NASA climate research could be stripped of funding

NASA’s Earth science division may soon find itself on the chopping block. A senior advisor to Donald Trump has criticised the agency for its ‘politicised science’.

Donald Trump is reportedly considering stripping NASA’s Earth science division of funding in favour of deep space exploration.

But the shift in focus away from our own planet likely has little to do with scientific interest in exploring the solar system and beyond.

Trump’s senior advisor on issues relating to the space agency, Bob Walker, has in the past criticised Nasa for what he calls “politically correct environmental monitoring”. He has also claimed that half the climatologists in the world have doubts about the role of human activity in climate change.

He recently told the Guardian that “earth-centric science is better placed at other agencies where it is their prime mission”.

“My guess is that it would be difficult to stop all on-going NASA programs but future programmes should definitely be placed with other agencies. I believe that climate research is necessary but it has been heavily politicised, which has undermined a lot of the work that researchers have been doing. Mr Trump’s decisions will be based upon solid science, not politicised science.”

As the Guardian explains, stripping NASA’s Earth science division would mean the elimination of its prestigious research into temperature, ice, clouds and other phenomena. Its network of satellites currently provide a wealth of crucial information on climate change used by scientific partners worldwide.

Climate scientists in the US have good reason to fear a Trump administration. The president-elect has repeatedly called climate change a “hoax” perpetrated by the Chinese and has vowed to revive the fossil fuel industry.

Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said that the elimination of Earth sciences would be a “major setback if not devastating” for the scientific community because of all the new instruments and techniques that the space agency provides to others.

“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,” he is quoted as saying.

 

Image credit: NASA/Jon Von Atta, 2008

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