6 March 2017
[I saw this in the March 11-17 issue of the magazine]
By Chelsea Whyte
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is facing reductions to its research arm totaling $126 million, or 26 per cent of its current budget, according to reports by the Washington Post.
NOAA’s SeaGrant program, which funds coastal research in 33 states and supplied the Gulf Coast states with science-based guidance during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, is up for elimination entirely.
A 5 per cent reduction in budget is proposed for the National Marine Fisheries Service, as well as the National Weather Service.
While that may seem relatively low, NOAA’s satellite division is facing a proposed $513 million drop, or a 22 per cent budget cut. Those satellites produce 90 per cent of the data that inform weather service forecasts.
Satellite data from NOAA is also used to monitor drought, help rescue lost planes or ships and track climate change.
“There are climate instruments on some of the satellites that are being built and some of the satellites that are being operated,” Lubchenco says. “Given other statements that this administration has made about climate change, it would seem quite possible that the targets are intended to impair the activities that are climate related.”
The Environmental Protection Agency has been targeted by the Trump Administration as well, with a proposed 25 per cent cut to the overall budget.
The proposal suggests a 40 per cent reduction to EPA’s research and development office, from roughly $510 million to $290 million, according to reports from Science News.
In a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine, three former EPA officials write that “research funding and scientific capacity related to the environment should be enhanced, not reduced, to enable us to grapple with ongoing and emerging problems”.
The paper was authored by Jonathan Samet, previously chair of the EPA Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee; Thomas Burke, former EPA science adviser and former head of the EPA’s Office of Research and Development under the Obama administration; and Bernard Goldstein, EPA assistant administrator for research and development during the Reagan administration.
They write that EPA’s regulations are key to improvements over the last 40 years in public health and disaster response. The programs that fund research on air and water, as well as those that cover chemical safety and sustainable healthy communities, are set to receive large cuts in the proposed budget.
“We are certain that unforeseen challenges will continue to arise and that we therefore need a vibrant environmental health science enterprise.”