President Donald Trump’s budget proposal for 2018 may have the potential to throw a spanner in the works at NASA’s plans to further climate science research, according to new reports from earlier in the week.
On Thursday, Trump unveiled a new, $1.15 trillion federal budget proposal, and according to the Baltimore Sun, this could result in reduced expenditures toward some key climate science research programs and initiatives. For one, this may mean the elimination of an earth sciences satellite that’s scheduled to launch at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in 2022, with the goal of studying the world’s oceans.
Currently, the PACE (Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, Ocean Ecosystem) mission’s satellite is undergoing a battery of tests at Goddard, with the goal of launching it five years from now to perform health checks on our planet’s oceans and monitoring the effects of climate change on these bodies of water. One specific goal of the mission is to study how phytoplankton – a type of algae – sucks up carbon dioxide and transforms it into oxygen.
Donald Trump’s budget plan may also require the “zeroing out” data analysis funding for two instruments connected to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s DSCOVR satellite. This satellite was launched in 2015 to detect solar storms that may interfere with electronics and other satellites, though the solar instruments will remain funded under the new plan; what may be affected is an Earth-viewing instrument that is used to detect energy emitted and bouncing off our planet’s sunlit side.
As he announced Donald Trump’s budget plan, White House budget guru Mick Mulvaney pulled no punches, essentially confirming that the President doesn’t believe climate science research projects are worth spending on for taxpayers. The Baltimore Sun noted that apart from the above-mentioned cuts, the budget plan eliminated a great deal of funding for initiatives designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
“I think the president was fairly straightforward — we’re not spending money on that anymore,” said Mulvaney. “We consider that to be a waste of your money.”
Many have been critical of the new budget blueprint, including some prominent lawmakers. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) was quoted by the Baltimore Sun as saying that Donald Trump’s budget proposal could have game-changing effects, not only on Goddard’s climate science projects but also on the broader U.S. economy.
“I do think that if the president’s budget became real it would significantly change the mission at Goddard and significantly change the number of people employed at Goddard, which would be a major loss. The work there is extremely valuable to the quality of life in America.”
Sen. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told the Los Angeles Times about his concern that the move singles out climate science as something the Trump administration doesn’t see as essential to the country’s budget.
“It seems to be more of the continuing assault on climate science, and that’s deeply concerning,”
A report from Engadget also illustrated how next year’s proposed budget affects other agencies apart from NASA while underscoring how the Trump administration has often been called out for denying man-made climate change. The Environmental Protection Agency, for instance, will lose 31 percent of its funding, with only $5.7 billion earmarked for 2018, down from $8.2 million. Aside from marking the largest of Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts, it also gives the EPA its lowest funding in four decades.
On another controversial note, the budget cuts may see the Trump administration reneging on a promise made at the historic 2015 Paris climate summit, where the U.S., through then-President Barack Obama, pledged to offer $3 billion worth of assistance to poorer nations in the fight against carbon emissions and push for clean energy technology. So far, the Obama administration has provided a third of those funds, but Donald Trump’s budget proposal suggests that his administration may not follow through on the original promise.
“(The budget plan) fulfills the President’s pledge to cease payments to the United Nations’ climate change programs by eliminating U.S. funding related to the Green Climate Fund and its two precursor Climate Investment Funds.”
As for NASA, Donald Trump’s planned budget cuts won’t affect the space agency too much on a broader basis, as it only stands to lose 1 percent of its funding. It remains unclear how many jobs may be affected by the potential de-funding of the Goddard programs.
[Featured Image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]