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Wildfires in the southeastern United States caused by extreme drought seen by a Nasa satellite

Trump eases on Paris treaty but aims to slash Nasa’s climate science budget

Image credit: Nasa

US President-elect Donald Trump said he might not seek to quit the Paris climate change agreement as evidence exists there is ‘some connectivity’ between global warming and human activity but his team now suggests to completely slash funding for Nasa’s climate research programme.

The Republican President-elect, who previously described climate change as a hoax perpetuated by China to make the US non-competitive, suggested he has shifted his stance on the matter in an interview with The New York Times on Tuesday.

“I’m looking at it very closely. I have an open mind to it,” Trump said.

Shortly after the magnate’s election, sources from his team hinted he would seek to quit the Paris Agreement as fast as possible. The prospect of the US withdrawing from the groundbreaking agreement that seeks to limit the rise of average global temperatures to 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial times sent shock waves through the international community united behind the deal.

Despite Trump’s change of position, the climate science community is still likely to experience major drawbacks as the businessmans space policy adviser Bob Walker said the upcoming administration will slash climate science budget of the US space agency Nasa.

Describing the activities of Nasa’s Earth Science Division as a ‘politically correct’ monitoring, Walker said Trump’s team would want the agency to focus solely on ambitious exploration.

“We would start by having a stretch goal of exploring the entire Solar System by the end of the century,” Walker told The Telegraph. “You stretch your technology experts and create technologies that wouldn’t otherwise be needed. I think aspirational goals are a good thing. Fifty years ago it was the ability to go to the Moon.”

Human missions to the Moon and Mars, as well as to the edge of the Solar System, might be prioritised at the expense of climate change science.

Trump’s space policy is thus likely heading in the exact opposite direction to that pursued by Obama’s administration. Since taking office in 2008, Barrack Obama increased Nasa’s Earth science budget by 50 per cent to $1.92bn in 2016 while limiting deep space exploration spending.

For example, Obama cancelled the Constellation programme put forward by his predecessor George W Bush, which aimed to return humans to the Moon by 2020.

According to Walker, the programme may now be revived together with plans to establish a permanent base on the Moon as a stepping stone for a trip to Mars.

Trump criticised Obama for reducing Nasa from a pioneering deep-space-exploring centre of excellence into a shabby weather forecaster.

Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research, told The Guardian that pulling the plug on Nasa’s Earth observation programmes would thrust the climate science community back to the ‘dark ages’.

“We live on planet Earth and there is much to discover, and it is essential to track and monitor many things from space. Information on planet Earth and its atmosphere and oceans is essential for our way of life. Space research is a luxury, Earth observations are essential,” he said.

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