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Why Does Trump Want to Stop NASA's Climate Research?

Dec 19 2016 Comments 0

The senior adviser for NASA to Donald Trump has revealed that the incoming US President plans to scrap all climate change research currently conducted by the space agency. Instead, Trump intends to relocate funding initially earmarked for Earth science towards exploring our solar system.

The decision is part of a wider initiative to eliminate what Trump sees as “politicised science”, which he believes has undermined the facts behind climate change.

“Solid science, not politicised science”

Bob Walker, who is Trump’s senior adviser when it comes to issues relating to NASA, has indicated that all forthcoming investigations into planetary phenomena such as temperature, cloud movements and shifting ice patterns will be scrapped, while existing projects will be rolled back as much as possible.

“We see Nasa in an exploration role, in deep space research. Earth-centric science is better placed at other agencies where it is their prime mission,” explained Walker to the Guardian.

“My guess is that it would be difficult to stop all ongoing NASA programmes 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.”

Environmental worries for the future

The announcement has understandably ruffled a few feathers in environmental circles. In the past, Trump has repeatedly stated his belief that climate change is nothing more than a hoax created by the Chinese in order to hamstring the US economy.

At a time when the world’s nations have come together and agreed that the time for environmental change is now (as per the agreements made at last year’s COP21 talks in Paris), this could spell dire news for the future of our planet. Many critics have seen it as a move to sideline those with genuine environmental interests in favour of pleasing fossil fuel companies and corporations.

“Without the support of NASA, not only the US but the entire world would be taking a hard hit when it comes to understanding the behaviour of our climate and the threats posed by human-caused climate change,” said Michael Mann, a climate change researcher at Penn State University, before going on to point out the hypocrisy in Trump’s rhetoric. “It would be a blatantly political move, and would indicate the president-elect’s willingness to pander to the very same lobbyists and corporate interest groups he derided throughout the campaign.”

“Space research is a luxury”

Elsewhere, other leading scientists were also critical of the decision. The National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)’s Kevin Trenberth pointed to the technology and techniques provided by NASA and said that without them, weather monitoring and climate change science would flounder.

“It could put us back into the ‘dark ages’ of almost the pre-satellite era. It would be extremely short sighted,” he said. “We live on planet Earth and there is much to discover, and it is essential to track and monitor many things from space. 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.”

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December 2016

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