Representative John Culberson (R–TX, center) with NASA officials in 2015

NASA SMAP/T. Wynne

That NASA climate science program Trump axed? House lawmakers just moved to restore it

A U.S. House of Representatives spending panel voted today to restore a small NASA climate research program that President Donald Trump’s administration had quietly axed. (Click here to read our earlier coverage.)

The House appropriations panel that oversees NASA unanimously approved an amendment to a 2019 spending bill that orders the space agency to set aside $10 million within its earth science budget for a “climate monitoring system” that studies “biogeochemical processes to better understand the major factors driving short and long term climate change.”

That sounds almost identical to the work that NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System (CMS) was doing before the Trump administration targeted the program, which was getting about $10 million annually, for elimination this year. Critics of the move said it jeopardized numerous research projects and plans to verify the national emission cuts agreed to in the Paris climate accords.

Assuming the money is intended to restore the CMS, researchers familiar with the program were hailing the vote. “That's great news!” earth scientist Pontus Olofsson of Boston University wrote in an email. “[W]e need a research program that investigates the use of all the data and tools we now have at our disposal for the how to study, understand and mitigate carbon emissions. NASA CMS is such a research program and it's essential that the program will be allowed to continue its work.”

"Effective climate policies require the ability to accurately and independently measure greenhouse gas emissions,” Philip Duffy, president and executive director of the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts wrote in an email. “I applaud today's bipartisan action.”

The amendment is now part of a $62 billion spending bill covering the departments of commerce, justice, and several science agencies including NASA. It was offered by Representative John Culberson (R–TX), chairman of the spending panel that oversees NASA. Culberson cited the climate program’s importance as part of the agency’s efforts to track all sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Culberson also thanked Representative Matt Cartwright (D–PA) for urging him to restore funding for the monitoring system.

The bill now goes to the full House, and ultimately will need to be reconciled with a parallel bill in the Senate. It will likely be several months before Congress completes action on the 2019 budget.

Here is the text of the amendment:

Under NASA, science, after the paragraph titled Earth Science Decadal, insert the following: Climate Monitoring System: Within the funds provided for Earth Science. Not less than $10 million shall be for a Climate Monitoring program, including competitive grants to help develop the capabilities necessary for monitoring, reporting, and verification of biogeochemical processes to better understand the major factors driving short and long term climate change.