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Australian scientists slam Trump’s plans to scrap NASA climate research

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Australia’s top climate scientists have come out in support of their American counterparts, in response to news that the incoming Trump Administration will scrap climate research at the country’s top research facility, NASA.

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Trump’s senior advisor on NASA, Bob Walker, announced the plans strip NASA’s Earth science division of funding on Wednesday, in a crackdown on what his team refers to as “politicised science”.

The policy – and the language used to frame it – would be all too familiar to Australian climate scientists, who faced a similar attack on funding and staff of the world-leading CSIRO climate department, and the dismantling of the Climate Commission.

In defense of the CSIRO cuts, the Organisation’s ex-venture capitalist CEO Larry Marshall said the national climate change discussion was “more like religion than science.”

Here’s what Australia’s scientists are saying about Trump and NASA…

“Just as we have seen in Australia the attack on CSIRO climate science under the Coalition government, we now see the incoming Trump administration attacking NASA,” said Professor Ian Lowe, Emeritus Professor of Science, Technology and Society at Griffith University and a former President of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

“They obviously hope that pressure for action will be eased if the science is muffled.

“But with temperatures in the Arctic this week a startling 20 degrees above normal, no amount of waffle can disguise the need for urgent action to decarbonise our energy supply and immediately withdraw support for new coal mines,” Prof Lowe said.

“Why a world leader in Earth observation should do this is beyond rational explanation,” said David Bowman, a “fire scientist” and Professor of Environmental Change Biology at The University of Tasmania.

“Earth observation is a non-negotiable requirement for effective, sustainable fire management and it will be provided by other sources if the US proceeds with this path, such as Europe, Japan and China,” Prof Bowman said.

“So, effectively the US would be ceding intellectual ‘real estate’ to other nations that could quickly become dominant providers of essential information on fire activity.”

Dr Megan Saunders, a Research Fellow in the School of Geography Planning and Environmental Management & Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science at The University of Queensland, said scrapping funding to climate research in NASA would be devastating.

“Climate change is already causing significant disruptions to the earth system on which humanity relies, and urgent action on climate change is required around the globe. Cutting funding to NASA compromises our ability to cope with climate change sends a message that climate change is not being taken seriously,” Doctor Saunders said.

“In many instances symptoms of climate change are occurring faster than predicted by models. For instance, NASA’s temperature records have shown that September 2016 was the warmest in 136 years of modern record keeping. NASA’s research on sea-level rise demonstrated that sea-level rise in the 21st century was greater than previously understood. NASA research in West Antarctica identified the fastest rates of glacier retreat ever observed.”

Dr Liz Hanna, fellow of the National Centre for Epidemiology & Population Health at the Australian National University, and National Convenor Climate Change Adaptation Research Network for Human Health said that shutting down the science would not stop climate change.

“All it will do is render people, communities and societies unprepared at even greater risk. …If Trump does not care about people’s lives, perhaps he might consider the drop in productivity that inevitably tracks temperature increases,” she said.

“My advice to president-elect Trump is to look beyond his advisor Bob Walker’s comments and see exactly the important work done by the NASA Earth science division,” said Dr Helen McGregor, an ARC Future Fellow in the School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sciences at the University of Wollongong.

“This is not ‘politically correct environmental monitoring’ as Walker asserts but is essential data to ensure society’s health and wellbeing.

“As for climate change science, the division’s reports on global temperatures are solely based on robust data. What’s being politicised here is not the science but the story that the science tells: that the planet is warming. Let’s not shoot the messenger,” Dr McGregor said.

“Will Mr Trump be taking his electorate with him once he’s finished with Earth?” asked Dr Paul Read, a Research Fellow in Natural Disasters at the University of Melbourne’s Sustainable Society Institute.

“Mr Trump is about 10 years behind the public understanding of climate science, much less the scientific consensus. As the climate hits home here on Earth, his own support base could turn on him like snake with whiplash.”  

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  • howardpatr

    These proposed moves by Trump might impress Turnbull and his seemingly mogodon overdosed minister, Josh Frydenberg. Frydenberg should appear in the next day or so with some more bullshit on what a wonderful job the LNP is doing on climate change and warning of the dangers of renewable energy technologies.

    This cartoon by the Canberra Times David Pope seems to sum up Frydenberg’s performances over recent months:-

    http://www.canberratimes.com.au/photogallery/act-news/david-pope-20120214-1t3j0.html

  • Chris Drongers

    Trump seems to be on a rapid learning curve – backtracking on jailing Clinton, backtracking on eliminating the EPA, backtracking on eliminating all aspects of the TPP.
    I imagine every insurance company in the USA will be lobbying to keep and progress the best weather and climate forecasting available. Or threatening to sheet the extra costs and payouts back on to the Republican party.
    And if you keep the satellites and intellectual capability to collect and interpret weather data you automatically keep the same for tracking climate change and verifying, or otherwise, climate change models.
    As for Turnbull and Frydenburg? The model for ambitious ministers seems to be to take on the role of Redneck Supporter for as long as Turnbull needs it. As soon as Turnbull gets control of his party watch the attitude of the younger aspirants change.
    So in short, don’t believe Turnbull whichever of his pro or anti climate statements you hear and don’t believe that statements by aspirants to senior cabinet positions are anything more than ‘feeding the chooks’. As shown by US presidential electoral results the electors have cottoned on to the lack of trustworthiness in politicians and are willing to do themselves some (shortterm) harm by going for the logical final manifestation of this unworthiness.
    As soon as it looks like the Greens are going to become the power brokers at the next electioon, climate change mitigation and adaptation will move straight back to the top of both major parties platforms.

  • Just_Chris

    It seems somewhat ironic that we are cutting funding to climate research just as we enter a period where the effects are becoming so obvious that a 3 year old could tell you something isn’t right and where we have increasing attractive and mature paths to decarbonise our economy.

    It appears that the older generation is desperately trying to hold the world back by voting in increasingly loony governments. Problem is, this isn’t religion or fantasy – protectionism, ignoring the effect the environment has on the economy and creating jobs by making the economy less efficient is never going to work out well for any nation. You may want father Christmas to exist, you may even close your eyes and hope but he is just not there and never will be – climate change is real and renewable energy has the lowest fuel cost of any technology.