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Florida scientists urge Trump to support Earth sciences. Again.

More than 30 scientists representing fields ranging from marine biology to allergy diagnostics to coastal ecology to geology have sent a letter to President Donald Trump today urging him to support continued funding for Earth sciences at NASA and NOAA.

It’s the third letter some of the scientists have banded together to send, though their ranks keep growing, now numbering 32 representing virtually all of Florida’s research universities as well as some private institutes and private companies. This time they’re calling for the president to reconsider a proposed 17 percent cut in funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and to support continued funding for NASA’s Earth science, to recognize the threats of climate change, and for appreciation of scientific integrity.

“America should invest heavily in our effort to understand our home planet and be aware of how physical changes will impact industry and society,” the letter states.

Both NASA and NOAA lead much of the scientific research being done to understand climate activity, as well as chemistry, geology and oceanography. Both also fund numerous research efforts at universities and institutes. A news release notes that the proposed cuts will affect most, if not all of the scientists on the letter, and that Florida universities are home to multi-million dollar research programs funded through NOAA and NASA grants.

NOAA faces proposed cuts.

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Congress just approved a $19.5 million  budget for NASA that now sits on Trump’s desk awaiting a signature or veto. The bill does not get into details on how NASA should spend money on specific directorates such as its Earth sciences program, which include numerous satellites and monitors aboard the International Space Station. Trump has not made any specific statements regarding them, but NASA’s Earth sciences programs have been targeted for several years by conservatives.

The scientists also make a business argument for their values, pointing out that America needs to continue its investment in Earth science to remain competitive with China and Europe.

They also make a deeply concerning, if not ironic, warning.

“Aptly dubbed, ‘Our nation’s gateway to exploring, discovering, and understanding our universe,’ NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral are home to multiple launch pads, several of which are directly on the coast and vulnerable to rising seas, erosion, and storm surge. Please recognize that NASA cannot fulfill its mission to explore outer space if rising seas damage NASA facilities,” they write.

“Many Florida properties, including Mar-a-Lago – the Winter White House – are vulnerable to sea level rise. If we do nothing to address climate change, we may see a foot or more of sea level rise by 2060. America must be vigilant and take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” they continue. “Climate change can be viewed as a threat or as an opportunity. NOAA and NASA both play a crucial role in helping us to understand those risks. We are confident that the many discoveries accomplished thus far are only the beginning. With continued research, Americans can better understand future challenges and find ways to solve them.”

The signatories stress they do not necessarily speak for their institutions. The signatories include:

Todd Albert, chief executive officer of Nebular Design;

Senthold Asseng, professor in Agricultural & Biological Engineering Department University of Florida;

Donald Axelrad, assistant professor, Institute of Public Health, Florida A&M University;

Ray Bellamy, Tallahassee Orthopedic Clinic, Tallahassee;

Leonard Berry, emeritus professor of geosciences, Florida Atlantic University;

Henry Briceño, research professor, Southeast Environmental Research Center, Florida International University;

Kristen Buck, assistant professor, College of Marine Science, University of South Florida;

Jeff Chanton, professor, Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science, Florida State University;

Eric Chassignet, professor, and director, Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies, Florida State;

Allan Clarke, Adrian E. Gill professor of oceanography, Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science, Florida State;

James G. Douglass, assistant professor in the Department of Marine and Ecological Sciences, Florida Gulf Coast University;

Marc E. Freeman, Lloyd Beidler professor of neuroscience emeritus and distinguished research professor emeritus, Florida State;

David Hastings, professor, Marine Science and Chemistry, Eckerd College;

Barry Heimlich, vice chair, Climate Change Task Force, Broward County;

Ben Kirtman, professor, Department of Atmospheric Science, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Miami

Marguerite Koch, professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, Florida Atlantic;

David Letson, professor, Department of Marine Ecosystems and Society, University of Miami;

James MacDonald, associate professor of geology, Marine and Ecological Sciences,
Florida Gulf Coast;

Heather Mason Jones, professor of biology, Department of Biology, University of Tampa;

Mason Meers, professor of evolutionary biology & anatomy, Department of Biology, University of Tampa;

Vasu Misra, associate professor of meteorology, Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science, Florida State;

Frank Muller-Karger, professor, Institute for Marine Remote Sensing/IMaRS, College of Marine Science, University of South Florida;

John H. Parker, emeritus professor of environmental science and chemistry, Department of Earth and Environment, Florida International;

Randall W. Parkinson, research faculty affiliate, Institute for Water and Environment, Florida;

Joelle Richard, assistant professor of marine sciences, Department of Marine and Ecological Sciences, Florida Gulf Coast;

Ron Saff, Allergy and Asthma Diagnostic Treatment Center, Tallahassee;

Michael Savarese, professor of marine science, Department of Marine & Ecological Sciences, Florida Gulf Coast;

Philip Stoddard, Department of Biological Sciences; Florida International;

John C. Van Leer, associate professor, Department of Ocean Sciences, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Miami;

Linda Walters, Pegasus professor, Department of Biology, University of Central Florida;

Harold R. Wanless, professor and chair, Department of Geological Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Miami; and

John Weishampel, professor, Department of Biology, University of Central Florida.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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