One of the men in charge of Trump’s NASA transition team, Bob Walker, has confirmed what Trump has been hinting at for some time – that the agency’s budget for Earth Science is to be heavily defunded in favor of space exploration. This brief covers research into hazard monitoring and climate change, the latter of which Walker once referred to as “politically correct environmental monitoring.”
Any “Earth-centric science” will be covered by “other agencies,” he said, as reported by the Guardian. Casting doubt on the entire field itself, he also went on to say that the link between humanity and climate change “is a view shared by half the climatologists in the world.”
There’s quite a lot of gibberish to unpack here. Firstly, there is an overwhelming consensus when it comes to the link between human activity and climate change. The figure most frequently cited is that 97 percent of scientists agree on the link, but a new meta-analysis puts that figure at 99.9 percent.
Walker claims the science has become “politicized”, and funnily enough, he is right – anyone who denies such a consensus is swapping objectivity for post-factual political spin.
Secondly, organizations like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) currently do a lot of climate change research. Although moving NASA’s similar programs to NOAA is obviously possible, it’s pointless, since NASA are embedded in decades' worth of research themselves, and they already work extremely closely with NOAA using their own equipment, methods, and researchers.
This is not a true merger being described by Walker. It’s a defunding move. After all, he never mentioned anything about NOAA getting more funding to make up for what could be about a $2 billion shortfall.
Sure doesn't look like half of all scientists to me, Bob. DeSmogBlog
Removing NASA's ability to assess natural hazards and climate change progression on the one planet we all currently live on is an incredibly dangerous thing to do. Kevin Trenberth, the senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, summed this situation up to the Guardian with brutal efficiency.
“Space research is a luxury,” he said. “Earth observations are essential.”
Weirdly, Walker’s comments seem to clash with those made most recently by his boss.
In a wide-ranging interview with the New York Times yesterday, President-elect Trump seemed to wind back on his strident climate change denial viewpoints, suggesting that there might actually be “some connectivity” between human actions and climate change. When it came to the Paris agreement, the future leader of the free world said that he was open to it.
Optimists be warned. Trump has a track record of being incredibly anti-scientific, in that he either spouts unfounded, nonsense claims or that he actively pushes back against the advice of the scientific community. The editorial board for the NYT have come to the conclusion that he simply lacks any sort of knowledge about many of the things he’s talking about.
That’s why, in order to gain insight into how America might be run, it’s good to look to his advisors. After all, he seems to be agreeing with whatever they are saying even after the briefest of meetings, which implies he will govern like a CEO runs a highly complex business – by giving those in charge of various departments the power to do as they wish.
So with people like climate change denier Myron Ebell in charge of dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency, and Bob Walker in charge of NASA’s fiscal policy, it looks like the Earth has a pretty big fight on its hands.