Proposed cuts in US climate science reverberate worldwide

April 21, 2017 by Marlowe Hood With Afp Reporters In Sydney, Oslo And Hong Kong
US President Donald Trump has called for drastic cutbacks across multiple federal agencies that track and analyse climate

The gutting of US-funded climate science would cripple research agendas worldwide and hamper the global fight against climate change, say scientists outside the United States, some of whom will take to the streets Saturday to make that point.

US President Donald Trump has called for drastic cutbacks across multiple federal agencies that track and analyse climate by gathering data from satellites, the deepest ocean trenches, and everything in between.

Tens of thousands of scientists are set to converge on Washington DC in protest, with hundreds of smaller marches planned in cities around the world.

"An unprecedented attack on science, scientists and evidence-based policymaking is underway," said Kenneth Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Washington-based policy institute.

"And nowhere is the attack more ferocious than on the issue of global warming."

Indeed, proposed cuts to research budgets in the Departments of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—totalling billions of dollars and thousands of jobs—are concentrated on climate science, which Trump has notoriously dismissed as a "hoax" perpetrated by the Chinese.

Scientists in Europe, Asia and Australia express alarm not just at the slowdown in US research, but the knock-on consequences for their own work.

"The impacts may range from troublesome to disastrous," Bjorn Samset, research director at the Center for International Climate Research in Oslo, told AFP.

"We use US climate-related data—particularly from satellites—on a daily basis."

The United States, driven by its big federal agencies, "has become THE global provider of high quality, long-term datasets," he added.

A glacier is seen from NASA's Operation IceBridge research aircraft above Greenland, studying how polar ice has evolved over the past nine years

Beyond raw data

Some of the programmes targeted for axing, for example, are crucial for tracking how much carbon is vented into the atmosphere, or how the distribution of clouds—one of the key uncertainties in projections of future climate change—might evolve over time.

"This would impair our ability in the future to keep our observations, and understanding, up to speed," said Joeri Rogelj, a research scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Vienna, one of the world's leading centres for climate modelling.

For Myles Allen, head of the University of Oxford's Climate Research Group, the damage from a US pullback would go well beyond raw data.

"If we lose that intellectual firepower, it is obviously going to make dealing with the problem that much harder," he said in an interview. "We need American technology and innovation to find solutions."

Allen noted that the European Union and China are "stepping up their game" in monitoring climate, but said Washington may not see that in a positive light.

"Does the US want to rely on observations made by overseas agencies in measuring the impact of Chinese emissions on the US weather?", he wondered.

Three of six major international platforms shared by climate modellers—who calculate the risks of future climate change—are maintained and operated in the United States, and could be in peril.

"If we lose one or two of these data distribution centres in the US, it could collapse the entire coordinated system for sharing these simulations of future climate," said Valerie Masson Delmotte, research director at France's Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, and a lead scientist of the UN's climate science panel.

Cutaway of Antarctica with data on the glaciers and ice shelf

'Darker days ahead'

New visa and travel restrictions in the United States likewise threaten future collaboration, said Samset, noting that almost all important climate research crosses national boundaries.

"This has already gotten harder to arrange within the US, or abroad with US participation," he said.

Shun Chi-ming, director of the Hong Kong Observatory, said he was "highly concerned" that impending US cuts in climate research could also affect "weather and disaster monitoring".

When it comes to taking their concerns into the street with a slogan on a placard, Allen, Rogelj, and other researchers are clearly torn.

"Demonstrations and protests are usually far outside the comfort zone of scientists," said Samset.

But Trump's disregard for scientific consensus—seen in the appointment of outright climate deniers to key administration posts—has forced many to reconsider the boundary between their role as scientist and citizen.

"Scientists need to be very careful about coming out in favour of one position or another," said Allen, adding that he hoped the marches didn't get "sidetracked" into environmental campaigning.

But for Alena Kimbrough, an expert on the Australian-Indonesian monsoon system at Australia National University and co-organiser of Saturday's marches in Australia, scientists "can no longer afford to stand at the sidelines."

"I am deeply disturbed that this movement is required, but we have much darker days ahead of us if we don't start here," she told AFP.

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18 comments

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gkam
2.7 / 5 (7) Apr 21, 2017
One act of ignorance and hubris can kill us in the long run.

The Ignorati have won for now.
Benni
2.6 / 5 (10) Apr 21, 2017
The gutting of US-funded climate science would cripple research agendas worldwide and hamper the global fight against climate change, say scientists outside the United States


Why does this cripple climate research outside the US?

The US is only 5% of the world's population. Is there a reason the other 95% are not already doing their fair share of funding? All nations live on the same planet with the same (?) interests, this only means everybody kick in a proportionate share of the research according to the population of their country.

Would anybody with a mind for minutiae look up the present US percentage of Climate Change funding? For instance, how about Russia? How about Saudi Arabia? Ignore gkam, he's not a country.
gkam
2.1 / 5 (7) Apr 21, 2017
What is your point?

"Waaaaa, . .that's not fair!"?

Have you paid for your Republican Wars?

Try that first.
rderkis
2.6 / 5 (10) Apr 21, 2017
Why does this cripple climate research outside the US? The US is only 5% of the world's population. .


Excellent points Bemmi!
But points that will be ignored here, because it goes over most their heads. :-)
You watch, some not so bright individual will ask what you mean.
America first, Americans first. Then get the other priorities straightened out.
Benni
2 / 5 (8) Apr 21, 2017
What is your point?


....you can't read? I already told you, you're not a country it's why you don't count.
gkam
2.6 / 5 (7) Apr 21, 2017
And you do not get to decide.

We are Big Boys on the block, and what we do affects other nations.

I am surprised you haven't noticed.
richk
2.6 / 5 (5) Apr 21, 2017
The US is only 5% of the world's population. Is there a reason the other 95% are not already doing their fair share of funding?

Hint:
https://thinkprog...ver-past
richk
4.4 / 5 (7) Apr 22, 2017
Since the mid-1800s, U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide, the primary human-caused greenhouse gas, accounted for 29% of the global total. Those 328,000 million metric tons of cumulative emissions are the most of any country and more than three times the amount emitted by China over the same period (93,000 MtCO2), according to data from data from the World Resources Institute.
rderkis
2 / 5 (8) Apr 22, 2017
Why does any of this make any difference? We are on the edge of fusion which will end most/all emissions.
Seems to me, the money and research spent on the EPA should be going to fusion RESEARCH that will benefit EVERYONE ON THE PLANET including those that are starving. Does anything the EPA does, help the starving, freezing, thirsty people?
Forestgnome
2.2 / 5 (10) Apr 22, 2017
If climate scientists had adhered to the scientific method, embraced the standards of uncertainty analysis, and had presented data in a scientific manner rather than hinting at unproven causation and being alarmist, they wouldn't be in this mess. The rest of the scientific community should have policed their own, but instead took a defensive stance that will bring them all down.
zz5555
4.5 / 5 (8) Apr 22, 2017
If climate scientists had adhered to the scientific method, embraced the standards of uncertainty analysis, and had presented data in a scientific manner rather than hinting at unproven causation and being alarmist, they wouldn't be in this mess. The rest of the scientific community should have policed their own, but instead took a defensive stance that will bring them all down.


Umm, climate scientists did all of that. The data did and continues to support the consensus view of climate science, which in the end is just pretty basic physics.

On the other hand, the anti-science groups that oppose the science have had trouble with the scientific method, ignore uncertainty analysis and have been caught presenting data in an unscientific manner to mislead the ignorant and gullible in our society. It is an embarrassment to our society (especially countries like the US) that they have succeeded so well.
rderkis
2 / 5 (4) Apr 22, 2017
On the other hand, the anti-science groups that oppose the science


Anti-science groups? I have never seen one.
Groups with different and what I consider illogical science views I have seen many of.
And I would guess you, like the other 90% of the US, mocked, bullied, laughed and ridiculed Al Gore out of proverbial existance, when he presented the facts on climate change.
To be frank it seemed like Al Gore's roasting all over again with President Trump by the media. The media has such huge sway over the majority of people they become illogical.

Now I must admit that when I watched Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth" I was skeptical. But I never once ridiculed him or his views. And felt sorry for him because of the ridicule mainstream media heaped on him.
howhot3
4 / 5 (4) Apr 23, 2017
Al Gore is awsome. Conservative Values: Which ones apply to you?

1. Cheat on their wives

2. Lie, lie and LIE

3. Against abortion but as soon as their daughter gets pregnant, they the first to reach for a coat hanger.

4. Corrupt

5. Greedy

6. Hates the poor

7. Fake Christians who do not follow Jesus teachings at all

8. Racist

9. Steals

10. Molest boys

11. Sexually harass women

12. Say they hate too much Gub'mnt BUT they LOVE that Blue states give money to their red states!

13. Think you work harder than every one else an black smoke diesel to prove it.
rderkis
1 / 5 (3) Apr 23, 2017
Al Gore is awsome. Conservative Values: Which ones apply to you?


All of the above :-) Sounds like you and I are just alike. Except I am smart.
howhot3
1 / 5 (1) Apr 23, 2017
Thanks @rdekins. I thought so. And yes you are very very smart. But do you know what brain wash means????
rderkis
not rated yet Apr 24, 2017
Yes, not only do I know what it means, I am very good at it. Just ask my cleaning lady. :-)
geokstr
Apr 26, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
geokstr
1 / 5 (1) Apr 26, 2017
HH3;

I can name several prominent leftists/Marxists/Democrats for every one of your so-called "conservative values". Just your idols Bill and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama fit most of them to a "T". Those are human failings that afflict our entire species regardless of race, gender or ideology.

And those with actual "conservative values" didn't murder, starve, disappear, execute or work to death in slave labor camps 100 million innocents in just the last century whose heinous crime was badthink. i.e., disagreeing with the ideological fantasies of the nomenklatura, a fate people like you would happily impose on however many others you deemed necessary to crush all opposition.

The disdain and hatred the fanatics on the left display towards those who won't fall in line is palpable and the reason why the divide between left and right can no longer be bridged peacefully.

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