Above, skip directly to 2:16 for a classic story of good ol’ boy congressional goober-ism.

It’s been a triumphant week for NASA, as we reap the rewards of a long term technical triumph in the New Horizons flyby of Pluto. Might be good to consider whether NASA scientists are worth listening to when they inform us about what is happening on the world beneath our feet – the only one most human beings will ever live on.

There is a powerful anti-science movement in the US Congress that would like NASA scientists to stop finding out all that inconvenient stuff about what we are doing to the earth, like,  why is it so dang hot down here?  Better, they say, to keep the focus on what’s going on in far distant corners of the universe.

Speaking of goobers, Senator Ted Cruz pushes the ‘more space, less Earth” meme in a congressional hearing, and runs into a polite but devastating response from NASA administrator Charles Bolden:

Mashable:

Bolden defended spending more money on Earth science activities, saying he is “proud” of it since it’s led to a greater understanding of the planet.

“We can’t go anywhere if the Kennedy Space Center goes underwater and we don’t know it — and that’s understanding our environment,” Bolden said, in a clear reference to global warming-related sea level rise.

“It is absolutely critical that we understand Earth’s environment because this is the only place that we have to live.”

As recent reports have shown, NASA satellites and earth observations have made critical discoveries about things as vital to Earthlings as – where is all our water going?  Below, Rachel Maddow hears from NASA researcher Jay Famiglietti on the status of global water resources.

Wonkette:

..as we’ve noted before, what Ted Cruz thinks NASA needs to be doing is concentrating on stuff that is far away from Earth — the real space science, not all the stupid wasteful research that NASA has been doing on our own planet, which isn’t in space at all, and also isn’t even good science, as Ted Cruz understands science. Which is badly.

Ted Cruz is simply not a fan of these dumb NASA scientists who refuse to look to the skies — or at least, not high enough in the skies, because what’s actually in our own planet’s atmosphere belongs to the fossil fuel industry, and NASA shouldn’t politicize science by getting in the way of scientific progress with a lot of wild predictions about climate change. As he lectured NASA administrator Charles Bolden at a hearing in March, NASA is about being inspiring and space-oriented and doing cool stuff like going to the Moon, not about being depressing and Earth-looking-at:

But I would suggest that almost any American would agree that the core function of NASA is to explore space. That’s what inspires little boys and little girls across this country.

After all, no children in the history of the world ever got excited about how carbon dioxide is making the planet unlivable, and there’s nothing at all inspiring in the quest to stop global warming, there just isn’t. Go look at some planets that don’t have lobbyists, will you, NASA? Cruz has actually won at least part of his battle against NASA’s stupid satellites that look at Earth, convincing his pals in the House to slash NASA’s Earth-science budget.

boringearth Funny thing about planetary science, though: as Mother Jones columnist Tim McDonnell points out, there aren’t any other agencies in the U.S scientific establishment, or private industry, to take over NASA’s climate research. And of course, it’s NASA satellites that collect the very data Cruz misinterprets to call climate change a crock.

Worse, says McDonnell, “it’s pretty hard for scientists to make sense of what they see on other planets if they don’t understand the one we’re on.”

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Here’s the Nature podcast interview with Jasper Kirkby, author of the new study that has denialists all atwitter (again) over cosmic rays.

Briefly, the theory is that cosmic rays hit the atmosphere, and when colliding with gas molecules create tiny cloud seeding particles, (“cloud condensation nuclei”) and thus, so the theory goes, could increase cloud cover.

Low clouds, in particular, reflect sunlight, and exert a cooling influence.

Therefore, so the theory goes, when the sun is in an active state, solar magnetic fields are strong, shielding the earth from cosmic rays, not as many clouds form, making it warmer – even warmer than it would be from the more active sun.

In periods such as the Maunder Minimum, a period of very few sunspots from 1645 to 1715, solar activity would have been low, thus, – ->lower magnetic fields –> letting in more cosmic rays —> producing more clouds
—> cooling the planet.

Voila. The Little Ice Age.

Recently, experiments were undertaken by Dr. Kirkby (interviewed above) at the European Atom smasher facility, – CERN – to learn more about the particle interactions that might validate this theory. The publication of his recent paper on the results has been bouncing around in the denialosphere as yet another “final nail in the coffin of man-caused global warming”.

Dr. Kirkby’s take, as you hear in the interview — not so much.

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Flogging the Scientists

March 15, 2010

As a nonscientist, it’s daunting for me to work thru the huge volume of information on global climate change. I’ve found that the most reliable scientific information comes from respected peer reviewed science journals .

But journals have lots of big words, and lots of small print, and very few illustrations to make it easy for me. You can see why climate deniers don’t like them. But that’s where the facts are.

How can you tell a good science journal?

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One of the enduring myths of climate denialism is that global warming stopped sometime in the last decade. I see it in the blaring headlines of pseudoscience websites, in comments on my videos, even some of our most “distinguished” journalists have been taken in.