Measuring greenhouse gases is crucial to managing climate change. In recent years, NASA has monitored carbon dioxide and methane through their Carbon Monitoring System (CMS). It is a $10-million-a-year research project. But now, President Trump has quietly dismantled the CMS.
This move jeopardizes plans to verify the national emission cuts agreed to in the Paris climate accords, says Kelly Sims Gallagher. She directs Tufts University’s Center for International Environment and Resource Policy in Medford, Massachusetts.
A Grave Mistake
“If you cannot measure emissions reductions, you cannot be confident that countries are adhering to the agreement,” she says. Canceling the CMS “is a grave mistake,” she adds.
This is the latest move in the Trump administration’s attack on climate science. The CMS is not alone, the administration has cancelled other climate missions like the Orbiting Carbon Observatory 3 (OCO-3).
The CMS is an obvious target for the Trump administration. It has association with climate treaties and works to help foreign nations understand their emissions, says Phil Duffy. He is the president of the Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts.
Less Capable of Tracking Changes in Carbon
The end of the CMS is disappointing and “means we’re going to be less capable of tracking changes in carbon,” said Stephen Hagen. He is a senior scientist at Applied GeoSolutions in Newmarket, New Hampshire.
The CMS improved other carbon monitoring as well. It supported efforts by the city of Providence to combine multiple data sources into a picture of its greenhouse gas emissions, and identify ways to reduce them. It has tracked the dissolved carbon in the Mississippi River as it flows out into the ocean. And it has paid for researchers led by Daniel Jacob, an atmospheric chemist at Harvard University, to refine their satellite-based observations of methane.
“It’s an ironic time to kill the program,” said Daniel Jacob, an atmospheric chemist at Harvard University.
“We really shoot ourselves in the foot if we let other people develop the technology,” Phil Duffy commented.
George Hurtt, a carbon cycle researcher at the University of Maryland in College Park, holds out hope that NASA will restore the program. After all, he says, the problem isn’t going away. “The topic of climate mitigation and carbon monitoring is maybe not the highest priority now in the United States,” he says. “But it is almost everywhere else.”