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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Follow-Up: More on Trump’s Catastrophic Plan to Gut NASA’s Earth Science

By Phil Plait

As expected, the days leading up to Donald Trump’s inauguration are like the timer on an atomic bomb ticking down to Armageddon. Every day there’s some new horrific thing he and his cronies do, and the only predictable thing they do is find the worst possible choice to make in any given circumstance.

This was brought home, hard, when Bob Walker, a top Trump adviser, recently said that the new administration will gut NASA’s Earth science program. The reason: Trump’s long-standing and implacable climate science denial. And this, of course, is the inevitable outcome of decades of Republican attacks on science.

When I wrote about this the other day, I went into some detail, outlining the blatant hypocrisy of Walker’s statements; essentially everything he said about climate change was provably false, and the charges he aims at climate scientists can actually be lain at the feet of the GOP.

Not long after I posted my own piece, the CBC radio show As It Happens posted an interview with Walker where he reiterates his erroneous claims. They then contacted me and asked me what I thought of Walker’s statements.

Yeah, you can just guess how I feel about them. I talked with As It Happens host Carol Off about it, and the interview is online. They have a transcript as well, but it doesn’t include everything I said; I recommend listening to the whole interview (which is roughly nine minutes) so that you get all the info. As a bonus, you’ll also hear just how angry and frustrated I am by this utter disaster.

In the interview I mention a few things I want to make sure everyone sees. One is that Walker tries to downplay the “climate consensus,” the fact that there is overwhelming agreement among climate scientists that global warming is real and caused by humans. The best overview of this is at Skeptical Science. John Cook—who writes for that site and is also the lead author on one of the many studies about the consensus—also wrote a great article about it for the Conversation.

Ninety-seven percent of climatologists agree on this. 97 percent. Don’t buy into Walker’s nonsensical claims about this; he’s using thin rhetoric to sow doubt where it doesn’t exist.

I said that Exxon knew about fossil fuel–induced global warming for 40 years; DeSmogBlog has more on that. It’s pretty damning.

Also in the interview I mentioned Marshall Shepherd, who was president of the American Meteorological Society. He coined the wonderful term “zombies of denial,” so please read more about that.

We need to arm ourselves against the barrage of weaponized denial we’ll be facing for the next four years. Trump himself, and his proxies as well, have no trouble at all just bare-faced lying to the American public. We must stand ready to fight against this. Whether it’s the racism, the xenophobia, the misogyny, or the attacks on science, it is no exaggeration to say that our culture, our country, and even our very existence depend on us.

Climate change is already one of if not the biggest threat our species has faced. I still have hope: When challenged, Americans have a history of meeting adversity head on. As I’ve written before:

When Americans are challenged, we rise up and do our best. I honestly and truly think that we can, that this is an opportunity to show the world that we won’t stick out heads in the sand. We’ll face this issue, and we’ll figure out how to minimize it, how to circumvent it, how to manage it. I don’t believe in phony platitudes, or empty motivational slogans, so my words here don’t ring hollow to me. They’re simply the truth. We went to the Moon, we put rovers on Mars, we look outward to the Universe and forward into the future. That’s America.
Climate change is one of the largest existential threats we face today. It’s time to face it down.

I wrote that before the election, but it’s still true. It’ll just be a lot harder with Trump and the GOP in charge. That means we have to dig in and deal with them, too. We can do this. We have to.

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