The former Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, made a powerful statement about science denial during a recent commencement speech at Rice University.
Referring to the university's student honor code, the billionaire businessman argued that speaking honestly, acting honestly and standing up for honesty are patriotic responsibilities - especially during an "epidemic of dishonesty, and an endless barrage of lies."
"Today, those in politics routinely dismiss any inconvenient information, no matter how factual, as fake - and they routinely say things that are demonstrably false," Bloomberg said, adding that there is "more tolerance for dishonesty in politics" than he has seen in his lifetime.
The danger of the 'post-truth' era currently sweeping the US is especially evident when it comes to science denial, and climate denial in particular.
Since taking office, the Trump administration has repeatedly attacked scientists and their work. So much so, that the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has kept an up-to-date and extensive list of every example thus far.
The running list includes examples of the White House halting scientific studies, illegally withholding research funds, scrubbing 'climate change' from key government websites and strategic plans, and barring government scientists from science conferences.
While Bloomberg believes that honest people can and should disagree on issues, he says a productive debate demands an acceptance of basic reality.
"If 99 percent of scientists whose research has been peer-reviewed reach the same general conclusion about a theory, then we ought to accept it as the best available information - even if it's not a 100 percent certainty," he said.
"Yes, climate change is only a theory - just like gravity is only a theory."
"That, graduates, is not a Chinese hoax. It's called science - and we should demand that politicians have the honesty to respect it," he added, directly attacking President Trump's personal brand of climate denial.
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2012
Although, Bloomberg wasn't just taking a jab at Trump when speaking of "deceitful" and "dishonest" politicians.
About half of Trump's cabinet currently joins the President in his denial of basic climate science, according to an analysis by the Center for American Progress Action Fund published in February of this year.
Nor is this confined to the White House. Even Congress cannot seem to differentiate between fact and opinion. According to a Motherboard survey, more than half of America's 115th Congress are climate change deniers.
The hypocrisy here is clear to see, and Bloomberg made sure to call it out in his speech.
He said that if a person is not willing to place "a certain amount of trust in the integrity of scientists," then "don't get on an airplane, don't use a cell phone or microwave, don't get treated in a hospital, and don't even think about binge-watching Netflix."
Bloomberg called upon the recent graduates to stand up for truth and democracy in the face of rampant political dishonesty.
"The trend toward elected officials propagating alternate realities - or winking at those who do - is one of the most serious dangers facing democracies," he said.
"Free societies depend on citizens who recognize that deceit in government isn't something to shrug your shoulders at."
Bloomberg argued that not only does the university's student honor code hold students to a high level of honesty, it also demands that they speak out when they are confronted with dishonesty - even when it comes from the most powerful lawmakers in the country.
"My generation can tell you: The only thing more dangerous than dishonest politicians who have no respect for the law, is a chorus of enablers who defend their every lie," he said.
Just last month, the billionaire and climate activist stood up to the Trump administration himself, putting his money where his mouth is.
Frustrated with Trump's insistence on withdrawing from the Paris accord, Bloomberg promised to personally uphold America's $4.5 million commitment to the international agreement.
"America made a commitment and as an American if the government's not going to do it we all have responsibility," he said at the time.
"I'm able to do it. So, yes, I'm going to send them a check for the monies that America had promised to the organization as though they got it from the federal government."
The whole commencement speech would have been terribly depressing and void of all hope had it not been for Bloomberg's insistent optimism.
"Graduates, you are ready for this challenge," he said.
"Because bringing the country back together starts with the first lesson you learned here at Rice: Honesty matters. And everyone must be held accountable for being honest. So as you go out into the world, I urge you to do what honesty requires."
Watch Bloomberg's full speech below:
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