Jim Bridenstine, a twice-elected Republican member of the US House of Representatives, was picked by Trump in September to run NASA. This caused plenty of scientists and lawmakers at the time to worry for a plethora of reasons, and now the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) – a non-profit science advocacy group – has decided to try and block the nominee from making it through his Senate confirmation process.
“The job will require a NASA Administrator who can tell science from politics, and whose main objective is to advance the former,” Rachel Licker, a senior climate scientist at UCS, said in a blog post.
“Bridenstine would come into the NASA Administrator position, most often held by a scientist or a space professional, with no formal science or engineering training.” She adds that his “public remarks suggest that his current understanding of Earth science is largely informed by politically-charged skeptics of climate change research.”
Consequently, UCS is urging all Americans to contact their senator today, to “urge them to oppose Representative Bridenstine’s nomination and support a nominee who will stand up for science and promote NASA’s critical Earth Science research.”
They’ve helpfully streamlined the process by setting up an online form, which will assist you in composing your letter of protest.
Although you don’t have to be a scientist to effectively run the venerable space agency – James Webb, for example, was neither a scientist nor an engineer, but President Truman’s Secretary of State – Bridenstine’s nomination last month drew bipartisan concern, chiefly because of his lack of experience in running something so enormous.
The UCS argue that a more concerning matter is that Bridenstine is clearly not sold on the science of climate change, something NASA invests a lot of time and research into, and something that the President is keen to defund. At best, Bridenstine is ambiguous on the scientific consensus; at worst, he’s an outright denier – and he often switches between these two unfortunate standpoints.
The Republican-run and breathtakingly anti-scientific House Committee for Science, Space and Technology, a body that regularly denies the existence of climate change, has often talked about moving all geoscience research away from NASA and subsuming it into another agency, as well as just killing it off entirely.
Bridenstine also happens to be a member of this committee, and as pointed out by UCS, he has previously supported both these catastrophic options.
“The products of [NASA’s Earth Science] endeavors form the basis of our nation’s weather forecasts, lead to new technologies that drive our economy forward, and help protect American lives, infrastructure, and investments,” the UCS concludes. “Doing away with or demoting these activities is a risk that Congress should not be willing to take.”