For eight years, NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System (CMS) program has spent its annual $10 million budget on efforts to monitor greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere and analyze data related to global pollution. The Trump administration is bringing that to an end, Science reported this week.
NASA spokesperson Steve Cole told Science that the program, which will see through existing grants before ending, was the victim of “budget constraints and higher priorities within the science budget.” Those priorities are wrong, experts say.
Killing CMS “is a grave mistake,” Kelly Sims Gallagher, director of Tufts University’s Center for International Environment and Resource Policy, tells Science. We’ll soon be “less capable of tracking changes in carbon,” adds Stephen Hagen, a scientist who’s used laser-mapping to track tropical deforestation.
Tracking those changes matters because it’s one of the primary ways to know if policy measures taken to reduce greenhouse gases are working, climate scientist Rachel Licker told the BBC. “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,” she said. “Being able to better track carbon is critical to evaluating efforts and policies aimed at limiting global warming and its impacts.”
Over the years, CMS has funded research to better measure the carbon trapped in forests and the effects of cow flatulence on global methane levels, among other things. It’s helped cities work on efforts to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and funded improvements to space-based greenhouse gas monitoring systems.
Scuttling CMS fits in with a broader Trump administration push to deemphasize efforts to fight climate change, which includes rolling back regulations and rejecting the Paris climate accord. And it’s little surprise given NASA’s new leader. Confirmed by the Senate less than a month ago, former Oklahoma representative Jim Bridenstine is a climate change denier who in 2013 claimed on the House floor that global temperatures had stopped rising a decade prior.