Donald Trump’s War on Climate Science Continues

Not content with trying to muzzle the climate science sections of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA for short), the Trump administration in the United States is now going after the perhaps more familiar National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA for short) too. On February 16th the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology issued a statement from their Chairman, Lamar Smith. The phrase “climate change” wasn’t mentioned, but here’s an extract:

We stand at a crossroads. Sir Isaac Newton said, “I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”

Today, as we consider the next steps of the space program, we are all like that boy – or girl.

Presidential transitions offer the opportunities to reinvigorate national goals. They bring fresh perspectives and new ideas that energize our efforts.

Now is the time to reaffirm our support for the bold visions and commitments that will shape America’s future in space.

The NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 is the culmination of many years’ discussions and hopefully will soon pass the Senate and House. This legislation has two goals. First, it reiterates the importance of maintaining NASA’s continuity of purpose.

Second, the bill allows the president to introduce a Fiscal Year 2018 budget request that reflects his priorities.

With a fresh perspective, the White House will be able to work with the new Congress to implement the goals and initiatives necessary to continue our leadership in space.

Do you get the idea yet? On February 17th Scientific American reported that:

Lawmakers are remaking NASA in order to leave parts of the agency’s earth science program untouched but remove its climate change research.

It’s still unclear exactly how lawmakers plan to transform NASA’s mission, but Republicans and Trump administration officials have said they want the agency to focus on deep-space missions and away from climate change research, which is a part of its Earth Sciences Division. That has created uncertainty about the fate of the Earth Sciences Division, which accounts for about $2 billion of NASA’s $20 billion budget.

At a House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing yesterday, Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said he wants a “rebalancing” of NASA’s mission.

Specifically, that could mean NASA’s work on climate change would go to another agency, with or without funding, or possibly would get cut. Smith and other Republicans avoided laying out specifics but acknowledged that earth science at NASA would likely face some significant changes in the near future.

Also on February 17th the web site well known Donald Trump supporter Senator Ted Cruz published a news release which proclaimed:

Today, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed S. 442, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Transition Authorization Act of 2017, which was introduced by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), along with Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and John Cornyn (R-Texas). The legislation provides stability for NASA to sustain and build upon existing national space investments designed to advance space exploration and science with an overall authorization level of $19.508 billion for fiscal year 2017.

America has a long history of leading the way in space exploration, which has also fostered extraordinary economic growth and job creation of the State of Texas and the entire nation,” said Sen. Cruz, the chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness. “This bipartisan legislative achievement provides NASA and the future of the U.S. space program with the stability and certainty it needs moving forward with a new administration. I look forward to working with colleagues in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle to ensure that our nation’s new era of pioneers can continue to innovate and explore with clarity and purpose.”

This bill directs NASA to send humans to Mars, expand commercial space activity and ensures that work will continue on the next generation of rockets, engines and capsules that are currently being constructed in Florida and across the country,” said Sen. Nelson, ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee.

Here is all 146 pages of The NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017.

The term “Earth science” and the word “climate” are mentioned a grand total of zero times in the bill.

How Trump Won

A very interesting article has (re)appeared in Scientific American Mind:

Trump’s Appeal: What Psychology Tells Us

According to the Scientific American editor’s note:

All but the last section of this article was written before Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election, making its insights all the more remarkable. It was updated for Scientific American Mind.

Please read the whole article, but to whet your appetite here’s a few salient points. The author’s set out their stall early on:

The inability of even the most experienced pundits to grasp the reality of Donald Trump’s political ascendency in the 2016 presidential race parallels an unprecedented assault on the candidate and his supporters, which went so far as to question their very grip on reality.

They go on to draw parallels between the rise to power of Donald Trump and that of Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany, adding the caveat that:

We are not comparing Trump, his supporters or their arguments to the Nazis. Instead our goal is to expose some problems in the ways that commentators analyze and explain behaviors of which we disapprove. In 1934 Theodore Abel traveled to Germany and ran an essay competition, offering a prize for autobiographies of Nazi Party members. He received around 600 responses, from which he was able to glean why so many Germans supported Adolf Hitler. Certainly many essays expressed a fair degree of anti-Semitism and some a virulent hatred of Jews. In this sense, party members were indeed racists or, at the very least, did not object to the party’s well-known anti-Semitic position. But this is very different from saying that they joined and remained in the party primarily or even partially because they were racists. Abel discovered that many other motives were involved, among them a sense of the decline of Germany, a desire to rediscover past greatness, a fear of social disorder and the longing for a strong leader.

We would argue that the same is true of those who supported Trump.

The author’s then briefly outline their case:

To understand how Trump appealed to voters, we start by looking at what went on inside a Trump event. For this, we are indebted to a particularly insightful analysis by journalist Gwynn Guilford, who, acting as an ethnographer, participated in Trump rallies across the state of Ohio in March 2016. We then analyze why Trump appealed to his audience, drawing on what we have referred to as the new psychology of leadership. Here we suggest that Trump’s skills as a collective sense maker—someone who shaped and responded to the perspective of his audience—were very much the secret of his success.

As I said, please read the whole article, but here are the conclusions:

When we put it all together, these figures tell us something important about leadership in general and about the 2016 leadership contest. They underline the point that leadership is never about the character of individuals as individuals. This is the “old psychology of leadership” that our own theoretical and empirical analysis has called into question. Instead leadership is about individuals as group members—whose success hinges on their capacity to create, represent, advance and embed a shared sense of “us.”

Reflecting on the implications of this analysis for the specifics of this election, we can see that many Trump voters knew full well that their man was a reprobate, that they deplored his crudities and that they saw him as a risky choice. And yet in a world where the system is seen to be against “us” and where things appear to be driven in the wrong direction by “them,” the really irrational thing to do is to vote for the conventional candidate who represents sticking with that system.

Capiche?

[Edit – February 12th]

Thanks to a heads up from Neven in the comments below, an extremely pertinent documentary:

An “English language” version of the video can be seen at:

https://youtu.be/0nxDro6THUg