Trump May Defund NASA Climate Research to End ‘Politicized Science’

Climate scientist deploying drift boat in Greenland

A Trump adviser thinks Congress should defund NASA’s climate science programs as its main goal should be deep space exploration. Moreover, the adviser suggests other agencies should conduct climate research and similar “Earth-centric science.”

Bob Walker has advised president-elect Donald Trump on space policy on the campaign trail. In a recent interview, Walker said the space agency should stay focused on space and let other agencies take care of climate research.

“We see NASA in an exploration role, in deep space research,”

he said.

In addition, Walker noted that climate science has been “heavily politicized.” So, the U.S. space agency should refrain from conducting “politically correct environmental reporting.” And other Republicans joined the chorus.

Last year, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee drafted a spending bill that was about to cut NASA’s budget for science program by $300 million. At the time, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) chaired the committee. The same year, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) noted Congress gave the Earth science program “a disproportionate amount of federal funds.”

NASA’s Earth Science Program Backers

On the other hand, the program has some supporters too. In 2015, when lawmakers tried to reduce the budget of NASA’s Earth science program, 15 former military officers protested. They wrote a letter, asking congressional members to focus on protecting NASA’s earth science and geoscience programs.

Vice Adm. Conrad Lautenbacher among others signed the letter. Lautenbacher is a Republican who headed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration during George W. Bush’s presidency.

The military leaders argued that the programs are crucial for humanity to better understand “global, regional and local Earth processes.” The letter read that the data gathered through the programs would benefit strategic planning in both public and private sectors. The signatories thought the data could benefit national security as well.

Additionally, the Earth science community criticized the news that the PEOTUS may ditch NASA’s climate research. Nancy Colleton the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies thinks the Trump administration would put people and businesses at risk.

Furthermore, Colleton explained NASA helps American people and businesses to assess the risk. She said the issue may impact economic, water, food, and national security. Marshall Shepherd who worked for NASA as an atmospheric researcher said the programs are part of the agency’s mission ever since its start in 1958.

Shepherd doesn’t think the agency should focus exclusively on space. The former NASA scientist wrote in an op-ed last year that defunding the earth science program is “shortsighted.”

Earth Science Community May Overreact

Other climate experts criticized Walker’s decision. Kevin Trenberth, who is a researcher with the Colorado-based National Center for Atmospheric Research, is against dismantling the programs. He thinks the move would be “a major setback.”

A recent report, however, suggests Walker’s opinion may be purely personal. The report underscored Walker is not a member of the transition team. So, he can only speculate what will happen under a Trump presidency. The authors of the report advise climate science backers to not overreact at the news.

“We don’t know what Trump will do,”

one expert said.

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