Please take a bow, Cassandra…
…right over this nice chopping block.
Yes, the House GOP assault on geosciences continues. First we had the claims that geoscience was not a STEM field (er, really? could any of these Representatives pass through the coursework in geoscience?), then we had the cuts in the NSF Geoscience directorate, and now we see enormous cuts in the NASA earth science budget. What is amusing is that the logic here is “somebody else should study the earth” (e.g., this from Space Policy Online):
House and Senate Republicans on NASA’s authorization committees argue that NASA’s unique expertise is space exploration and studying the Earth should not be one of its priorities. Although many also are climate change skeptics, publicly they do not frame their arguments in that context, instead insisting that other agencies should pay for that research, not NASA.
Er, just what “other agencies” are you all thinking of? We know you don’t think NSF should do this either. We shall watch and see if the House decides to bump up the NOAA budget (the last major player left) in response to the cuts already made. (GG doesn’t see anything on how NOAA’s 2016 budget is faring; if there is something, please add it in the comments).
This increasingly resembles a small child with his fingers in his ears yelling “la la la I CAN’T HEAR YOU.” First we heard that the science wasn’t settled, and apparently the goal now is to make sure there isn’t anything more to learn so that we can claim there isn’t enough information to do anything. If you can’t win an argument on merit, try and win it by shear obstinacy.
The irony is that there is a lot in earth science that the GOP probably likes. The oil and gas industry and the coal industry both rely on geoscience to conduct business. Things like estimating mineral resources, estimating geologic hazards (things like earthquakes, volcanoes, proclivity of areas towards landslides), being able to monitor droughts, agricultural changes, etc. Some of these tools are multifaceted: consider, for instance, GRACE, a mission (largely funded by NASA) to measure small changes in the Earth’s gravity field. This has led to understanding of the motion of mass over long wavelengths, which include changes wrought by large earthquakes and their influence on the rotation of the earth, improved global estimates of the origin of topography on the earth, the magnitude of groundwater withdrawal in the western U.S., as well as being able to observe changes in the mass of ice in the Antarctic and Greenland.
One of the places the US is behind other nations is in InSAR, which is an ability to monitor changes in the earth’s surface from orbit. Such changes include subsidence due to groundwater withdrawal, the accumulation and release of strain associated with earthquakes and volcanoes, and the changes in the surface of glaciers and ice sheets. This is a valuable tool, and right now US scientists have to get data from other national groups currently flying such instruments.