Recently NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine conducted a televised town hall during which he took questions from space agency employees about a variety of subjects, ranging from the return to the moon program to the need of diversity in the workforce to the necessity of holding down the costs of projects such as the James Webb Space Telescope. However, virtually every media account of the town hall focused on one answer to a particular question.

Bridenstine gets his mind right on climate change

Naturally, the question was about climate change. Bridenstine, who expressed some skepticism about the subject when he was a member of Congress from Oklahoma, revised and extended his previous remarks.

He expressed the belief that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, that human civilization is pumping a lot of it into the atmosphere, and thus that climate change is real.

Bridenstine had already expressed this view during the hearings on his confirmation before the Senate Commerce Committee back in November. His revised view did not impress his opponents, notably Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, who unsuccessfully sought to derail his nomination. In any case, the media acted surprised. A periodical called Earther cheekily announced, “Jim Bridenstine, welcome to the Resistance.” The headline was odd, considering that the administrator was appointed by the president and is carrying out his policies.

In fact, Bridenstine expressed the view that many climate change skeptics, even the famed and renowned climatologist Dr. Judith Curry (who would make a great climate science chief at NASA, just saying) has conceded. Curry, who is one of the world’s leading experts on the subject, has pointed out in a recent paper that the sensitivity of climate to CO2 is not as great as some of the computer models suggest.

Besides, the phenomenon tends to be canceled out by the output of the sun, volcanic eruptions, and ocean currents.

Bridenstine did not express an opinion about possible climate change policies, such as carbon taxes, subsidies for renewable energy, or bans on fossil fuels. Saying that climate change is real or not is not controversial so long as the opinion does not have a harsh impact on ordinary people.

Bridenstine, the great communicator

It should be noted that Bridenstine has engaged in personal communications more extensively than any previous NASA chief. He has an active Twitter account, and the town hall was almost unprecedented. Partly this is derived from his experience as an elected official. Partly Bridenstine’s outreach efforts stem from the necessity to sell NASA’s programs steadily and relentlessly. Because of these efforts, the wisdom of his appointment has been bolstered.