She had a choice: Defend climate science or keep a Customs officer happy | KUOW News and Information

She had a choice: Defend climate science or keep a Customs officer happy

Apr 18, 2017

University of Washington professor and climate researcher Abigail Swann tells politics reporter David Hyde about why she signed a protest letter directed at EPA chief Scott Pruitt. She also shares a story about the time a border official told her climate science is a hoax:  


I often encounter people who find out I’m a climate scientist. And they ask me “what’s the deal with global warming” or “is global warming really happening?” Because they probably never met a climate scientist.

Occasionally, I get into one of these conversations with someone who has a really strong opinion that global warming isn’t happening.

I was flying back into the United States and I was going through customs. And the U.S. Customs officer asked what I did, I said I was a scientist, and he wanted to know what kind of science.

And he kept asking more and more specific questions until we got to the fact that I was a climate scientist. And then he really wanted to tell me that global warming was a hoax and it wasn’t happening.

That’s a pretty tricky situation. I didn’t want to lie to a Customs officer. I didn’t feel in the position to say something untrue, yet he was asserting that these scientific facts that I know about the earth’s system aren’t correct.

So I tried to politely say that I’m sorry but that’s incorrect. Eventually, he dropped the conversation and he did let me into the country.

But as I was standing there I was thinking this person is in a position of power and he has the ability to prevent me from going home, so it’s a tricky situation.