REVERSING EARLIER CLIMATE SKEPTICISM, NEW NASA CHIEF PROMISES TO PROTECT CLIMATE RESEARCH

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19 may 2018

New NASA Chief Says He Will Protect Climate Research

After his previous rejection of climate science, Jim Bridenstine tells employees he will keep politics out of the agency’s work

By Scott Waldman, Scientific American, via Reader Supported News, 19 May 2018

ASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told agency employees that he will not restrict climate science at the agency and will make investments in additional earth science research.

Bridenstine spoke at a town hall meeting for NASA employees yesterday, where he was asked to clarify his previous comments denying human-caused climate change. Bridenstine acknowledged that humans play a significant role in global warming, using stronger language than he has in the past.

“I don’t deny the consensus that the climate is changing, in fact I fully believe and know that the climate is changing. I also know that we humans are contributing to it in a major way,” he said yesterday. “Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, we’re putting it into the atmosphere in volumes we haven’t seen, and that greenhouse gas is warming the planet. That is absolutely happening, and we are responsible for it.”

Bridenstine didn’t acknowledge his previous rejection of climate science.

As a Republican congressman from Oklahoma, Bridenstine was critical of government climate research and asked Obama to apologize to Oklahoma constituents for spending so much on climate science. He touched on that controversy in his town hall but avoided saying clearly that humans are the primary drivers of climate change, which NASA researchers determined to be true years ago.

Still, Bridenstine, who is the first politician to run the agency, said he would keep politics out of NASA.

“We need to make sure that NASA is continuing to do the science, and we need to make sure that the science is void and free from political kind of rhetoric and to do that, what we do and have been doing,” he said.

Bridenstine said he would protect NASA’s climate research, which has repeatedly been targeted for cuts by the Trump administration and House Republicans.

Bridenstine said he would accept the recommendations of the decadal survey of earth science conducted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Those recommendations include a series of missions that would provide insight into all of the ways that humans are transforming the planet.

“NASA is the one agency on the face of the planet that has the most credibility to do the science necessary so we can understand it better than ever before,” Bridenstine said.

The decadal survey is designed to set the course for earth science research at NASA, NOAA and the U.S. Geological Survey. The academies recommended answering dozens of key questions, including how human-caused global warming is affecting water and energy cycles, how much sea levels will rise over the next decade, and what role ice sheets and the oceans’ storage of heat play in transforming the planet. Researchers also want to reduce uncertainty around future climate change projections.

Bridenstine said he would follow the recommendations for three separate “Earth System Explorers,” which the academies estimated would cost about $1 billion. They would provide some of the most important climate change information, monitor atmospheric greenhouse gas levels, and document how Earth and water ecosystems are being transformed. Three projects, each funded at $350 million, would be developed and selected competitively out of a field of seven.

“We’re going to put together an architecture that follows the guidance of that decadal,” Bridenstine said. “And that decadal has a series of things that are critically important to understanding the Earth for human society at large. It starts with the idea that the water cycle and energy cycle are coupled, and we need to make sure that we’re understanding how that affects the changing climate.”


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