The Trump administration has drafted a proposal to cut the budget of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) by 17 percent.
The Washington Post published the document, and as a result, climate scientists and activists expressed their concerns to what they believe may be a catastrophic series of events, as the President is a supporter of climate change deniers. The cuts would begin on October 1, and it would restrict a total of $513 million for the agency for its satellite data division over the 2018 fiscal year.
To cover the cuts, the White House recommends the NOAA to “work with its partners and Office of Management and Budget to develop options of re-phasing the program with later launch readiness dates, with the goal of lowering annual costs,” this referring to the launch of two polar-orbiting satellites in 2024 and 2026.
Restricting funds for weather research and prediction
Climate scientist claim that delaying the program would cause great harm in the continuity of observations. Putting it in simpler terms, “NOAA satellites save lives and protect our country,” as stated by Jonathan Malay, former president of the American Meteorological Society. The solution proposed by Trump’s team is to use commercial or private satellites to account for NOAA’s investigations.
Every climate scientist has categorized the decision as potentially devastating. This is mainly because they assure that there is no discretionary spending in the Weather Service budget, as assured by Dan Sobien, head of the National Weather Service Employees Organization. Sobien went as far as to say that the decision could easily cost people their lives, seeing that it would mean a reduced warning capacity when it comes to extreme climatic events.
Sobien added that precision in weather forecasts is crucial for the economy, having an impact in public events, insurance, international transport, maritime trade, and much more.
“The weather has such a huge impact on the economy, which the small savings [from the cuts] are a losing proposition for taxpayers. We are part of NOAA. We all rely on each other; we’re all leveraged. If satellite data are compromised, then the models aren’t as good, and that makes the forecaster’s job more difficult,” he stated according to The Washington Post.
Supposedly, the decision is not final, and the numbers are expected to change as negotiations take place. In general, the Commerce Department would receive a hard 18 percent cut, being the parent organization that oversees NOAA. Although the budget will be cut down, reports show that employees who remain with the agency would receive a 1.9 percent increase in their pay for January 2018.
The $73 million program Sea Grant would also be completely cut off from funding. It is a program held by 33 university programs with the aim to support coastal research, healthy coastal ecosystems, and sustainable aquaculture within the U.S., helping fishers and providing educational tools for local communities to plan for storm hazards and sea level risings along the country’s coasts.
The justification for all the budget cuts appears to be the administration’s intention of prioritizing the military and keeping the U.S. “on a responsible fiscal path.” Accordingly, these trades in budget cuts and reconfigurations would pursue such objectives.
“NOAA’s research and operations, including satellite data management, support critical safety needs. A reduced investment now would virtually guarantee jeopardizing the safety of the American public,” stated Rick Spinrad, former chief scientist for NOAA according to the Post. He added that weather warnings are critical for commercial ships and sea traffic, which allow them to safely sail on coastal waters.
NOAA’s latest satellite activity
Just recently, NOAA’s GOES-R satellite delivered its first pictures, which were labeled to be nothing short of amazing by the climate agency. The main images show the U.S. in two visible, four near-infrared, and ten infrared channels to help weather scientists distinguish differences seen in the atmosphere.
An additional image features a brownish moon orbiting the Earth on January 15, evidencing how GOES-R can capture incredibly clear and sharp pictures.
There’s also a composite photo of Earth, which is of rather high resolution compared to other satellites in orbit.
The satellite will also serve to perform more accurate weather forecasts and predictions of extreme weather events. NOAA assures that, if the satellite had been active during Hurricane Matthew, they would have been able to track the storm with greater precision, potentially saving hundreds of lives.
Source: The Washington Post