Maybe science belongs on Pennsylvania's endangered species list. Some political leaders are already acting as if science is irrelevant.
Gov. Corbett has named a former prosecutor who admits to a lack of scientific curiosity to be his environmental secretary. Pennsylvania was late to join efforts to reduce the pollution blowing into Northeastern states from the west. And the legislature is ignoring science in trying to remove animals from the endangered list.
Corbett's new environmental secretary, E. Christopher Abruzzo, turned heads during recent confirmation hearings when he downplayed climate change and the role government should play in mitigating its effects. "I have not read any scientific studies that would lead me to conclude that there are adverse impacts to human beings or to animals or to plant life at this small level of climate change. But I agree there are impacts," he told senators.
That casual attitude is out of place in an industrialized world powered by fossil fuels, which have created high levels of carbon and other greenhouse-gas pollution that has caused the planet to warm. Polar ice has melted as a result, causing sea levels to rise, and possibly intensifying storms like Sandy, which devastated Shore towns.
Abruzzo's predecessor, Michael Krancer, also downplayed the effects of climate change, but later revised his statements to acknowledge the risks.
Abruzzo doesn't have to be a scientist, but his apparent lack of appreciation for what we have learned from science is disturbing. It's his job to strike the right balance between the state's economy and its environment in making decisions. Will he be more open to the arguments of partisan pressure groups and campaign donors?
Abruzzo told senators that he thought Pennsylvania was already doing "its fair share" to counteract the effects of climate change. But the administration dragged its feet before belatedly joining eight other Northeastern states trying to get their neighbors in the Rust Belt and the Appalachians to pressure the operators of coal-burning power plants and other industries to clean up their emissions.
The Corbett administration has earned its reputation for favoring development over the environment in pursuit of jobs. Consider its reluctance to tax and regulate the fledgling natural-gas industry. But people's health and safety shouldn't be unduly sacrificed to create jobs.
Abruzzo is going to have to prove that he will be able to put the environmental needs of the state's residents above economic interests, because his statements so far suggest otherwise.