Former Rep. Bob Walker, President-elect Donald Trump’s senior adviser on space policy, hopes to end NASA’s research into climate change and instead focus on “deep space” investigation, according to an interview published Wednesday in The Guardian.
Walker, a Pennsylvania Republican, told the news organization that he envisions the space agency in more of “an exploration role” under Trump’s administration and would see the end of what he referred to as “politicized science.” NASA is one of the world’s leaders in climate change research, measuring global temperatures, levels of sea ice, the amount of carbon dioxide in that atmosphere and other important climate-related indicators.
“My guess is that it would be difficult to stop all ongoing NASA programs, but future programs should definitely be placed with other agencies,” Walker told the Guardian. “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.”
Walker, who was chairman of the U.S. House Science, Space and Technology Committee, isn’t a member of the presidential transition team, but he told Scientific American that, although he can’t predict what policies Trump will eventually follow through on, his view is based on concerns that exploration programs “were robbed in order to concentrate on Earth science, and we want to reestablish the emphasis of NASA itself on the things that go beyond Earth orbit and Earth-observation activities.”
The pronouncement is the latest sign that a Trump presidency will almost certainly be very bad for the planet. The president-elect has promised to rapidly increase U.S. production of fossil fuels, including coal, and his appointment of a noted climate denier to lead the Environmental Protection Agency has rankled activists and scientists alike. His likely picks for Interior secretary look no better, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and oil executive Harold Hamm.
Despite earlier threats to pull the United States out of the landmark Paris climate agreement, Trump backtracked during an interview Tuesday with The New York Times, saying he had “an open mind” about staying in the pact alongside nearly 200 other nations.
“We’re going to look [at the agreement] very carefully,” Trump said during the Times’ on-the-record meeting. “It’s one issue that’s interesting because there are few things where there’s more division than climate change. … I do have an open mind.”
But initial stories about Trump’s possible about-face he once tweeted that climate change was a “hoax” manufactured by the Chinese failed to point out that the New York businessman then almost immediately expressed some doubt to the Times about the overwhelming consensus that the Earth is warming and that humans are the primary cause.
“You know the hottest day ever was in 1890-something, ‘98. You know, you can make lots of cases for different views …
“It’s a very complex subject. I’m not sure anybody is ever going to really know. I know we have, they say they have science on one side, but then they also have those horrible emails that were sent between the scientists. Where was that, in Geneva or wherever, five years ago? Terrible.”
As New York magazine points out, a hot day more than a century ago has no bearing on the current changes in our climate. As NASA says (for now): “Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere ‘behaves’ over relatively long periods of time.”
Trump, when pressed about a human link to climate change by the Times’ James Bennet, said he thought “there is some connectivity” but went on to suggest that addressing climate change would take a back seat to economic interests.
“There is some, something. It depends on how much. It also depends on how much it’s going to cost our companies. You have to understand, our companies are noncompetitive right now.”
Diplomats at the recent U.N. climate talks have already threatened to punish the U.S. with a carbon tariff or a potential trade war if Trump pulls out of the Paris accord.