Florida Scientists Urge Nelson, Rubio to Oppose Bridenstine Nomination

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

A group of more than 40 Florida scientists have signed an open letter to Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) to oppose the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to become NASA administrator.

“The vital work of NASA’s Earth observation systems must continue without political interference,” the letter states. “We find it troubling that Congressman Bridenstine has repeated misinformation in his quest to deny climate change, notably in 2013 when he suggested that global temperatures were not rising….

“We urge you to oppose Jim Bridenstine’s nomination,” the letter adds. “He has no scientific training and little administrative experience and he is not qualified to lead this prestigious agency.”

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What Might Happen to NASA’s Earth Science Programs Under Bridenstine?

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Imagine the following scenario: NASA’s Earth Science division gets its budget cut with key missions focused on climate change canceled.

The new NASA administrator then announces the division will be dismantled, with various programs divided among other federal departments, in order to better focus the space agency on exploration. The bulk of the programs end up at NOAA, which the NASA administrator says is a much more appropriate home for them.

NOAA, however, is already reeling from spending cuts. Struggling to perform its own forecasting duties on a reduced budget, the agency has little bandwidth to take on any additional responsibilities. And the funding allocated for the NASA programs that were just transferred over is woefully inadequate for the tasks at hand.

The result is a bureaucratic train wreck in which America’s Earth science and climate research programs gradually wither away due to mismanagement, neglect and lack of funding. The ability of the nation — and the world — to understand and address the changes the planet experiencing is greatly reduced. At some future date, another administration will have to rebuild a program in shambles that was once the envy of the world.

Sound far fetched? Think again. It could very well happen if the Trump Administration and the man it has nominated to lead NASA get what they want out of Congress.

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Bridenstine’s Climate Change Stance Could Adversely Impact Confirmation Vote

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

Rep. Jim Bridenstine’s nomination to become the next NASA administrator has already run into trouble, with Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) expressing concerns over appointing a politician to lead an agency that has enjoyed broad bipartisan support and has been mostly free of the sharp partisan divisions that have led to gridlock in Congress in recent years.

Some media reports have suggested that Rubio is angry at Bridenstine’s attacks upon him when he ran for president, a charge the Florida senator denies. Bridenstine first backed Ted Cruz’s bid, then switched to Donald Trump after Cruz dropped out of the race.

Or it could be the conservative Oklahoma Republican’s floor speeches, which include one in which he claimed President Barack Obama “dishonesty, incompetence, vengefulness and lack of moral compass lead many to suggest that he is not fit to lead.” His opinion of Vice President Joe Biden was hardly better. “The only problem is that his vice president is equally unfit and even more embarrassing,” Bridenstine said.

Did I mention Bridenstine is a strong Trump supporter? Let that sink in for a moment.

Aside from the concerns about partisanship, there is one other issue that could cause Senators to vote against Bridenstine when his nomination is considered later this year: climate change, also known as global warming.

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Trump Administration’s NASA Policy Slowly Emerges

Vice President Mike Pence addresses NASA employees, Thursday, July 6, 2017, at the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Vice President Mike Pence’s speech at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center last week was long on rhetoric and short on details, but a few themes and priorities have already emerged in the Trump Administration’s slowly evolving approach to the nation’s civilian space program.

NASA Will Lead Again

In a speech in which he repeatedly praised President Donald Trump, Pence used some variation of the word “lead” a total of 33 times (“leadership” 18 times, “leader(s)” eight times,  “lead”  six times and “leading” once).
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Palazzo Celebrates Proposed NASA Earth Science Cuts

Rep. Steven Palazzo

You might think that that being from a Gulf state susceptible to the effects of rising sea levels, higher storm surges and stronger hurricanes from a warming planet, Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-MS) would be a big fan of NASA’s research into global change.

Well, think again.

Rep. Steven Palazzo praised NASA’s move away from studying the Earth and instead focusing resources on the rest of the universe.

During a House Appropriations Committee hearing Thursday, the Mississippi Republican applauded the agency for proposing to eliminate five Earth science missions designed to measure a number of global warming factors such as ocean ecosystems and carbon levels. President Trump’s proposed budget also would cut funding for Earth research grants and would terminate the Carbon Monitoring System, a project that NASA developed in 2010 in response to congressional direction.
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This Week in Trump’s War on Reality

Screen shot of Scientific American website

This week the world was treated to starkly different headlines about the future of the planet and the Trump Administration’s actions about it. Above is a story about a report on the rapid warming of the Arctic region, with dire consequences for the planet.

Meanwhile, the Trump Administration’s response is to pretend the problem doesn’t exist and hope it simply goes away.

Screen shot of The Washington Post website.

The EPA says the climate science website has been taken down for retooling. There’s little doubt that when it returns, it will rewritten to conform with the Trump Administration’s political judgment that climate change is nothing to be concerned about rather than the scientific consensus that the threat is real, worsening and potentially catastrophic to the planet.

The position becomes increasing untenable as the data pile up. Critics point to uncertainties in the climate models, but those are not enough to negate the clear evidence that we’ve got a serious problem on our hands that we can’t avoid addressing indefinitely.

For those who may claim this story has nothing to do with space, you are wrong. NASA and NOAA are in the thick of the gathering meteorological and climate data the EPA and other agencies use to determine policy. The Trump Administration has proposed cancelling three NASA climate missions and deep cuts at NOAA.

It also highly likely that it is only a matter of time before NASA’s website is scrubbed of climate change information in the same way the EPA’s website is being rewritten.

Trump Proposes Broad Range of Environmental, Energy and Health Cuts

Credit: NASA

If anyone had the slightest hope that Donald Trump might spare global warming research in his proposed spending plan, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney stuck a knife through it during a contentious press conference on Thursday.

“As to climate change, I think the President was fairly straightforward saying we’re not spending money on that anymore,” he said. “We consider that to be a waste of your money to go out and do that.”

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Trump Muzzles Scientists, Elon Musk Shills for Former ExxonMobil CEO

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)
Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

The muzzling of government scientists and agencies  that people warned about [see: Harper, Trump & Science a la Carte: A Warning From Canada] has begun under the Trump Administration.

Employees at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have seen directives from the newly minted leadership seeking to limit how they communicate to the public, according to multiple sources.

The moves have reinforced concerns that Trump, a climate change doubter, could seek to sideline scientific research showing that carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels contributes to global warming, as well as the career staffers at the agencies that conduct much of this research.
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NASA, NOAA Data Show 2016 Warmest Year on Record Globally

Credit: NASA
Credit: NASA

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — Earth’s 2016 surface temperatures were the warmest since modern recordkeeping began in 1880, according to independent analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Globally-averaged temperatures in 2016 were 1.78 degrees Fahrenheit (0.99 degrees Celsius) warmer than the mid-20th century mean. This makes 2016 the third year in a row to set a new record for global average surface temperatures.

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The Year Ahead in Space

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)
Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

It’s going to be busy year in space in 2017. Here’s a look at what we can expect over the next 12 months.

A New Direction for NASA?

NASA’s focus under the Obama Administration has been to try to commercialize Earth orbit while creating a foundation that would allow the space agency to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030’s.

Whether Mars will remain a priority under the incoming Trump Administration remains to be seen. There is a possibility Trump will refocus the space agency on lunar missions instead.

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), who is currently viewed as a leading candidate for NASA administrator, has written two blog posts focused on the importance of exploring the moon and developing its resources. Of course, whether Bridenstine will get NASA’s top job is unclear at this time.

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NASA Earth Science Mission Hampered by Budget, Launcher Issues

Earth_from_Orbit
Although NASA’s Earth Science Division is substantially meeting stakeholder’s needs for Earth observation data, the space agency has fallen behind on launching an ambitious series of missions planned out nearly a decade ago, according to an Office of Inspector General (IG) report released last month.

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Will Trump Scrap NASA’s Climate Research Mission?

Credit: NASA
Credit: NASA

NASA does more than explore other planets; it studies our own.
Agency scientists worry Donald Trump will abort the work.

by Andrew Revkin
ProPublica, Dec. 12, 2016, 8 a.m.

The wonders of NASA 2014 Mars rovers, astronaut Instagram feeds, audacious missions probing distant galactic mysteries 2014 have long enthralled the American public. And, it turns out, the accomplishments have won the agency the public’s trust: Polls have consistently shown NASA to be the second-most trusted government institution, behind only the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The public, however, probably has less appreciation for the work NASA has done on its home planet. NASA’s $2-billion-a-year earth-science program has long tracked global-scale environmental conditions on Earth, including climate change.

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Trump Adds Commercial Space Advocate to NASA Transition Team

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)
Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

President elect Donald Trump has named commercial space backer Charles Miller to the NASA landing team amid reports that similar minded advocates will be added to transition group.

Miller is president of NexGen Space LLC, a company that advises clients on commercial, civil and national security space.  He previously served as NASA’s senior advisor for commercial space.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Trump officials are also working on appointing Alan Stern, chairman of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, and Alan Lindenmoyer, who formerly managed NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Program. Both nominations are in the process of being vetted for conflicts of interest.

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U.S. Scientists Frantically Backing Up Data Before Trump Takes Over

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)
Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

There is deepening concern among U.S. scientists about the pending presidency of Donald Trump, whose appointments are turning the nation into the United States of Exxon.

Alarmed that decades of crucial climate measurements could vanish under a hostile Trump administration, scientists have begun a feverish attempt to copy reams of government data onto independent servers in hopes of safeguarding it from any political interference.

The efforts include a “guerrilla archiving” event in Toronto, where experts will copy irreplaceable public data, meetings at the University of Pennsylvania focused on how to download as much federal data as possible in the coming weeks, and a collaboration of scientists and database experts who are compiling an online site to harbor scientific information….

In recent weeks, President-elect Donald Trump has nominated a growing list of Cabinet members who have questioned the overwhelming scientific consensus around global warming. His transition team at the Department of Energy has asked agency officials for names of employees and contractors who have participated in international climate talks and worked on the scientific basis for Obama administration-era regulations of carbon emissions. One Trump adviser suggested that NASA no longer should conduct climate research and instead should focus on space exploration.

Those moves have stoked fears among the scientific community that Trump, who has called the notion of man-made climate change “a hoax” and vowed to reverse environmental policies put in place by President Obama, could try to alter or dismantle parts of the federal government’s repository of data on everything from rising sea levels to the number of wildfires in the country.

Michael Halpern, deputy director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the advocacy group Union of Concerned Scientists, argued that Trump has appointed a “band of climate conspiracy theorists” to run transition efforts at various agencies, along with nominees to lead them who share similar views.

Read the full story.

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Trump Assault on Climate Scientists Begins at Energy Department

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)
Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

UPDATE: Department of Energy officials have defied Trump and refused to answer the more intrusive questions on the questionnaire. Meanwhile, the president elect has selected former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to run the Energy Department. When Perry ran for president, he promised to eliminate three government agencies during a primary debate; he named two of them but could not remember the name of the Energy Department.

This whole year has just gotten stranger and stranger. I must be in a very surreal dream or a coma or hallucinating….or something.

With Donald Trump reportedly set to name the head of America’s largest oil company, Exxon Mobil, as the nation’s chief diplomat, the president elect’s “carbon today, carbon tomorrow, carbon forever” strategy is becoming ever clearer.

A man who believes climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese is filling his government with like-minded conspiracy buffs. It’s clear that it will be virtually impossible for the United States to address global climate change in any meaningful way over the next four to eight years.

Over at the Energy Department, Trump’s paranoid campaign has taken an interesting turn: the targeting of individual civil servants for doing their jobs.

Donald Trump’s transition team has issued a list of 74 questions for the Energy Department, asking agency officials to identify which employees and contractors have worked on forging an international climate pact as well as domestic efforts to cut the nation’s carbon output.
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