Friday, December 02, 2016

Trump and the GOP May Be Trying to Kneecap Climate Research

Five characteristics of science denial (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Last week, Donald Trump’s space policy advisor Bob Walker made headlines by suggesting that the incoming administration might slash NASA’s climate and earth science research to focus the agency on deep space exploration.  This caused great concern in the scientific community, because NASA does some of the best climate research in the world, and its Earth science program does much more.  Walker suggested the earth science research could be shifted to other agencies, but climate scientist Michael Mann explained what would result:
It’s difficult enough for us to build and maintain the platforms that are necessary for measuring how the oceans are changing, how the atmosphere is changing, with the infrastructure that we have when we total up the contributions from all of the agencies ... we [could] lose forever the possibility of the continuous records that we need so that we can monitor this planet.
Walker’s comments set off alarm bells for another reason.  Were it simply a matter of transferring NASA’s climate and earth science programs to other agencies, what would be the point?  Such a transfer would be logistically difficult, and if the research funding weren’t cut, it wouldn’t save any taxpayer money.  And it’s not as though the branches doing NASA’s climate research are distracting other branches of the agency from conducting deep space exploration.

The suggestion does however look a lot like a Trojan horse whose true purpose is to cut government-funded climate research, perhaps transferring some of NASA’s programs and budget to other agencies and simply scrapping the rest.

Bob Walker’s politicized science
In an interview with The Guardian, Walker accused NASA of “politically correct environmental monitoring” and “politicized science.”  Carol Off from CBC’s program, As It Happens, conducted a follow-up interview with Walker and asked for examples to support his accusations.  Walker cited the example of NASA’s announcement that 2014 was the hottest year on record, claiming:
The fact that they have reported temperature that they said was the highest turned out that they were only 39% sure of that figure. Well that’s a press release, not a scientific kind of statement.  I’m interested in scientific integrity.  I’m interested not in scientific analysis that goes to a politically correct outcome.
The reason Walker knew that NASA estimates gave 2014 a 38% (not 39%) chance of being the hottest year on record (Noaa put its odds at 48%) is that NASA and Noaa included this information in their announcement.  There is uncertainty in every scientific measurement. That’s why scientific theories and conclusions aren’t proven; they’re only supported or disproved by the available evidence.

Read more at Trump and the GOP May Be Trying to Kneecap Climate Research

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