President Trump just released his official 2018 budget, and saying the science community is up in arms would be putting it lightly. They’re furious.
The planned cuts total in $2.6 billion to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), $15.1 billion to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including $6 billion to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the cuts eliminate some 50 other geographic agencies whose responsibilities include analyzing and tracking climate change.
Additionally, NASA’s Earth Science Division is currently on the chopping block, something congressional Republicans like Ted Cruz have long sought. Instead, the agency is to focus entirely on space exploration, and the innumerable satellites and climate analysis will be, according to the hopes of House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), “rebalanced”—a.k.a. either privatized or shipped to other, likely less effective, agencies.
Even more alarming are the massive cuts to water-protecting agencies like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. By removing 97 percent of their budget, it’s a strong indicator that, to this administration, clean water is no longer a right afforded to the people … something already too familiar to residents of Flint, Michigan.
Here’s a look at ten of the key cuts:
-$2.6 billion cut to the EPA, a reduction by nearly a third. The cuts will also remove 3,200 jobs (of 15,000).
-The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and fifty “other programs” have been removed.
-$100 million in cuts to the EPA’s climate research programs.
-$15.1 billion cut to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), a decrease of almost 18 percent. This will be the smallest biomedical science budget since 2002.
-$6 billion cuts to the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
-NOAA loses an unspecified amount of funding, but, on the death row includes, funding for polar weather satellites, the removal of the Sea Grant program, and $250 million to NOAA marine programs.
-Chemical Safety Board, an agency that investigates chemical accidents, has had funding completely cut.
-Fogarty International Center, the global health research arm of the NIH, has been eliminated.
-$102 million cut to NASA’s earth science programs, including NASA’s carbon monitoring program and NASA’s education program.
Remember, though, these aggressive cuts must pass through Congress. The Randians in the House and Senate may rejoice at the home-run swing to reduce the federal government, but, overall, reductions to programs like biomedical research are largely nonpartisan issues. Who wants cancer cured? Most people do.
Senator John McCain’s already said there’s no way the bill will pass the Senate; however, this proposal has laid out Trump’s priorities, and science clearly isn’t among them. Here’s what’ll happen to the EPA, NOAA, and HHS if this budget does pass.
This move shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone following Trump’s remarks on science and global warming. He hired Scott Pruitt to head the EPA, a man who doesn’t believe in climate change and who has, in fact, sued the agency numerous times. Upon taking office, the Trump team deleted all mentions of human-caused climate change from the EPA website and even went so far as to remove all mentions of the words “science” in the agency’s description.
The White House cut 31-percent of the EPA’s $8.1 billion budget, along with 3,200 employees, leaving the agency with a meager $5 billion and 11,800 people to, according to the EPA’s goals, “improve air quality, protect America’s waters, clean up communities, advance sustainable developments, prevent pollution, and protect human health and environment.” A hefty task.
In total, the cuts eliminate 50 different programs, most of which are regarded as bipartisan, effective, and non-controversial among both political parties, including financial support for Alaskan villages threatened by global warming, water-quality tests for beaches, and the U.S. Global Change Research Program, a program that produces the country’s most comprehensive reports on climate change’s impact on the U.S.
More alarming is that the agency loses half of its funding for state grants under the new budget. These are grants like the Diesel Emissions Reductions Act, which funds energy-efficient replacements to old diesel engines. The EPA estimates this program alone reduced smog-forming emissions by 312,500 tons and prevented somewhere between 750 and 1,700 premature deaths.
There’s also the crippling of environmental programs for military—and for a fucking Mexico wall—gain. For example, the government removed 97-percent of spending to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, an organization that not only funds and coordinates the research of the lakes’ ecosystems but also, as the largest fucking body of fresh water on the planet, provides drinking water to about 40 million people. This $290-million cut will go directly to the pockets of the U.S. Department of Defense, where it’s enough to fund some “defense” directives for about five hours.
Just as damaging as the EPA cuts, the cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are expected to be devastating to the agency’s scientific research, particularly climate change focused research. Although the exact amount is currently unspecified, based on current projects, the effects will be felt economically, globally, and futuristically.
Why is this important? For starters, NOAA satellites—used by researchers throughout the world, mind you—track much more than climate change—of which they conduct most of the U.S.’ research. It’s the primary agency monitoring weather forecasts, weather satellites, climate change, fisheries, and ocean services, and it provides essential information regarding storm warnings, extreme weather, sea-level predictions, and even basic forecasting projections essential to agriculture, real estate, and energy industries. Without it, as Cliff Mass, a Seattle-based meteorologist put on his blog, would cripple the ability to improve weather predictions to the American people.
When the cuts were first mentioned, Florida scientists rushed to send a letter to the president voicing their concern. “It would be like looking at the world with a half-blind eye and not two good eyes,” said Frank Muller-Karger, a University of South Florida oceanographer, told the Miami Herald.
Also, don’t think of this defunding as a political issue. NOAA has been funded for years with both Republican and Democratic support.
In his Forbes article, Marshall Shepherd, former president of the American Meteorological Society, lamented the potential damages of reducing NOAA’s effectiveness, “Research cuts compromise our ability to sustain and develop new capabilities in the future,” he added, “Even 1-4 year lags or reductions can cause long-term damage because of erosion of technical skills, scientific expertise, and industry contracts.”
These are decisions that, unlike the presidency which is generally felt for four years, can set the country back a decade or more.
“A $6 billion cut to the National Institutes of Health is unacceptable to the scientific community, and should be unacceptable to the American public as well,” said Benjamin Corb, Director of Public Affairs at the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, in a statement to Ars Technica.
“President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2018 spending plan erases years worth of bipartisan support for the NIH, and the American biomedical research enterprise which has long been the global leader for biomedical innovation. Cuts this deep threaten America’s ability to remain a leader.”
For some perspective, the HHS oversees the FDA, NIH, CDC, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the Office for Civil Rights, meaning it keeps our food and drugs safe, funds medical research, and combats public health outbreaks like Ebola or Zika. Its federally-funded dollars have developed anti-depressants like Prozac, which is taken by tens of millions of Americans. It’s also responsible for innovating the numerous vaccines that have, within the last 25 years or so, saved millions of lives both in the U.S. and throughout the world.
A $15.1 billion cut to this department is a bigger threat to Americans than any attack probably will ever be. So Benjamin Corb is absolutely correct when he says these cuts should be unacceptable to the American people.
This attempt at silencing science is unacceptable.
Top photo: Lorie Shaull CC BY-SA 2.0
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.