Trump Administration Cancels NASA Greenhouse Gas Monitoring Program

The Trump administration has discontinued funding for NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System (CMS), a $10 million-a-year initiative that tracked greenhouse gas emissions across the globe, according to Science magazine. The program stitched together disparate satellite and aircraft measurements of CO2 and methane to create a cohesive look at the flow of carbon on Earth — information vital to tracking national emissions levels.

“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 in Massachusetts, told Science. Canceling the CMS “is a grave mistake,” she said.

The White House had included the CMS in several proposed budget cuts to scientific research. But while Congress had previously fended off such cuts, a spending deal in March made no mention of CMS, which gave the administration the go-ahead to cancel the program, according to Steve Cole, a NASA spokesperson in Washington, D.C. The move allows existing grants to finish up, but does not support any new research.

Since its start in 2010, the program has supported 65 research projects, including a comprehensive inventory of forest carbon stocks in Alaska, improved tropical forest carbon inventories, a look at dissolved carbon in the Mississippi River, and localized greenhouse gas emissions data for cities like Providence, Rhode Island.

Phil Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts, told Science that with CMS canceled, leadership in international carbon monitoring will likely shift to Europe. With so much global interest in shifting to a low-carbon economy, “we really shoot ourselves in the foot if we let other people develop the technology,” he said.