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U Of I’s New Liberal Arts Dean Concerned About Climate Change Research Funding

New University of Illinois LAS Dean Feng Sheng Hu.

Dr. Feng Sheng Hu, newly appointed dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana. University of Illinois

The new dean of the University of Illinois’ liberal arts college says the future of federal funding for research into climate change is uncertain.

Feng Sheng Hu was named the new dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences on the Urbana campus last week. Wu is a plant biologist whose research includes work on climate change. And he says the doubts about climate change voiced by President-elect Donald Trump has many of his colleagues worried.

“I think all the climate change scientists are concerned”, said Hu. “And that is the fact. I just went to San Francisco for the American Geophysical Union (AGU) fall meeting. It’s a very large meeting with climate change scientists from all over the world. And I think there is a lot of anxiety and uncertainty.”

The AGU convention attended by Hu included a speech by California Governor Jerry Brown, who promised that his state would fight the incoming Trump administration, if it tried to drop policies meant to address global warming. Brown said his state might even “launch its own damn satellite”, if Trump tried to eliminate NASA’s Earth sciences department, which uses satellites to gather data on climate change.

Hu says a lot of research into climate change depends on funding from federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy. Trump has appointed former Texas governor Rick Perry, a climate change skeptic, to be the next Energy Secretary. 

Other climate change skeptics named to administration posts by Trump include Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency, and Montana U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke to be Secretary of the Interior.

Hu says he hopes federal funding for climate change research funding will continue, despite the skepticism voiced by the president-elect and some of his appointees.

Hu takes over as the new Dean of the U of I College of Liberal Arts and Sciences on January 1st, pending trustees’ approval. His web-page says that his overall research objective is to learn how eco-systems are affected by changes in climate.