Congress' Omnibus Bill Ended Funding for NASA's Carbon Monitoring System

Michael W. Chapman | May 11, 2018 | 3:18pm EDT
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Science magazine reported this week that funding for NASA's Carbon Monitoring System (CMS), which costs $10-million a year and is designed to measure greenhouse gas emissions, was not included in the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump in March, which in effect kills the program. 

In the final vote on March 23, 2018, the "yes" votes on the Omnibus in the Senate were 25 Republicans, 39 Democrats, and 1 Independent. The "no" votes were 23 Republicans, 8 Democrats, and 1 Independent. 

"If you cannot measure emissions reductions, you cannot be confident that countries are adhering to the [Paris climate] agreement," Kelly Sims Gallagher, director of Tufts University's Center for International Environment and Resource Policy, told Science. "[Canceling the CMS] is a grave mistake."

In June 2017, the Trump administration announced it was pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement because it was undermining the U.S. economy and would put America "at a permanent disadvantage."  The exiting process takes four years, so the United States cannot fully withdraw until November 2020.

U.S. Capitol.  (YouTube)

The CMS works by gathering data from satellite and aircraft observations, ground observations, and computer models to estimate greenhouse gas emissions, monitor them, and provide forecasts.

It is not an exact science but one of many tools climate scientists use. 

According to the Science magazine article, the CMS was beneficial to monitoring carbon trapped in forests and dissolved carbon in the Mississippi River. 

Stephen Hagen, who works at Applied GeoSolutions in New Hampshire, told Science that without the CMS it "means we're going to be less capable of tracking changes in carbon." 

"Although Congress fended off the budget and mission cuts" pushed by the Trump administration in 2017, "a spending deal signed in March [2018] made no mention of the CMS," reported Science.  "That allowed the administration's move to take effect, says Steve Cole, a NASA spokesperson in Washington, D.C. Cole says existing grants will be allowed to finish up, but no new research will be supported."

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