The media, such as the UK Guardian, is replete with stories on the theme of “#Donald Trump wants to scrap #Climate Change research” and with the accompanying “We’re all going to die of global warming,” echoing the cry from the millennial DNC staffer named Zach who cussed out Donna Brazille for shortening his life by failing to stop Trump. While the idea of draining the climate change swamp, as politicized as any area of science ever was, to pay for more #Space exploration is beguiling, the people who are panicking are not understanding what game Trump is playing.
Trump, as anyone who has read “The Art of the Deal” and has followed his career knows, is if anything a negotiator. A standard negotiating tactic is to make a maximum, even unreasonable demand and then wait for the counter offer. Typically these back and forth negotiations wind up somewhere in the middle, but Trump likes to play hard, and he has the upper hand with a Republican Congress. Still, he would like to peel off some Democrats to support his space agenda.
Let us suppose that Trump’s first budget moves NASA’s Earth science account lock, stock and barrel to NOAA and then cuts it in half, moving the $1 billion saved to the exploration account to start returning to the moon. The media will not be filled with stories of “Trump gets serious about space exploration” but rather “Trump slashes climate change research and we’re all gonna die.”
Leaving aside the quaint notion that if the science is settled, why do we need to keep spending money on it, Trump will sit back and watch the chaos and then move in and start dickering. Maybe the final result is that only $500 million gets cut out of Earth science and NASA retains a small office to coordinate with NOAA for its launch and satellite requirements. Maybe Earth science gets privatized, with companies like Planetary Resources, which is starting an Earth observation service, selling data. In any event, Trump takes the extra space exploration money. Congressional Republicans can claim they took a good whack at climate change spending. Democrats can sleep at night knowing that the “saved” climate change research. Everybody wins, though as he prefers Trump wins the most.