NASA's next boss could be a climate change denier

Jim Bridenstine.
Jim Bridenstine. Photo credit: Getty

US President Donald Trump has nominated a politician with no scientific background to head NASA - and he's a climate change denier too.

Jim Bridenstine, a Republican, has been the Representative for Oklahoma's 1st congressional district since 2012. He has lobbied in the past for greater commercialisation of the United States' space efforts, particularly mining the moon for resources.

Mr Bridenstine's nomination has been criticised by both Democrats and Republicans, as he rejects the scientific consensus that humans are responsible for climate change.

"Mr Speaker, global temperatures stopped rising 10 years ago," he said in the House in 2013. "Global temperature changes, when they exist, correlate with Sun output and ocean cycles."

Mr Bridenstine may have been referring to a long-running myth amongst climate change deniers that the world has been cooling since 1998. In fact, several years since 1998 have been hotter, and it was based on selective and now outdated data.

NASA provides much of the data used by scientists to determine humans' effect on the climate.

Marco Rubio, who challenged Mr Trump for the Republican nomination for President, said Mr Bridenstine carries "political baggage" and it would be better for a scientist or an engineer to run the US$19 billion agency.

"I just think it could be devastating for the space program," Mr Rubio told Politico. "Obviously, being from Florida, I'm very sensitive to anything that slows up NASA and its mission."

Many of NASA's activities take place in Florida, where the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral are based.

Past NASA administrators have included former astronauts, aerospace engineers, physcists and pilots.

Mr Bridenstine's backers say having someone with political skills who's close to the President could help NASA, which is facing budget cuts under the Trump administration.