Friday, March 17, 2017
Trump's Budget Reflects a Policy of Deliberate Ignorance
The most stunning example of this is how the budget deals with NASA's Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR). This is satellite that is already in space (at a cost of $141 million). It has two sets of sensors: one focused on the Sun to detect space weather events (such as solar flares). The second set of sensors focus on the earth, and includes a camera that takes images of the earth across 10 different parts of the visual spectrum and a radiometer that measures how much sunlight is reflected and emitted from earth. These sensors monitor changes in the Earth's climate and weather patterns. This data can constitute a barometer for the process of global warming.
The Trump budget keeps the program that involves the solar weather sensors, but simply turns off the sensors from the earth-viewing instruments. Cost savings can't be a reason for turning off the Earth-facing sensors because NASA spends just a bit more than $1 million to operate the satellite and process its data--most of which it will continue to spend on the space weather mission.
In other words, while we have already spent over $140 million dollars to put these sensors in space, the Trump budget demands that we stop collecting the data. This is the very definition of deliberate ignorance. Simply put, they don't care to know the truth, and are taking steps to actively prevent us from learning the truth. This seems to reflect the view that if we stop doing science on climate change, we no longer have to do anything about it.
This policy of deliberate ignorance permeates the budget. In addition to DSCOVR, the budget three other NASA missions that would have observed the Earth from Space: PACE, OCO-3, and the CLARREO Pathfinder. It eliminates all funding for EPA's climate research. As I noted in a previous post, it drastically cuts NOAA weather satellite program, likely leading to the elimination of a critical polar satellite.
More generally, the budget reflects not merely a policy of deliberate ignorance toward climate research, but a disregard of science in general. It includes cuts in science spending of at least $7 billion, including an 18% cut in medical research at the National Institutes of Health, and the elimination of the Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency.
When I think about what has made "America Great", our scientific and technological achievements certainly come to the top of the list. By not merely cutting science research, but by displaying a policy of deliberate ignorance to critical climate research, this budget will not make American Great.