Many in the science community fear that climate change research may be one of the first casualties of a Donald Trump presidency.
Bob Walker, the space policy advisor to the president elect’s transition team, told The Guardian last week that he is in favor of eliminating climate change research from NASA’s operations and wanted the agency to focus more on deep space research.
Walker told the British newspaper that “earth-centric science” like climate change research is better placed within other agencies where it can be their prime mission.
According to Walker, climate change research has become too politicized and NASA doesn’t need to conduct “politically correct environmental reporting.”
Walker’s view comes at a time when Myron Ebell, a notable climate change denier, is leading Trump’s transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
According to a Newsweek article, Ebell, who has been quoted as recently as August as saying Congress should prohibit funding for climate change, could end up as the head of the EPA.
NASA’s budget has been threatened in recent years. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex) introduced a spending bill in 2015 that would have cut NASA’s Earth science program by more than $300 million.
However, there has been a bipartisan effort to continue Earth science programs, which dates back to the original mission when the agency was established through the 1958 Space Act.
According to the Washington Post, last year 15 former military leaders from both sides of the aisle wrote a letter to congressional leaders to urge them to protect NASA Earth science programs, as well as geoscience programs at the National Science Foundation.
Many leading climate scientists have expressed concerns over Trump’s beliefs regarding climate change, leading to some to speculate that the administration could halt and even reverse scientific progress made in recent years. Others remain undeterred as there is more uncertainty regarding Trump’s policies and positions than most presidents’ in history.
NASA’s Earth science division operates with a budget of about $2 billion. Using a network of satellites, the division is currently responsible for research on temperature, ice, clouds and other climate phenomena used to provide information on climate change.