Support NASA's Role as an Earth Science Agency
Earlier this year, the Trump administration closed NASA's Carbon Monitoring System (CMS), which researches the planet's flow of carbon to better understand the effects of greenhouse gas. Without it, we have no way to verify that countries are adhering to the Paris Climate agreements' greenhouse gas cuts and emission reductions. This continued a troubling trend towards completely deprioritizing climate science research in this country. Today, the majority of Americans agree that NASA should prioritize research into earth's climate. Join us in calling for Jim Bridenstine, the new head of NASA, to commit to monitoring our changing planet and helping officials make informed decisions on climate policy.
Bridenstine has no formal science background and, at the time he was appointed as NASA head by Congress, had questioned the scientific consensus on climate change. Recently, he indicated that his perspective on climate change had shifted. At a town hall, he said: “I don’t deny that consensus that the climate is changing. In fact, I fully believe and know that the climate is changing. I also know that we humans beings are contributing to it in a major way. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. We’re putting it into the atmosphere in volumes that we haven’t seen, and that greenhouse gas is warming the planet. That is absolutely happening, and we are responsible for it.” This is encouraging, but we need a commitment to documenting and taking action on climate change - not just an acknowledgment of the consensus agreed on by scientists and the majority of the American public alike.
Send a message today and ask him to
- Commit to NASA’s role as an earth science agency.
- Prioritize research that investigates the impacts of climate change.
- Protect climate datasets and information hosted on the NASA website and encourage writers, researchers and developers to maintain nasa.gov as a resource for accurate climate science information.
From: [Your Name]
216 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Cc: U.S. Congress
We write today to ask that you commit to supporting science and climate-related research by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) during your term as its leader. Your prior work and reputation leave us optimistic that you will capably support the mission of NASA to explore the universe. We are encouraged by your recent statements acknowledging that you now recognize both the scientific consensus that the climate is changing and the driving role of human activity in it. However, we remain concerned for the future of NASA’s role as an interdisciplinary scientific community. NASA’s mandate includes crucial earth sciences research that helps us understand the environment, and also plays a pivotal role in protecting the health and safety of people around the world.
On April 19th, NASA reported that an unusual low pressure weather system hit the northwestern Hawaiian Islands, causing flash floods and mudslides. The small town of Hanalei on Kauai Island documented 28.1 inches of rainfall in 24 hours, nearing the highest ever recorded rainfall during that time period. This deluge caused floods and mudslides across the island. In part thanks to NASA’s warning, the governor issued an emergency proclamation. Many people were either evacuated from impacted areas, or were rescued. As the new head of NASA, we urge you to support climate and weather research, a commitment that will ensure both our country’s national security and strengthen our emergency preparedness.
While climate research indicates that changing weather patterns could mean heavy rainfall in some areas, it also indicates that other places now face increased risk of drought. According to NASA, “As global temperatures continue to rise, droughts are expected to become more frequent and severe in many regions during this century” (2017). This article suggests that droughts have increased the number of tree die-offs and exacerbated greenhouse gas emissions; recovery from these drought events has been slower than expected.
Records and research indicate that the interplay between extreme weather -- like droughts and floods -- and climate science is complex, and we need NASA’s commitment to comprehend it. We ask you to support scientists’ efforts to better understand our planet’s changing climate by funding research, and continually consulting scientists in your decision-making.
Last month, NASA shared its National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) Arctic data. These data indicate that Arctic sea ice cover peaked at 23,200 square miles in 2017 – the smallest winter sea ice coverage ever recorded by humans. The winter of 2018 had significantly more ice coverage, which peaked in mid March, yet this winter still joins 2015, 2016 and 2017 as having the lowest Arctic sea ice extents on record.
These data illustrate the decades-long trend of sea ice decline due to human-induced Arctic warming, and these changes to the Arctic are impacting American lives. In Alaska, Indigenous communities must migrate entire villages away from eroding shorelines. Village relocation costs the federal government millions of dollars, and more Alaskan communities will likely be affected if Arctic climate research funding is cut. To reduce impacts to communities we need a fuller understanding of climate, weather, and the impact on our country’s citizens. NSIDC research is imperative to resilience in America’s Arctic.
On the East Coast of the United States, NASA’s North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study (NAAMES) is investigating oceanic plankton, according to a NASA article published this April. NAAMES hopes to gain a better understanding of phytoplankton blooms, and how these blooms impact Earth’s atmosphere. This important research should continue into the future, but needs your commitment to funding, and support of projects that aim to broaden knowledge of how the ocean and atmosphere relate to one another.
For the reasons listed above we unite and write you today to request a commitment to NASA’s role as an earth science agency. The United States must prioritize research that investigates the impacts of climate change. We ask you to protect climate datasets and information hosted on the NASA website. We ask that you encourage writers, researchers and developers to maintain nasa.gov as a resource for accurate climate science information.
NASA’s research needs robust funding, your commitment, and your support as an agency leader to properly serve Americans. NASA’s mandate as an earth science agency must deepen our understanding of an ever-changing planet, and the evidence produced by its research must drive policy - and ultimately, our country’s future. In order for America to thrive, our nation needs the voices of scientists, and the insights provided by evidence, to help shape its policies. We ask that you make a firm commitment to scientific evidence during your tenure as a NASA administrator.