President Donald Trump’s first budget request to Congress would cut or eliminate a range of programs designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well those helping communities prepare for more intense flooding or hurricanes expected to result from climate change.
The scope of climate funding established under President Barack Obama is broad, and Trump’s budget took aim at much of it: It terminates a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) program to launch satellites to measure carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and slashes grants to help local communities cope with the increasing risks of a natural disaster. A $190 million effort to map the risks of flooding would also be eliminated.
“We want to do some climate science, but we aren’t going to do some of the crazy stuff that the previous administration did,” Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, told reporters. The “pendulum went too far to one side.”
Trump’s proposed cuts come amid growing scientific consensus that climate change is real and accelerating — but deep skepticism about the risks from both the president and members of his administration. Trump had dubbed climate change a hoax, and Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said focus on combating climate change under Obama distracted the agency from other important tasks.
But there were 15 separate billion-dollar natural disasters in the U.S. alone last year, three times the average since 1980, and environmental advocates say the nation needs to prepare for the impacts both being felt today — and forecast to come in the years following.
“This is a budget declaring war on climate change policy and solutions,” said Elgie Holstein, a senior director for strategic planning at the Environmental Defense Fund and a former budget official under President Bill Clinton. “It’s not a deep surprise, but it’s deeply disappointing.”
Presidential budget proposals typically undergo significant changes in Congress, but they provide insight into White House priorities.
The proposed cuts are most pronounced at agencies tasked under Obama with reducing emissions for carbon dioxide from power plants, automobiles and oil and natural gas production. EPA would lose about one third of its funding, including a steep cut to the office dealing with clean air and global climate change. At the Energy Department, funding for agency’s arm charged with renewable energy and energy efficiency research would be cut by nearly 70 percent. Research on carbon capture and storage, which could help cut emissions from coal, would also be cut.
The budget would also reduce or end programs designed to protect Americans from the consequences of climate change.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency maps flood risks to help the National Flood Insurance Program decide how much to charge for coverage, alert homeowners if they’re in danger and inform projects to reduce flood risk. The Trump administration argues that those services mainly benefit communities at risk of flooding, and so the cost should be paid locally. The $190 million program would be eliminated under its plan.
A similar program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to research how coastal communities can deal with sea-level rise would be eliminated. That cut would allow NOAA “to better target remaining resources to core missions and services,” the budget document said.
Programs designed to gather data about climate change would also be cut.
The budget proposes ending five earth-science programs at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, including one that would have measured carbon dioxide emissions and concentrations. The budget would also eliminate funding for the U.S. Geological Survey to study so-called biological carbon sequestration, when peat moss or other vegetation holds greenhouse gases, keeping them from entering the atmosphere.
Also gone would be U.S. efforts to help poor nations develop low-carbon energy or grapple with climate impacts. The administration wants to cancel funds run by the State Department aimed at encouraging clean energy. It would also stop all assistance aimed at helping other countries deal with the effects of climate change.
“America must put the energy needs of American families and businesses first,” according to the section of the budget document justifying those cuts. That includes “promoting development of the nation’s vast energy resources.”
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