Climate Researchers Express Concern As Trump Administration Cancels NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System

With little to no fanfare, the Trump administration reportedly cut funding for NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System (CMS), a project that blended various observations of greenhouse gas levels into sophisticated models that predict the levels of carbon dioxide in our planet’s atmosphere. This move has raised concerns among climate scientists, especially with recent reports suggesting that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have reached historically high levels in recent months.

Reports of CMS getting canceled first broke last week, as Science magazine wrote that the Trump administration quietly decided to stop supporting the project, which involved $10 million worth of annual funding. The publication quoted NASA representatives, who cited “budget constraints” and the Trump administration’s desire to focus its science budget on “higher priorities,” but did not provide any further explanation.

A separate report from SlashGear further explained the consequences of the decision — without government funding, NASA will spend its remaining grants on the CMS, before it formally comes to an end. Since it launched the CMS, NASA had been publishing up-to-date data on carbon dioxide levels on its official website.

Multiple climate scientists reacted negatively to the recent decision to pull the plug on NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System. As quoted by Science, Tufts University Center for International Environment and Resource Policy Director Kelly Sims Gallagher said that the move makes it difficult to determine whether greenhouse gas emission reductions agreed to in 2015’s Paris climate accord have been met thus far.

“If you cannot measure emissions reductions, you cannot be confident that countries are adhering to the agreement,” said Gallagher, who called the move a “grave mistake” on the Trump administration’s part.

Given President Trump’s announcement last June that the United States will be withdrawing from the Paris climate accord for the sake of the country’s economy, Woods Hole Research Center President Phil Duffy told Science that it wasn’t surprising that the White House targeted the CMS, as it is linked to the Paris agreement as a means to help the U.S. and other countries understand how emissions work. Furthermore, EcoWatch cited tweets from more climate scientists and researchers who criticized the decision, including Center for Climate and Life Director Peter de Menocal, who referenced a recent report that warned of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels having reached historical highs.

With the White House no longer assisting NASA with the CMS, Science wrote that Europe is expected to carry out similar research, but with only one carbon-monitoring satellite active at the moment. Duffy commented that this represents a case of the U.S. government “shooting [itself] in the foot” by letting others continue where CMS will be leaving off. On the other hand, University of Maryland climate scientist George Hurtt expressed hope that the program will be revived at some point in the future, as there are many countries around the world that still prioritize the monitoring of carbon dioxide levels and work hard toward curbing climate change.