Donald Trump does not believe that climate change is real, does not believe that it is in direct correlation with man’s activities on this planet, and is determined to do all that he possibly can to continue a glutinous, fossil-fuel driven lifestyle for the U.S., one that is largely unpopular among scholars, scientists, and 70% of the population of the U.S.
In 1961, NASA established the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which delved into not just planetary research but also atmospheric science. By the late 1980s, NASA’s extensive contributions to the science of global warming made the agency a major player in the climate change narrative. Dr. James E. Hansen directed the Goddard Institute for Space Studies from 1981 to 2013, and he is credited with getting Congress to pay attention to the issue of global warming in 1988. Dr. Hansen’s research findings sounded the alarm about global warming as it related to the greenhouse effect and pollution. The expert congressional testimony presented by Dr. Hansen and his colleagues from NASA opened up the climate change narrative. This narrative was quickly embraced by the media and certain members of Congress who saw the need for a plan of action to slow global warming.
There can be no doubt among rational thinkers that human-caused climate change is real and is threatening the future of our planet. No. Doubt. Climate change is not, despite what a certain would-be president says, a Chinese hoax perpetuated in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive. Think about that one for a minute. It makes absolutely no sense. About as much sense as the tooth fairy, in fact. Yet he continues with his fantasy and has plans to reverse the actions that the Obama administration has taken in order to work with other nations in an effort to reduce emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide pollution.
To this end, Trump has announced plans to eliminate all climate change research conducted by Nasa, calling their valuable research ‘politicized science’. Nasa’s Earth science division is set to be stripped of funding in favor of exploration of deep space, with the president-elect having set a goal during the campaign to explore the entire solar system by the end of the century. Bob Walker, a senior Trump campaign adviser, said there was no need for Nasa to do what he has previously described as “politically correct environmental monitoring. We see Nasa in an exploration role, in deep space research. Earth-centric science is better placed at other agencies where it is their prime mission.”
There is a problem with that line of thinking.
We live on the planet earth and every nation involved in trying to slow or even reverse the damages of climate change rely on the research and information provided by NASA. The data that the earth sciences division collects is used for much more than providing information on climate change. It is also critical for tracking hurricanes, coastal erosion, glacial melting, land use, wildfires, and even the approach of solar storms. Federal government scientists have been unnerved by Trump’s dismissal of climate science and are concerned that their work will be sidelined as part of a new pro-fossil fuels and deregulation agenda. Climate scientists at other organizations expressed dismay at the potential gutting of Earth-based research. Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said as Nasa provides the scientific community with new instruments and techniques, the elimination of Earth sciences would be “a major setback if not devastating. It could put us back into the ‘dark ages’ of almost the pre-satellite era. It would be extremely short sighted.”
All of which is not to say that there is no benefit to space exploration. I am science-challenged, but a visit to the NASA website convinced me that there are most assuredly benefits to further exploration in space. But climate science and space exploration need not be necessarily mutually exclusive. They have co-existed for decades now, and there is no reason they cannot continue to do so. It is obvious that Trump understands so little about both climate science and space exploration that he is unable to understand the full ramifications of what he proposes.
In addition to stripping NASA of the ability to continue doing its valuable research into climate change and other environmental issues, Trump says he plans to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “in almost every form,” as well as to ‘cancel’ the Paris climate agreement that involves 190 nations. His selections of Myron Ebell and Scott Pruitt to EPA positions is in keeping with his plan. Both Ebell and Pruitt have strong ties to the fossil fuel industries, and both are climate change deniers. However, Mr. Pruitt and the incoming Trump administration cannot simply rely on their preferences or on baseless claims about science and markets. Decades of law, much of it created by conservatives’ judicial heroes, requires presidents and agencies to abide by the rule of law and justify regulatory reversals. They have to take a hard look at science and other underlying facts. A ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upholding the Clean Power Plan would further constrain the new president and Mr. Pruitt.
As regards the Paris climate agreement, Trump cannot legally block other countries from fulfilling their Paris agreement commitments, nor can he quickly or unilaterally erase Mr. Obama’s climate rules. But he can, as president, choose not to carry out the Paris plan in the United States. And he could so substantially slow or weaken the enforcement of Mr. Obama’s rules that they would have little impact on reducing emissions in the United States, at least during Mr. Trump’s term.
Why would he do any of this, given that 70% of the U.S. population believe that climate change is real, is man-made, and is a serious problem for the future of our planet? Perhaps … just perhaps … he does not care a whit for the people of this nation after all? The U.S. has the highest carbon emissions per capita. I do not understand Trump’s logic, if indeed he is capable of logic, other than that he seems to be determined to undo anything and everything that President Obama has done over the course of the last eight years. It is a foolhardy attitude and I hope that he and his court jesters, Pruitt and Ebell, are prevented from carrying out their “mission” by cooler heads in Congress and in the 50 states themselves. Those who would wish to see them succeed must be seen as selfish, caring only for the moment, for the convenience, comfort and most of all profit of today, with little or no regard for tomorrow.
I am very encouraged by the initiative taken by Bill Gates recently when he announced his plans to launch a multi-billion-dollar clean energy research and development initiative. His efforts open a door to a real possibility of there being private-sector partnerships to make a real difference in improving our environment. I hope there will be more who think this way, who see value in preserving the only home we have … planet Earth.