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Commentary & Opinion

Fred Kowal: Silence Is Not An Option

As the nation’s largest union of higher education professionals, United University Professions strongly supports the search for truth based on scientific facts and exploration.

So while some may think it’s odd that UUP came out last week with a strong statement opposing President Donald Trump’s decision to retreat from the Paris Agreement, I respectfully disagree.

Silence is not an option. We are compelled to speak.

What we're seeing today is an all-out assault on scientific fact, for reasons that are hard to discern.

The debate over whether climate change exists is over. The only debate is the scope of the problem. Scientists in UUP, our members at campuses statewide, are gauging the impact and working on finding solutions to the problem.

The search for scientific truth goes back centuries. Since The Age of Enlightenment, there has been a struggle between those who rely on science  and those who rely on superstition and myth. That struggle still exists, and Trump himself amplified it by pulling out of the Paris accord.

Green energy is the way of the future.  Many high-paying green jobs have been created and business believes this is where economic growth lies.

According to the US Department of Energy, renewable energy employment  grew by nearly 18 percent from 2015 to 2016. More than 3.3 million Americans were employed by clean energy companies. And that doesn’t include another 2.2 million Americans in energy efficiency jobs.

Established companies like Exxon, IBM, BP and Shell understand. These companies, and more than 100 others, were vocal about the U.S. staying in the Paris Agreement. They realize that the future lies in establishing a green economy.

The governor of Pittsburgh, a city that Trump invoked in his Paris Agreement exit speech, issued an executive order that Pittsburgh would still follow the Paris Agreement.

Unfortunately, elements in the Nation’s Republican Party have traditionally had difficulty accepting science as fact. In 1973, President Nixon, who had grown irritated and dismissive of advice from his scientific experts, abolished the position of science advisor.

With President Trump, things have reached a crisis point.

I truly believe Trump pulled out of the Paris accord to appeal to his base. While he scored cheap political points, he also abdicated America's leadership position in fighting climate change. He also surrendered the high ground in developing a green economy to challengers like China.

Trump has proven himself to be a very thin-skinned leader with an elephant’s memory when it comes to those who have spoken against him, including President Obama. I believe Trump has turned back so many of Obama's initiatives simply to diminish Obama place in history.

Whatever the case may be, the Republican-dominated Congress has a challenge ahead of it, one that will certainly define their place in history.

That challenge is to do what's best for America and for Americans.  It is time to leave behind personal vendettas and the choosing of ideological myth over facts.

Pulling out of the Paris Agreement was a massive mistake, one that I hope our children's children will not look back on with horror. It’s time to put politics aside. The time is now to stand up and fight for what's right for our country and for our world. There’s no time to lose.

Dr. Fred Kowal is President of the 35,000 member United University Professions, which represents faculty on 29 New York State Campuses. UUP is an affiliate of NYSUT, The American Federation of Teachers, The National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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