In an administration that has been defined by its disdain for scientific concensus and even basic facts, it should come as no surprise that Jim Bridenstine, former Republican Congressman and President Trump’s nominee to lead NASA, has no scientific background. During a recent Senate confirmation hearing, Bridenstine claimed that while humans are contributing to climate change, there is no way of knowing to what extent – a statement that goes against scientific consensus. Bridenstine has aggressively denied climate science in the past, has gone so far as to introduce legislation that would eliminate Earth science from NASA’s mission statement, and seems poised to ignore scientific evidence even if appointed to lead what is perhaps the most iconic institution of engineering and science in American government.
During his Senate hearing, Bridenstine was questioned by Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), who took issue with Bridenstine’s failure to acknowledge current science. In response to a question on the factors that contribute to climate change, Bridenstine responded that “it’s going to depend on a lot of factors and we’re still learning more about that every day. In some years you could say absolutely, in other years, during sun cycles and other things, there are other contributing factors that would have maybe more of an impact.” Bridenstine’s statement revealed his failure to understand climate change, which is measured over decades, not in year-to-year variations. The most recent IPCC report concluded that there is a 95% chance that humans are mainly responsible for the changing climate. Even a report from the Trump Administration reached the same conclusion.
In a rare moment of bipartisanship, Representative Ed Perlmutter (D-Colorado) offered his endorsement of Bridenstine in an op-ed for the Orlando Sentinel. “Jim Bridenstine has a firsthand perspective on the need to better understand our Earth and the behavior of the atmosphere,” Perlmutter wrote. “He has a keen awareness of the important Earth science missions NASA is undertaking and wants to continue to advance our understanding of the planet.” Although Bridenstine has pledged to keep NASA “apolitical,” his previous career as a Republican congressman seems likely to haunt his tenure at NASA, if he is confirmed. “I believe you’re going to get confirmed,” said Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to Bridenstine during his confirmation hearing. “But, I would say to my Democratic friends on this committee, that if the confirmation ends up going down to a party-line vote, I think that would be deeply unfortunate for NASA and for the space community.”
Via The Guardian