Palazzo Celebrates Proposed NASA Earth Science Cuts

Rep. Steven Palazzo

You might think that that being from a Gulf state susceptible to the effects of rising sea levels, higher storm surges and stronger hurricanes from a warming planet, Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-MS) would be a big fan of NASA’s research into global change.

Well, think again.

Rep. Steven Palazzo praised NASA’s move away from studying the Earth and instead focusing resources on the rest of the universe.

During a House Appropriations Committee hearing Thursday, the Mississippi Republican applauded the agency for proposing to eliminate five Earth science missions designed to measure a number of global warming factors such as ocean ecosystems and carbon levels. President Trump’s proposed budget also would cut funding for Earth research grants and would terminate the Carbon Monitoring System, a project that NASA developed in 2010 in response to congressional direction.

Republicans, including Palazzo, have long complained the Obama administration diverted too many of NASA’s limited resources pursuing climate change data when other agencies were conducting similar inquiries.

“I do think it’s important to be focusing on planetary sciences,” Palazzo said at a hearing Thursday of the House Appropriations subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies. “Looking out there’s already over a dozen agencies that study our Earth, but there’s only one agency tasked with space exploration and that’s NASA.”

“With limited funds, flat funding and budgets, I think our resources are better spent exploring the deep space,” he said.

That would make sense if the Trump Administration and the Republican Congress were willing to properly fund research work in those other agencies. That’s not at all true. Many of those agencies would experience budget cuts under Donald Trump’s spending proposal.

What Palazzo doesn’t mention is that many of the other parts of the government rely upon data from NASA. By canceling missions, the Trump Administration will begin limiting the flow of data throughout the government.

NASA is the only agency really devoted to studying planets, of which Earth is one. The agency has unique capabilities to study the home planet.

None of that really matters to Palazzo and his fellow Republicans in Washington. Almost to a person, they don’t believe global warming is either real or, if it’s happening, that it poses a serious threat. This belief runs counter to the assessment of climate researchers worldwide, including those at the space agency.

Palazzo has voted multiple times against any regulations t0 limit the emissions of carbon and methane, two major greenhouse gases.

He represents a state where the oil industry is extremely important. That is also true of other members of the House Science Committee, including Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Jim Bridenstine (R-OK).  They would not be reelected in their home states if they questioned Republican orthodoxy on climate change.

Bridenstine has been actively campaigning to become the administrator of NASA under President Donald Trump. It’s unlikely the space agency’s Earth Science programs would thrive under his tenure (or that of anyone else Trump might put in that position.)