The GOP is trying to eviscerate NASA's Earth science program. At best, the US House Science Committee's new budget proposal would slash NASA's Earth science funding by $US300 million. At worst, the Earth sciences stand to lose over half a billion federal dollars.
Top Image: NASA Earth Observatory
Reminding us, yet again, that the anti-science, climate change-denying Congressional Republicans responsible for doling out US science dollars don't give a shit about our planet.
The US budget, which covers the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years, would add hundreds of millions of dollars to the Orion spacecraft's and Space Launch System rocket's bank accounts. It also allots an extra $US150 million to NASA's planetary science research. But the GOP apparently doesn't think planet Earth is worth much of our attention at all, because where does the additional spending for these select programs come from? From gutting NASA's Earth science budget.
The actual amount cut will depend on whether caps enacted in 2011 are lifted. If they are, Earth science would get 1.45 billion, if not, 1.2 billion. The 2015 fiscal year budget is 1.77 billion, so either way, its a big middle finger to some of NASA's most important and productive areas of scientific research.
Oh, and lest we forget, this comes a week after the very same committee reauthorized the America Competes Act, slashing geoscience funding to the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy.
In the committee's press release on the budget, Congressman Steven Palazzo pats himself and his fellow Earth-haters on the back for loving space so much. "We all want NASA to be successful so that America can continue to lead the world in space," he says. "American leadership in space is a matter of both national pride and national security. We will continue to support NASA with the resources and the guidance it needs to lead the way into the future."
How noble. Thing is, NASA itself is calling Congress's bullshit. Here's what administrator Charles Bolden had to say about the new budget, in a statement released Thursday:
"The NASA authorization bill making its way through the House of Representatives guts our Earth science program and threatens to set back generations worth of progress in better understanding our changing climate and our ability to prepare for and respond to earthquakes, droughts, and storm events."
The Planetary Society, which makes out quite well under Congress's plan, was specifically singled out by the science committee as staunchly supporting the new bill. But Planetary Society leaders give us a more accurate depiction of their views on their website:
Obviously, the cuts to Earth Science make this a hard bill to support, therefore The Planetary Society cannot support the full bill as written at this early stage.
And in case you were wondering if the bill has the across-the-aisle support its proponents are claiming, it doesn't. Rep. Eddie Johnson (Dem., Texas), the House committee's ranking member, writes that GOP members of the committee introduced the bill without any bipartisan negotiation whatsoever. Johnson, who has promised to fight the budget, points out that it's is not only a direct attack on NASA's climate science research, it tragically fails to appreciate other aspects of NASA's Earth science program. They're too busy throwing snowballs to realise it, but Earth science actually encompasses many critical areas of non-climate related research, like earthquake monitoring and wildfire tracking. Johnson writes:
In addition to other problems in the bill, it cuts earth science funding by more than $US320 million. Earth science, of course, includes climate science. Despite the fact that in January NASA announced 2014 was likely the warmest year since 1880, it should come as no surprise that the majority wants to cut funding for climate science. Embarrassingly, just last week, every single Republican member of this committee present voted against the notion that climate change might be caused by people.
Of course, NASA's earth science program is much, much more than just climate science. The research is used by the Department of Defence to help keep our troops safe. It is used to improve electric and gas utility load forecasts and to document the variability of water available for agricultural use. It helps us understand the implications of thinning ice cover in the Arctic. It helps us predict floods, droughts and hurricanes. And it helps us track wildfires and volcanic ash. Basically, NASA's earth science program provides critical measurements and research on planet Earth as a system and how it is changing over time.
It's hard to believe that in order to serve an ideological agenda, the majority is willing to slash the science that helps us have a better understanding of our home planet.