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'Shockingly Stupid': Trump to Eliminate NASA Climate Research
By Nika Knight
President-elect Donald Trump plans to entirely eliminate all climate research at NASA, a move that climate scientists warn will send us back to the "dark ages." Trump instead plans to devote more funds toward exploring deep space.
NASA launched its Atmospheric Infrared Sounder, or AIRS, project in 2002. It was designed to gauge global temperatures, greenhouse gases and cloud cover.Creative Commons
The proposal to totally eliminate climate research falls in line with previous GOP efforts to gut NASA's Earth sciences program, and takes those attempts even further. In 2015 and earlier this year, Republican members of Congress also sought deep cuts to climate research while favoring space exploration in its stead, as Common Dreams reported.
It also lends credence to the charge that Trump's apparent reversal of his anti-climate statements in a recent New York Times interview was nothing but "a bunch of empty rhetoric."
The Guardian reports on this latest move:
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."
"We see NASA in an exploration role, in deep space research," Walker told the Guardian. "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 ongoing NASA programs but future programs should definitely be placed with other agencies. I believe that climate research is necessary but it has been heavily politicized, which has undermined a lot of the work that researchers have been doing. Mr. Trump's decisions will be based upon solid science, not politicized science."
Scrapping NASA's Earth sciences program "could put us back into the 'dark ages' of almost the pre-satellite era. It would be extremely short sighted," Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, told the Guardian.
Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State University, also commented to the newspaper: "Without the support of NASA, not only the U.S. but the entire world would be taking a hard hit when it comes to understanding the behavior of our climate and the threats posed by human-caused climate change."
The gutting of the climate program, which expanded under President Barack Obama, appears unfortunately likely to pass, observes Scientific American:
Now set to hold majorities in both the House and Senate, Republicans appear likely to support forthcoming Trump administration proposals to pare back NASA's Earth science budget, which grew by some 50 percent under the Obama administration. That boost, which gave Earth science the lion's share of NASA's science funding, has sustained a growing fleet of satellites that collect data demonstrating climate change's reality: rising surface temperatures and greenhouse gas emissions, retreating glaciers and ice sheets, and shifting patterns of rainfall and vegetation growth, to name a few.
"Earth science's preferred growth under Obama—the fact that it has grown over all of NASA's other science—has created a big political target on its back and validated, in a sense, Republican interpretations of its partisan nature," says Casey Dreier, director of space policy for The Planetary Society. "And this is taking place in a new political dynamic of strong, near-universal condemnation and skepticism of climate change by the Republican Party, without a Democratic president and key members of Congress that used to push back. That's a bad double whammy for Earth science."
And it's not only American scientists who are deeply concerned by Trump's proposed cuts.
"While deep space exploration enables us to have big dreams, understanding planet earth enables us to live better lives and actually save lives," Malte Meinshausen, director of the Climate & Energy College at Melbourne University, told the Sydney Morning Herald.
The NASA Aqua satellite "now delivers unprecedented detail about the water cycle, and the patterns of carbon-dioxide concentrations. Those satellites are what the X-ray instrument is in any hospital—vital to our understanding where the patient planet Earth is sick and what the root causes are," Meinshausan noted.
Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, also told the Sydney Morning Herald that slashing the NASA program "would be a shockingly stupid move that would deal a very severe blow to global research on environmental change across the world."
"Stopping all funding would, for instance, mean abandoning satellites that monitor the Earth's surface," Ward said, "and would be an enormous waste of billions of dollars of scientific research."
But Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist and the head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, believes that Trump won't be able to fulfill his promise to make such drastic cuts. The federal bureaucracy's size and complexity makes it impossible to change course so swiftly and radically, Schmidt argues.
"When I first started working for the federal government I got frustrated," Schmidt toldBusiness Insider, "like why are we stuck in this pattern? Why are decisions that are made so difficult to reverse? Why is it so hard to shift anything? And it's hard because there's a lot of people and there's a lot of moving parts and there's a huge amount of money. But now I'm thinking, 'Oh, you know what, it's a good thing that that things can't be changed on a dime.'"
"Chopping off science just to prevent people from talking about climate change won't work," Schmidt also noted. "You need science for hazards, for weather forecasting, and climate comes along for the ride."
"During the [George W.] Bush administration we had climate skeptics rewriting reports and trying to control what's said to the media," the climate scientist added. "But the planet kept warming. We kept reporting on it. We kept improving the science that underlies our understanding of why it's changing. And we will work to continue to do so."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.