Climate-denying House Republicans are trying to destroy NASA's Earth science budget

The "reckless" cuts would cripple the agency's important programs, argues a former NASA scientist

Published May 1, 2015 7:56PM (EDT)


In keeping with Ted Cruz's contention that NASA is for exploring deep space, not studying the varied and pressing threats to our home planet, Republicans in the House Subcommittee on Science, Space and Technology voted Thursday to more or less decimate the agency's Earth science budget. The cuts, if voted through, could be anywhere from $300 million to $500 million -- as much as 26 percent below President Obama's budget for fiscal 2016.

Make no mistake: the bloodshed is a clear attack on climate science, to which NASA contributes significantly and House Republicans continue to deny.

Critics are particularly emotional about this, underscoring just how drastic the proposed cuts are. Meteorologist Marshall Shepherd, a former scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, penned an impassioned commentary in the Washington Post. "I literally could not sleep," he wrote, "contemplating the reckless cuts to NASA’s earth sciences budget being proposed by some in the U.S. House of Representatives." The proposed cuts, he writes, would not only kills many public and private sector jobs, but would have implications far beyond climate science:

Does anyone remember the devastation cause by the hybrid hurricane-mid-latitude storm called “Sandy?” Yep, I thought you would. The European and United States weather modeling centers concluded that the 6-9 day forecast accuracy would have suffered without satellite data, some supplied by NASA.

The vast majority of people don’t realize that one of the reasons the European and U.S. weather models have improved is that they integrate atmospheric, land, and ocean conditions. NASA and various U.S. aerospace companies have a close relationship with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather satellite program. However, I want to emphasize that the data that goes into the weather models are not just NOAA data. A host of NASA datasets are included too. Harming our weather forecasting ability has direct impact on our economy, agricultural productive, commercial aviation, military operations, and more.

All that, apparently, is expendable, if it's to mean that NASA won't spend its time and resources studying greenhouse gas emissions, rising temperatures, sea level rise or agricultural production.

"It’s hard to believe that in order to serve an ideological agenda, the majority is willing to slash the science that helps us have a better understanding of our home planet," wrote Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), decrying the budget in an op-ed for the Hill. If only it were more surprise.

By Lindsay Abrams

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