Photo: The NOAA
Donald Trump’s first two months in office have been marred by controversy and scandal. His controversial executive order to curb travel from seven Muslim-majority countries and his contentious bureaucratic appointments have drawn the criticism of many Democratic lawmakers and a handful of Republican leaders as well. The possible links of Trump’s resigned national security advisor to Russia have led some to question the constitutional legitimacy of Trump’s presidency, or even suggest that he was complicit in an act of treason.
More recently, the Trump administration has expressed intentions to cut the budget of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) by 17%. The effects of a budget cut like this are wide reaching. The NOAA funds a variety of smaller national programs, such as the Office of Weather and Air Quality (OWAQ) and many research laboratories across the country. The Trump administration’s proposals also included an especially large cut to the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service, and the National Centers for Environmental Information, all of which are important sources of data concerning the climate and environment. Another proposed cut would dismantle the Sea Grant program, which consists of researchers across dozens of different college campuses in America. Research under these programs, and especially under the NOAA, will likely stagnate.
Many people depend on the NOAA’s satellites and its collections of environmental and climate data. Its services help protect the American public by issuing weather warnings and advisories, from midwest tornadoes to winter storms. Commercial ships and other seafaring vessels are also at risk without detailed NOAA satellite-driven forecasts to help them navigate through the world. America’s vital agricultural sector would be especially affected by the proposed budget cuts; both small-scale independent farmers and large-scale agricultural industry members heavily rely on weather forecasts and monitoring to ensure crop success. Without accurate forecasts, growers of produce cannot schedule labor efficiently, farmers no longer know at what times to apply fertilizers and pesticides, and livestock handlers do not know when they must protect their animals from extreme weather events.
This proposed cut comes in tandem with the Trump administration’s controversial decisions and proposals surrounding other elements of national climate science. To head the Environmental Protection Agency, the Trump administration chose Scott Pruitt, a skeptic of climate change who stated that carbon dioxide and human activity are possibly not causes of global warming. Pruitt has also collaborated with the nation’s top energy-producing firms to push against past EPA regulations. In this round of proposed cuts were also plans to cut the staff of the EPA by one fifth and to cut its annual budget from $8.2 billion to $6.1 billion. President Trump himself has been in the spotlight for his skepticism towards climate science, having in the past called climate change a “hoax” and Obama’s Clean Power Plan “a war against coal.” Trump has also expressed interest to back out of the Paris accord.
The Trump Administration’s proposed cuts to NOAA, its various research administrations, and other climate-regulatory agencies definitively sets a tone towards climate change and science in general for the coming years of Donald Trump’s presidency. Already, we’ve seen attempts from the White House to cut back on environmental regulation. Perhaps rolling back these regulations and diverting funds from research agencies to national defense is the best action to preserve and protect the rights of individuals, businesses, and the states. Or perhaps the Trump administration’s repudiation of environmental protections and climate research will mean a future of reckless climate endangerment and harm.