A leaked memo reveals that U.S. President Donald Trump is planning to slash the budget of a major climate science agency by nearly a fifth. This, according to experts fearing the move, could cost lives worldwide.
The White House document, a memo from the Office of Management and Budget, detailed the proposed budget cuts for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which undertakes climate change research. The plan also involves measures such as reducing funding for programs enabling U.S. coastal areas to survive extreme weather.
The Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research could see its budget reduced by 26 percent or $126 million, while the satellite department could lose 22 percent or $513 million.
“Cutting NOAA’s satellite budget will compromise NOAA’s mission of keeping Americans safe from extreme weather and providing forecasts that allow businesses and citizens to make smart plans,” former NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco told the Washington Post, which obtained the budget memo on March 3.
Trump earlier expressed plans to increase U.S. military spending by $54 million. This would partly entail cutting environmental initiatives, including those from the Environmental Protection Agency.
NOAA leads the country’s weather forecasting, weather satellite program, fisheries and ocean services, as well as climate monitoring. But how exactly would you bear the brunt of a reduced climate science budget? Here are some ways, as enumerated by Forbes.
Greater, More Unique Challenges For Coastal Communities
Poised for elimination in the White House proposal is the Sea Grant program, which offers research, education, and legal programs to coastal communities for responsible use of oceans, coastal areas, and Great Lakes resources.
At least 33 states benefit from the program, which addresses practical issues such as “sunny day flooding” or saltwater intruding into human drinking water.
Limited Ability Of Weather Satellites To Track Extreme Weather Events
The potential budget cuts involve eliminating a portion of the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Services, which also comprises important climate data at the National Center for Environmental Indicators.
Weather satellites are critical for the public, industry, and military alike, acting like “smoke detectors” and including a fleet of low-Earth and geosynchronous orbiting satellites.
Large satellite programs, Forbes reminded, need sustained, consistent research, development, and support, unless one accepts a modern version of a 1900 hurricane slamming into Galveston, Texas and killing up to 12,000 people.
Christian Science Monitor also noted that in practice, NOAA works in collaboration with NASA, pooling their funds together and combining expertise. This could also endanger the work being done on the space agency’s Earth Science Division, or the operation of next-gen satellites such as JPSS-1.
Endangered Weather And Climate Advances
Advances such as smartphones, precision agriculture, GPS, and life-saving medicine stem from sustained R&D — just like advanced weather forecasting. Current capabilities have been borne out of research around satellite systems and models (including one recently announced by NOAA that’s significant upgrade of its main weather modeling system), along with headways in ocean science.
Even one to four years of lags in research could cause long-term damage, experts feared, especially in the face of changing climate and steady warming trends in the United States and elsewhere around the world.