The Future of Climate Science Under the Trump Administration

During the 2016 Presidential campaign Donald Trump famously made inflammatory claims in which he questioned the indisputable science of climate change.  

Uninformed and vague statements on the subject of climate change left many to worry about what would happen to climate related initiatives.  What happens when the President does not believe in science?

In a letter from the President’s office, signed by Donald Trump, Trump claims, “[My] Administration will continue to support the rigorous scientific research that is critical to environmental protection” (Trump).  In order to assess this claim I’m going to be using Politifact’s Truth-O-Meter rating system.  Essentially I’m not trying to catch a slip of the tongue but rather analyze a written statement, signed by the President, which I believe to be of interest to the public.

Truth-O-Meter Rating: Pants on Fire, this statement is not accurate and makes a ridiculous claim

The Skinny Budget

 In May 2017 the Trump Administration released its 2018 budget proposal to Congress for approval.  The so called “Skinny Budget” calls for drastic cuts in various science agencies.

The graph above, produced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science depicts the percent change in funding to various science and research when compared to 2016 levels.  The obvious loser in the 2018 Budget is climate science.

What Exactly is Being Cut?

Mick Mulvaney, chief of the Office of Management and Budget argues that the past administration spent too much on climate science.  He intends to cut spending on the “crazy stuff” that was funded under the Obama administration.  Let’s take a look at what this “crazy stuff” is.

Arguably, one of the biggest losses in the 2018 budget proposal is NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System.  The NASA request would “kill off a research program necessary for establishing effective carbon monitoring in the United States and other countries, potentially jeopardizing the type of carbon accounting necessary to carry out the Paris climate agreement.  Verification and monitoring are key components to any climate agreement.  The ten million dollar program also supports a broad area of research.  Some of the most notable projects that the CMS supports are the tracking carbon emissions of forests over time, satellite based assessment of farming emissions, and study of forest fires in Amazon basin.  Additionally NASA will suffer 59 million dollars in cuts in earth science research grants.  The budget also cuts five space based missions.  One of the space based missions being cut is the Radiation Budget Instrument that would measure the overall incoming and outgoing energy of the planet.  Clearly these cuts are not reflective of an administration that values “rigorous scientific research” (Trump).

The Department of Energy additionally faces impactful budget cuts.  The DOE’s Environmental and Biological Research budget will be cut by 43%, many of these cuts come from climate modeling programs.  NOAA also faces deep cuts to OAR, Oceanic and Atmospheric Research.  The overall OAR budget is being cut by $31 million, much of this coming from competitive research grants and the tsunami warning program.

The budget completely eliminates ARPA-E, the Energy Department’s Advanced Research wing.  ARPA-E conducts research on advanced energy technologies in areas such as improving batteries.

Research is Important

I have not covered all of the scientific research programs being cut, there are many more.  Experts fear that these harsh cuts will result in stagnation and the loss of a generation of researchers.  Research is not a waste of money, it is necessary for innovation.  The importance of research is nicely summed up by Stephen Ezell, VP of ITIF, “The administration needs to recognize there is a big difference between wasteful spending and critical investments that ensure the U.S. economy, citizens, and businesses thrive”.  Although Trump’s budget cuts are intended to boost the economy, they will likely have the opposite effect.  



Achenbach, Joel, and Lena H. Sun. “Trump budget seeks huge cuts to science and medical research, disease prevention.” The Washington Post. May 23, 2017. Accessed September 08, 2017.

“Projects.” ARPA-E | Changing What’s Possible. August 23, 2017. Accessed September 08, 2017.

Science News Staff. “What’s in Trump’s 2018 budget request for science?” Science | AAAS. July 26, 2017. Accessed September 08, 2017.

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