Trump’s Plan to Eliminate NASA Climate Research Is Ill-Informed and Dangerous

Phil Plait, whom I do know and have personally met, has written an article within Slate that strike a deep cord within me. Normally I would perhaps extract an appropriate quote and suggest that the article merits your attention, and perhaps also offer some additional commentary. This time I am instead reproducing it in full because it is deeply important concern.

The issue is distinctly different, it is not simply a vital one, but rather concerns what is perhaps the most important challenge that our species will ever face – Climate Change. The article concerns Trump and his proposal to defund what is, I would argue, the most important function that NASA is currently focused upon.

I should perhaps also warn you that if you care about global warming, then reading what follows will leave you feeling angry and upset with the utter crass stupidity and ignorance that Trump has harnessed and now threatens to unleash.

Everything below the line is Phil’s and has been sourced from here.

In a month where it’s easy to get outrage fatigue at the incoming Donald Trump administration, he still finds a way to be brazenly awful and make terrible, dangerous decisions:

In an interview with the Guardian, Bob Walker, a senior Trump adviser, said that Trump will eliminate NASA’s Earth science research. This is the mission directorate of NASA that, among other important issues, studies climate change.

In other words, Trump and his team want to stop NASA from studying climate change. From the article:

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.

The motivation behind this is clear: Utter and complete denial of science. I’ve written many times that Trump denies climate change is even real, saying it’s a Chinese hoax. He’s said there’s no drought in California, even while the majority of the state is under intense drought conditions. He picked a climate change denier to advise him on energy policy during his campaign, and picked an even more egregious denier to head up the EPA transition effort. In a recent statement he appears to have softened that hard-line stance, but given the torrent of lies dropping from Trump’s mouth, his history of science denial, and Walker’s current statements, I see no reason to believe Trump’s attitude has changed.

Actions speak louder than words, and his actions are clear.

If this slashing of NASA Earth science comes to pass, it will be a disaster for humanity. This is no exaggeration: NASA is the leading agency in studying the effects of global warming on the planet, in measuring the changes in our atmosphere, our oceans, the weather, and yes, the climate as temperatures increase. They have a fleet of spacecraft observing the Earth, and plans for more to better understand our environment. That’s all on the chopping block now.

Especially irritating are the details of what Walker said. Calling climate change research  “politicized science” is so ironic you could build a battle fleet out of it, because it was the GOP who politicized itThey are the ones who attacked it as a party plankthey are the ones who have been taking millions in fossil fuel money to fund an organized disinformation campaign about itthey are the ones who harass climate scientists.

The specific example that crystallizes all this? Republicans love to claim that progressives started using the phrase “climate change” instead of “global warming” because the Earth wasn’t warming. This is 100 percent pure bull crap. First, the Earth is warming; the “pause” isn’t real. Second—and this is the real kicker—it was Frank Luntz, a Republican strategistwho convinced Republicans to switch phrases because the term “climate change” is less frightening, and therefore easier to downplay.

This is the modern GOP. Scream and wail about what “the left” is doing, when in reality it’s the GOP who are to blame.  It’s all very calculated, and downright Orwellian. The hypocrisy is palpable.

At least this way their heads won’t be affected by global warming.


Walker also said, “Earth-centric science is better placed at other agencies where it is their prime mission” is particularly galling. The best agency for that would be the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which for the past two years has been under relentless attack by the GOP in the form of Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. He has done everything he can to tie NOAA in knots and prevent them from studying global warming, including subpoenaing ridiculous amounts of information and intimidating its administrator, the astronaut and national hero Kathryn Sullivan.

Lamar Smith is the modern day Joseph McCarthy. But we’re still waiting for his at long last sense of decency.

So Walker saying Earth science is better done at NOAA is a lot of malarkey. Worse, NOAA relies heavily on NASA for mission support, including launching satellites. How will that be affected under a Trump presidency?

There’s one other exasperating thing Walker said, and it’s a pants-on-fire doozy:

Walker, however, claimed that doubt over the role of human activity in climate change “is a view shared by half the climatologists in the world. We need good science to tell us what the reality is and science could do that if politicians didn’t interfere with it.”

That is complete garbage. “Half the climatologists”? In reality, at least 97 percent of climatologists agree that humans cause global warming, and the data show you can’t explain the current rising temperatures without human influence.

The final wail from the ghost of Orwell is that last sentence by Walker. He’s a politician, and he’s interfering with science.

97 percent is a bit more than half.

The Consensus Project

I find it outrageous that Trump won this presidency in large part by stoking fear in people, yet he denies the single biggest thing we actually should be scared of.

Is there any good news in this? Perhaps. Just because Walker says this will happen doesn’t mean it will, though that is thin gruel to get sustenance from. Some people are fighting back; for example the NOAA has told Smith they won’t acquiesce to his awful demands, and climate scientists like Michael MannGavin Schmidt, and Katharine Hayhoe are speaking out.

Hopefully the public will as well. Contact your representative and senators. Tell them that the Earth is a planet, and studying it, studying its climate and our effect on it, is absolutely part of NASA’s mission, and perhaps its most critical one.


Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!

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