London – If anything, it’s worse than expected: sweeping cutbacks to environmental programmes; an abandonment of efforts aimed at cleaning up air and water pollution around the US; and, most worrying for the world in general, an end to multimillion-dollar funding for satellite launches and other science projects aimed at tackling climate change.
The direction of environmental policy under President Trump – who in the past has described climate change science as “a hoax” and programmes to combat a warming world as “bullshit” – seems clear. The new administration is determined to scupper any action aimed at tackling global warming.
‘Waste of your money’
“As to climate change, I think the president is fairly straightforward – we’re not spending money on that any more,” says Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s budget director. “We consider that to be a waste of your money.”
The proposed budget for 2018, announced by officials in Washington at the end of last week, aims to cut spending by more than 30% at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the main state body monitoring environmental and climate change issues. Staff at the EPA will be reduced by 19%, the biggest cut to any government department.
Planned cutbacks would also endanger the future of the Clean Power Plan – introduced by the Obama administration with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions at US power plants, and once trumpeted by the EPA as an important step forward in the battle against climate change.
While details of specific spending reductions are unclear, scientists say the proposals include cuts of at least 20% to climate research and climate observation systems across government. These incorporate potential budget reductions to climate change-related programmes and research at the government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and at NASA.
The proposed climate-related cutbacks at NASA are believed to include an end to missions such as the Orbiting Carbon Observatory project, which monitors, from space, carbon dioxide concentrations in the Earth’s atmosphere.
The Trump administration’s apparent lack of interest in climate change issues and its proposed large-scale cutbacks on programmes and research related to global warming are causing deep concern, not just among scientists and environmentalists in the US but around the world.
Climate change data
The US has been a world leader in gathering data on climate change. Academics in Britain say the proposed cutbacks in the US could be disastrous for research programmes in the UK.
“Everything we do is international, and we particularly rely on American satellite data,” Professor Joanna Haigh, co-director of the Grantham Institute at Imperial College, London, told the Guardian newspaper.
British academics say the impact of Trump’s policies are already being felt. Many of the scientists working on climate issues in the US are immigrants; due to the Trump administration’s planned border controls and travel bans, some are now concerned about leaving the country to attend conferences and other gatherings overseas for fear they might have trouble re-entering the US.
Climate News Network