Dr. Ben Carson – Secretary of Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
Rex Tillerson – Secretary of State
Betsy DeVos – Secretary of Education
Jeff Sessions – Attorney General
Scott Pruitt – Director of the Environmental Protection Agency
The above is a list of just a few of the cabinet members appointed by Donald Trump who are the complete antithesis of the jobs they hold. I have written at length about each before, so I need not repeat myself here. However, yesterday a new name was added to the list: Jim Bridenstine for Director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
Unlike every other NASA director in the history of the agency, Bridenstine has no science credentials … no background in scientific research, no college degree in any hard science, zip. His degrees were in business, economics and psychology. In fact, Mr. Bridenstine is an anti-scientist … a climate change denier who seems to believe that, despite the lack of a related education, he knows more than the scientists who have devoted their entire careers to study and research. This is the man who may soon be in charge of our space program, folks.
Bridenstine has taken climate-change denial to new levels. In 2013, he gave a lengthy speech to the House of Representatives enumerating his points for disputing the scientific results of climate change. “Mr. Speaker, global temperatures stopped rising 10 years ago. Global temperature changes, when they exist, correlate with Sun output and ocean cycles.” But he then went on to demand that President Obama apologize for funding climate change research!
NASA has been at the forefront of climate change research, and in 2010 a NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) science brief summarizing recent research, explains, “A study by GISS climate scientists recently published in the journal Science shows that atmospheric CO2 operates as a thermostat to control the temperature of Earth. There is no viable alternative to counteract global warming except through direct human effort to reduce the atmospheric CO2 level.”
Both Senators from Florida, republican Marco Rubio and democrat Bill Nelson, criticized the Bridenstine’s nomination. Florida, of course, is connected to NASA through the Kennedy Space Center located in Titusville, Florida. “I just think [his nomination] could be devastating for the space program,” said Rubio. “The head of NASA ought to be a space professional, not a politician,” said Nelson.
Because I am not ‘science-savvy’, have never understood more than basic scientific concepts, I shall simply say that NASA’s Earth Science Division is a key player in providing data and scientific research on environmental issues, including climate change. NASA’s research into temperature, ice, clouds and other climate phenomena is world-renowned. Nasa’s network of satellites provide a wealth of information on climate change.
However, since last November, Trump has made it clear that he intends to cut funding for this division and expects NASA to focus only on space exploration, not earth’s environment. His nominee for director of NASA seems to fit well with his goals of defunding all federally funded environmental research.
Bridenstine, it is said, has long lobbied for ‘opening commercial access’ to space. What does that mean, exactly? I cannot say for sure (I told you … science is NOT my strong suit) but Bridenstine is a strong advocate for drawing private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin more deeply into NASA’s exploration of space, and he mentions ‘commercial use of the moon’s resources’. Okay, fine, I suppose, but if we do not address climate change, none of that has any relevance now, does it?
Bridenstine’s nomination will have to be confirmed by the Senate, and here is where I think there may be some hope. Given the partisanship in the Senate, no democrat is likely to produce a ‘yea’ vote. So … it only requires 3 republican senators to vote against Bridenstine’s nomination and he will fail to be confirmed. Marco Rubio has already expressed concerns, so if he sticks by his guns, there is one. Since Trump’s failure to condemn white supremacists after the Charlottesville attack three weeks ago, many republicans in both the House and the Senate are growing disillusioned with Trump. And, he has added insult to injury, insulting a number of his own party. And let us not forget the devastation wreaked by last week’s hurricane on the gulf coast of Texas. My hope is that at least two other republican senators are fed up enough to deny him this confirmation, for Bridenstine and NASA will not be a good combination. Once again, Trump has chosen what may be the worst possible candidate to fill a position. Let us hope the Senate puts the brakes on this one.