Trump admin scraps NASA program that tracks global greenhouse gases

The Trump administration is quietly bringing an end to NASA's Carbon Monitoring System, which builds high-resolution maps of the world's carbon flow.

Image of the Carbon Monitoring System via NASA
Image of the Carbon Monitoring System via NASA


NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System (CMS) has for years helped scientists track the global flow of carbon dioxide by piecing together disparate sets of observations into high-resolution models. In addition to furthering our understanding of Earth’s climate, these models illustrate which policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gases are actually effective.

Now, the Trump administration is quietly bringing the $10-million-a-year CMS program to an end.

NASA spokesperson Steve Cole told Science that the program, which will continue until its existing grants run out, was the victim of “budget constraints and higher priorities within the science budget.”

Some experts say scrapping the CMS will put the U.S. at a disadvantage.

“In the long term, dismantling the Carbon Monitoring System will adversely affect our ability to track flows of carbon through our land, oceans, and atmosphere,” climate scientist Rachel Licker told the BBC. “Being able to better track carbon is critical to evaluating efforts and policies aimed at limiting global warming and its impacts.”

The move comes at an inopportune time for climate scientists.

In April, the average concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached the highest level the world has seen in 800,000 years, according to the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. To put the rate of progression in perspective: CO2 concentrations were around 280 parts per million in 1880, while last month they exceeded an average of 410 parts per million—an increase of 46 percent.

Not all of NASA’s climate-related projects are coming to an end, as Steve Cole, a spokesman for the agency, told the BBC:

“The winding down of this specific research program does not curb NASA’s ability or commitment to monitoring carbon and its effects on our changing planet... In fact, Gedi, a new ecosystem carbon-monitoring instrument, is set to launch to the International Space Station this summer.”

Atmospheric CO2 set a new record last month: 410PPM

— Climate Central (@ClimateCentral) May 4, 2018

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