If you peruse NASA’s social media feeds dedicated to climate change, you would have no clue a new administration has taken power that has expressed doubts about the reality or seriousness of the issue.
Steve Cole, a NASA spokesperson, told the Capital Weather Gang the change in the administration has not altered how the agency communicates science. “We’re doing our jobs, it’s business as usual,” Cole said.
Early Thursday afternoon, the @NASAClimate account tweeted, “I want to put images right in front of people that #globalwarming is, in fact, happening,” quoting and displaying the work of aerial photographer Timo Lieber who is documenting climate-change effects in Greenland.
Trump has long been a global warming doubter, at one point calling it a Chinese hoax. In a November interview with the New York Times, he would only concede there may be “some connectivity” between human activity and climate change.
But on Monday, and in direct contradiction to Trump, the @NASAClimate Twitter account retweeted a scientific finding that humans are climate change’s dominant cause. “Humans are changing the climate 170 times faster than natural forces, according to a new study,” the tweet said.
This finding was not only at odds with Trump’s view of the issue, but also Scott Pruitt’s, his pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency. During his confirmation hearing, Pruitt waffled on the linkages between human activity and climate change, saying: “I believe the ability to measure, with precision, the degree of human activity’s impact on the climate is subject to more debate on whether the climate is changing or whether human activity contributes to it.”
NASA’s climate change website has a far less ambiguous characterization: “The vast majority of actively publishing climate scientists — 97 percent — agree that humans are causing global warming and climate change.”
On Wednesday, NASA’s climate change Facebook page highlighted the specter of “significant” damages from climate change, quoting the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Trump, of course, has been dismissive of the scale of the problem, telling The Washington Post: “I just think we have much bigger risks.”
The Facebook post touting the risk of climate change damages then linked to NASA’s website on climate change effects. It states scientists have “high confidence” in predictions of future temperature rise. This doesn’t quite square with a statement of Rex Tillerson, now Trump’s secretary of state. Tillerson said the ability to predict the effect of increasing greenhouse gases is “very limited” during his confirmation hearing.
NASA appears unfazed by the political winds swirling around the climate change issue. It has steadfastly shared information, even when out of step with the positions of new leadership.
The EPA media blackout and the administration’s stance on climate change have worried some scientists that more drastic efforts to suppress scientific information may follow. Some scientists are even working with computer coders to back up federal online data, including NASA’s, out of fear the administration will remove it.
NASA insists none of its data has been touched.
“Availability of NASA Earth science data has not changed in recent months, nor have any Earth science data sets been taken offline,” the agency said in statement. “Since 1994, NASA has supported a full and open sharing of data from Earth science satellites, field campaigns and research.”
One does wonder whether NASA will be an enduring safe-haven for climate change science information and if it will continue to post information that contradicts the positions of administration officials. But so far, no one has stopped it.