The Trump Administration has killed a NASA program that is vital to monitoring the world’s progress in avoiding climate catastrophe.
This is not at all surprising for an administration that has told federal employees to lie to you about climate science, has stripped most mentions of climate change from government websites, and is battling California for having the states-rights audacity to set stricter air pollution standards than the federal government.
See no evil, hear no evil, but speak evil of anyone who does. That’s Trump and his anti-life Republican Party, which roundly supports every one of the administration’s attacks on environmental protections.
When the little children of today reach middle age and finally begin wresting power from the deniers in Congress and those who are complicit in their silence, their righteous anger in many cases may well turn into destructive rage, for by then it will be too late. Too late to keep the gathering storm from doing its worst.
The poorest parts of the world will already have been reeling from climate-related devastation, and the United States will be seen as the pariah it is, for we had the moral responsibility and the power to do something, and we refused.
By that point we, too, will be reeling. The Southwest will be withering with mega-drought, and water shortages will leave many desperate. High-tide flooding and storm surges and devastating hurricanes will force growing numbers of Americans to move away from the Gulf and south Atlantic coasts; property values will plunge, insurers will pull out, and FEMA–already in financial peril in 2018–will not exist. The government will have no money to cope with the mounting devastation.
Meanwhile, millions of Mexicans and Central Americans will increasingly take the only option left in the wake of record-breaking drought and deadly heat waves and the civil uprisings those conditions foment: force their way across the US border.
This is the world the Republicans are forcing upon us. The anti-life party. And the Trump Administration’s action, not even mentioned in the Washington Post or New York Times, may well be seen as a tipping point. Here’s what Science Magazine reported on May 9:
You can’t manage what you don’t measure. The adage is especially relevant for climate-warming greenhouse gases, which are crucial to manage—and challenging to measure. In recent years, though, satellite and aircraft instruments have begun monitoring carbon dioxide and methane remotely, and NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System (CMS), a $10-million-a-year research line, has helped stitch together observations of sources and sinks into high-resolution models of the planet’s flows of carbon. Now, President Donald Trump’s administration has quietly killed the CMS, Science has learned.
The move jeopardizes plans to verify the national emission cuts agreed to in the Paris climate accords, says Kelly Sims Gallagher, director of Tufts University’s Center for International Environment and Resource Policy in Medford, Massachusetts. “If you cannot measure emissions reductions, you cannot be confident that countries are adhering to the agreement,” she says. Canceling the CMS “is a grave mistake,” she adds.
The White House has mounted a broad attack on climate science, repeatedly proposing cuts to NASA’s earth science budget, including the CMS, and cancellations of climate missions such as the Orbiting Carbon Observatory 3 (OCO-3). Although Congress fended off the budget and mission cuts, a spending deal signed in March made no mention of the CMS. That allowed the administration’s move to take effect, says Steve Cole, a NASA spokesperson in Washington, D.C. Cole says existing grants will be allowed to finish up, but no new research will be supported.
The BBC, adding to the above report, included a helpful graphic:
The effect of the United States pulling out of the Paris accord is too uncertain to measure well, at this point. It’ll make things worse. More important in the graphic above is how bad it already will be. Every nation in the world–except for the pariah US–has stated that the world MUST keep the overall average temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius, and as close to 1.5 C as possible. But look at the orange: even if all the nations in the world live up to the pledges they made in Paris, we are going to greatly overshoot the 2C mark.
And if we keep going the way we are now, we risk an increase of 4C or higher by the end of the century–a mark that will lead to the deaths of hundreds of millions and potentially billions of human beings, as well as the extinction of more than half of all species. Forget maintaining an industrial civilization; people will be fighting for bare survival. And the temperature won’t magically stop climbing in 2100. Our sinfully reckless generation is setting in motion centuries of upheaval.
The United States is responsible for more of the extra carbon in the atmosphere than any other nation–more than double that of second-place China–because it is not the annual emissions alone that matter, but the cumulative, as carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for centuries after we put it there. Because we are not only the most culpable but also have been the wealthiest and most powerful civilization on earth, the Republican Party-led denial of the findings of every national academy of science in the world has made it much harder to get international cooperation to resolve this life-threatening problem in a halfway satisfactory manner.
One day, when some future historian of a very different and I hope more enlightened civilization sifts through the rubble of ours, they will discover who was most responsible. The United States, as a whole, refused to sacrifice its unsustainable lifestyle, even when its own grandchildren faced doom. And the Republican Party, happily taking fossil fuel industry cash and raking science over the coals in willful, evil denial, provided the political leverage to ensure the greatest devastation humanity ever faced.
Photo source: 2013 Colorado wildfire, NASA, public domain.