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Trump Inspires Scientist to Run for Congress to Fight Climate Change

Jess Phoenix said she hopes to be one of the first politicians sent to Washington, D.C. on the promise of combating climate change.
Image: Vulcanologist Jess Phoenix
Vulcanologist Jess PhoenixNBC News

Volcanologist Jess Phoenix would agree with President Donald Trump on one thing: There's something wrong with Washington, D.C.

"We need science in our everyday lives," she said, speaking in April at the Los Angeles March for Science. "Ignorance is the disease."

The cure is more scientists who hold political office, Phoenix said. She's running for the House of Representatives as a Democrat in California's 25th Congressional District, with a pledge bring "good science" to Washington. The seat is currently held by a Republican.

Before November, Phoenix, the daughter of FBI agents, said she was content with her life as a volcanic scientist. She had dedicated her career to studying the world's harshest environments in the hope of revealing how humans are driving climate change.

But President Donald Trump's electoral upset shocked the scientist and moved her to action.

"We're at a critical point in our planet's history," Phoenix said “It's really important that we have people in office who understand that protecting the world around us, doing good science … is just critical, it's paramount."

She said that Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from the historic Paris Agreement brings new urgency to her mission.

Related: Majority of Americans Want Action Against Climate Change, Poll Says

In the wake of Trump announcing that the country would pull out of the global coalition meant to curb emissions that cause climate change, governors of states like Hawaii and California announced that they would step up their efforts to reduce emissions to fill the void left by the federal government's inaction.

But Phoenix said she hopes to be one of the first politicians sent to Washington, D.C. on the promise of combating climate change.

Though new to politics, Phoenix hopes her years navigating some of the country's harshest climates will have prepared her for the challenge.

"It's fair to ask what scientists know at all about the political world," she said. "One of the great things about being a scientist is that you get a really broad set of skills, particularly with what I do as a field scientist. I work out in the real world every day, solving difficult problems that sometimes involve matters of life or death."