White House cancels NASA programme on greenhouse gas - report

2018-05-12 10:53
A Nasa logo at Kennedy Space Centre. (Nicholas Kamm, AFP)

A Nasa logo at Kennedy Space Centre. (Nicholas Kamm, AFP)

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The White House has "quietly killed" a $10m per year NASA programme that tracks carbon and methane, key greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, the journal Science said on Thursday.

NASA's Carbon Monitoring System (CMS) tracked sources and sinks for carbon and made high-resolution models of the planet's flows of carbon, said the report.

"Now, (US) President Donald Trump's administration has quietly killed the CMS", it said, describing the move as the latest in a "broad attack on climate science" mounted by the White House.

The journal said NASA "declined to provide a reason for the cancellation beyond 'budget constraints and higher priorities within the science budget'".

It also quoted US space agency spokesperson Steve Cole as saying there was no mention of the CMS in a budget deal signed in March, which "allowed the administration's move to take effect".

Cole, responding to a request for comment from AFP, said Trump proposed cutting the CMS project and four Earth science missions last year.

'A grave mistake'

After much deliberation, Congress decided they wanted those four space missions to be funded, writing them into the budget bill they passed in March 2018, he said.

But since CMS was not among them, it was cut as proposed, Cole said, describing the entire process as a joint effort by lawmakers and the executive branch.

Existing grants would be allowed to finish but no new research would be supported, he said.

Trump has already cancelled another Earth science mission, the Orbiting Carbon Observatory 3 (OCO-3), and announced the US pullout from the 2015 Paris climate accord.

According to Kelly Sims Gallagher, director of Tufts University's Centre for International Environment and Resource Policy in Medford, Massachusetts, the CMS cuts jeopardise efforts to verify the national emission cuts agreed to in the Paris climate deal.

"If you cannot measure emissions reductions, you cannot be confident that countries are adhering to the agreement," she told the magazine.

Cancelling the CMS "is a grave mistake".

Cole, however, said in an email to AFP that the "winding down of this specific research programme 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."

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