President Trump’s proposed budget, released today, represents a potential setback for NASA, and for climate research in general. The White House’s initial proposal would cut at least $102 million from NASA’s earth science and global warming research budget, as well as eliminating the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) and the agency’s entire Office of Education, for a total savings of $17.7 billion dollars by the year 2025. Although the proposed cuts to NASA’s budget pale in comparison to those proposed for other science-focused institutions — such as the Environmental Protection Agency, which would see a 31% reduction in funding — the cuts still constitute a significant change in direction for the agency.
The budget blueprint cancels plans to send a lander to Europa, one of Jupiter’s most promising moons, thought to hide liquid water beneath its icy surface. Scientists currently believe Europa is one of the best candidates for discovering life within our own solar system. Most of the cuts, however, seem aimed at reducing the agency’s work in environmental science. Included in the budget proposal are cuts in funding for Earth science research grants, as well as the elimination of several projects in development, including an ocean health monitor called PACE (Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem); a carbon dioxide monitor called OCO-3 (Orbiting Carbon Observatory 3); and a solar spectrometer used to produce highly accurate climate projections called CLARREO (Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory).
The White House also hopes to cut NASA’s role in DSCOVR, the Deep Space Climate Observatory, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite originally proposed by former Vice President and premonitor of climate change, Al Gore.
In total, President Trump is recommending a NASA budget of $19.1 billion, an 0.8 percent cut from 2017 levels — minor in comparison to other agency cuts. In combination with cuts at the EPA, however, it seems clear the focus is at reducing oversight of climate impacts. How will those savings be used? President Trump’s blueprint calls for huge increases in Defense spending, allocating $52.3 billion more to the department, an increase of more than 10% over last year’s budget.