'Union of Concerned Scientists' Are Charlatans

By Tom Hartsfield

Yesterday I found a letter in my mail from a reputable-sounding source: The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Scientists, I thought. I bet they advocate on behalf of policy that is the most scientifically supported. Sounds like a great idea!

Before I made out the check for which they were begging me, I decided to carry out a little research to see for myself.

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After a brief UCS website tour, however, I tore up their letter and threw it away. (Just kidding, I recycled it!) This group does not consistently practice “science advocacy.” Rather, it mostly pursues partisan politics, unashamedly using “science” as nothing more than a phony badge of credibility.

Reading the list of UCS policy positions quickly reveals that the group simply does not consistently support a scientifically sound agenda.

There is currently a broad scientific consensus that there are no known health hazards connected to the use and consumption of genetically modified (GMO) foods. A few news-making (and often faulty) studies report anti-GMO findings, but scores of sound studies refute them. UCS trumpets these outlying negative findings, but is silent about the true state of science in this field.

The organization further calls for increased use of organic and sustainable farming practices. Large, mainstream studies – including from academic research laboratories specializing in land use, biology, toxicology and medicine – have found almost no scientific benefit to organic farming and produce.

UCS champions renewable energy. Unfortunately, despite the continual advance of solar, wind, and other renewable technologies, none of these methods are anywhere near cost-efficient as major power sources. The group’s information on renewable energy is sorely outdated, sunny (no pun intended!) and unrealistic. The emergence of cheap natural gas has rendered solar and wind power completely uneconomical for the foreseeable future.

Nuclear power is currently the best technology for providing power without carbon emissions. The UCS stance on this issue is vaguely fearmongering and lacks scientific analysis. The group’s nuclear policy is riddled with such meaningless, anodyne statements, such as:

An expansion of nuclear power under effective regulations and an appropriate level of oversight should be considered as a longer-term option if other climate-neutral means for producing electricity prove inadequate. 

Even on global warming, which appears to be the group’s signature issue, science takes a back seat to hype. Yes, there is a clear consensus among climate researchers that global warming is occurring, human activity is involved and the planet will change in the future. What is not clear is how global warming is affecting the planet at the present time.

For instance, the UCS blames increased forest fires on global warming, but it’s not possible to connect any one event to global warming. Sure, forest fires may increase in the future, but UCS is taking liberty with the scientific literature. Sounding the global warming alarm every time it’s hot outside isn’t good science.

Scientists need better representation in Washington, DC. Unfortunately, the Union of Concerned Scientists is little more than a lobbying group willing to taint the objectivity of science to advance their political agenda. Certainly, don’t let the group’s name fool you.

Tom Hartsfield is a physics Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas.


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