Carbon Monitoring Restored in Congress, for Now

May 19, 2018

satellite

Readers will know that the Trump administration was determined to cancel an important NASA program which monitors global carbon fluxes.

Looks like another example of good science being tougher to kill than climate deniers (and Vladimir Putin) would like.

Earther:

Update 5/18: In a surprising turnaround, the House Appropriations Committee voted yesterday to reinstate the $10 million NASA needs to continue the Carbon Monitoring Program in an amendment to a 2019 spending bill. According to Science Magazine, representative John Culberson (R-TX), who heads up the spending panel that oversees NASA, reportedly gave his colleague Matt Cartwright (D-PA) a shoutout for urging that CMS funding be restored. Democracy in action!

Science:

A U.S. House of Representatives spending panel voted today to restore a small NASA climate research program that President Donald Trump’s administration had quietly axed. (Click here to read our earlier coverage.)

The House appropriations panel that oversees NASA unanimously approved an amendment to a 2019 spending bill that orders the space agency to set aside $10 million within its earth science budget for a “climate monitoring system” that studies “biogeochemical processes to better understand the major factors driving short and long term climate change.”

supportdarksnow

That sounds almost identical to the work that NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System (CMS) was doing before the Trump administration targeted the program, which was getting about $10 million annually, for elimination this year. Critics of the move said it jeopardized numerous research projects and plans to verify the national emission cuts agreed to in the Paris climate accords.

Assuming the money is intended to restore the CMS, researchers familiar with the program were hailing the vote. “That’s great news!” earth scientist Pontus Olofsson of Boston University wrote in an email. “[W]e need a research program that investigates the use of all the data and tools we now have at our disposal for the how to study, understand and mitigate carbon emissions. NASA CMS is such a research program and it’s essential that the program will be allowed to continue its work.”

“Effective climate policies require the ability to accurately and independently measure greenhouse gas emissions,” Philip Duffy, president and executive director of the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts wrote in an email. “I applaud today’s bipartisan action.”

The amendment is now part of a $62 billion spending bill covering the departments of commerce, justice, and several science agencies including NASA. It was offered by Representative John Culberson (R–TX), chairman of the spending panel that oversees NASA. Culberson cited the climate program’s importance as part of the agency’s efforts to track all sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Culberson also thanked Representative Matt Cartwright (D–PA) for urging him to restore funding for the monitoring system.

The bill now goes to the full House, and ultimately will need to be reconciled with a parallel bill in the Senate. It will likely be several months before Congress completes action on the 2019 budget.

Here is the text of the amendment:

Under NASA, science, after the paragraph titled Earth Science Decadal, insert the following: Climate Monitoring System: Within the funds provided for Earth Science. Not less than $10 million shall be for a Climate Monitoring program, including competitive grants to help develop the capabilities necessary for monitoring, reporting, and verification of biogeochemical processes to better understand the major factors driving short and long term climate change.

Earlier coverage had focused on how pro-science forces were marshaling to defend the program.

Earther:

Florida Senator Bill Nelson is none too happy that the Trump administration got away with killing NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System (CMS). And it seems he won’t let the program go down without a fight.

On Friday, the Democratic Senator and former astronaut sent a letter to top Congressional appropriators expressing “deep concern” over the canceling of the CMS research program, a move Science Magazine first reported on May 9. The program, which has been around since 2010 and has supported more than 60 research projects, provides data on greenhouse gas emissions and carbon stocks to support national and international policies and regulations.

In case it’s not abundantly clear by now, policies surrounding regulation of climate-warming greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane are not exactly something the Trump administration is about.

“As you know, I have long opposed attempts to reduce spending for NASA’s Earth science missions, which contribute to our nation’s ability to study long-term climate trends,” Nelson wrote. “CMS is a relatively small investment that gives researchers the tools to analyze data and observations from across NASA’s Earth science missions.”

He’s right: At $10 million, the CMS program is far cheaper than, say, the Orbiting Carbon Observatory 3, the Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory, or the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem, three future satellite-based Earth science missions Trump proposed cuttingin his 2018 fiscal year budget proposal. Those satellite programs were all put back in the budget by Congress, which managed to keep Earth science’s overall budget flat at 1.9 billion for 2018.

 

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13 Responses to “Carbon Monitoring Restored in Congress, for Now”

  1. Sir Charles Says:

    $10 million are peanuts for a country with more than 300 million people.

    • kevinboyce Says:

      It’s also 1/16 the cost cap for the latest SMEX (Small Explorer) mission Announcement of Opportunity. It really is tiny.

      • ted knopper Says:

        The money could be spent on something else like say a zika vaccine or would you rather have a brain dead child should you have kids? NASA has a program in place to replace this program and vastly improved program which will replace that in a couple of years. You are essentially funding buggy whip manufacturers so as to make sure none of them lose their jobs.

        • Gingerbaker Says:

          No, Ted, we are all for killing more children around here. Thanks for keeping us all on the moral high ground.

        • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

          “The money could be spent on something else like say a zika vaccine or would you rather have a brain dead child should you have kids? ”

          Trump has spent much more Federal money than this on his personal golf trips.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          Since Pruitt and Drumpf are trying to take the EPA back to the horse-and-buggy days, we better make damn sure there are still buggy whips around! And we’ll teach you which end to hold so you don’t hurt yourself.

  2. ted knopper Says:

    The problem is this will duplicate the upcoming program which goes into orbit this fall. The current program is funded until that program goes into place . What we have here is politics interfering with actual science. That is one of the reasons for 20 trillion in debt, government never ever stops anything as the people receiving the money do not want to have to find a real job.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      How many “real jobs” have you held, Knopthead? I would bet that it’s been many.

      May I suggest that the next time you’re let go you take up employment as a door stop or a paper weight? You’re eminently qualified for those jobs, and may be able to keep them for a while

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      “That is one of the reasons for 20 trillion in debt, government never ever stops anything as the people receiving the money do not want to have to find a real job.”

      Legislators have been taking bribes (sorry, “campaign donations”) from pharmaceutical companies instead of arranging to pay a competitive price for drugs in Medicare and Medicaid. There are tens of *billions* of Federal money spent on drugs more than is needed.

      Try to get a perspective both on *scale* and of cost-for-value of spending.

      Legislators also know that by allowing the IRS to hire enough people to *enforce existing laws*, the missing revenue the budget would pull in would more than cover the cost.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        “Legislators also know that by allowing the IRS to hire enough people to *enforce existing laws*, the missing revenue the budget would pull in would more than cover the cost”.

        You mention perhaps the biggest example of political corruption and selling out to the oligarchy/plutocracy. Starve the IRS and make the greedy rich fatter, then feast on their table crumbs in the form of campaign contributions.

      • ted knopper Says:

        I have no quarrel with anything you say. You are correct that the government needs to fix things. All I am saying is this expenditure is not necessary, it is simply a political football thrown out in the unending 24/7 attack on Trump and company. the science is not going to be effected by closing down this system.

    • Kevin Boyce Says:

      No, it would not be duplicating any of the upcoming orbiting observatories. From the previous coverage in Science:

      “It’s an ironic time to kill the program, Jacob says. NASA is planning several space-based carbon observatories, including the OCO-3, which is set to be mounted on the International Space Station later this year, and the Geostationary Carbon Cycle Observatory, due for launch early next decade. The CMS would help knit all these observations together.”

      Interpreting satellite data *always* requires calibration against ground truth. That’s one of the points of CMS. You can put satellites up until you’re blue in the face, but if you don’t make local measurements to calibrate what they see, all you’ve got is guesswork. With new orbiting instruments coming on line, there is *more* need for CMS, not less.


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