Remember President Trump’s plan to gut American science in his first budget proposal released just a few months ago? Do you remember the scientific outcry from such a proposal and the “marches for science?” It turns out President Trump doesn’t. Released earlier this month, his full budget proposal for 2018 requests billions of dollars be removed from the numerous funding and research agencies that drive American innovation, ensure a healthy populace, and guarantee at least some semblance of safety.
The planned cuts total nearly $5.8 billion in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—or, put more radically, 18 percent of the agency’s total budget. The cuts will also oust hundreds of millions of dollars from programs at the CDC, some $841 million from the National Science Foundation, the agency primarily responsible for funding scientific research, and even more destruction to NASA’s Earth Science division—those pesky nerds and their fight against climate change. The agency hardest hit by the cuts would be the Department of Energy which would see 52 percent of its budget eviscerated.
Despite looking disastrous for scientific research, Congress controls the future of Trump’s proposal; however, if this budget were to pass, this is a glimpse of the damage to the country’s science agencies:
Why should the CDC fight infectious diseases?
Zika, HIV/AIDS, any plague that’ll kill a third of the population – why prepare or find cures? The President announced $333 million in cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which, according to John Auerbach, president and CEO of the Trust for America’s Health, to NPR, “would be perilous for the health of the American people.”
“From Ebola to Zika to opioid misuse to diabetes to heart disease, the CDC is on the front lines keeping Americans healthy.”
—The proposal largely hurts programs responsible for curbing the spread of infectious diseases like the flu, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, tuberculosis (diseases gone retro!), and zoonotic diseases like Zika or the black death—which seems like a better way to go than global warming.
—$136 million in cuts to the CDC Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, the sector tasked with responding to public health emergency like, say, the soon-to-be effects from the near-endless fracking.
—$76.3 million to the CDC’s Center for Global Health, which aims to eradicate infectious diseases worldwide.
Do you want ebola and TB and the measles and the black plague to return? Because this is how you get it.
The cuts to the NIH will “cripple our nation’s scientific efforts.”
Lung cancer, heart disease, who cares? The NIH, which funds the research behind the latest medical treatments and many of the latest scientific discoveries, would see cuts of nearly $6 billion, including a $575 million cut to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, $838 million to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and $355 million to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Such cuts would hamper the country’s ability to find cures for literally nine out of the top ten most common causes of death in the U.S.A.—and, number 10 is suicide, by the way. Such cuts would “cripple our nation’s scientific efforts, undermining our economic growth, public health and, national security,” Mary Sue Coleman, president of the Association of American Universities, said in a statement.
To add some perspective to the potential fallout, more than half of the top 25 groundbreaking medications, developed in the last 25 years, emerged from publicly funded research.
“Our economy, health, and national security all depend on the ability to educate the scientists, engineers, researchers, and innovators of the future who will in turn create the medicines and technologies that will drive our economy and well-being.”
Even more destruction to the EPA.
At this point, it’s old news that Trump wants the EPA destroyed. He treats environmental issues like a child who doesn’t want to go to bed, with his fingers screaming “La la la, I can’t hear you” because, obviously, if you can’t hear it then it certainly doesn’t exist.
Like his proposal from earlier this year, this round of cuts includes 31 percent of the agency’s operating budget—about $2.6 billion. The cuts would also relieve over 3,000 employees of their jobs—because Trump clearly cares about putting Americans back to work…so long as it’s not within the science community.
In total, the cuts would eliminate 50 different programs, most of which are regarded as bipartisan, effective, and non-controversial among both political parties. These are programs that provide financial support for remote Alaskan villages threatened by global warming (returning to coal probably excites these villagers), water-quality tests for beaches (E. coli is the real weight-loss miracle), and the U.S. Global Change Research Program, a program that reports on climate change’s impact throughout the country.
Does anybody really have an issue with these?
Of all suggestions in Trump’s budget, this could come as no surprise. Scott Pruitt, head of the EPA, doesn’t believe in global warming. Trump himself thinks global warming is a Chinese hoax. And, thanks to this administration, all mentions of “human-caused climate change” no longer exist on the EPA’s website.
What cannot be seen cannot be true, right? At least, that’s how a six-year-old thinks.
NASA will no longer consider “Earth” a priority.
Trump’s vision for “Making America Great Again” means exploring deep space, not exploring and understanding what’s here on Earth. In addition to refocusing on exploration, the Trump team intends on disbanding many Earth science initiatives and satellite programs.
Just to show how boneheaded this decision is, here’s what the NASA Earth Science satellites monitor:
—Atmospheric aerosols, tiny particles like dust, sea salts, volcanic ash, factory pollution that, depending on their type, can warm or cool the surface of the Earth or, if inhaled, can harm health
—Carbon monoxide levels
—Chlorophyll levels, which give scientists insights into the health of the ocean—healthy oceans equal healthy people
—Clouds, which help determine the Earth’s climate system
—Wildfires—Smokey the Bear preached the dangers
—Landslides—Fleetwood Mac was probably right, the landslide will bring us down.
—Land and sea temperatures—along surface temperatures
—They take pictures of hurricanes so the NOAA can monitor
—Freshwater aquifers and soil moisture, information essential to farmers
—Sea ice and shrinking ice caps
—The fucking hole in the ozone
In addition to the satellite reallocation to the NOAA (or whoever is the highest bidder), the roughly $100 million in cuts—predominantly to Earth science divisions—will terminate five missions to examine the planet: PACE: a program for measuring changes to ocean ecosystems by tracking chlorophyll concentrations; OCO-3: a yet-to-be-launched module aimed at tracking atmospheric carbon dioxide; DSCOVR: the deep space climate observatory that has the capabilities to detect changes in ozone levels and atmospheric pollutants; CLARREO Pathfinder: set to be launched in 2020, the observatory was designed to keep accurate records of climate change on Earth; Radiation Budget Instrument (RBI): A joint mission with the NOAA, it would measure the effects of clouds on Earth’s energy budget
Adding to the clusterfuck, the entire premise of removing “earth sciences” from NASA’s to-do list makes no sense because the agency was literally founded on “understanding the Earth and the atmosphere.”
Actually, none of this makes sense.
Top image: Wikipedia Creative Commons, CC0
Tom Burson is a travel writer, part-time hitchhiker, and he’s currently trying to imitate Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? but with more sunscreen and jorts.