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From NASA digital image processing technology leading to applications in cosmetics and medical skin treatments to missile tracking technology leading to invisible braces, we have much to thank for NASA’s hardworking scientists continuing their groundbreaking research.
An interesting theme with scientific research is that the applications are not immediately apparent. After all, when you imagine a space agency doing research, the first thought that pops into your head is not “invisible braces.”
And such is the nature of scientific research: we often don’t foresee the tremendously useful applications that come from basic science research from the beginning, but as more research comes in, we discover these different ways to improve our lives using it.
There is little doubt that government-funded research in the basic sciences, even if there do not seem to be immediate payoffs in the short term, will eventually pay out in the long term with useful applications.
Plus, the extra knowledge of how the world is the way it is is always welcome. We are a curious species, after all.
Nonetheless, there are legislators out there who, to further their political or ideological ends, are actively trying to decrease government funding for the sciences.
Mick Mulvaney, who will be the next Budget Director under the next administration, has questioned whether we need government-funded research at all, particularly on the Zika virus, and questioned the link between Zika and microcephaly, a major birth defect.
(Unfortunately, he has since deleted his Facebook account)
Besides, even if the link between Zika and microcephaly were questionable, why not fund more research into figuring it out for certain? Don’t we want to find the answers to these questions?
If you were expecting a child or knew someone who was going to have children, wouldn’t you want your representatives to fund research on potential diseases that may harm them?
Now granted, government overspending is a legitimate issue. But representatives like Mulvaney use this as an excuse to not spend money on essential scientific research that will directly defend the public from diseases.
And we should note how Mulvaney addressed this issue, because this is a common template used by many politicians from both sides to get away with anti-science policies that negatively affect our lives.
He claims that the science behind an issue is questionable, gathers a single source backing up his claim, and then argues that we should not spend money addressing the issue because of the “shaky” science.
We’re seeing something similar with climate change, too. NASA has done extensive research on climate change and it’s all on their website to see. All the facts are there, for all to examine.
Now, there’s no guarantee that President-Elect Trump will cut funding for the earth science division of NASA. After all, it was Trump’s advisor, Bob Walker, who made the statement that Trump would curb NASA’s research on climate change, not Trump himself.
This time, instead of cost concerns–though many in his cabinet share those, too–the concern here is that climate change is too “politicized” and therefore we should focus our research on space science instead.
But if climate change is too “politicized,” why is it that the Department of Defense sent a letter to Congress in 2015 stating that climate change is a serious security risk? Their rationale is that it lowers living conditions and decreases governments’ abilities to meet the needs of their people.
They’re not the only federal agency that has programs related to climate policy.
It would take a conspiracy of massive proportions for all the scientists of all these different agencies to be dishonest about the effects of this global phenomenon, from sea levels rising to worse tropical storms.
It is in our best interest, regardless of political affiliation, to take this threat seriously, and try our hardest to bring our world back to the golden age of normal temperatures, normal sea levels, and normal levels of carbon dioxide (though how we can do this is a completely different story).
Unfortunately, much of Trump’s cabinet, which will soon be running these agencies, denies the effects of climate change. (Except Mattis, of course. And Betsy DeVos, interestingly enough.)
As do many Republican policymakers. Not necessarily the average Republican, though. It is strangely paradoxical that a majority of conservative Republicans believe in man-made climate change, yet many of Republican representatives in Congress do not.
Why the disconnect? Probably because the issue truly has become politicized, but not in the way Trump’s advisor has claimed. Rather than the scientists themselves publishing politicized research, it’s the political parties. Due to political polarization, Republican lawmakers get rewarded for climate denial while Democratic ones get rewarded for climate action.
And thus, we have come to the sad point where Democratic lawmakers have a monopoly on climate change and climate policy and Republican lawmakers have a monopoly on climate denial and not doing anything about climate change.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. And that is changing every day, with more Republican lawmakers coming out in favor of climate policy.
We need policies that address what the scientific research is telling us. Much as we gained scientific applications from NASA’s space research, we need science-based policies that take into account our climate research.
Because we want to bring our world back to a much more stable and safer time for our friends, our families, and our communities.
Though we may all disagree on our approaches to solving the problem of climate change, one thing we should unite on is what the data is telling us–and what the data is telling us is chilling.
How can we convince the climate deniers in the government to listen?
If we call our representatives and let them know that we care about what the science says about climate change, about Zika, about any other important issue, then they will be more hard-pressed to do something about it. Particularly when we do it in large groups. In fact, an entire political party has recently formed for the purpose of increasing science-based policy in the government.
Politicians tend to listen when their base of voters let themselves be heard.
After all, they don’t want to lose your votes, now do they?
Forming community organizations revolving around science-based issues also helps, too. As does convincing others that placing an emphasis on the science is necessary in this case.
Convincing peers who may not see climate change as an issue may be entirely a case of framing the argument in the right way.
In the past, we had less droughts, lower sea levels, less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and less hurricanes.
We need to pass legislation that will help bring us back to those times. Legislation that will bring CO2 levels back to levels they were in the past. Legislation that will encourage production of energy using methods that will keep our world the way it was before today’s terrible levels of climate change.
That’s what we need to tell our lawmakers. That’s what we need to tell our peers.
Because we need science-based policies now more than ever to combat a threat that can increase the costs for everyone and bring our planet back to a safer, more healthy time for all of us. And if framing our arguments in a different way can help with that, then reframe our arguments we must.