President-elect Trump may cut NASA’s climate research funding despite a pair of new reports highlighting unexpected spikes in Arctic temperatures. According to a recent report from Stanford, quickly rising temperatures in the Arctic have affected ecology and industries around the world, and things are set to get worse if ‘we lose too much more ice.’ Despite this, Trump is set to wipe out NASA’s climate research in favor of deep space exploration.
NASA’s Earth science division is behind massive amounts of data pertaining to our planet, its climate changes, and the effects of those changes. The data is used by organizations, academics, and more across the globe, and is considered an essential component in the overall effort to combat these changes.
Speaking recently to The Guardian, Trump senior adviser Bob Walker said:
We see NASA in an exploration role, in deep space research. Earth-centric science is better placed at other agencies where it is their mission … I believe that climate research is necessary but it has been heavily politicized, which has undermined a lot of the work that researchers have been doing. Mr Trump’s decisions will be based upon solid science, not politicized science.
The prospect of ditching NASA’s Earth science research in favor of deep space exploration has been called short-sighted, among other things. Understanding and caring for our own planet — which in part requires data that can only be gathered from space — is essential to maintaining human life over the long haul. Ignoring this essential matter to shift focus onto one that is anything but essential is, to put it mildly, foolish.
Speaking during the Stanford School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences Distinguished Lecture recently, U.S. Arctic Research Commission Chair Fran Ulmer warned, ‘In October, we are seeing the formation of ice happen so slowly that this whole area above Alaska is ice-free — and in October, it shouldn’t be.’
The uptick in Arctic warming is already affecting weather and ecology around the globe, and industries related to both. The PNW region, for example, is facing increasingly acidic waters that make it difficult to raise shellfish. Weather in California has been affected by a weak jet stream, which itself results from the warmer Arctic air.
An Arctic policy issued by the U.S. government in 2013 was cited as a source of optimism by Ulmer. However, the climate science denial and skepticism presented throughout the Trump campaign has left many concerned this progress and others like it will be set back substantially in coming years.