Funding Climate Research Isn’t Crazy; Ignoring Reality Is

Today’s federal budget proposal is the equivalent of a cranky child sticking her fingers in her ears and singing “la la la.”
Credit: elvinj / CC-BY-NC-SA

The Trump administration today proposed deep cuts to climate research across the federal government. Mick Mulvaney, the head of the Office of Management and Budget, tried to paint this anti-science move as a way to rein in “the crazy stuff the previous administration did.” In other words, Mulvaney thinks it’s crazy for agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—which is charged with protecting our health—to understand how climate change threatens our health.  


Here’s a look at some of the proposed cuts to the EPA, and what they mean for the agency’s ability to guide federal policy and to inform solutions for local and state officials.

ELIMINATED: Global Change Research Program

The EPA’s Global Change Research Program helps the nation respond to climate change by investigating health, environmental, and economic impacts and informing options to respond to those impacts. For example, the program is developing forecasting tools to protect people from wildfire smoke­—a health hazard that particularly affects children, older adults, and people with heart or lung disease.

ELIMINATED: Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Research Grants

As my colleague Lissa Lynch and I wrote earlier this year, STAR grants support research intended to protect our air and water from both local pollution and global climate change. In fact, one of recent accomplishments championed in the EPA’s budget package is the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis Air Pollution Study, which was funded through a 10-year STAR grant.

ELIMINATED: The “Climate” Part of the Air, Climate, and Energy Research Program

One of the most jarring ideas in the proposed budget is the wholesale removal of about $18.5 million in climate research funding from what is currently known as the Air, Climate, and Energy (ACE) Research Program. The EPA’s justification for the budget proposal renames the program as “Air and Energy” (AE), saying it “will attempt to measure progress toward environmental health goals, and translate research results to inform communities and individuals about measures to reduce impacts of air pollution.” There’s just one problem, though: unhealthy air and climate change are inextricably linked. And it’s not like ACE was under performing when it came to its research goals. Over each of the last five budget cycles, the research program completed between 87 and 100 percent of its planned research products.

Today’s proposal is the equivalent of a cranky child sticking her fingers in her ears and singing “la la la.” Our leaders in Washington need to grow up and face the unpleasant fact that climate change is bad for our health. Pretending otherwise is unacceptable, and fails the people those leaders are supposed to represent. 

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