Is the United States about to enter the “dark ages” and kill climate science research under a Trump administration?
That’s what prominent climate researchers like Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research are calling news that a Trump administration may eliminate funding for NASA’s Earth Science Division.
Here’s more on the shocking, and potentially dangerous and costly decision from The Guardian.
Donald Trump is poised to eliminate all climate change research conducted by NASA as part of a crackdown on “politicized science”, his senior adviser on issues relating to the space agency has said.
Nasa’s Earth science division is set to be stripped of funding in favor of exploration of deep space, with the president-elect having set a goal during the campaign to explore the entire solar system by the end of the century.
This would mean the elimination of Nasa’s world-renowned research into temperature, ice, clouds and other climate phenomena. Nasa’s network of satellites provide a wealth of information on climate change, with the Earth science division’s budget set to grow to $2bn next year. By comparison, space exploration has been scaled back somewhat, with a proposed budget of $2.8bn in 2017.
Bob Walker, a senior Trump campaign adviser, said there was no need for NASA to do what he has previously described as “politically correct environmental monitoring”.
The reaction to proposed elimination of the critical earth science programs at NASA has been swift and sharp.
It’s understood that federal government scientists have been unnerved by Trump’s dismissal of climate science and are concerned that their work will be sidelined as part of a new pro-fossil fuels and deregulation agenda. Climate scientists at other organizations expressed dismay at the potential gutting of Earth-based research.
Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said as Nasa provides the scientific community with new instruments and techniques, the elimination of Earth sciences would be “a major setback if not devastating”.
“It could put us back into the ‘dark ages’ of almost the pre-satellite era,” he said. “It would be extremely short sighted.
“We live on planet Earth and there is much to discover, and it is essential to track and monitor many things from space. Information on planet Earth and its atmosphere and oceans is essential for our way of life. Space research is a luxury, Earth observations are essential.”
Today I reached out to prominent climate scientist Michael Mann from Penn State University to comment on the effects of possible cuts to NASA’s climate science research. My questions and his answers are below.
- What’s your perspective on the effect the cuts would have?
The cuts would have an extremely damaging impact. NASA satellites provide us with key measurements of the Earth system, monitoring changes in temperatures, cloud patterns, sea level, and ice volume, while NASA’s larger scientific mission involves efforts to use observational data and physical models of Earth’s climate to understand the changes that are taking place.
- How does the average person benefit from NASA earth science research?
Think of NASA as our planetary doctor. To curtail their Earth Science mission would be akin to refusing to take the temperature of a child suffering from a fever.
- Does this look like a war on climate science to you?
Indeed it does. Ironically, in our recent book “The Madhouse Effect”, Tom Toles and I warned of the potential threat, from a climate standpoint, of a Trump administration. The book was published before the election. We had no idea our worst fears would be borne out.
- What can people do to influence decisions on future NASA earth science research if they are so inclined?
Folks should write their local representatives and senators, publish letters to the editor of their local newspapers, and do anything else they can to warn of the dangers were Trump to follow through with his threat to dismantle NASA’s Earth Science program.
- How important is the role of media in climate change coverage?
Couldn’t be more important. The media is our single best hope for an informed citizenry when it comes to matters of policy-relevant science such as climate change
— Peter Sinclair (@PeterWSinclair) November 25, 2016
Earth’s climate system is seriously out of whack
Planet Earth is about to record the 3rd straight consecutive warmest year on record globally in 2016. That’s unprecedented in the modern global temperature record going back to 1880.
The last cooler than average year globally was in 1976. The last cooler than average month globally was February 1985. In a “normal” climate system you would expect many cooler than average months and years over the past 30+ years. And yet planet earth has recorded not one single month cooler than average since 1985.
The ten hottest years globally have all occurred since 1998.
My analysis is Earth’s climate system is so out of whack that quitting NASA’s research on climate monitoring and science could set back efforts to combat the increasingly extreme climate change effects for decades. The costs to us as a nation and individuals will increase exponentially in the coming decades. By then, we may all be asking; “How did we let this happen?”
Our children and grandchildren will demand answers as they try and cope with life on a very different planet.