News & Politics

Climate Science-Denying Trump Regime Silently Killed NASA Carbon Monitoring System

This move jeopardizes plans to verify the national emission cuts we agreed to make.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

Wise leaders facing a crisis want to suss out every bit of solid information they can about the parameters of that crisis and its potential impacts. But America today is led not by the wise but rather a brigade of numbskulls.

And when it comes to the biggest crisis humans have faced since the species arose in Africa 200 to 300 millenniums ago, not only do they not care about gathering data, they don’t even accept the consensus that there is a crisis. Or, in the case of the brighter numbskulls, they accept it, but they prefer to pad their wallets by doing the bidding of the extractive industries and their captive disinformation hubs like the Heartland Institute and Competitive Enterprise Institute. Malignant corruption reigns.

In this regard the man squatting in the White House has been on the attack since he came into office. In particular, he has threatened NASA's earth science budget as well as its other climate-related missions. The latest example of how this is playing out in practice is examined here by Pakalolo. At Science, Paul Voosen gives us the skinny:

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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. [...]

This Trump regime action meshes perfectly with its overall assault on science and its lickspittle kowtowing to the fossil-fuel industries’ objectives of extracting ever more oil and gas from public lands and denying access to informational tools that are essential to the campaign to keep in the ground as much of those prolific greenhouse-gas emitters as possible.

While Trump and his ever-changing parade of minions keep spewing the Make America Great Again campaign slogan, the reality is that killing CMS cedes U.S. leadership to Europe. Duffy points out, "We really shoot ourselves in the foot if we let other people develop the technology."

While Trump has announced that he plans to pull out of the 2015 Paris climate accord, the U.S. cannot do that until 2020. So U.S. negotiators are now in Bonn, Germany, working out the details of how the accord will actually work. According to the BBC, those negotiators are, ironically, insisting on strict rules for measuring and monitoring emissions.

The loss of CMS doesn’t mean NASA will have no carbon-measuring capability. This summer the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation laser system (GEDI) will be launched to the International Space Station. Rachel Licker, a senior climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told the BBC that the move to eliminate CMS is nonetheless problematic:

"In the long-term, dismantling the Carbon Monitoring System will adversely affect our ability to track flows of carbon through our land, oceans, and atmosphere," Ms Licker said.

"Being able to better track carbon is critical to evaluating efforts and policies aimed at limiting global warming and its impacts."

But Trump is more interested in wars in outer space than using space science to provide measurements to help us survive on the only planet we know capable of supporting intelligent life. Too bad there’s not a bunch more intelligence down here and a lot less numbskullery.