GOP Cut Crucial Weather Satellite Overhaul in 2011

Real world consequences of right wing anti-science denial

In Joplin, Missouri, dozens of families are in mourning today after a killer tornado struck with very little warning last night. The property damage is immense, and clean-up will take months. Up to three quarters of the city of Joplin has been destroyed.

As part of the aftermath, we must note that these recent weather disasters have long been predicted by climate scientists, as one of the consequences of global warming.

It may be impossible to say with certainty whether any particular case is directly attributable to climate change, but we’re going to be seeing more of these kinds of extreme weather events, and they’re going to increase in frequency. And unfortunately, even if there are measures we could take to start reversing the trends (and there are), we have a very large percentage of Americans who’ve been convinced by the Republican Party and Fox News that scientists are liars, and there’s nothing to worry about.

Following the disaster in Joplin, the right wing denial machine is already kicking into high gear with a blizzard of misinformation (charts and graphs and everything!), led by Anthony Watts with an article in the Daily Caller.

This storm of denial has very real effects, even in the short term. In the 2011 federal spending bill, the GOP slashed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s budget, and killed a $700 million overhaul of our aging environmental satellite system. This program was specifically targeted because satellites are one of the best sources for accurate climate data, and accurate climate data invariably supports the global warming models — therefore it must be destroyed.

But these satellites also serve as the nation’s first line of defense against dangerous weather events: GOP cut crucial weather satellites with fierce hurricane season looming.

Highlighting the critical need for accurate forecasting, yesterday NOAA released their annual hurricane forecast predicting yet another “above-normal” hurricane season. This year, Americans can expect up to 18 named storms and as many as six that could become category five hurricanes. Last year’s hurricane season was one of the busiest on record and that is a trend we can expect to continue. Rising ocean temperatures have been found to increase the frequency and intensity of hurricanes – and this year, ocean temperatures are four degrees higher than normal. These alarming trends aren’t limited to hurricanes – scientists have found that as a result of climate change, killer weather is now the “new normal.”

“Because we have insufficient funds in the ’11 budget, we are likely looking at a period of time a few years down the road where we will not be able to do the severe storm warnings and long-term weather forecasts that people have come to expect today,” Lubchenco said.

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