The United States is in danger of losing its ability to monitor key climate variables from satellites, according to a new Government Accountability Office report.
The country’s Earth-observing satellite program has been underfunded for a decade, and the impact of the lack of funds is finally hitting home. The GAO report found that capabilities originally slated for two new Earth-monitoring programs, NPOESS and GOES-R, run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Defense have been cut and adequate plans to replace them do not exist.
Meanwhile, up until six months ago, NASA had 15 functional Earth-sensing satellites. Two of them went down in the past year, and of the remaining 13, 12 are past their design lifetimes. Only seven may be functional by 2016, said Waleed Abdalati, a longtime NASA satellite scientist now teaching at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Taken together, American scientists will soon find themselves without the ability to monitor changes to key Earth systems at a time when such measurements could help determine the paths of the world’s energy and transportation systems.
“Can you imagine if we’ve passed the apex of our Earth-observing capability right at a time when we realize that, ‘Hey, we need to understand what’s going on’?” said Abdalati. “We’re talking about less than half the capability in the coming five years than we’ve had in the previous five years...”
This is done for the same reason the government and BP have suppressed videos of the scope of this event, and BP has closed the roads to the beaches and wetlands of Louisiana.
Because for those that would rule us, what you don't know won't hurt them.