Three weeks ago, Trump released his budget outline for fiscal year 2018. It included a 1.4 billion dollar increase to the National Nuclear Security Administration (the body in charge of building and maintaining the US nuclear arsenal) and cutting the Department of Energy’s funding by 1.7 billion.
But Trump’s fiscal attack on environmental agencies doesn’t stop at the DOE. The budget also seeks to shrink the Environmental Protection Agency’s funding by 31 percent, from $8.1 billion to $5.7 billion, the lowest funding the department has received since the 1970s. The budget also intends to reduce the agency’s workforce by 15,000.
The Environmental Protection Agency–a department charged with the sole purpose of protecting human health and the environment by writing and enforcing regulations based on Congressionally approved laws—is now run by Scott Pruitt, a former Oklahoma attorney general and an adamant climate change denier.
Since his confirmation, Pruitt has filled the agency’s top offices with fellow climate change skeptics who are unanimously in favor of rolling back environmental regulations that they see as overly intrusive and harmful to businesses.
Under Trump’s proposed budget, NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, would lose funding for the Sea Grant program, which provides research grants intended to help coastal communities deal with challenges related to climate change. Additionally, it strips $250 million in funding for other NOAA programs that aid in climate change resilience and preparedness like the Climate Resilience Evaluation Awareness Tool, which helps utility companies adapt to extreme weather events.
The EPA also funds scientific research aimed at developing renewable energy resources for coastal and inland communities, like the University of Maine’s floating offshore wind turbines. In addition to harnessing a clean and sustainable energy source, the wind farms would create jobs in an industry that the United States has yet to find footing. New England Aqua Ventus was in line to receive full federal funding under the Obama Administration. If Trump’s budget proposal is passed, it’s unclear where the project would receive comparable financial support.
Billion Dollar Data
NOAA’s National Climate Data Center is responsible for providing access to comprehensive oceanic, atmospheric, and geophysical data. It’s the nation’s leading authority for environmental information.
2015 and 2016 were the hottest years on record. NOAA’s scientists predict that without severe environmental regulations and protections, the climate will continue to warm at an alarming rate with visable consequences.
One of their datasets tracks billion dollar weather and climate disasters in real time. It records large-scale climate disasters in the United States which result in over billion dollar damages, with data from 1980 up until April 6th of this year. In 2016 alone there were 15 billion dollar climate disasters.
According to their research, each geographic region of the U.S. faces a unique combination of weather and climate events. For instance, the highest frequency of inland flood events often occur in states near large rivers or the Gulf of Mexico, which is a warm source of moisture to fuel rainstorms.
Drought impacts are mostly isolated to the West Coast, Southern, and Plains states—where crop and livestock assets are densely populated. Severe local storm events are common across the Plains, the Southeast and the Ohio River Valley states.
Winter storm impacts are concentrated in the Northeastern states. Tropical cyclone impacts range from Texas to New England but also impact many inland states. Each disaster type has a distinct footprint of impact over time.
Within this subset, the natural disasters that cause the most damage, relative to cost and death, are flooding and tropical storms—both of which scientists predict will increase as the climate continues to warm.
The data also shows that climate change disproportionately impacts states with the same recurring natural disasters. The U.S. South/Central and Southeast regions experience a higher frequency of billion-dollar disaster events than any other region.
Though only the third most frequent, Tropical cyclones have caused the most damage ($566 billion since 1980), averaging $16.2 billion per event. They’re also responsible for the highest number of deaths. Inland flooding has also caused $114.4 billion in damages since 1980.
Without proper funding under the Trump Administration, increased climate disasters will hit coastal regions in two ways. First by crumbling their infrastructure and putting residents in danger, then by economically exploiting their vulnerability to developers who are looking to make a profit out of their misfortune. In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina, real estate companies purchased land before homeowners could return, robbing them of the opportunity to assess their property damage or formulate a financial plan.
Trump’s Priority Check
On March 23rd, just one week after Trump budget outline was released, Fox News anchor Chris Wallace visited the White House to interview President Trump. The two briefly touched on the president’s views regarding the preservation of the environment and the EPA.
Trump: Environmental Protection? What they do is a disgrace! Every week they come out with new regulations that make it impossible—
Wallace: Who’s going to protect the environment?
Trump: We’ll be fine with the environment—we can leave a little bit. But you can’t go destroy businesses.
By refusing to acknowledge climate change as a factor, invest in renewable energy, and abolishing departments and funding meant to protect these vulnerable populations, Trump and his administration are really outlining where their priorities lie—in their pockets, not their people.
Trump’s budget reflects his opinion that the American government is a corporation of employees, not a country full of citizens. He thinks Commander-in-Chief is synonymous with Chief Executive Officer.