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The FY 2020 Budget Request: Climate R&D

A review of the Administration’s proposed cuts to climate programs at NASA, NOAA, and other research agencies in the FY 2020 budget.

See also: FY 2020 Science Appropriations Dashboard | R&D in the President's Budget

The Administration proposes wide-ranging cuts to climate science activities including fundamental observations, modeling and assessments, and adaptation studies, as well as research facilities and infrastructure. Many of these proposals are repeats from previous Trump Administration budgets.

Brief funding recaps for major climate science agencies and programs are below. To download a single complete funding table, click here.

NASA EARTH SCIENCE

NASA’s climate-focused R&D is carried out by the Earth Science Division, which is slated for a total $151 million or 7.8 percent cut below FY 2019 enacted levels (see table below). Core earth science research and analysis, including investigations of natural and human-induced climate change impacts, would see an overall $48 million or 14 percent cut below FY 2018 enacted. The budget would eliminate funding for new Carbon Monitoring System awards, but would continue to support 2018 and 2019 awards.

NASA_Climate RD

 

As for NASA’s Earth-observing satellites, the Administration again provides no funding for the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE) and the Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory Pathfinder (CLARREO Pathfinder) missions. However, two other earth science missions previously targeted for elimination – the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3) and Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) – would be spared in this year’s request. The Administration also continues support for Landsat 9, which has been fast-tracked for a December 2020 launch. Funding is also maintained for development of the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR), Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT), and Sentinel-6 missions.

Notably, the budget would begin a new Earth Venture Continuity program to enable low-cost sustained observations, as called for by the 2017 Earth Science Decadal Survey. NASA would also initiate a Decadal Incubation program to mature specific technologies for presently immature measurements. On the other hand, no funding is requested to establish a new competed Earth Explorer flight line for medium-sized missions, a key recommendation of the decadal survey.

PACE Satellite_NASA-GSFC
Digital rendering of PACE Satellite. Credit: NASA/GSFC

NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION (NOAA)

NOAA’s main Climate Research account, within the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, would see a total $71 million or 45 percent reduction below FY 2019 enacted (see table below). For the third year in a row, the Administration is proposing to eliminate competitively funded climate research conducted at cooperative institutes, universities, NOAA laboratories, and by other partners, totaling $40 million. Funding for the Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) program, which examines impacts of extreme weather and climate events on society, would be terminated.

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The Administration would eliminate NOAA’s portion of funding dedicated to the National Climate Assessment; the necessary information and resources for this congressionally-mandated report would be provided by other projects and programs, according to NOAA. Also slated for elimination is $5.7 million in Arctic research focused on sea ice modeling and predictions that support fishermen and commercial industries. With the remaining climate funding, NOAA would prioritize earth systems research and long-term observations and climate records at its in-house laboratories and Cooperative Institutes. Funding is also maintained for the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS).

NOAA also monitors the climate system through key satellites managed by the agency’s National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service (NESDIS). Within NESDIS, there is a planned decrease of $104 million or 25.5 percent for the Geostationary Systems-R (GOES-R) following the launch of GOES-17 last year. Meanwhile, funding would be maintained for the build-out of the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) series, with JPSS-2 scheduled for launch in FY 2023. Note that the budget again proposes to combine funding for JPSS and the Polar Follow On into a single account, Polar Weather Satellites, which would decrease by a total $103 million or 12 percent. Elsewhere, NESDIS would see funding eliminated for its six Regional Climate Centers, which respond to emerging issues such as droughts and floods.

NASA JPSS-1
JPSS-1 launched in November 2017. Photo courtesy NASA.

NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION (NSF) GEOSCIENCES AND POLAR RESEARCH

The Administration proposes a $54 million or 19.6 percent cut to NSF’s Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences (AGS) Division, which funds climate modeling activities and air quality studies, among other research endeavors. Also within AGS, the Administration proposes a significant $26 million reduction in agency support for the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), an NSF-sponsored federally funded research and development center that investigates past and present climate processes and global change. The budget would also reduce funding by 13.8 percent for the Ocean Observatories Initiative, which investigates how climate variability affects ocean circulation, weather patterns, the ocean’s biochemical environment, and marine ecosystems.

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NSF contributions to the interagency U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) would drop by $30 million or 11.8 percent, with reductions to integrated observations and modeling, adaptation science and other areas. The Administration also targets NSF’s Office of Polar Programs (OPP), which investigates the causes and future trajectory of changes at the poles that could impact global systems; core research funding at OPP would drop by a third.

DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY (DOE) BIOLOGICAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH

The budget proposes a $16 million or 57.1 percent reduction to Atmospheric System Research, with analysis of emerging data from a field campaign in Norway to be delayed by multiple years, according to agency budget documents. A large $59 million or 61.2 percent cut to the Earth and Environmental Systems Modeling program would negatively impact the development timetable of the Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM). Further development of the cyrospheric and Arctic component of the model will be delayed several years, reducing E3SM’s full use of future exascale computing capabilities, according to DOE. Elsewhere, funding would be cut in half for the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Research Facility, which provides continuous observations of cloud and aerosol properties and their effects on climate conditions around the world.

DOE_Climate Table

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (EPA)

The Administration would reduce EPA’s Air and Energy research funding by two-thirds, eliminating $17.2 million in climate change research and $31.3 million in air quality research. The request would also eliminate EPA contributions to the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), the multiagency initiative to better understand climate change impacts and adaptation responses. EPA funding for the USGCRP was an estimated $19 million last year, according to agency budget documents.

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Elsewhere, EPA’s Atmospheric Protection Program would see funding eliminated for 14 climate-related partnership programs including the State and Local Climate Energy Program, Global Methane Initiative, and the Green Power Partnership. The Administration would, however, continue to fund two mandatory greenhouse gas reporting programs. Both the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program and the Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks would maintain annual data collection efforts that inform state policymakers, industry and the public.

U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY (USGS)

The Administration proposes a budget restructuring at USGS that would transfer climate activities within the current Land Resources account to the Ecosystems mission area. This move includes an $8.2 million reduction in climate change R&D focused on the causes and consequences of climate and land use change. The budget would cut the Climate Adaptation Science Centers (CASC) budget in half, supporting only three of the eight existing regional CSCs. The budget would also terminate a total $6.9 million in carbon sequestration activities that inventory and track geologic and biological carbon stored in ecosystems across the United States. Landsat 9 would receive necessary funding to continue development toward an FY 2021 launch.

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Cover image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Author

David Parkes

Program Associate