Scientific research is done for many different reasons, in some cases the goal is quite practical, such as the effort to develop new drugs or prevent disease. In other cases research is done purely to understand the universe and answer questions that interest us.
When it comes to spending public funds on things like space research or earth monitoring satellites, the goals are often mixed. Part of the assessment of the value of expensive satellites is something which we can’t put a price on – the protection of lives.
Climate changes are causing increasing natural disasters. Now we need more than ever to develop ways of warning people of the likelihood of severe weather. We also need to monitor coastal ecosystems, and be alerted to solar storms affecting the earth.
There is always an economic impact from natural disasters. Investment in systems to observe the earth and provide warnings is only a small fraction of the cost of weather related events. The statistics for the United States alone are staggering. Weather related transportation accidents and delays account for an average of 7 thousand fatalities and economic losses totalling 42 billion dollars every year. Floods alone account for over 5 billion dollars in damage and over 80 deaths per year.
So next time you think scientists are wasting valuable tax dollars, remember the life they save could be your own.