Environment

Why Donald Trump's Proposed EPA Cuts Come at a Dangerous Time

Even as carbon dioxide levels rise at an unprecedented rate, one report suggests President Donald Trump's cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency might be even deeper than expected. 

According to information obtained by Axios from a White House source on Tuesday, the Trump administration might cut even more of the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget than was indicated by a leak of the preliminary proposal in February. Those initial plans included reducing both the EPA’s budget by 25 percent and its staff by 3,000 employees.

The news comes as “carbon dioxide levels jumped by three parts per million in both 2015 and 2016,” compared to the average increase of about two parts per million over the last 10 years, according to The Washington Post.

These figures come from a 2017 report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is also facing cuts under the 2018 budgetary plans. “The two-year, 6-ppm surge in the greenhouse gas between 2015 and 2017 is unprecedented in the observatory’s 59-year record,” the report notes. The agency claims the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by 25 percent since scientists started observations in 1958.

The report also explains that greenhouse gases, like the carbon dioxide released by burning gasoline, absorb heat that is eventually emitted back into the atmosphere. While this “greenhouse effect” historically “maintains temperatures suitable for life on Earth,” rising levels of greenhouse gases “trap additional heat in the atmosphere and the oceans.”  

Human and Natural Influences on Climate

Despite the evidence, politicians like Scott Pruitt, Trump’s new head of the EPA, continue to deny that these jumps in carbon dioxide are caused by humans and have an effect on climate change.

Scott Pruitt

As the Oklahoma attorney general and an outspoken opponent of environmental regulation, Pruitt sued the EPA thirteen times.

“I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do,” Pruitt recently told CNBC. “I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see. We don’t know that yet.”

The EPA’s own website offers a very different view, stating that “since the Industrial Revolution began around 1750, human activities have contributed substantially to climate change by adding CO2 and other heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere.”

In addition to cutting environmental education programs by almost 94 percent, Trump’s administration also plans to cut climate protection programs by 69 percent and completely eliminate the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, which provides government grants to reduce carbon emissions by replacing diesel engines with cleaner alternatives. Though the EPA’s budget proposal will most likely be altered again before being finalized by the president, environmental activists fear the agency will fall victim to Republican-lead deregulation efforts.

Penn State University meteorology professor David Titley told National Geographic, "It’s like giving a 15-year-old kid a whole bunch of coffee, and then giving them a machete and asking them to do surgery. There’s a lot of a hacking and slashing."