The current White House administration's war on climate change rages on. As if pulling the US out of the Paris climate agreement wasn’t enough, the Trump administration has just put an obstacle in the way of monitoring how everyone else is doing in tackling their carbon emissions, by killing off NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System (CMS).
The quiet withdrawal of future funding to the CMS was first spotted this week by Science Magazine.
The $10-million-a-year project enables scientists to build up one of the most comprehensive pictures of how carbon flows around the planet. By monitoring both the sources of and sinks before stitching it all together, it has been a valuable tool in monitoring how nations are doing in achieving goals to cut greenhouse gas emissions
By canceling the program, it is simply going to make this monitoring more difficult, making it harder to verify whether nations are sticking to the cuts they agreed to under the Paris climate accord. “If you cannot measure emissions reductions, you cannot be confident that countries are adhering to the agreement,” Tufts University’s Kelly Sims Gallagher told Science.
The fact that the Trump administration has done this, might not really come as much of a surprise. His hatred for the Paris agreement is already well-known, culminating in the US joining Syria as the only two countries in the world not signed up to it. But the administration has also sought to hobble NASA’s earth science budget on multiple occasions, only to be beaten back by Congress.
Yet because the funding deal signed earlier this year did not explicitly mention the CMS, it gave the administration an opening to kill it off completely. As it currently stands, all research grants currently allocated will run their course, but there will be no new ones.
This is of grave concern because the CMS is used for a whole manner of carbon monitoring not only within the US, but around the planet. It has been used by developing nations in the tropics to calculate exactly how much carbon is locked up within their forests, and by major cities to figure out how best to curb their emissions.
Despite the stepping back of the US, the science is still likely to continue in other parts of the world. The European Union already operates a carbon-monitoring satellite, for example, and there are plans to send even more up. It will just be the US left behind, which could have significant implications in a world that is moving inexorably towards a low carbon future.