“Mars once had a magnetic field, rivers, lakes and an ocean on its north pole,” he wrote. “At some point, Mars changed dramatically and we should strive to understand why. Studying other planets can inform our understanding of Earth.”
Don’t get me wrong, that’s a good idea. Mars is one of the most interesting bodies in the solar system, and we should definitely continue our studies of Mars. The Red Planet was once very Earth-like, and even now might host life. In this regard, Bridenstine is definitely right — by studying Mars we can learn a lot about Earth. But you know how we could learn even more about Earth? By studying Earth.
“Bridenstine is correct in his comments that studying Mars can help us understand Earth—in a general sense,” Tanya Harrison, Director of Research at ASU’s Space Technology and Science (NewSpace) Initiative, told Gizmodo. “But the timescales we’re talking about for Mars becoming a cold and arid planet are many orders of magnitude longer than the changes we are seeing in our climate here on Earth.”
This isn’t just an isolated event. Bridenstine has falsely stated that global temperatures had stopped rising about a decade ago — an absurd statement when you consider just the past three years, the three hottest years in recorded history, all in a row. His statements also put him direct contradiction to NASA and to the global consensus on climate change. NASA finds that that climate-warming trends are “extremely likely due to human activities” and has written on its website that “the small amount of dissent tends to come from a few vocal scientists who are not experts in the climate field or do not understand the scientific basis of long-term climate processes”.