Politics

The Trump Administration’s Science Budget Memo Leaves Out Climate Science

President Donald Trump waves goodbye after announcing his decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement in the Rose Garden at the White House on June 1st, 2017.

For the second year in a row, the White House’s annual memo to science agencies about what research to focus on makes no mention of climate change. In every previous version of these memos that Pacific Standard has found—dating back to this document, which the George W. Bush administration published in 2003—the White House declared climate science a top priority.

“This document really conveys the administration’s opposition to climate change research,” says Romany Webb, a fellow at the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University. The Sabin Center included the memo on its list of government actions that restrict science research and dissemination. “The administration has, in many ways, gone beyond what previous administrations have done to actually attack climate science,” Webb says.

That said, what this memo will ultimately mean for climate science’s place in America’s budget is still uncertain. On the one hand, in recent years, agencies such as NASA and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration have taken the annual research and development memo seriously when writing up their budgets for White House approval. “The agencies paid a lot of attention to this letter,” says John Holdren, former science adviser to President Barack Obama. The science adviser issues the memo jointly with the director of the Office of Management and Budget. “It was made clear to them—by the director of OMB, by me, and by the president himself—that they would do better in the budget process if they paid attention,” Holdren says.


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