Maintaining elites power by degrading legitimate climate science

Keran Chen

Professor Zachery Wilmot

Engaging the Sociological Imagination: Introduction to Sociology

June 27rd, 2019

Image sources: Jambor Orsolya/Shutterstock

“It didn’t snow at all in April this year,” one of my classmates told me while we are walking across the green grass field to our next class. In the past years in Pittsburgh, the weather of April is the most unpredictable in which snow often covered streets in a season that’s supposed to be Spring. Yet, snowing in April is considered normal in Pittsburgh. The exceptional warm weather of April of 2019 was celebrated but also questioned by people. Climate Change was the most mentioned answer for the remarkable change in weather. While climate change has affected people’s lives in various ways, the urgency of preventing the devastating tendency is still not comprehended by the majority of the people.

Beyond just the lack of public awareness, the government – the Trump administration, in the year 2017 and 2018, has even denied the reality of Climate Change. One of their most preposterous Climate Change denial cases was staged in degrading a public figure who professionally spoke about climate science. Unquestionably, climate change is an issue that needs to be addressed with seriousness, then why is the Trump Administration uniformly denying the truth about Climate Change affects? The answer to that is because the actions desired to combat Climate Change would cripple the economic and political status of the Trump administration. Therefore the government “downplay[ed] Climate Change and discredit[ed] legitimate science on the topic” (Paul Waldman). First, this paper will explore how the Trump administration weaponized the high cultural capitals of the government scientist to discredit the legitimacy of Climate Change. Then the paper will show how the Democratic elitism enforced the authority of the government’s perception of environmental urgency to the general masses.

In the year of 2017 and 2018, one of the leading climate scientists, Dr. George Luber has been dishonored for his professional works associated with Climate Change. He frequently spoke on Centers for Disease Control& Prevention (CDC) regarding the effect of Climate Change to Human Health. Dr. Luber was ordered to stop using the phrase “climate change” and was no longer allowed to answer the inquiries of the media.

Moreover, his research was basically cancelled, and his movements were under strict supervision. His program “has also been collapsed into a larger Community Health program, with no mention of climate change in its title.” To a researcher, this act is humiliating and discrediting his work. Following that, Dr. Luber “has been reassigned, had his program dismantled, and has been subjected to a welter of seemingly farcical charges” (“Persecution of Top Federal Climate Scientist”).

Furthermore, “The Trump administration is doing everything it can to prevent any reduction in carbon emissions, it is simultaneously trying to stop government scientists from explaining what will happen if we don’t reduce carbon emissions” (Paul Waldman).

The Trump Administration first eliminated Dr. Luber’s public presentation in order to hinder the spreading of environmentalism. Due to the intention of the phrase “Climate Change” challenged the norms constructed by the powerful class, the government suppressed the producer of this idea. Thus, the integrity of the orders was maintained.

Discrediting the scientific research was another act to reinforce the powerful elites’ authority on apprehending climate change. The program was cancelled for it did not align with the interests of the power elites and even opposed to their preference. The Trump administration was capable of deciding the furtherance of Dr. Luber’s research. This is because as powerful elites, they have control over not only political and economic but also the cultural and military institutions.

In addition, the high cultural capitals of the scientists threatened the Trump administration’s capacity of power. The elites controlled most of the resources. Excessive carbon emissions were created due to the production of these resources. On the other hand, scientists could cultivate people on the hideous actions the government has done to managing the Earth’s natural resources. Owing to this, government scientists were sanctioned for trespassing the boundaries.

The Trump Administration gag ordering Dr. Luber was a case of elites weaponizing the cultural capitals. The elites set boundaries to what was right and proper, because they possessed material resources that people were dependent on. Because of this, the Trump Administration could remove Dr. Luber from any research opportunities to restrain his cultural influence over others. The idea of “climate change” enacted changes to the rules of the elites, therefore subduing an antagonistic vision has been done to discrediting the legitimacy of Climate Change.

The government scientists have the highest cultural capital therefore the most dangerous to challenge the capitalist rules. The cultural capitals were honored by people and could often articulate different visions of what was good and right. Overproducing to gain as much profits as possible was beneficial to the elites, whereas the overexploitation would create vulnerable conditions for the poorer class. To prevent the uprising of the lower class, the Trump administration controlled the arena of scientists from spreading environmentalism. Once the social connection between the scientists and the general masses were cut off, the authority of the power elites were maintained.

The scientist was positioned to serve for the goals of the nation that was predominantly controlled by the capitalist, in this event, the Trump administration. For the capitalists, the complexity of managing states requires specialized knowledge (Lecture 6/26/2019). The government argued back to the environmentalists with information supported by powerful classes which even strengthened their statements. Therefore the theories of the scientists were further delegitimized.

The Trump Administration’s discourse of climate change made this topic look less serious than it was to satisfy their interests. The government discredited the cultural capital, the legitimacy of climate science. Moreover, they enforced the power elite’s authority by practicing the power granted by democratic elitism.


Paul Waldman. “The Trump administration takes climate denial to new heights”. The Washington Post,

“Persecution of Top Federal Climate Scientist”. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, Dec 20, 2019,

Lecture. June 26, 2019.

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