Trump Advisers Suggest To End NASA's Climate Research

By klaireaustria

Nov 24, 2016 07:50 AM EST

Donald Trump adviser says NASA should no longer conduct climate research, a proposal that has been swiftly condemned by leaders in the Earth science and climate communities.

Bob Walker, who advised the Trump campaign on space policy, told the Guardian that NASA should focus on space and leave the investigation of Earth to other parts of the government.

"We see NASA in an exploration role, in deep space research," Walker said.

Climate research has been "heavily politicized" and NASA doesn't need to conduct "politically correct environmental reporting," Walker told the Guardian.

In 2015, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, chaired by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), introduced a spending bill that would have slashed NASA's Earth science program by more than $300 million.

At a hearing on NASA's budget that same year, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said "a disproportionate amount of federal funds" had been allocated to the Earth science program.

But just as NASA's Earth science program has its critics, it also has allies on both sides of the political spectrum.

Last fall, after efforts to cut NASA's Earth science budget had failed, 15 former military leaders wrote a letter to congressional leaders, urging them to protect funding for NASA Earth science as well as geoscience programs at the National Science Foundation.

Notably, the letter was signed by retired Vice Adm. Conrad Lautenbacher, a Republican and administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under President George W. Bush.

In the wake of news Tuesday that the Trump administration may move to scrap NASA's climate research, leaders in the Earth science community immediately voiced objection.

Marshall Shepherd, a former NASA atmospheric scientist, stressed NASA's Earth science work was built into its mission when the agency was established through the 1958 Space Act.

Shepherd, also past president of the American Meteorological Society, wrote an impassioned op-ed on the significance of NASA's Earth science last year, when the program's budget was threatened: Cutting NASA's earth science budget is shortsighted and a threat.

The Guardian quoted several climate scientists who blasted Walker's proposal, including Kevin Trenberth, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Trenberth said eliminating Earth science at NASA would be "a major setback if not devastating." Still, a story in Scientific American suggested that Walker's proposal will not necessarily become Trump policy.

Brian Kahn, a journalist at Climate Central, suggested advocates for NASA Earth science resist the urge to overreact.

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