Should Obama Shift Money from NASA to NOAA for Climate Work?

Earth Rise

Cut NASA budget, give NOAA the cash for climate change research
By Robert Cassidy
Building Design & Construction

Here’s my recommendation, Norm: Take a few billion from NASA’s $17 billion budget and give it to poor NOAA, the federal agency that studies our oceans and atmosphere (annual budget: $4 billion). Use those scarce dollars to fund lots more R&D on climate change—ocean exploration, atmospheric studies—research that might help us solve the most vexing problem facing humanity—and the built environment—right here on good ol’ Mother Earth.

We know less about what’s in the Marianas Trench than we do about what’s on the dark side of the moon. There’s got to be incredible mineral, vegetative, and food resources in the oceans. We don’t know enough about how much more carbon the seas can suck in, nor how vast systems like El Niño and La Niña might change or be changing as a result of climate change.

A specific research project that will require some real dollars: carbon capture and storage. CCS involves capturing the CO2 emissions from power plants, condensing them, and then burying the condensate someplace. The Norwegians already have a small CCS operation going and are burying the condensed product in the North Sea someplace. Archer Daniels Midland has a small demonstration project getting started in downstate Illinois.

We need to see if CCS works, how much it costs, and—most important—whether it’s safe. The safety issue is not trivial, because if the condensed gases were to suddenly leak and burst into ocean or air, they could smother every living thing for miles around.

Read the full op-ed.