Nasa’s output of climate change information aimed at the public has dwindled under the Trump administration, with a former employee claiming “fear and anxiety” within the agency has led to an online retreat from the issue.
Laura Tenenbaum, a former science communicator for Nasa, said she was warned off using the term “global warming” on social media and restricted in speaking to the media due to her focus on climate change.
“Nasa’s talking point is that it’s business as usual, but that’s not true,” said Tenenbaum, who departed Nasa in October after a decade at the space agency.
“They have stopped promoting or emphasizing climate science communication, they have minimized it. People inside the agency are concerned Trump will cut climate science funding. There is a fear and anxiety there and the outcome has been chaos.”
Tenenbaum said that around a month after Trump’s inauguration last year an “arduous review process” was put in place over every blog post, Facebook post and tweet that she put out from Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
“I was told verbally by media relations it was because with Trump as president, climate change is now a sensitive subject,” she said. “There was confusion about what to do now we have a president who doesn’t believe in climate change. Everyone was scrambling. It was chaos.”
Planned blogposts on coal plants being turned into solar plants, “reasons to be positive about Nasa” and an interview with Gavin Schmidt, a senior Nasa climate scientist, were all either halted or scrapped due to interference from career staff nervous about provoking the new administration, according to Tenenbaum.
Figures show there has been a notable decline in Nasa’s output of climate information since the election of the Trump administration. During 2016, Nasa posted frequently on its climate change Facebook page, peaking at 122 posts during August of that year, according to CrowdTangle.