May 17, 2018

NASA chief largely backs mainstream science on human-caused warming

Then-Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., attends a news conference. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine moved closer Thursday to embracing the scientific consensus that human activities are the dominant cause of global warming.

Why it matters: His comments are the closest that any top Trump administration official has come to endorsing the mainstream scientific view on the effects of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

NASA plays a major role in federal climate monitoring and research.

What he said: "I fully believe and know that the climate is changing. I also know that we, human beings, are contributing to it in a major way," Bridenstine told NASA employees at a town hall-style meeting on Thursday.

  • “Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. We are putting it into the atmosphere in volumes that we haven’t seen, and that greenhouse gas is warming the planet. That is absolutely happening and we are responsible for it," added Bridenstine, who was sworn in last month.

The context: The comments Thursday by Bridenstine, a former GOP congressman, appear to signal a shift from his remarks during his Senate confirmation hearing last year. During that hearing, he said humans have contributed to warming but demurred on the extent.

Bridenstine was confirmed in a close 50-49 Senate vote in mid-April, generating Democratic opposition in part because of his positions on climate change.

One level deeper: He also discussed NASA's work on the topic. “NASA is the one agency on the face of the planet that has the most credibility to do the science necessary so that we can understand it better than ever before," Bridenstine said Thursday.

  • He said the White House fiscal year 2019 budget request for Earth sciences is higher than three of the budgets passed during the Obama years.
  • Bridenstine also said that the omnibus spending bill recently passed and signed by the president provides the second highest Earth science budget in NASA's history.

“We need to make sure that NASA is continuing to do this science, and we need to make sure that this science is void and free from partisan or political kind of rhetoric,” he added, noting that the agency follows guidance set out by the nonpartisan National Academy of Sciences.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 665,164 — Total deaths: 30,852 — Total recoveries: 140,225.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 124,665 — Total deaths: 2,191 — Total recoveries: 1,095.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump announces new travel advisories for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, but rules out quarantine enforcement. Per the CDC, residents of those states must now "refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days," with the exception of critical infrastructure industry workers.
  4. State updates: Alaska is latest state to issue a stay-at-home order — New York is trying to nearly triple its hospital capacity in less than a month and has moved its presidential primary to June 23. Some Midwestern swing voters who backed Trump's handling of the virus less than two weeks ago are balking at his call for the U.S. to be "opened up" by Easter.
  5. World updates: In Spain, over 1,400 people were confirmed dead between Thursday to Saturday.
  6. 🚀 Space updates: OneWeb filed for bankruptcy amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  7. Hollywood: Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have returned to U.S. after being treated for coronavirus.
  8. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Coronavirus updates: Global death toll tops 30,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

The novel coronavirus has now killed more than 30,000 people around the world — with Italy reporting over 10,000 deaths, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: The number of deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. surpassed 2,000 on Saturday. The United States leads the world in confirmed coronavirus infections — more than 124,000 by early Sunday. The number of those recovered from the virus in the U.S. passed the 1,000-mark on Saturday evening.

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The big pig picture: President Trump has called the antiviral drug "promising," but the results of six clinical trials on this investigational medicine are still being conducted, so its effectiveness the treatment of the novel coronavirus has yet to be proved. The World Health Organization is involved in the tests.

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