Cutbacks to Earth Satellites Blind Us to Global Warming, Hurricanes

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The Doomsday Clock just lurched two minutes closer to midnight. Yet the Bush administration thinks sending a couple of dudes back to the Moon or a handful of exiles on to Mars is more important than seeing what’s going down here on Earth. The National Academy of Sciences reports that half the scientific instruments on our environmental satellites are expected to stop working by 2010. That will amount to a huge loss of data. But if the bad news isn’t streaming in, we don’t have to worry about tracking global warming or the arrival of pesky natural disasters. Right? The Washington Post reports:

The two-year study by the National Academy of Sciences, released yesterday, determined that NASA’s earth science budget has declined 30 percent since 2000. It stands to fall further as funding shifts to plans for a manned mission to the moon and Mars. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, meanwhile, has experienced enormous cost overruns and schedule delays with its premier weather and climate mission.

“If things aren’t reversed, we will have passed the high-water mark for our Earth observations,” said co-chairman Richard Anthes of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. “This country should not be headed in this direction. . . . We need to know more, not less, about long-term aspects of climate change, about trends in droughts and hurricanes, about what’s happening in terms of fish stocks and deforestation.”

Could it be those oil boys in DC have dibs on the first tickets off our failing planet? If so, do we have to wait for space colonies? Can’t we send them offworld now? Then we could crank the clock back a minute or two.

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