Deniers Don’t Know, and Don’t Want to Know
April 11, 2017
“I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see, but we don’t know that yet. … We need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis.”
Ignorance is no crime. Disagreeing is no sin. But Denial is something different.
Scott Pruitt, above, states precisely the current position of climate deniers who don’t wish to be seen as irredeemable troglodytes – yes, climate is changing, they say, but we need more study to tell whether those observed changes are indeed human caused.
My own congressperson’s Chief of Staff told me as much just a few weeks ago, which was the take-off point for the video here
There’s a problem, tho.
Advocating continuing research implies that you are actually going to continue research.
The budget priorities outlined by the new President belie that.
Among the sweeping cuts in the Trump administration’s 53-page budget blueprint released last month, one paragraph stood out to climate researchers. It proposed eliminating four of NASA’s climate science missions, including instruments to study clouds, small airborne particles, the flow of carbon dioxide and other elements of the atmosphere and oceans.
The blueprint is as much a political document as a fiscal plan, in this case designed to send a message that the administration intends to pursue a long-sought goal of some conservatives: to clamp down on NASA’s study of Earthrather than space. But Congress may have other ideas, especially since the projects are not very costly. The savings from eliminating the earth science programs, which include the missions, would total $102 million out of a proposed agency budget of $19 billion.
Long before President Trump was elected, climate researchers have warned that the nation’s climate monitoring capabilities — which include satellites as well as air- and surface-based instruments — were less than adequate and faced data collection gaps and other uncertainties. Elimination of any of the missions would be a further blow, they said.
“That’s what’s giving my colleagues and myself heart palpitations as we think about what might be lost,” said Betsy Weatherhead, an expert on environmental monitoring at the University of Colorado.
In the past, NASA has built and operated climate satellites and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has operated weather satellites. While there is some overlap, weather satellites focus on basics like clouds, winds, temperatures and moisture to provide information for forecasts. Most of NASA’s instruments are designed to provide long-term records of phenomena like ice-sheet thickness, sea-level rise, vegetation changes and the makeup of the atmosphere.
NASA designed a flurry of instruments two decades ago, including about 10 that were launched aboard two satellites, Terra and Aqua. Weather satellites have been in use for about five decades and have become increasingly sophisticated.
After a scare at the beginning of this decade when it looked like NOAA might have no functioning weather satellites for a time — a potentially disastrous situation — the agency now has plans and funding to replace its satellites as required. But there are currently few plans to replace NASA’s instruments, many of which are at or near the end of their useful lives.
“Climate monitoring has fallen into this big gap between the agencies,” said Thomas P. Ackerman, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington.
The priority has been on gathering weather data,” Dr. Weatherhead said, “because we understand the value of weather data.”
That priority is reflected in the proposed Trump budget, which eliminates the NASA missions while also calling for full funding of NOAA’s replacement orbiters.
Ignorance can be fixed. Stupidity is forever. With therapy, Denial generally yields, but only after intense pain.
It’s congressional recess. Turn up the heat. Pressure works.