You’ve got to give the administration credit. When the White House makes a decision on budget priorities, it doesn’t mince words.
After the White House released its initial proposals for what does – and doesn’t – get funded in the federal budget – aka “the skinny budget” – Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said in a news briefing:
“As to climate change, I think the president was fairly straightforward: We’re not spending money on that anymore. We consider that to be a waste of your money to go out and do that.”
You can certainly see where Mulvaney’s coming from. After all, one year of climate-related events like catastrophic flooding in Louisiana and wildfires in the West and Southeast only inflicted some $12 billion in damage, wrecking thousands of homes and communities along the way.
So what’s in the skinny budget and what does it mean? Read on.
Waving the White Flag on Climate: By the Numbers
Throughout the campaign and his time in office, the president promised to build a stronger military to protect the country. But to do it – or more accurately, fund a tiny fraction of the military – he’s proposed decimating the programs that help protect our planet. (And just for comparison, the 2017 budget for the Department of Defense was $596 billion; the Environmental Protection Agency was $8.1 billion.) The skinny budget proposes the following cuts.
Environmental Protection Agency
- Proposed total agency cut: 31 percent (from approximately $8.3 billion to $5.7 billion).
- Proposed cut to the Clean Power Plan: 100 percent.
- Proposed cuts to agency climate research and international program cuts: Over $100 million.
- Proposed EPA staff cut: over 20 percent (from 15,500 to 12,300 employees).
- Proposed cut for enforcing pollution laws: 24 percent (from $548 billion to $419 million.)
- Proposed cut to global climate change programs: 100 percent. That’s completely cutting US support for the UN’s low-carbon growth and other climate initiatives.
- Proposed cut to Green Climate Fund and Climate Investment Fund payments: 100 percent (note: climate finance makes up 0.04 percent of the federal budget).
Department of Energy
- Proposed cuts to programs working on new energy technologies: 18 percent.
- Proposed elimination of: Energy Star, Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program, and more clean energy and efficiency initiatives.
- Proposed cut to four Earth science missions (PACE, OCO-3, DSCOVR Earth-viewing instruments, and CLARREO Pathfinder): 100 percent. That’s taking away the eyes in the sky that monitor what’s happening to our planet from above.
And that’s just a snapshot.
It doesn’t take much to imagine the consequences. With fewer staffers monitoring factories and industrial sites, air pollution goes up. Water becomes unsafe to drink in more and more regions. Carbon pollution levels rise and we’re way behind every other global power in cutting emissions and making good on our Paris Agreement commitments.
That’s just in the US. Abroad, with less support from the US, developing nations turn to fossil fuels even as summer temperatures skyrocket, infectious diseases spread, and farmers face increasingly uncertain futures. Worldwide, the threat of food and water shortages grow and the conditions that contributed to the deadly war in Syria and refugee crisis in Europe make the headlines more and more often.
Meanwhile, with key NASA Earth science missions being cut completely, we lose the big picture view of what the crisis is doing to our home. And without the wealth of data these missions provide, scientists’ job in identifying patterns and solutions gets a lot harder.
Put the Whiskey Away
So that’s the bad, deeply troubling news. The good news? In the words of Senator Lindsay Graham (R-South Carolina), the cuts to State in particular are “dead on arrival.” In fact, the president can lay out his budget priorities as forcefully as he wants – it’s Congress that actually sets the budget and then negotiates with the president to get at a government roadmap. To put it another way, the announcement sets a bar. But there’s a whole lot more work to be done before we get to anything like a real budget. Particularly because the skinny budget says nothing about how we pay for anything in it.
So if you’re seeing the headlines about the budget today and reaching for the panic button, don’t. But do get your representative and senators on speed dial because today’s announcement is the opening salvo in a longer fight that will wind through Congress in the coming months. And you know who they represent and who they respond to? You.
With all that’s happened in DC and around the country since January, it’s easy to feel tired. But this is a fight that matters and a fight where you can make a difference. And it’s time to suit up.
The budget tells us what the president wants to do. Now it’s up to us to stop him. Start by standing with Climate Reality and signing our pledge to say you stand with truth and you stand with reality.
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