MSNBC: ‘Life on Planet Earth’ in Peril as Shutdown Halts Climate Study

Amid the ongoing partial government shutdown, on Monday, MSNBC anchor Katy Tur and correspondent Jacob Soboroff warned that the most devastating impact may be a temporary delay in a NASA climate change study. Soboroff feared that “life on planet Earth” itself may be in jeopardy if the budget impasse was not resolved soon.

“And several scientific projects have been slowed or stopped completely by the government shutdown,” Tur fretted on her 2:00 p.m. ET hour show. Reciting a list of impacts from The Washington Post, she noted in part: “NOAA has yet to release the average U.S. temperature data for 2018.” She then added: “According to government officials who talked to The New York Times, ‘The impasse will eventually show in shutdown-size gaps in data that scientists often collect across generations.’”

 

 

The host specifically highlighted how “NASA’s 10-year-old IceBridge campaign will suffer from one of those gaps.” She worried: “The program, that was set to begin on March 4th to measure ice loss near the North Pole, just had to cut half of its scheduled work and it could be – potentially get cancelled all together.”

Soboroff recalled joining the expedition last year for a report featured on the Today show in which he claimed there was “no debate at all” about climate change. On Monday, he sounded the alarm:

But, this is actually critically serious to the future – I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say – the future of human beings’ life on planet Earth. Because for 10 years, this flight and these satellites have been up there seamlessly measuring polar ice, both at the North Pole and at the South Pole. I got to go with them last year and take a look at it and it was an extraordinary thing....And the shutdown now is gonna basically stop one of these flights from going and seamlessly collecting this data, which is gonna be a huge, huge problem for the mission...

Tur chimed in: “I mean they’re doing it because they’re trying to figure out what sort of risk the world is gonna be in if the temperatures across the globe keep rising.”

Soboroff decried the fact that the scientific mission may be ruined: “The whole point is to have continuous data to understand without interruption what happens as the sea ice melts and connect it to the data points down here. And literally, it’s blowing the point of the entire mission, the seamless collection of data.”

Unable to hide her disdain, Tur remarked: “The President, I think it was yesterday, or maybe it was today, talking about cold temperatures and sarcastically saying he wanted some global warning.”

Soboroff revealed that the mission scientists “didn’t want to talk about President Trump at that time” when he initially reported the story, but that he talked to them again:  

John Sonntag, who was the mission scientist who’s in charge of this project, today didn’t mince any words about how horrible this truly is, potentially if they can’t get those airplanes up, for the future of this mission. I don’t they’re making any secret about how frustrated they are with how things are going in Washington today.

MSNBC and NBC have long been invested in the climate change agenda. On December 30, Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd opened a special edition of the program by proclaiming: “We’re not going to debate climate change, the existence of it. The Earth is getting hotter, and human activity is a major cause. Period. We’re not going to give time to climate deniers.”

On Tuesday, the Competitive Enterprise Institute announced a new campaign to take on NBC for “silencing dissent” the issue.

It’s no wonder why MSNBC’s biggest fear about the shutdown is the possibility that they might not be provided with latest climate change talking points.

Here are excerpts of the January 21 segment:

2:48 PM ET

KATY TUR: And several scientific projects have been slowed or stopped completely by the government shutdown. According to The Washington Post, the drug policy team in the White House is down from 80 to 3 people, NOAA has yet to release the average U.S. temperature data for 2018, a tour of California’s soil after this year’s devastating wildfires has also been cancelled, that’s going to pose a problem for mud slides later on, a team in Peoria, Illinois has been blocking from exploring new treatments for antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and the National Science Foundation has stopped awarding money for research, compared to the $42 million it gave out in grants at the beginning of 2018.

According to government officials who talked to The New York Times, “The impasse will eventually show in shutdown-size gaps in data that scientists often collect across generations.” And now it seems NASA’s 10-year-old IceBridge campaign will suffer from one of those gaps. The program, that was set to begin on March 4th to measure ice loss near the North Pole, just had to cut half of its scheduled work and it could be – potentially get cancelled all together.

Joining me now, MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff. Jacob, this time last year, you were up there, measuring that ice with them.

JACOB SOBOROFF: 750 miles north of the Arctic Circle, which is why I wasn’t returning your texts. They don’t have very good reception up there, sorry about that.

TUR: How dare you.

SOBOROFF: But, this is actually critically serious to the future – I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say – the future of human beings’ life on planet Earth. Because for 10 years, this flight and these satellites have been up there seamlessly measuring polar ice, both at the North Pole and at the South Pole. I got to go with them last year and take a look at it and it was an extraordinary thing, look at that. It was absolutely freezing. These guys spend months of their lives, men and women, every single year up there sacrificing their families and their friends in order to do this mission. And the shutdown now is gonna basically stop one of these flights from going and seamlessly collecting this data, which is gonna be a huge, huge problem for the mission –

TUR: But it’s not just about them sacrificing their family life, it’s about – I mean they’re doing it because they’re trying to figure out what sort of risk the world is gonna be in if the temperatures across the globe keep rising.

SOBOROFF: And I – honestly, I didn’t really understand how important it is, what they do up there, until I went up there.
                
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SOBOROFF: And so they go there, they measure the sea ice, they measure the land ice, they measure the difference year over year, and directly connect it to what we’re experiencing down here. And so, now they’re not going to be able to do it and they’ve been doing it continuously over the last 10 years.

TUR: So what does it mean if they miss that gap, what does that do to the data?

SOBOROFF: If you look a Science Magazine, who originally broke this story just a couple days ago, it literally is at a point where they’re wasting billions of dollars. Because the point of the mission, IceSat I is the first satellite, IceBridge are the flights that I was on, the P30 Ryan NASA aircraft. And then, IceSat II is the satellite that’s up there now. The whole point is to have continuous data to understand without interruption what happens as the sea ice melts and connect it to the data points down here. And literally, it’s blowing the point of the entire mission, the seamless collection of data.

TUR: If I’m not wrong, you were talking to some of these guys a little bit earlier today.

SOBOROFF: Yeah, I was.

TUR: How are they feeling?

SOBOROFF: Like they have nothing to do. I mean, like they’re on a 30-day unpaid vacation that was unscheduled. And the words that were used by the NASA official I talked to today was, “You normally think you’d be having a great time if you’re given 30 days off unexpectedly.” I think they’re all terrified of what it means for the future of these missions that they poured their lives into. And they truly see it as something that’s not just for their own benefit, it’s a cool thing to go see, it’s beautiful up there 750 miles north of the Arctic Circle, but it’s for all of our collective benefit, our future on this planet.

TUR: The President, I think it was yesterday, or maybe it was today, talking about cold temperatures and sarcastically saying he wanted some global warning.

SOBOROFF: Yeah, when I was up there, I asked them about President Trump and they didn’t want to talk about President Trump at that time. He had just put in a new person to head the EPA, I think they were being careful about it. John Sonntag, who was the mission scientist who’s in charge of this project, today didn’t mince any words about how horrible this truly is, potentially if they can’t get those airplanes up, for the future of this mission. I don’t they’re making any secret about how frustrated they are with how things are going in Washington today.  

TUR: So what happens if the government does get opened up, are they going to be able to launch this mission quickly?

SOBOROFF: It’s a good question. So March 4th is the day that the mission is supposed to be scheduled. There are things like aircraft maintenance that are supposed to be happening right now from Thule Air Force Base up in Greenland, where they launch the mission from. That’s not happening. And if they don’t do it soon, I mean, literally as we’re talking about days – weeks or days – if they can’t get that airplane tuned up, ready to go, it’s got other missions it’s supposed to be on after it’s up there at the North Pole and they’re going to run out of time. The clock is ticking.

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