Earlier this month, President Donald Trump released his first proposed fiscal budget which provides a blueprint for his preferences for the 2018 fiscal year. Among others, one change by the President and his administration was especially alarming. The proposed new budget aims to “end programs to lower domestic greenhouse gas emissions, slash diplomatic efforts to slow climate change and cut scientific missions to study the climate.” Globally, funding should be expanded to aid our climate research efforts and combat our current contribution to climate change. As a world super-power, the U.S. should be setting the example by pioneering new research and programs to better understand and control climate change. The only way for this to happen is through increased funding and action. At the very least these cuts should be opposed.
While it is impossible to prove causation that humans are contributing to global climate change, considerable evidence has been amassed demonstrating strong correlation. Peer-reviewed surveys of climate change experts consistently range between 97 and 98 percent on believing that humans are causing climate change. A huge amount of research has been done to document the changes in climate of time, and again the evidence shows that the Earth is experiencing warming. For example, since about 1970 the ocean heat content has increased by nearly 250 percent. Why care so much about the ocean? Because the ocean has a much higher capacity to hold heat so most of the warming actually occurs there.
The argument that the Earth has been experiencing cooling recently is not necessarily true, but warming on land (and on ice caps) has slowed. The issue in the argument is that it misses more than 90 percent of the warming that is happening and the ocean continues to get warmer. Furthermore, a combination of 5 surface and low atmosphere records (adjusted to remove short term temperature variations such as El Nino and volcanic activity) showed steady, consistent warming over the last 30 years. On average, both the ocean temperature and the surface temperature have been steadily rising, but it is important to note that variation is always present. It is important to note that the rise in both ocean and land temperature is not linear and variation exists, the trend is what deserves the focus as it shows the true path of the climate. Some years may be warmer and some may be cooler but the trend shows a consistently rising global temperature.
Data refuting common arguments against human-caused climate change can be found here
You may ask why increased funding to climate research and programs to combat climate change is so important and what the effects of the global temperature increasing by a few degrees Celsius can have on your life. If the global mean temperature increases by just 4 degrees Celsius from the 1980-1990 baseline: droughts increase, water becomes less available to hundreds of millions of people, widespread extinction of animals occurs, plants and crops reduce productivity, rising sea levels cover about 30 percent of land, natural disasters increase in frequency, and many negative health effects become prominent. Current estimates of the global meant temperature put the rise from 1980-1990 average at between .25 and .5 degrees Celsius, but we will eventually reach a point where the damage is not reversible.
These factors make the cuts in funding to vital climate research and programs aimed at slowing climate change so disappointing. I will concede that the budget suggested by the President is far from final, having to pass through congress and appropriations committee who may protect these programs. However, this budget shows where the President’s priorities lie, and the precedent being set here is that the U.S. does not care about climate change. If other countries begin to adopt a similar stance, the human race may not be left with enough time to undo the damage. If the President is concerned with efficiency and cutting costs, some estimates show that the cost in damages of doing nothing to fight climate change total $20 trillion by 2100 while the policy costs and damages of taking action only reach $12 trillion by 2100. Decreasing our contribution towards controlling climate change today is simply passing the bill of the future costs to the next generation.
As budget deliberations begin, Americans would be acting in their own self-interest in opposing these cuts and even going beyond to advocate for increased spending on climate research and control programs. If these cuts make it into the final budget and the precedent is officially set, the next three budgets passed by President Trump could set the nation and the planet further back on the path to save the planet. Instead of an increase to an already bloated national defense program, diverting that money to fund climate research and control policy could make the difference in leaving something for the country to defend.