On Sunday, Emmanuel Macron defeated National Front leader Marine Le Pen to win the French Presidency. Running on a campaign of environmental protection, he released a video in February to woo European and American researchers whose research has come under attack to France. In that video, which went viral after his victory, he pleaded: “We want people working on climate change, energy, renewables, and new technologies. France is your nation.”
Macron missed the point.
Climate change is a problem that no one country can solve. The entire point of convening world leaders in Paris for COP21 was to commit to a global strategy to mitigate the effects of climate change. Draining one of the world’s largest emitters of scientific talent will do nothing to help us meet the goals set in Paris in 2015.
Rather, America would be left behind in the fight to fend off further climate change when the political tides turn again. And as science continues to fight back, America would be deprived a robust scientific community to apply pressure and to continue pushing the boundaries of research and innovation, to the extent that is possible.
Science and technology innovation is gold for a nation’s economic bottom line. I don’t begrudge Macron for seeing an opportunity in the marginalization of science in America. He — and his fellow world leaders who have issued similar pleas to the scientific community — understand that the world’s energy economy is trending towards green. If France is to compete in that economic ecosystem, they will require the best and the brightest innovators. In fact, America has long applied a similar strategy to recruit the greatest minds to our shores.
If solutions to global climate change are truly what Macron seeks, he and his peers must find ways to support the scientific endeavor from afar. The international leadership community must continue to apply diplomatic pressure on the White House to remain in the Paris Agreement, while adhering to their own COP21 commitments.
So where does that leave US researchers? That the American scientific enterprise is subject to the political whims of a given administration is deeply problematic. A politically unpopular climate consensus should not be silenced or erased from the public record because a ruling body says so. Funding should not be contingent on how agreeable a particular group of politicians finds its outcome.
But leaving is never the answer. Voting for science-based safeguards and against the climate denying caucus. Supporting researchers whose morale is at an all-time low. Running for office. That’s how we make research thrive.
So to Macron and his international cadre, you don’t have to leave American researchers alone. But to combat global climate change, you must leave us and meet us where we are.