Tuesday, December 06, 2016

We are probably going to have a president who thinks exploring space is more important that the welfare of humans on earth.


By Brian Kahn
Dec. 6, 2016

Scientists and policy watchers have been sounding the alarm bell that NASA’s climate work could be in jeopardy ever since Donald Trump’s election last month.

That’s due in large part to some of his advisors saying the agency should be focused on space exploration and not wasting money observing the earth. But the alarm started ringing louder last week with the announcement that Chris Shank, the deputy chief of staff to Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), will be heading the transition at the agency.

Shank is also policy and coalition director for the House Science, Space and Technology Committee (you know, the committee responsible for that tweet last week) and a former NASA senior official during the Bush era, a period when scientists said they were being censored.

Now Shank will be in charge of helping lay out the priorities for the next NASA administrator and if his past is any indication, NASA’s $1.9 billion earth science budget will be square in the crosshairs.

NASA’s satellites, climate modeling and other earth-based science research are crucial to understanding the threats climate change poses from sea level rise to more extreme precipitation. Losing any of the agency’s earth monitoring abilities would be a huge blow to both science and climate policy in the U.S. and around the world.

Shank has questioned the underpinnings of climate science. His boss has also used his platform as chair of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee to call hearings — hearings that Shank played a role in putting together as policy director — questioning climate science and attacking individual researchers.

Andrew Rosenberg, the director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said having someone like Shank manage the transition at NASA is essentially having someone “who views things like oversight of science in a way that if you don’t like the answer, you attack the science. They’re trying to politicize science as much as they possibly can. It worries me that somebody like that can be leading a transition team.”

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