In his latest attack against our planet, Trump’s proposed budget reveals that he is planning to majorly cut back on environmental monitoring. This budget cut is not only dangerous for our environment but will help Trump and his administration continue to spread the belief that nothing is happening with pollution, climate change and other environmental ticking time bombs. If they cut funding for environmental monitoring, researchers will be unable to deliver the information we need to make sound environmental policies. Without that information, Trump and his team will be able to remain ignorant to the real dangers facing our planet.
What Cuts is the Administration Proposing?
The proposed 2018 budget makes major cuts across many environmental agencies. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will have their budget slashed by 31% meaning 3200 jobs will be eliminated and the research and development budget will be reduced by half. The budget also stipulates that four of NASA’s earth science missions will be cut completely. These missions (PACE, Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) 3, CLARREO Pathfinder and DSCOVR’s Earth-viewing instruments) provide important environmental monitoring and tracking information that deliver essential data on climate change.
The 2018 budget also targets specific EPA programs that are responsible for environmental monitoring. The budget for the program tasked with cleaning up polluted sites around the country has lost $330 million, a third of its 2017 budget. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a program that rids the Great Lakes of toxic contamination, invasive species and algal blooms, has had all of its funding pulled. In addition to not cleaning the Great Lakes, this program would also not be able to monitor the area and test water quality. Another EPA program that would be eliminated thanks to the new budget is the Chesapeake Bay Program. This program involves a regional pollution cleanup to keep fertilizer and other chemical runoff from entering Chesapeake Bay.
Next the budget attacked the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) by cutting $250 million from their funds for marine and coastal research, management and grants. The Sea Grant, a program that collects data and conducts environmental monitoring to give information to fishery managers and others who work in coastal and marine resources, will be completely defunded under the new budget. The budget will also affect the Polar Follow-On satellite program, which is responsible for monitoring weather events like snowstorms or hurricanes. Kei Koizumi of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) explains that without these monitoring capabilities we would not be able to forecast weather events in advance and storm tracking would be less reliable. Being able to accurately predict weather events and give the public adequate warning is essential for protecting residents from incoming storms and natural disasters.
How Are We Affected By These Cuts?
Many environmental activists, researchers, and those who work in the affected programs have spoken out on how dangerous this new budget could be. John Holdren, a professor of environmental science and policy at Harvard University and previous science advisor to Barack Obama, explained that defunding environmental monitoring programs would, “...cut off our eyes, ears and nose, with respect to what is going on in our surroundings. It would cut off the operations that give the public information about what’s happening and the ability to demand policy changes. ” Kei Koizumi of the AAAS echoes Holdren’s statements in regards to the cuts for the EPA, “It means a lot of the research done by EPA scientists won’t be there. Even if the agency is able to get data about the environment, it wouldn’t have the scientists and research conditions to make sense of it.”
Besides research and data, the budget cuts have a real effect on everyday citizens as well. Barry Rabe, a professor of environmental policy at the University of Michigan, believes that this proposed budget is targeting virtually every vulnerable area. He adds that the effects will be felt outside of the research department, “There’s a lot of human health concerns here. Monitoring is a basic measure we use to see if progress is being made.” Brenda Ekwurzel, director of climate science for the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Climate and Energy Program, could not agree more. She says, “So many people need our environmental intelligence. It’s saving lives, saving businesses money and reducing harm.”
What Does This Mean for the Future of Environmental Programs?
Besides targeting monitoring projects, the proposed 2018 budget also targets funding for data analysis and would affect not only federal scientists but state governments, local governments, academics and the public. Luckily, Congress still needs to approve the proposed budget and there is little hope of it getting approved as it stands. Unluckily, it is assumed that many of the cuts will still occur once the budget is revised and eventually passed through Congress. Regardless of which cuts stay or go, this proposed budget is a candid look at where Trump and his administration stand on protecting the environment. By refusing to fund environmental monitoring and analysis programs, the Trump government is purposefully turning a blind eye to the legitimate threat of climate change.