The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is a nonprofit environmental advocacy organization with more than 100,000 members. Seeing its mission as building a “cleaner, healthier environment and a safer world,” UCS takes public stands, purportedly based on scientific research, regarding a variety of political and health-related issues. It opposes genetically engineered foods, condemns SUV vehicles, and proposes measures aimed at combating what it deems the imminent dangers of global warming. It also opposes the vast majority of American foreign policy decisions, and calls for a unilateral reduction in U.S. nuclear weapons stockpiles. UCS disseminates to lawmakers and news outlets its opinions about each of these matters, with the intent of ultimately influencing public policy.
Students and faculty members at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology founded UCS in 1969. “Through its actions in Vietnam, our government has shaken our confidence in its ability to make wise and humane decisions,” reads the UCS founding document. That sentiment continues to this day, with UCS condemning American efforts in the War on Terror and the 2003 War in Iraq.
UCS typically minimizes threats posed by foreign rogue regimes, and challenges U.S. assertions about the intentions and military capacities of those governments. In 1998, for instance, UCS assured the public that American analysts had exaggerated North Korea’s ability to produce nuclear weapons, and that the Pyongyang regime was still many years away from being able to develop such an arsenal.
UCS vigorously opposes America’s development of a missile defense system. It also calls for the “adoption of a U.S. nuclear no-first-use policy”; “a U.S. rejection of rapid-launch options, and a change in deployment practices to provide for the launch of U.S. nuclear forces in hours or days rather than minutes”; “the elimination of all U.S. ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons, intended for use on the battlefield”; “verified unilateral reductions to a total of 1,000 strategic warheads (including deployed and stored), accompanied by warhead dismantlement”; and “a commitment to further reductions in the number of nuclear weapons, on a negotiated and verified multilateral basis.”
UCS admonishes American corporations such as McDonald’s and Burger King, asserting that the presence of antibiotics in meat used by fast-food companies contributes to large-scale antibiotic resistance. In 2003, bills based on UCS research aimed at prohibiting the use of eight classes of antibiotics in livestock used by fast-food producers were introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate. Soon after, UCS admitted that the majority of its claims were speculative. UCS has also warned of the alleged dangers of genetically modified food.
Another issue of concern to UCS is that of global warming. The organization circulated a petition that drew the signatures of some 1,600 scientific experts demanding that the United States ratify the Kyoto Protocol.
A Union of Concerned Scientists declaration, entitled “Restoring Scientific Integrity in Policy Making,” charges that the Bush administration “has continued to distort and suppress science in pursuit of its political goals — despite a plea from top U.S. scientists to restore scientific integrity to the policy-making process.” According to UCS President Kevin Knobloch, “We found a serious pattern of undermining science by the Bush administration, and it crosses disciplines, whether it’s global climate change or reproductive health or mercury in the food chain or forestry — the list goes on and on.” The signers of this document portrayed themselves as objective scientists with no political agenda. But in truth, over half of them were financial contributors to the Democratic Party, Democratic candidates, or a variety of leftist causes. The UCS website offers visitors an online opportunity to register to vote; this service is sponsored by Working Assets.
UCS is a member of the Save Our Environment Action Center, a leftist coalition that describes itself as “a collaborative effort of the nation’s most influential environmental advocacy organizations harnessing the power of the internet to increase public awareness and activism on today’s most important environmental issues.”
UCS has received funding from the Beldon Fund, the Blue Moon Fund, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Compton Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Educational Foundation of America, the Energy Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the J.M. Kaplan Fund, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts, the Scherman Foundation, the Turner Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.