. UC Irvine is proud of this contribution, and Prof. Rowland was recognized internationally for his discovery by being awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995.
We are now facing the even more significant environmental threats posed by climate change. UC Irvine has a globally recognized Department of Earth System Science that has been forefront in studying the causes and impacts of climate change. Scientists all across UC Irvine’s campus are concerned, and thousands of University of California and California State University faculty have signed a letter urging President Trump to confront the threat posed by climate change. This letter to you reiterates much in that letter in order to make a more direct connection between us and you, our California Representative on the House Science Committee.
We the undersigned are calling on you, in the most urgent terms possible, to meet with us to forge a path forward in how to use your role on the House Science Committee to position America as a global leader in technologies and strategies that sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions while promoting economic prosperity. The Earth’s climate is entering a state that has not been experienced in human history. Continuing to produce greenhouse gases at current rates will have potentially catastrophic, irreversible consequences for our environment, our economy, and our country. Climate change impacts on agriculture are already threatening our ability to feed the nation. Bold and decisive action may still avoid the worst scenarios, allow for adaptation to the changes, mitigate the damage, and bring new economic opportunities and working-class jobs to our country.
Scientists have warned for decades of the dangers of overreliance on fossil fuels. The world has been slow to respond and, as a result, we run an increasing risk of major damage to America’s economy and security. We have had an unusually large number of serious natural disasters in the past decade that are in line with climate change predictions. The Southeast and West suffer from increasing droughts. Miami floods at high tide as sea levels rise. Major cities on the Eastern and Gulf coasts regularly suffer major damage from violent weather.
Western forests die because winters are insufficiently cold to prevent insect infestation of drought-stressed trees. Left unchecked, the frequency and severity of these climate change events will increase with time, as will their economic impact. As recently reported by U.S. military leaders, unchecked climate change also has implications to U.S. national security since climate change stresses increase the likelihood of international or civil conflict, state failure, mass migration and instability in regions of strategic interest. To secure and conserve our way of life, our economy, and our environment, we need immediate action.
Climate change threatens to displace at least 20 million Americans from their homes and cause $1 trillion dollars in loss of property value, in addition to serious environmental and societal implications to Americans and world wide. [A map of future sea level rise into Orange County is included with the letter.]
The United States now has a unique opportunity to lead the world in developing innovative ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By investing in and incentivizing clean energy and carbon sequestration technologies now, we position ourselves to be the economic and political leaders of the 21st century. To do otherwise cedes these opportunities to others and undermines our national security, food security, water security, and the future of our children and grandchildren. For these reasons, we ask you to maintain and increase our country’s commitment to taking action on climate change, beginning with the current Paris Climate Agreement. One opportunity you have to take a more active role is to join the Climate Solutions Caucus, which fellow Orange County Rep. Darrell Issa recently joined.
Please let us know at your earliest convenience when you can meet with us to find common ground on responsible, conservative ideas to address the challenge of climate change.
Kevork N. Abazajian, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Physics & Astronomy
Executive Board Member, Center for Cosmology
Steven D. Allison, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Earth System Science
James S. Bullock, Ph.D.
Professor of Physics & Astronomy
Director, Center for Cosmology
Celia Faiola, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biology, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Luette Forrest, D.V.M.
Specialist, Department of Neurobiology and Behavior
Travis E. Huxman, Ph.D.
Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Director, Center for Environmental Biology
James V. Jester, Ph.D.
Jack H. Skirball Endowed Research Chair
Professor of Ophthalmology and Biomedical Engineering
Aaron Parsons, Ph.D.
Professor of Astronomy
Michael J. Prather, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor of Earth System Science
Jessica D. Pratt, Ph.D.
Assistant Teaching Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
James Randerson, Ph.D.
Chancellor’s Professor of Earth System Science
Elizabeth Read, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science
Tammy Smecker-Hane, Ph.D
Associate Professor of Physics & Astronomy
Cascade Sorte, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Tim M. P. Tait, Ph.D.
Professor of Physics & Astronomy
Kathleen Treseder, Ph.D.
Professor of Biology, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Gregory Weiss, Ph.D.
Professor of Chemistry, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
Jenny Y. Yang, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Chemistry
Note: This letter represents the personal views of the signatories, not those of their institutions. Academic titles/affiliations are included here for identification purposes only.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.