Trump’s Plan to Eliminate NASA Climate Research Is Ill-Informed and Dangerous?

Ah, excellent. I was looking for a post to hang my musings off, and Phil Plait’s rant is a splendid peg. Not only that, but via fb I find this charming astronomer fox in Discarding Images; it is clear that the stars have aligned so I’ll proceed.

PP is not just sad but outraged that

In an interview with the Guardian, Bob Walker, a senior Trump adviser, said that Trump will eliminate NASA’s Earth science research. This is the mission directorate of NASA that, among other important issues, studies climate change

and so on. And if you read the Graun’s headline Trump to scrap Nasa climate research in crackdown on ‘politicized science’ you might get much the same idea. Or even if you read the Graun “paraphrasing” what Bob Walker said, you get Donald Trump is poised to eliminate all climate change research conducted by Nasa as part of a crackdown on “politicized science”, his senior adviser on issues relating to the space agency has said. However, if you read what he actually said you find something rather different:

“We see Nasa in an exploration role, in deep space research,” Walker told the Guardian. “Earth-centric science is better placed at other agencies where it is their prime mission. My guess is that it would be difficult to stop all ongoing Nasa programs but future programs should definitely be placed with other agencies.”

[Note that I have deliberately truncated that quote to remove all the goo and dribble about “politicised science” because whilst it is undoubtedly part of their motive, it is also deeply stupid, and not really relevant to what I want to talk about.]

I doubt that were such a shakeup to occur, all that would happen is that the funding would transfer to other agencies. Almost inevitably the sort of folk that DT would select would choose to cut some science in the process. And perhaps you might like the idea of climate science being mingled into NASA, and thus hard to cut cleanly, rather than being in some clearly labelled and easily attackable or defundable agaency. But that’s a political or bureaucratic defence, and obviously not one that can be put openly, so let’s not discuss it.

Regrettably PP (and everyone else I’ve seen commenting on this) is so utterly and blindly outraged (The motivation behind this is clear: Utter and complete denial of science… the modern day Joseph McCarthy… the Earth is a planet, and studying it, studying its climate and our effect on it, is absolutely part of NASA’s mission) that he doesn’t even pause for a moment to wonder if DT’s people have a point.

Why does NASA do climate research?

NASA is a large organisation and doubtless does lots of things. Some of which probably connected together in sensible ways in the past; but that’s no reason they should continue that way in the future. Sending probes to Pluto has very little to do with running GCMs (notice: I said very little, not none. Please don’t bother point out that people run GCMs of Mars and Jupiter and so on).

One upon a time NASA knew lots about launching rockets, which was useful for putting climate-type satellites into orbit. But more and more (just today: SpaceX wins contract to launch NASA Earth science mission; also ULA in general) other people can do that. So the need for a tight connection to NASA is much less obvious now.

I did the smallest amount of legwork consistent with my elastic conscience and found science.nasa.gov/earth-science which is nominally NASA Earth science. But it doesn’t even mention modelling, so clearly isn’t the full story.

Anyway, the question I wanted to ask my readership is the title of this section. Why should NASA do this stuff, rather than someone else? Answers of the nature of “well, it grew up this way, and would be painful to disentangle” won’t get you any points.

I wandered over to WUWT, confident that I’d find myself on the same side as them and then having to desperately explain why that’s all right. But instead I found State of the art weather satellite launched over the weekend promises huge gains in many areas by Anthony Watts / 2 days ago November 21, 2016: NOAA’s GOES-R satellite launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida this weekend at 6;42pm on November 19, 2016 wherein they’re being positively enthusiastic about NASA. But, there’s just now an Eric Worrall rant about “Trump Crackdown on “Politicized Science”: NASA Climate Division to be Stripped of Funding”. EW is a nutter, of course.

Update: Gavin – oddly enough – has some interesting things to say. Although he doesn’t address my question so loses prescience points. Doesn’t he look smug in the picture though? Just the sort of liberal elitist to wind up the rednecks.

Update: via Gavin – it’s him again! On Twitter I find climate.nasa.gov/nasa_science/history/, and it is kinda interesting: When NASA was first created by the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, it was given the role of developing technology for “space observations,” but it wasn’t given a role in Earth science… Other agencies of the federal government were responsible for carrying out Earth science research… cross-agency research failed during the 1970s, though, due to the bad economy and… congressional leaders wanted to see NASA doing more research toward “national needs.” These needs included things like energy efficiency, pollution, ozone depletion and climate change. In 1976, Congress revised the Space Act to give NASA authority to carry out stratospheric ozone research, formalizing the agency’s movement into the Earth sciences… Declining planetary funding and growing scientific interest in the Earth’s climate caused planetary scientists to start studying the Earth. It was closer, and much less expensive, to do research on. And NASA followed suit, starting to plan for an Earth observing system aimed at questions of “global change.” This phrase included climate change as well as changes in land use, ocean productivity and pollution. But the Earth science program that it established was modeled on NASA’s space and planetary science programs, not the old Applications program. NASA developed the technology and funded the science. In 1984, Congress again revised the Space Act, broadening NASA’s Earth science authority from the stratosphere to “the expansion of human knowledge of the Earth.”

And so on. So you can try replying to the question with the answer “because Congress told it to!” (the Tweet does this) which is true, but of course is then vulnerable to the answer “fine. But now we’re telling you to stop.”

Refs

* The Real Climate Catastrophe – Gavin (again!)
* Plus ca change (NASA US Election Edition) – Eli reminisces.
* A Portrait of a Man Who Knows Nothing About Climate Change by Jonathan Chait. Not a good article, but does make the obvious point that Trump’s lack of commitment to the cause of climate-science denial is rooted in a comprehensive failure to grasp the issue but then fails to understand the consequences of his own point.
* Threat to NASA climate role a ‘disaster’ for global warming action: researchers including our Stefan
* Impact of ocean resolution on coupled air-sea fluxes and large-scale climate – Hadley folk: Malcolm J. Roberts, Helene T. Hewitt et al. DOI: 10.1002/2016GL070559
* Tracing global supply chains to air pollution hotspots – Daniel Moran and Keiichiro Kanemoto, Environmental Research Letters, Volume 11, Number 9, 2016.
* Five reasons why cutting NASA’s climate research would be a colossal mistake
* More besides-the-point ranting if you’re interested.

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60 Comments

  1. ...and Then There's Physics

    Ah, excellent. I was looking for a post to hang my musings off, and Phil Plait’s rant is a splendid peg. Not only that, but via fb I find this charming astronomer fox in Discarding Images; it is clear that the stars have aligned so I’ll proceed.
    PP is not just sad but outraged that
    In an interview with the Guardian, Bob Walker, a senior Trump adviser, said that Trump will eliminate NASA’s Earth science research. This is the mission directorate of NASA that, among other important issues, studies climate change
    and so on. And if you read the Graun’s headline Trump to scrap Nasa climate research in crackdown on ‘politicized science’ you might get much the same idea. Or even if you read the Graun “paraphrasing” what Bob Walker said, you get Donald Trump is poised to eliminate all climate change research conducted by Nasa as part of a crackdown on “politicized science”, his senior adviser on issues relating to the space agency has said. However, if you read what he actually said you find something rather different:
    “We see Nasa in an exploration role, in deep space research,” Walker told the Guardian. “Earth-centric science is better placed at other agencies where it is their prime mission. My guess is that it would be difficult to stop all ongoing Nasa programs but future programs should definitely be placed with other agencies.”
    [Note that I have deliberately truncated that quote to remove all the goo and dribble about “politicised science” because whilst it is undoubtedly part of their motive, it is also deeply stupid, and not really relevant to what I want to talk about.]
    I doubt that were such a shakeup to occur, all that would happen is that the funding would transfer to other agencies. Almost inevitably the sort of folk that DT would select would choose to cut some science in the process. And perhaps you might like the idea of climate science being mingled into NASA, and thus hard to cut cleanly, rather than being in some clearly labelled and easily attackable or defundable agaency. But that’s a political or bureaucratic defence, and obviously not one that can be put openly, so let’s not discuss it.
    Regrettably PP (and everyone else I’ve seen commenting on this) is so utterly and blindly outraged (The motivation behind this is clear: Utter and complete denial of science… the modern day Joseph McCarthy… the Earth is a planet, and studying it, studying its climate and our effect on it, is absolutely part of NASA’s mission) that he doesn’t even pause for a moment to wonder if DT’s people have a point.
    Why does NASA do climate research?
    NASA is a large organisation and doubtless does lots of things. Some of which probably connected together in sensible ways in the past; but that’s no reason they should continue that way in the future. Sending probes to Pluto has very little to do with running GCMs (notice: I said very little, not none. Please don’t bother point out that people run GCMs of Mars and Jupiter and so on).
    One upon a time NASA knew lots about launching rockets, which was useful for putting climate-type satellites into orbit. But more and more (just today: SpaceX wins contract to launch NASA Earth science mission; also ULA in general) other people can do that. So the need for a tight connection to NASA is much less obvious now.
    I did the smallest amount of legwork consistent with my elastic conscience and found science.nasa.gov/earth-science which is nominally NASA Earth science. But it doesn’t even mention modelling, so clearly isn’t the full story.
    Anyway, the question I wanted to ask my readership is the title of this section. Why should NASA do this stuff, rather than someone else? Answers of the nature of “well, it grew up this way, and would be painful to disentangle” won’t get you any points.
    I wandered over to WUWT, confident that I’d find myself on the same side as them and then having to desperately explain why that’s all right. But instead I found State of the art weather satellite launched over the weekend promises huge gains in many areas by Anthony Watts / 2 days ago November 21, 2016: NOAA’s GOES-R satellite launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida this weekend at 6;42pm on November 19, 2016 wherein they’re being positively enthusiastic about NASA. But, there’s just now an Eric Worrall rant about “Trump Crackdown on “Politicized Science”: NASA Climate Division to be Stripped of Funding”. EW is a nutter, of course.
    Update: Gavin – oddly enough – has some interesting things to say. Although he doesn’t address my question so loses prescience points. Doesn’t he look smug in the picture though? Just the sort of liberal elitist to wind up the rednecks.
    Update: via Gavin – it’s him again! On Twitter I find climate.nasa.gov/nasa_science/history/, and it is kinda interesting: When NASA was first created by the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, it was given the role of developing technology for “space observations,” but it wasn’t given a role in Earth science… Other agencies of the federal government were responsible for carrying out Earth science research… cross-agency research failed during the 1970s, though, due to the bad economy and… congressional leaders wanted to see NASA doing more research toward “national needs.” These needs included things like energy efficiency, pollution, ozone depletion and climate change. In 1976, Congress revised the Space Act to give NASA authority to carry out stratospheric ozone research, formalizing the agency’s movement into the Earth sciences… Declining planetary funding and growing scientific interest in the Earth’s climate caused planetary scientists to start studying the Earth. It was closer, and much less expensive, to do research on. And NASA followed suit, starting to plan for an Earth observing system aimed at questions of “global change.” This phrase included climate change as well as changes in land use, ocean productivity and pollution. But the Earth science program that it established was modeled on NASA’s space and planetary science programs, not the old Applications program. NASA developed the technology and funded the science. In 1984, Congress again revised the Space Act, broadening NASA’s Earth science authority from the stratosphere to “the expansion of human knowledge of the Earth.”
    And so on. So you can try replying to the question with the answer “because Congress told it to!” (the Tweet does this) which is true, but of course is then vulnerable to the answer “fine. But now we’re telling you to stop.”
    Refs
    * The Real Climate Catastrophe – Gavin (again!)
    * Plus ca change (NASA US Election Edition) – Eli reminisces.
    * A Portrait of a Man Who Knows Nothing About Climate Change by Jonathan Chait. Not a good article, but does make the obvious point that Trump’s lack of commitment to the cause of climate-science denial is rooted in a comprehensive failure to grasp the issue but then fails to understand the consequences of his own point.
    * Threat to NASA climate role a ‘disaster’ for global warming action: researchers including our Stefan
    * Impact of ocean resolution on coupled air-sea fluxes and large-scale climate – Hadley folk: Malcolm J. Roberts, Helene T. Hewitt et al. DOI: 10.1002/2016GL070559
    * Tracing global supply chains to air pollution hotspots – Daniel Moran and Keiichiro Kanemoto, Environmental Research Letters, Volume 11, Number 9, 2016.
    * Five reasons why cutting NASA’s climate research would be a colossal mistake
    * More besides-the-point ranting if you’re interested.

    Related

  2. James Annan

    Why should NASA do this stuff, rather than someone else?
    I guess a simple answer is that it’s not either or. I don’t know how much has changed since I worked in the US (about 10 years ago) but NASA both does research, funds research (i.e., university researchers can apply to NASA for funding), and – of course – develops space technology and launches and manages research satellites (amongst other things).
    Of course, one could argue that this should change, but most institutions that support research in some way also like to have active researchers. If not, you can end up with a disconnect between those who, for example, launch research satellites and those who do research with the resulting data. If NASA is going to continue to develop and manage satellites that do Earth observation then there is probably an argument for maintaining climate science research within NASA.
    Of course, it shouldn’t all be done by NASA, but it isn’t and there is no suggestion that it should be.

  3. Um…satellites is sort of spacey isn’t it?
    [Commissioning, designing, building, launching, running, or analysing the results thereof? Or all of the above? Yes, it is, and there’s an obvious connection. But surely satellite design and launch must be – or should be – getting heavily commoditised by now. Unlike the exciting deep space stuff which is still one-offs. Is it obvious that the same people or the same agency should be doing both? -W]

  4. “Why should NASA do this stuff, rather than someone else? Answers of the nature of “well, it grew up this way, and would be painful to disentangle” won’t get you any points.” – WC
    I seem to remember a hot topic recently where some group wanted to exit some other group but some people were all like, “don’t do that, we grew up this way and it would be painful to disentangle!” but then other people were like, “lol, that won’t get you any points!” and so they left and then it was painful to disentangle and people were sad.
    I seem to recall the moral of that story being – asking whether you want to split something without understanding why you want to split it, how you’re going to split it, the risks associated with splitting it and whether splitting it will be beneficial is stupid.

  5. Why should NASA do this stuff, rather than someone else?
    Who do you expect the “someone else” to be? What benefit would that “someone else” offer? Would that benefit be greater than the administrative costs of separating it out of NASA?
    That kinda “stuff” is kinda expensive and it kinda doesn’t have good paybacks and it kinda benefits the general population instead of investors, which means it kinda needs to be done by government agencies.
    But maybe another government agency could do it. Ok, who? Better question – why? What would that solve? And what’s the problem we need to solve again? The “politicalization of science” (which you rightly dismissed as nonsense)?
    How much extra administrative costs would you need to transfer responsibility from NASA to another (new?) agency? How much lost knowledge/competency/efficiency would there be going from NASA, who has had decades building up the staff, assets and recourses to “do this stuff”, to another agency? Again, what would be gained?
    Maybe you just cut NASA down its space exploration/earth science divide…but that’s not a simple delimiter. Earth science is pretty reliant on designing and building stuff to go into space, getting it into space and operating it once in space. NASA’s pretty good at that. (It’s pretty good at earth science too.) So this new agency would likely still be heavily reliant on NASA for its space stuff. Furthermore, if you think a government agency is inefficient, try a government agency that is split into two separate (but reliant) agencies; it’s a bureaucratic nightmare – confidentiality of information, liability, ownership, access to resources/databases, double the management, reporting and oversight etc.
    So as far as I see it, getting “someone else” to “do this stuff” would be administratively costly, increase bureaucratic red tape, likely reduce efficiency and/or competency, and would not solve the problem…which is either nonsense (“politicalization of science”) or nonexistent (NASA’s doing a pretty good job, I think). But, hey, I’m likely missing something here.

  6. Am I wrong for thinking this is a manoeuvre by skeptics to undermine the credibility of climate science?
    [In Trump terms, no, I don’t think so. This is a wacky idea floated *on the assumption* that the “credibility” is already undermined; or, if you prefer, that the science is already politicised. But if you read what he says, it is plain that he is woefully under briefed on this -W]
    Cast your mind back to August when Brian Cox sparred with Malcolm Roberts on Australian television. Roberts asserted the data was being fudged. “Who by,” asked Cox. “By NASA” Roberts replied. The audience howled with laughter.
    This is a massive headache for the skeptics. How do you delay and prevaricate when NASA say you are full of poop? Answer: cut out NASA.
    [Why is it a massive headache? They seem to have successfully delayed and prevaricated pretty well up till now. And now they have C, S and Prez they’ll have even less problem prevaricating -W]

  7. I think you don’t understand Donald J Trump.
    He has no idea about any subject, other than how great Donald J Trump is. And how Donald J Trump is going to win every time. And how everyone is going to love Donald J Trump.
    [I disagree with that. I am no fan of his, but I think the “elite” misunderestimating him has aided his rise -W]
    Climate? Ideas will depends on who he is talking to. If he can see how Donald J Trump can win by supporting a carbon tax, he is for a carbon tax. If he can see how Donald J Trump can win with cap and trade, he would be for cap and trade. If removing regulations like soot emission limits from burning coal is a winning subject, he is for that as well. And for clean air, he is for that at the same time. If green energy technology is the wave of the future, and Donald J Trump can win by promoting it, he is for green energy technology. You can’t agree with or disagree with his views, as they change, sometimes in the middle of a sentence. He will be for or against the Paris agreement, depending on who he is talking to, where he is talking, the phase of the Moon, and probably other factors.
    Don’t think his advisers know any better what he is going to say or do. Quoting them is a waste of bytes. Please don’t waste bytes.
    As for should NASA be doing climate change research? Other than giving business to letterhead printing companies, I don’t see what possible advantage moving climate change research elsewhere would have.
    Or stopping climate change research, for that matter. What we don’t know about can and will hurt us.

  8. Idiot, what makes you think the pie won’t shrink to nothing?
    The Republicans tried to take out NSF geoscience sciences last year along with cuts in NOAA and NASA climate sciences, Took a lot of work to hold the cuts in check. There is nothing holding them back this year and they are quite likely to try and shift programs without shifting money or people,

  9. Hank Roberts

    But surely satellite design and launch must be – or should be – getting heavily commoditised by now.
    For operational satellites, this is the case, which is why most of the GOES program falls under NOAA. But research satellites are still basically custom built. There are portions you can get off the shelf, and several companies (not just SpaceX; Orbital Science Corporation and Lockheed Martin are also in the business) offer launch services. That’s where NASA comes in.
    The big issue with dropping NASA earth science funding abruptly to zero
    [Errm, but that’s pretty clearly not the plan, as I’ve pointed out. Despite PP and the Graun hyperventilating, that’s not what DT’s people are talking about -W]
    is who, if anybody, takes over the research satellite assets. Other nations could eventually step in, but that takes at least several years, and for major projects can take a decade or more. Meanwhile, researchers all over the world would likely not be getting data from NASA that they need.
    And you are naive to think that if the money is cut from the NASA budget it will be shifted to NSF (the other major civilian agency that funds climate research in the US) or NOAA (who are mainly about operations and are not a research funding agency). The alleged rationale for the proposed change is that the science has become “politicized”. Which I will translate from Republicanese to English for you: The scientists don’t get the answers Republican politicians want. That’s why they want to get rid of the research, as they already have for gun safety.
    It’s true that GOES-R is a joint venture between NOAA and NASA. I know some of the people who are funded from the NASA side on that. Their instruments are still at least as much research oriented as operations oriented.

  10. Hank Roberts

    I refute it thus: Triana.

  11. Hank Roberts

    Oh, and
    > getting heavily commoditised by now
    You didn’t notice the new weather satellite, eh? All new.
    [Do you mean the one I linked to? Your link is broken I’m afraid so I can’t tell if you mean the same one -W]
    First big improvement in decades, now maneuvering toward geosync.
    Watch the skies long enough and they look back.

  12. NASA does planetary research. Terra is a planet.
    [I’m pretty sure someone has already used that one. But it is just wordplay, and won’t get anywhere. Or, if you prefer, consider “chemistry is just a branch of physics” -W]

  13. Obstreperous Applesauce

    David Benson – they’re going to do deep space exploration, but avoid contact with planets as obviously the pesky atmospheres on those things are politicized. That is, until the WUWT scientists finish their work on a transporter.

  14. David B. Benson’s comment got the jump on me. If you’re simply looking at taxonomy that seems pretty straightforward (if in a snarky sort of way).
    Though it probably won’t win me any points, the reason for the practical shift of focus was apparently community-wide among planetary scientists (as pointed out above):
    “Declining planetary funding and growing scientific interest in the Earth’s climate caused planetary scientists to start studying the Earth. It was closer, and much less expensive, to do research on. And NASA followed suit, starting to plan for an Earth observing system aimed at questions of ‘global change.’”
    So it’s not exactly outside the mission NASA or outside the purview of the field. Apparently it’s even a cost effective approach to conducting the science.
    The question, I guess is; will funding be restored to studying other planets, and how much does that really matter to studying Earth… Terra… whatever?

  15. steve from brisbane

    I remember from the late 90s/early 00s that USGS and NASA tended to collaborate on earth-observing satellites. But then Congress started slashing USGS budgets for space stuff (the expensive part of climate science) — which left NASA with an opening. Not that the NASA budget was expanded to cover the shortfall.
    Theoretically, it’s totally fine to have USGS do the science and NASA do the mission operations. What I’m expecting rather is that USGS and NOAA will be expected to take the functions — but not given any budget to do so.
    It’s a normal trick in bureaucracies: hard to cut a program, much easier to “reorganize” it into non-existence.

  16. If anyone has any doubts about the deep thoughts of Bob Walker on climate change, have a read of this pleasingly aggressive interview with him at CBC radio:
    http://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-wednesday-edition-1.3864045/trump-adviser-wants-to-cut-nasa-climate-change-research-calls-it-politicized-science-1.3864051

  17. Dikran Marsupial

    “National AERONAUTICS and Space Administration”.
    Just to highlight the operative word that makes it quite obvious that NASA should study how the atmosphere operates.

  18. All organisation change has a cost associated with it, and it is a waste of tax payers money to change organisations if there is no demonstrable benefit that more than offsets the cost of the change. I don’t see that being obviously the case here, and waffle about “politicised science” seems to be an admission of that, if there were a genuine benefit they would be talking about that instead.
    Personally it seems like quite a good idea to have some planetary research about the Earth and its climate going on at NASA, it seems odd for the most observed planet to be outside the remit of research on planetary science (e.g. exoplanets). Also if an area is tangentially (or in this case more than) relevant to a core area, then it is good to foster collaboration between research fields by having a group at NASA working and contributing to this stuff.
    Now of course if this were politicised science, then having two independently funded bodies researching this stuff would be better than having just one, so getting rid of climate research at NASA makes no sense from that perspective. Unless of course “politicised science” just means “no, we don’t like those conclusions, bring us some different ones”.
    If it aint badly broken, don’t fix it.

  19. Hank Roberts

    If they said something like “We want to do a review of the how the science is done and ensure it is improved” then it might be a good change.
    That is not the motivation. It’s just them trying to do what the same idiots have tried to do to the CSIRO in Australia.
    Leaving out the “politicisation of science” just indicates why you are debating with yourself why NASA should or shouldn’t research global warming. They aren’t actually interested in that at all.
    [I think you’re right that they aren’t interested. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t an interesting question. I don’t allow their thinking to bound my interests; why do you? -W]
    It could have been the American Climate Research Agency and the deniers would have just had to come up with another supposed “reason” to defund the research.

  20. Hank Roberts

    Too many words in the topic headline.
    Fixed:
    Trump’s Ill-Informed and Dangerous?
    Proof:http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/23/us/politics/trump-new-york-times-interview-transcript.html
    Or maybe they’re lying about what he said, eh?
    [It makes for pretty grim reading:
    DEAN BAQUET: But along with that — and this is going to create a tricky thing for you — you also energized presumably a smaller number of people who were evidenced at the alt-right convention in Washington this weekend. Who have a very …
    TRUMP: I just saw that today.
    BAQUET: So, I’d love to hear you talk about how you’re going to manage that group of people who actually may not be the larger group but who have an expectation for you and are angry about the country and its — along racial lines. My first question is, do you feel like you said things that energized them in particular, and how are you going to manage that?
    TRUMP: I don’t think so, Dean. First of all, I don’t want to energize the group. I’m not looking to energize them. I don’t want to energize the group, and I disavow the group.
    What an evil bastard Trump is, eh? -W]

  21. Dikran Marsupial

    —-excerpt, no ellipses —–
    TRUMP: You know the hottest day ever was in 1890-something, 98. You know, you can make lots of cases for different views. I have a totally open mind.
    My uncle was for 35 years a professor at M.I.T. He was a great engineer, scientist. He was a great guy. And he was … a long time ago, he had feelings — this was a long time ago — he had feelings on this subject. 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. Where they got caught, you know, so you see that and you say, what’s this all about. I absolutely have an open mind. I will tell you this: Clean air is vitally important. Clean water, crystal clean water is vitally important. Safety is vitally important.
    And you know, you mentioned a lot of the courses. I have some great, great, very successful golf courses. I’ve received so many environmental awards for the way I’ve done, you know. I’ve done a tremendous amount of work where I’ve received tremendous numbers. Sometimes I’ll say I’m actually an environmentalist and people will smile in some cases and other people that know me understand that’s true. Open mind.
    JAMES BENNET, editorial page editor: When you say an open mind, you mean you’re just not sure whether human activity causes climate change? Do you think human activity is or isn’t connected?
    TRUMP: I think right now … well, I think there is some connectivity. 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.
    They’re really largely noncompetitive.
    ============================
    [So, the science bit is rubbish – but that’s no surprise, we already know he has no knowledge of or interest in the science. But the key for him – and for *his audience* is It also depends on how much it’s going to cost our companies. You have to understand, our companies are noncompetitive right now. That’s the bit you’re ignoring because you’re not interested in it. It is also wrong, of course, but that’s not the point either -W]

  22. verytallguy

    W: “we already know he has no knowledge of or interest in the science.”
    The problem is whether *he* knows that, which is relevant to his ability to detect “politicized science”, or whether the scientists are actually giving him good advice to weigh against the benefits of competitive economy.
    [I doubt he knows that; he doesn’t seem a very reflective kind of guy. But you’re still missing the point, which is his motivation. If you attack him for his denialism, or his ignorance of science, his reaction will be bafflement: “why are you attacking me on this?” he will muse briefly before ignoring you; or perhaps waffling in reply with the first thing that comes into his head. Because *he doesn’t care*. If you want to have any influence – making the somewhat unlikely assertion that you do, because if you did you wouldn’t be commenting here, but we’re all pretending, yes? – then you do need to understand his motives -W]

  23. Dikran Marsupial

    “He has no idea about any subject, other than how great Donald J Trump is. And how Donald J Trump is going to win every time. And how everyone is going to love Donald J Trump.
    [I disagree with that. I am no fan of his, but I think the “elite” misunderestimating him has aided his rise -W]”
    I agree that he was misunderestimated, but the hypothesis that he doesn’t really care about policy, he’s just in it for teh Donald seems pretty much irrefutable, given that he flip-flops from one policy extreme to its antithesis without taking a breath.
    On this particular issue, he can make a big splash and show how important he is, and how “elites” are no longer in charge by making a big noise of sacking as many “crooked” scientists as possible. So why wouldn’t he?
    I fear you’re the one doing the misunderestimating of teh Donald.

  24. I didn’t attack him for lack of knowledge, and I didn’t mention denialism. We can’t expect all politicians to have a good understanding of the science, or even necessarily economics, they are politicians, not scientists or economists. What we ought to expect is for them to be able to competently identify suitable advisers (not just select advisers to tell you what you want to hear), which is possibly the problem here. We should also expect them to be a “reflective kind of guy[/gal]”, anyone in a position of political power needs to have some form of self-scrutiny and be able to be honest with themselves about their motivation (although not necessarily share it with the public). An irreflective loose cannon is likely to be [english]somewhat sub-optimal[/english].
    As for Trump’s motivation for this, I suspect it is to appeal to his existing supporters, rather than because a change in the duties at NASA is really necessary or even beneficial. I suspect it is mostly a gesture (to get some media attention) and one that will quickly be forgotten and never acted on (I hope).
    “but we’re all pretending” well no, I don’t have any influence, and I don’t particularly want to have any more influence than anyone else as I have no special competence, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have an opinion on a particular policy. AFAICS this one would be a waste of tax payers money with no substantive practical benefit.
    The problem is not so much influencing politicians as what these days politicians find effective in influencing people to vote for them.

  25. thefordprefect

    He’s an aggressive person. One of his primary motivations is making money. Another is ostentatious display. Manned missions are an ostentatious display… our rocket is bigger than your rocket. The environment equals our beautiful national parks. Display is essential. Showing off. If it’s not beautiful enough, strip mine it. He’s a child. The world could use a country run by an adult. There may not be one.

  26. Kevin O'Neill

    Earth Science
    •Launching OCO-2 (Orbital Carbon Observatory) and the Global Precipitation Measurement Mission
    •Developing systems to measure soil moisture, atmospheric gases, ice sheets and vegetation topography, gravitational anomalies, etc.
    •Weather and climate modeling
    •Operates over 15 spacecraft that observe Earth
    budget breakdownhttps://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/files/NASA_FY_2016_Budget_Estimates.pdf
    page bud2 and of course the es pages
    seems at most $400M on non-spacey things?
    Cut the earth science budget of $1.8G and you lose an awful lot of satellites
    Is this what is required by Trump – no more earth facing satellites from NASA?
    Or is his figures as fictitious as the £450M spent on EU which would be reallocated to NHS in EU exiteering?

  27. The Trump plan is simply denialista driven, anti-science, pro-business, anti-regulation, standard GOP pablum. We seen it happen in Canada. We see it happening in Australia. Get rid of the science and (in their minds) you get rid of the justification for action.
    To the larger question, should these activities be under different umbrellas: I don’t believe it works well in my experience to separate these types of functions — at least not very far from each other.
    Not every piece of knowledge gets put into the manual. I can create a dataset with 14 caveats and only 6 of them make it into the footnotes. Half the users never bother to read the footnotes and fewer yet question the data enough to tease out the caveats that were omitted. A thorough understanding of how the data was collected so that one can use it appropriately is not always easily transferred.

  28. Why should NASA do this stuff, rather than someone else?
    Why shouldn’t they, and who else did you have in mind? Really, this is a fairly ill-defined question… It would be better to ask something more along the lines of “Who is best placed to do this stuff: NASA or [blank]?”. Phrased like that, it’s fairly obvious that you need to say who fills the blank in order to formulate a response.

  29. Johnny Vector

    W said: “Why is it a massive headache? They seem to have successfully delayed and prevaricated pretty well up till now. And now they have C, S and Prez they’ll have even less problem prevaricating.”
    But public opinion has swung against them in recent years. It’s getting increasingly difficult for them to deliver their BS messaging. It’s fair to say NASA has played a pivotal role in that swing. Plus these think tanks have resented NASA involvement for many years now. They have tried attacking them but to no avail. If that isn’t part of their thinking I would be very surprised.

  30. Raymond Arritt

    The trouble is, you have no idea what it takes to build a satellite. Even a “commodity” satellite, like say the previous generation of GOES, requires a large infrastructure to design, build, and test. If we were making a dozen per year it would make sense to have one organization do that. But we actually make one every few years. That is not enough to amortize the cost of a full environmental test facility, let alone a team of engineers and technicians.
    And, as Eric Lund points out above, that’s just for “commodity” assets. Say you want an improved satellite, like GOES-R. Or something entirely different (you know, GRACE, ICEsat, PACE, GPM, …)? Not a commodity; that’s a whole new cycle of design, build, test. Sure, the spacecraft bus may be somewhat commodified, but that part is already generally contracted out to Orbital or Ball or someplace similar. The instruments need experienced aerospace engineers or they won’t work.
    Right now the people who build all that are also people who build instruments that look outward, and have a shared understanding of how to make it work. And can, when between new Earth science missions, work on a space science mission to keep them in the business.
    So, as asked above, what is the problem being solved? “It seems odd for NASA to do Earth science” is hardly a justification for tearing apart a system that works.
    You might imagine joining forces, I suppose. Having NASA build a satellite and then NOAA be in charge of operating it and analyzing the data. That could work if the NOAA people were colocated with the NASA people, so that the requirements flow between the teams were quick and clean. Oh hey, waitaminnit! That’s exactly how the GOES program works. There’s an entire building at Goddard Space Flight Center devoted largely to NOAA personnel. So apparently just like “we need to stop the huge influx of illegal immigrants!” the solution is to keep doing what we’re already doing.

  31. Climate change is a very small part of NASA earth sciences. More typical are things like remote sensing of soil moisture. That has clear potential benefits not only to basic science but also to applications like agriculture, flood prediction, and so on.
    And it makes sense that NASA would do both the hardware and at least some of the science, at a minimum enough to feed back into things like development of retrieval algorithms. Think of Apple — even though I don’t drive a Mac, I can acknowledge that having both hardware and software in-house produces a much smoother and more usable product. When hardware and software are disconnected you can end up with a great hardware product that is crippled by flaky drivers and software, as was the case with most Windows implementations of (ahem) Bluetooth until not that many years ago.
    [That’s a reasonable point, but a reasonable answer is that both the Windoze and Apple models work moderately well: either HW and SW joined, or not -W]
    So while climate change is only one small corner of NASA, I suspect Hansen’s visibility has pissed off a bunch of Republicans so that they’re now gunning for NASA earth sciences as a whole. These folks may not know that NASA earth science does lots of things that benefit their constituents. They may not care.
    [They might not. But more likely, they’ll realise before too late -W]

  32. The political thing to watch isn’t Trump, but Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House.
    Trump is distraction, noise and reality show. Sure, he is a walking poster for crony capitalism, a bully and a con man, but he really really wants to be loved. Paul Ryan, on the other hand, is serious, has more real political power as Speaker of the House. Speaker Ryan will provide the flattery, and pass the bills. I doubt if Trump will object to anything.

  33. Kevin O'Neill

    [They might not. But more likely, they’ll realise before too late -W]
    Nice answer: Wanna bet?
    Actual answer: Your blowing it through you nose to defend a stupid position

  34. Hank Roberts

    WC – [They might not. But more likely, they’ll realise before too late -W]
    Ben Carson: ““My own personal theory is that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain,”
    Posturing that anyone Trump-related has some connection to reality may be hazardous to your forecasting skill.

  35. Obstreperous Applesauce

    > That’s the bit you’re ignoring because you’re not
    > interested in it. It is also wrong, of course
    Of course I’m interested in it; he’s channeling a standard part of the boilerplate argument made against any proposed regulation, to grossly exaggerate the anticipated cost of compliance and deny any possible benefit. You could footnote every sentence fragment coming from him. It’s word salad, but the chunks are large enough to be recognizable.

  36. “Wanna bet?”
    That Republicans will all of a sudden start behaving like rational adults is an extraordinary claim requiring extraordinary you-know-what. The kook factor is high both in the party and in its constituency.
    If I had a gambling addiction, I’d put my money on Trump getting involved in some weird imbroglio that sucks in all of Washington, making anything to do with NASA a forgotten issue.

  37. Russell Seitz

    Posturing that anyone Trump-related has some connection to reality may be hazardous to your forecasting skill.
    Positing? Postulating? WMC may be a curmudgeonly so-and-so but he’s not given to posturing 🙂
    Interesting thread.

  38. Hank Roberts

    Is Phil trying to make Joe Romm look reasonable , or is he bucking for a job in the next Gore administration ?:
    ” Calling climate change research “politicized science” is so ironic you could build a battle fleet out of it, because it was the GOP who politicized it.”
    The Former Next Environmental President deserves due credit for his efforts.
    OTOH, I have to admit though the fox does look awfully familiar

  39. Obstreperous Applesauce

    > The political thing to watch isn’t Trump, but Paul Ryan …
    We haven’t yet heard “… only the Koch Brothers can save us now …” but I’m expecting their influence will start to be clearer, not long after the inauguration.
    Presidency, Congress, Governorships, State Reps, School Boards …. what will they think of owning next?

  40. Raymond Arritt

    “… thing to watch…Paul Ryan…”
    …and who winds up on congressional committees, and of course with whom Trump surrounds himself.

  41. Sorry, no, Ryan doesn’t have the backbone to stand up to Trump if it were to become necessary. He might play walrus to Trump’s carpenter, but ultimately he’ll steer Congress wherever Trump wants to go.

  42. Kevin O'Neill

    Trump vs Ryan.
    Trump is mostly idea free. Other things Trump is full of, but not ideas. Ryan is full of ideas, sure, many bad ideas, but still ideas. While of course I don’t know for sure, I suspect that most of what will get done at first are mostly Ryan’s ideas.
    I’m not suggesting that Ryan will in some way “save us” from our stupidity in electing Trump.

  43. I have the unfortunate luck to have Paul Ryan as my congressional representative. He is not full of ideas — he’s fixated on two; cut taxes on the wealthy and privatize government.
    Ryan: ““I give out ‘Atlas Shrugged’ as Christmas presents, and I make all my interns read it.”
    Does one really need to know much more?
    [I think people should read Atlas Shrugged; with caveats, of course. See http://wmconnolley.livejournal.com/30200.html As a clue to the thinking of people like PR, it is invaluable. If you find it too long, try Anthem (http://wmconnolley.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/book-review-anthem-by-ayn-rand.html) -W]

  44. Too long ?
    Upon meeting Frank Herbert in the ’70’s I asked him how the writing of Dune began.
    He answered “It started as a haiku.” but immediately added:
    “Some people in the trade call this padding.”

  45. David B. Benson

    The Donald is clearly more intelligent than most people and right about most things
    otherwise most people would have more money than he has, but they clearly don’t
    I mean it’s obvious isn’t it!!

  46. Kevin O'Neill

    How do you make a small fortune in the real estate business?
    Well, you start with a large fortune and…

  47. WC writes: “As a clue to the thinking of people like PR, it is invaluable. If you find it too long, try Anthem “
    Read it decades ago in my teens — probably the same year I read Dune and Lord of the Rings. And despite what John Rogers has said:
    “There are two novels that can transform a bookish 14-year-kid’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish daydream that can lead to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood in which large chunks of the day are spent inventing ways to make real life more like a fantasy novel. The other is a book about orcs.”
    The books that transformed my bookish teenage years were the great dystopias; Ape and Essence, 1984, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451 and the non-fiction The Best and the Brightest.
    I’d recommend a small public library worth of books before I’d ever get to Ayn Rand.

  48. Hank Roberts

    It seems that NOAA largely does operational stuff, NASA largely does development and new applications. The Venn diagram shows overlap though.
    The tech on A-train missions like Cloudsat, CALIPSO and OCO-2 is not operational (…yet). How many W-band radars are NOAA operating in space, for example? It makes sense to me that the product development and much of the application of these instruments is partly done in-house. NASA links together the science, algorithm, flight and engineering teams and that makes things more efficient.
    Could NOAA do the same stuff? Probably. I’m not sure what you’d gain from moving it out of NASA though. I’d expect lost efficiency and the chance of funding falling down the cracks. Given the amazing progress that projects like GRACE and the A-train have given us in atmospheric physics and geophysics that would be tragic.
    Summary: NASA’s earth science does new tech, new applications, links engineering to science, increases efficiency and makes amazing progress at the limits of atmospheric physics.
    Full disclosure: I work on Earth-observation satellites at a NASA lab. These are all personal opinions and I don’t represent NASA or any other group.

  49. Russell the Stout

    —excerpt—
    On Wednesday, Bob Walker, a top adviser to President-elect Donald Trump, told The Guardian that the new presidential administration would cut earth science research at NASA. He suggested that the agency would lose the more than 40% of its funding dedicated to understanding our own planet, and be instructed to instead turn its attention toward exploration and deep space research.
    Why? Walker suggested that it has to do with NASA’s focus on what he called “politically correct environmental monitoring.”
    =====end excerpt=====
    http://www.businessinsider.com/why-people-tweeting-thanksnasa-trump-nasa-science-2016-11

  50. Whistling in the dark. They wantdestruction. They are psychotic.

  51. Julian Frost

    Kevin, sorry to hear that.
    If Ryan has exactly two ideas, that is at least two more than Trump. I’m not claiming that they are good ideas, you understand.

  52. As a clue to the thinking of people like PR, [Atlas Shrugged] is invaluable. If you find it too long, try Anthem
    Weirdly enough I read “Anthem” in the last year. I actually enjoyed it somewhat, but if you read closely, you can detect the fascism. The narrator is a “superior being”.

  53. @ Ayn Rand
    From memory she seemed to have been overly affected by the communist appropriation of her father’s small business [sad face]
    Fair doos, we all have to endure the “slings and arrows” blah blah bah [ad infinitum] as children
    By why on earth did she foster a totally redundant and repeatedly debunked ideology on the rest of humanity?

  54. Hank Roberts

    The reason Team Trump wants to remove climate science from NASA is not just because that might make it easier to cut funding, but also because NASA still commands a certain amount of credibility with most Americans. Even Republicans who dismiss the EPA as “big government” and universities as a breeding ground for “liberal academia” tend to be cautious about publicly dissing NASA. By removing climate science from its purview, they hope to undermine the credibility of said science with the public. If there is a sound reason why NASA should not include climate science, I would be perfectly willing to consider it, but instead Mr Erminea seems to be playing the guilty until proven innocent card.

  55. Hank Roberts

    Above, I said “word salad” — I stand corrected:

    … interviewing a narcissist. You can’t go about this in the way you were trained, because he is an expert at manipulating the very rules you learned. …
    … trying to make sense of his words. It’s an easy mistake for people in a word-saturated medium to make, but anyone who’s dealt with a narcissist knows you never, ever believe what they say—because they will say whatever the person they are talking to wants to hear. DT is a master at phrasing things vaguely enough that multiple listeners will be able to hear exactly what they want. It isn’t word salad; it’s overt deception, which is much more pernicious.

  56. Hank Roberts

    > “Only the Koch brothers can save us” ….
    AND here’s their team now:
    http://www.politico.com/story/2016/11/trump-koch-brothers-231863
    “… on many issues, he is a blank slate, so anybody with expertise is in an amazing position to shape his agenda.”

  57. Holiday reading on the Koch Brothers long game:
    Poison Tea: How Big Oil and Big Tobacco Invented the Tea Party and Captured the GOP — Jeff Nesbit

  58. Obstreperous Applesauce

    Something to think about:
    http://theweek.com/articles/664191/donald-trumps-true-lies
    [Part of a cottage industry that has grown up trying to explain why Trump says what he says even though we know it is wrong. It is largely reasonable though I’m dubious it is correct: the “to make you skeptical of everything and too demoralized, cynical to care anymore” is I think supposing more plan than is there. I think the people just can’t face the truth that Trump just tweets stuff, and it is throwaway: he doesn’t greatly care, as long as it gets noticed, and his core support like it. I think the meeja just haven’t faced up to the core problem, which is that bothering to analysing this stuff is mostly pointless. DNFTT – easy to say, but a very hard lesson to learn -W]

  59. Hank Roberts

    -W, in-line comment @~58
    Sort of agree, however to elaborate:
    Trump may not have a plan in the way that you might, say, consciously plan a chess match, but I think he does have decided intent to broadly manipulate, not to make policy. It may be very much in the moment, but it generally falls within an eclectic and charismatically delivered composition of popular barroom boasts, blether, and puffery. Think of it as a wise guy’s extemporaneous version of postmodernist performance art.
    As for the intentional demoralization bit, you may have traveled in more rarified circles than I did growing up, but I’ve certainly been exposed to plenty of snotty adolescents in my day who dedicated a significant amount of time to making life suck for others. You may have heard, for instance, that Trump has supporters because they want to “burn it down.” It’s the logic of the mob.

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