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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

House GOP Wants to Eviscerate NASA Earth Sciences in New Budget

By Phil Plait

There’s no other way to put this, so I’ll be succinct: A passel of anti-science global warming denying GOP representatives have put together a funding authorization bill for NASA that at best cuts more than $300 million from the agency’s current Earth science budget.

At worst? More than $500 million.

The actual amount of the cut depends on whether some caps enacted in 2011 are removed or not. If they are, then Earth sciences gets $1.45 billion. If not, it gets $1.2 billion. The current FY 2015 budget is $1.773 billion.

Compare that with the White House request for FY ’16 of $1.947 billion for Earth sciences. The bill will be marked up (amended and rewritten) by the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee today.

This, for the space agency which has a critical role in understanding climate change and its effects on our planet.

I'll note that I have many more issues with this bill, including the inevitable funding of SLS and Orion, and some things I like, such as planetary exploration being well-funded ... though that appears to be getting the money Earth sciences is losing. You can read more about that at the Planetary Society

But the evisceration of Earth sciences means this bill is seriously, critically flawed. I have written about this again and again: Republicans in the House and Senate don’t want NASA studying Earth, because they think (or say) that global warming isn’t real, or isn’t a problem, or whatever talking point they’ve been told to use this week. What they say in statements is that NASA should be looking outward, and other agencies should be studying Earth.

Sounds good, right? But then they pledge to cut that ability from other agencies, too (that particular bill passed, by the way). Pretty transparent.

If you think I’m mad, I am. And so are others; Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Maryland, has pledged to fight the bill, and I hope others Congress members in the House do as well. Cutting NASA Earth Sciences funding is, frankly, disgusting. Much like throwing snowballs in Congress.

Update, April 30, 2015, at 14:30 UTC: It's even worse than I thought. In an op-ed in The Hill, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, wrote that the GOP members of the committee didn't even give the writeup of the bill to Democrats on the committee until very late last week, indicating the GOP members are not operating in good faith on this issue.

So yeah, damn right I’m mad. When you vote for people who publicly and loudly spout nonsense about science, and go against the overwhelming 97 percent consensus among climate scientists, what do you expect?

We sowed this Congress, and this is what we reap. Potentially huge cuts to critical science, care of the GOP. Remember that in November 2016.

Update, April 30, 2015, at 18:30 UTC: Well, that's that. The authorization bill passed along party lines (19 Republicans to 15 Democrats) and will move to the House floor eventually for a vote. Rep. Edwards put in an amendment to restore the Earth sciences budget but was voted down ... again along party lines. So there you have it. If this authorization is upheld by the House, it will be reconciled with a Senate version, and then negotiated with the White House. But for now, the huge and devastating cuts to NASA's ability to monitor our warming planet will be the baseline.

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