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.”


Death toll from anti-Vedanta protests in south India rises to 13

Updated 2 min 29 sec ago
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Death toll from anti-Vedanta protests in south India rises to 13

TUTICORIN, India: A protester shot during demonstrations against a copper plant in southern India died of his injuries Thursday, officials said, the 13th victim killed by police fire.
A curfew remained in pockets of Tuticorin city in Tamil Nadu state where police used live ammunition to disperse protesters this week, provoking international outrage and demands for an immediate investigation.
Calls for the copper smelting plant owned by British mining giant Vedanta Resources to be closed had been building in recent months, with residents complaining it was polluting their city.
The resistance came to a head Tuesday when police stopped a crowd of thousands from protesting outside the factory.
Cars and buildings were set ablaze and rocks hurled at police, who responded with live fire. Eleven demonstrators were shot dead and many people injured in the melee, including 20 police.
Another protester died Wednesday when he was struck by rubber bullets in a second day of protests.
The latest victim died in hospital Thursday, two days after being injured, doctors said.
“He was brought in a critical condition with bullet injuries and died today,” a doctor at the local hospital said.
The chief minister of Tamil Nadu has ordered an inquiry but defended the actions of police, which the state’s opposition leader called “mass murder.”
“The police have a duty during protests to maintain law and order, but lethal force can only be used if there is an imminent threat to life,” Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said.
“Tamil Nadu authorities need to carry out a prompt and credible investigation to determine if police used excessive force.”
Internet services have been blocked across the city for five days. Police justified the blackout to stop the spread of information that could incite further violence as they search for those behind Tuesday’s arson attacks.
Environmentalists and locals say the factory contaminates water and air, claims its owners deny.
The company has sought to renew the license of the temporarily non-operational plant and hopes to double its production capacity.
But a state court Wednesday ordered that it cease any further construction at the new site.
The ruling came just hours after Tamil Nadu’s pollution board ordered the existing plant be shut and its power supply cut until a verdict is made on its licensing application.