NASA Climate Change
Folks in the U.S House of Representatives discussed the following important question last week…
Should NASA’s budget include money for climate change research come out of NASA’s?
BTW, they decided no…sort of. It isn’t entirely up to them anyway, and the President won’t stand for a $500,000 cut in climate research from anyone’s budget.
It ties in with this question…
Should a publicly perceived good thing be treated as the only thing?
…and this one…
Is Climate Change more of a science or more of a funding band wagon?
I’m all for Climate Change research. I think that study and discussion of Climate Change is critical to the survival of our culture, maybe even our ciivlization. I don’t fully agree with mainstream Conservatives or Liberals on the topic. The climate is warming and it has had and will have an impact on our environment and world cultures and economies…and we need to know how much of an impact it will have on us and how much of an impact we have on it.
These questions involve numerous variables, only one of which is the footprint that we leave on the environment. However…folks are overly polarized concerning how much or how little we are driving Climate Change and refuse to listen to each other. Many of these same folks divide along the same lines on several political and cultural issues that they want to disenpower each other on. There is also a lot of personal investment in relevant industries on both sides of the question, by those on the further ends of both sides of the Climate Change debate.
So, should NASA do climate science? Let’s start by defining some acronyms and assigning roles…
- NASA–National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
- NOAA–National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.
- EPA–Environmental Protection Agency.
What do these all have in common? Well, they all have their own portion of Federal funding. They all employ scientists…of various disciplines and specialties. They can all own, design, fund, launch, and operate Earth-watching satellites by themselves…or rather can hire someone to do so on their behalf.
So the real questions I think should be….
Does NASA need to conduct Earth Climate Science? –>For their purposes, yes, because Earth is a planet and NASA studies planets. For Climate Science advancement purposes…no, because everything that research needs from NASA is already old-hat common and easily had (perhaps less expensively) from the growing space industry and scientific community at large. Do you see where I’m going with this?
Is NASA best suited to guide Earth Climate science? Umm…no. That’s NOAA’s job. They can hire NASA to help them, if they choose, with their funding, but I think they probably don’t need to and would save some money if they made use of the private sector instead of government employees.
However, if you see Climate Science as a just huge trough from which scientists feed, then you might ask, “Why can’t NASA join in the feast?” Well, first of all, no one directly involved with Climate Change research is going to publicly admit to that angle of the issue. Putting that aside though, Congress has not said that NASA should loose that half million dollars, but rather that they would spend it on the Space Launch System instead of Climate Change research. I’m glad that Congress has stopped taking money away from Commercial Crew and Planetary Science to feed SLS/Orion, but I would have preferred it if they’d shifted any cost savings from cuts to Climate Science to repair some of the recent years’ cuts to Planetary Science.
Also, NASA and politicians need Public Relations help. Very few people understand the importance of most of the things that NASA does, because very few people understand most of the things that NASA does. Climate Science is a large issue that gives those who are not familiar with NASA something to sink their teeth into. It’s like when NASA provided topographic imagery to aid in rescue efforts after the earthquake in Nepal. It makes NASA look good in the eyes of folks who don’t understand anything else that NASA does, and NASA needs that. Those who support the larger scientific stand with respect to Eart’s climate trumpet Government taking the issue seriously enough to spend money on it. Those who oppose the broader scientific community see NASA’s involvement as an opportunity to set the record straight, both because NASA seems to be a standard-setting agency and because they don’t seem to mind stepping on a few toes. For NASA involvement in Climate Change is a PR win no matter what happens. The truth is that NASA contributes to both Climate Change and disaster assistance without ever having to spend their own money on them. NOAA works with NASA on the space-based components of Climate Science research without government having to make a show of throwing money at them for it. Sensors already mounted on the ISS aren’t going to just go away either.
Earth Climate Science needs Planetary Science and Planetary Science needs Climate Science, but all of that is part of the information that flows between researchers anyway. NOAA does not need NASA to build and launch satellites for them to use NASA knowledge. Anyone they would likely hire to build spacecraft would already be NASA partners and thus have access to the NASA knowledge base anyway.
The fact remains that the best PR money can buy for NASA, bar none, is expanding the envelope of human spaceflight. This is done by Planetary science, SLS/Orion, and Commercial Crew. Bolden and Obama have already said that they want NASA to study the rest of the solar system. So let’s let NASA stop goofing around in low Earth orbit, pointing cameras at the Earth, and let them zoom in on what’s out there that we don’t see yet. Yet NOAA buy, launch and operate their own satellites.