Monday, March 6, 2017

Budget Slashes At NOAA Threaten Science, Forecasting

I have to be blunt. Once again, the Trump Administration has proven they hate science. And hate facts.  

The latest bit of evidence came as Trump proposed cutting the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) by 17 percent.

The Washington Post reports that a four-page budget memo outlines steep cuts in research funding and satellite programs.

Smaller programs would be completely eliminated, including coastal management, estuary reserves and coastal resiliance. All of those programs have a lot to do with climate change, since rising sea levels will obviously affect coastal ecologies and development.

The Washington Post says that some of the sharpest proposed cuts are NOAA's spending on education, grants and research.

Says the Post:

"NOAA's Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research would lose $126 million, or 26 percent of the funds it has under its current budget. Its satellite data division would lose $513 million, or 22 percent of its current funding under the proposal."

The National Weather Service, which gives us our day-to-day forecasts and more, would "only" get a five percent cut, but that's still bad for a number of reasons.

First of all, the National Weather Service is under-budgeted to begin with. They've been dealing with equipment breakdowns that are starting to interfere with critical, fast paced weather warnings, such as those that we get during severe weather and tornado outbreaks.

Moreover, the National Weather Service increasingly relies on satellite data for weather forecasting, and the sharp cuts proposed in the agency's satellite program will hurt this.

"Cutting NOAA's satellite budget will compromise NOAA's mission of keeping Americans safe from extreme weather and providing forecasts that allow businesses and citizens to make smart plans," Jane Lubchenco, NOAA administrator under Presiden Barack Obama, told the Washington Post. 

Predictably, the proposed cuts uncovered by the Washington Post got instance critcisim.

"I simply could not do my job without NOAA data. It is invaluable to the insurance industry for proper risk management.....Any reduction to NOAA's free-to-use services could lead ot a rise in prices in any number of consumer facing industries.," said Bryan Wood, an insurance industry meteorologist.

His comment also hints at a future in which weather forecasting is privatized, again favoring the rich. If you draw the idea to its logical conclusion, well-off people can afford services that provide tornado warnings, while poorer people would not.

The less well off would then be prone to dangerous weather that to them, would "hit without warning."

The proposed budget cuts would not go nearly far enough to cause this scenario, but we don't want to start going down that road.

Republicans are in control if Congress, so unfortunately, the chances of these cuts becoming law are pretty high.

Democrats will put up a fight. U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont tweeted, "Slashing NOAA? They CAN'T be serious. Appallingly, they probably are. NOAA saves lives  & boosts economy.  We'll fight for fact-based science."

Tell your local Congress person not to go along with these cuts. Who knows? Maybe your life will depend on it if you ever get caught in dangerous weather.

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