Trump plans to scrap funding for climate science, boost fossil fuels

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to members of the National Sheriffs' Association during a roundtable with them at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 13, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
Updated 14 February 2018
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Trump plans to scrap funding for climate science, boost fossil fuels

WASHINGTON: The Trump administration is targeting federal funding for studying and tracking climate change while boosting the continued burning of planet-warming fossil fuels.
The White House’s 2019 spending plan seeks to reduce or eliminate climate science programs across an array of federal agencies, from gutting efforts to track greenhouse gas emissions and research to eliminating funding for NASA satellites that study the impacts of climate change.
Though President Donald Trump’s budget unveiled earlier this week is highly unlikely to be adopted by Congress, it is a direct indicator of just how little weight his administration is giving to the increasingly dire warnings from climate scientists about longer droughts, stronger storms and rising seas.
Trump has called climate change a “hoax” and appointed forceful advocates for increased oil, gas and coal production to lead key federal agencies overseeing environmental enforcement, energy production and public lands.
In the 160-page budget summary released by the White House, the term “climate change” is only mentioned once — in the name of a science program marked for elimination at the Environmental Protection Agency. A week after EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt suggested global warming might be beneficial to humanity, his agency issued a 47-page strategic plan for the next five years that does not include the word “climate.”
Environmentalists and climate scientists say the deep budget cuts, if implemented, would amount to suppressing facts about global warming while turning up the Earth’s thermostat by pumping more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
“Trump’s budget is a statement of his priorities, and this budget demonstrates that he could care less about protecting clean air, clean water, public health or our public lands,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “This is a shameful, ideological document that represents the extent to which Trump has fully given himself over to corporate special interests above all else.”
Trump’s proposed budget for EPA eliminates $16.5 million in funding and 48 full-time jobs at the Global Change Research program, which develops scientific information related to climate change and its impacts on human health, the environment and the economy. Also zeroed out is $66 million for the Atmospheric Protection Program, a collection of climate-related partnerships seeking voluntarily air pollution reductions by private companies.
EPA’s Atmospheric Protection Program, tasked with completing an annual US inventory of greenhouse gas emissions to fulfill international climate treaty obligations would be slashed from $103 million to less than $14 million, a reduction of about 87 percent. The White House would also eliminate the Science to Achieve Results program, which provides $28 million in research grants and academic fellowships in environmental science and engineering.
At the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, money for climate-related research would be cut by more than one third, to $99 million. That includes eliminating research programs to better understand the Earth climate system and research into decreases in Arctic sea ice. Trump’s budget also seeks to cancel five Earth-observing satellites costing about $133 million in 2019. That includes a satellite designed to monitor Earth’s carbon cycle, which is key to tracking climate change.
Meanwhile, the White House is promoting what Trump has dubbed an “energy dominance” strategy, emphasizing increased investments in oil, gas and coal. At the Department of Energy, research into new renewable energy technologies is shifting to boost research into fossil fuels.
The budget “demonstrates the administration’s commitment to American energy dominance, making hard choices, and reasserting the proper role of the federal government,” the White House’s budget blueprint says. “In so doing, the budget emphasizes energy technologies best positioned to enable American energy independence and domestic job-growth.”
The budget for the Department of Interior seeks to ramp up drilling and mining on federally owned land while repealing an Obama-era rule requiring oil and gas operations to reduce leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that traps about 25 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.
“The president’s budget is the textbook definition of ‘pennywise, pound foolish,’” said Shana Udvardy, a spokeswoman for the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Natural disasters do more damage because of climate change, and 2017 was unprecedented for deadly extreme weather events.”


Afghan Taliban reject talks with US in Pakistan

Updated 8 min 23 sec ago
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Afghan Taliban reject talks with US in Pakistan

  • Senior Taliban leaders said that regional powers including Pakistan had approached them and wanted them to meet the US delegation in Islamabad
  • ‘We wanted to make it clear that we will not hold any meeting with Zalmay Khalilzad in Islamabad’
PESHAWAR, Pakistan: The Afghan Taliban rejected reports in the Pakistani media that they were prepared to resume meetings with US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Islamabad and repeated their refusal to deal directly with the Afghan government.
Pakistani newspapers and television stations reported that a meeting in Islamabad was in prospect following discussions between Khalilzad and Pakistani officials including Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday.
Senior Taliban leaders said that regional powers including Pakistan had approached them and wanted them to meet the US delegation in Islamabad and also include the Afghan government in the peace process but that the approaches had been rejected.
“We wanted to make it clear that we will not hold any meeting with Zalmay Khalilzad in Islamabad,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid in a statement.
Talks between the two sides have stalled after the Taliban accused Khalilzad of straying from the agreed agenda and there is no clarity on when they may resume.
“We have made it clear again and again that we would never hold any meeting with the Afghan government as we know that they are not capable of addressing our demands,” said one senior Taliban leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The US says any settlement in Afghanistan must be between the internationally recognized Afghan government and the Taliban, who have so far refused to talk to an administration they describe as an illegitimate puppet regime.
The Taliban leader said peace talks with the US delegation could resume if they were assured that only three issues would be discussed — a US withdrawal from Afghanistan, an exchange of prisoners and lifting a ban on the movement of Taliban leaders.
Khalilzad arrived in Islamabad on Thursday and met Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan as well as the Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and other officials.
“The two sides reviewed developments post Abu Dhabi, in order to take the Afghan peace process forward,” a foreign office statement said. An Afghan Taliban delegation had a round of talks last month with US officials in Abu Dhabi.
The statement didn’t give any further details on the talks, but several local TV channels reported that Pakistan agreed to host the next round of talks between the Afghan Taliban and the US in Islamabad.
Khalilzad, an Afghan-born veteran US diplomat who served as George W. Bush’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations, was named by the Trump administration four months ago as a special envoy to negotiate peace.
Washington has long been pushing Islamabad to lean on Taliban leaders, who it says are based in Pakistan, to bring them to the negotiating table.
It often accuses the south Asian nation of covertly sheltering Taliban leaders, an accusation Islamabad vehemently denies.
The US, which had more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan at its peak during the first term of former President Barack Obama, withdrew most of them in 2014 but still keeps around 14,000 there.