David Hastings named top 5 science champ by Union of Concerned Scientists for his work on climate change

December 8, 2014

Marine Science Professor David Hastings, Ph.D., has been named one of five “Got Science” Champions for 2014 by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Hastings was honored for his work with other Florida scientists to educate Gov. Rick Scott, who had said he did not have an opinion on climate change because he was not a scientist.

The UCS said “I’m not a scientist” was a favorite refrain by politicians seeking to avoid answering questions about climate change, “as though that somehow disqualified them from having to address the issue.”

So Hastings and four other Florida climate scientists met with Scott in August to explain the issue. “As scientists, we’re the mapmakers,” Hastings told the governor. “As policy makers, you are the navigators.” He suggested solutions are at hand to minimize the risks to Florida, such as renewable energy.

“The effort paid off,” the UCS wrote. “Gov. Scott agreed to meet with Hastings and four other climate scientists and, afterward, he changed his tune, at least somewhat. Instead of arguing with other politicians about whether or not climate change is real, Gov. Scott has started arguing about solutions.

“By speaking (scientific) truth to power, Hastings and his colleagues helped align the political discussion in Florida with scientific reality.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists said Hastings was among “an inspiring number of scientists, community groups and even comedians” who “stood up for science over the past year.”

The other “Got Science” Champions are:

  • Andrew Whelton, an environmental engineer at Purdue University, who spent countless hours investigating a chemical spill in West Virginia.

  • Karen Wolk Feinstein, president and CEO of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation of Pittsburgh, who created a local chapter of Grandmother Power to focus on the need to vaccinate against HPV, the human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted disease linked to cervical and throat cancer.

  • Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, who launched a campaign to counter misleading information about climate change in textbooks.

  • Comedian John Oliver, who used his HBO show Last Week Tonight to deliver devastating and hilarious critiques of powerful institutions and people who ignore scientific risks.

“I am thrilled by this honor and humbled to be among such esteemed company,” Hastings said.

“Dr. Hastings is a passionate advocate for science-based solutions to the world’s pressing problems, and our students are fortunate to have someone of his stature working with them in the classroom and in the field,” said Dean of Students Suzan Harrison.