Renowned climate scientist worries about intimidation, lack of govt. funding

SAN FRANCISCO -- Climate scientist Ben Santer has long believed that with temperatures rising and glaciers melting, climate change denial would melt away.

“Boy how naive were we,” he said.

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Ben Santer

CBS News

Now he’s faced with a new president raising old doubts that climate change is a hoax.

“Imagine you spend your entire life trying to do one thing … and then someone comes along and says everything you’ve done is a hoax or a conspiracy … or is worthless. What do you do with that?” Santer said.

In the 1990’s, Santer became one of the first scientists to analyze all the climate data and reach what at the time was a startling conclusion: “The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate. And like it or not, I was the guy who carried the can for that finding,” he said.

Santer wrote an open letter to then-President elect Trump, urging him not to listen to “ignorant voices.” He says scientists have proven again and again that arguments made by climate change deniers are wrong.

“These ‘zombie arguments’ take on a life of their own, once they’re they keep on coming back. And you can’t slay them,” he said.

“It’s not a hoax. This matters to every American.”

Now, climate change funding is on the federal chopping block.

“If funding goes away, it will be difficult for me to do my job,” Santer said.

Difficult, he says, but not impossible, since much of Santer’s research at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is covered by grants. What worries him more, he says, is a new climate of intimidation.

“There’s been a statement, get with the program or get out.  If the program is to advance ignorance, then I’m not with the program,” he said.

  • John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.