Once climate change skeptic, new NASA chief Bridenstine wants Earth science to remain key agency mission

Newly installed NASA Administrator James Bridenstine said the agency will — and should — continue to monitor the Earth’s carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming, marking another break from many of the conservative lawmakers with whom he once served.

Two weeks after telling a Senate panel he now believes human activity is the primary source of climate change, the former GOP congressman from Oklahoma told a group of reporters Wednesday that NASA must continue its work on Earth science missions.

“NASA can lead when it comes to studying the Earth and studying the climate. That’s what we have been doing and that’s what we intend to keep doing,” he said. “And there’s no agency on the face of the planet that has the credibility to study and understand so that policy makers can make good decisions than NASA.”

Bridenstine’s comments stand in contrast to a number of key congressional Republicans who still question the conclusion of the vast majority of scientists that human activity is causing the climate to change and leading to fiercer hurricanes, more droughts and extreme weather conditions.

Texas GOP Rep. Lamar Smith, who chairs the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, wrote in March about “climate alarmists who present the American people with suspect data to advance a political agenda.”

Smith and a number of other Republicans, including Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, have advocated that NASA get out of the Earth science business and point all of its resources toward other planets and stars.

The remarks also signaled his opposition to a Trump administration FY19 budget proposal to terminate several Earth science missions as part of a $123 million cut in funding (from $1.9 billion to $1.78 billion), including the termination of several missions to measure planet conditions.

He expressly supported two of the satellite missions on the chopping block — PACE and CLARREO — saying their inclusion in the most recent survey of space program priorities crafted by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine made them indispensable

Read the full story at USA Today

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