Appointing a staunch climate change denier the head of the committee that oversees NASA is like appointing an atheist to be Pope of the Catholic Church. Not only does Ted Cruz, new head of the Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness, lack the requisite knowledge to be effective in his role, but he doesn’t believe in the very foundations of the cause he should be championing by virtue of his post.
The Republicans in Congress stirred a veritable storm of controversy after appointing Cruz, head of this subcommittee. This was largely because Cruz strongly spoke out against climate change in 2014 and initiated a 16-day government shutdown in 2013 that affected 97 per cent of NASA’s employees and some ongoing experiments, costing the organization millions of dollars. Both this appointment and that of fellow climate change denier Marco Rubio to the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and the Coast Guard, show that the American political system is flawed, as it exists today. The scientific community should be able to administer itself, instead of being dependent on politicians who gain their positions through a jockeying for power that has nothing to do with science.
In an ideal world, funding for the scientific community would be guaranteed. Cutting back on scientific development during times of financial strain isn’t an adequate way of ensuring scientific progress. It sends the message that advancement in technology and modes of thinking is only undertaken when it’s convenient, instead of valuing science as a driver of progress and economic improvement. It undercut the scientific community immediately when these two men were appointed, and it degraded the credibility of the organizations that they now helm.
Obviously, there’s a high likelihood that Ted Cruz will deprioritize climate change-related funding and research. In 2014, he said climate change obviously didn’t exist, as he himself had not observed the world getting any warmer. This is directly oppositional to mounting evidence that the world is strongly affected by climate change in a myriad of ways. Everything from the faster melting rate in the polar ice caps to shifts in El Niño that could result in global heat spikes for years to come. Ted Cruz’s steadfast denial in the face of overwhelming evidence and unwillingness to listen to reason doesn’t bode well for the future of climate change research.
Science, much like the arts and the educational system, should not be dependent on politics — this way lacks impartiality and skews priorities in favour of projects that could assist political figures controlling the purses of government scientific agencies. Instead, scientific organizations should be guaranteed steady funding every year. They should stand on their own merit, to pursue important research that they’re otherwise incapable of devoting their time and efforts to. If the model isn’t changed soon, figures such as Ted Cruz and Mario Rubio will be able to do even more lasting damage to the scientific community, and there will no way to stop them without losing masses of scientific research and impeding progress even further.