Science magazine reports that the Trump administration has ended NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System, a $10-million-per-year effort to fund pilot programs intended to improve the monitoring of global carbon emissions.
Congress directed the CMS’s creation in 2010, but as Science reporter Paul Voosen notes, the March 2018 spending deal didn’t specifically dedicate funds to the program—giving the White House sufficient latitude to wind it down. Researchers say that CMS-supported work is particularly relevant to the global Paris Agreement, especially for verifying whether the nations of the world are actually meeting their pledges to reduce carbon emissions.
“If you cannot measure emissions reductions, you cannot be confident that countries are adhering to the agreement,” said Kelly Sims Gallagher, a Tufts University climate policy expert, in an interview with Science.
The move marks the latest efforts of the Trump administration, which has rejected the Paris Agreement and an array of prior U.S. climate policies, to downsize NASA’s climate science program. The White House has repeatedly called for the elimination of CMS and several other NASA climate missions, including the planned PACE, OCO-3, and CLARREO Pathfinder instruments. Trump officials also advocate the shutdown of the Earth-viewing instruments aboard DSCOVR, which have taken high-res pictures of our planet’s sunlit half nearly every hour since July 2015.
Despite the closure of CMS, NASA will continue to operate several climate-monitoring satellites, and the agency is scheduled to launch two climate instruments to the International Space Station by the end of 2018. “The winding down of the CMS research program does not curb NASA’s ability or commitment to monitoring carbon and its effects on our changing planet,” said NASA spokesperson Steve Cole in a statement to National Geographic.
Yet researchers contend that without CMS’s support, research into how to make sense of these data will slow.
“The topic of climate mitigation and carbon monitoring is maybe not the highest priority now in the United States,” said University of Maryland climate scientist George Hurtt, the CMS science team leader, in an interview with Science. “But it is almost everywhere else.”