By Mark K. Matthews, E&E News on January 4, 2019
The government shutdown might only be a partial one, but not when it comes to federal climate efforts.
Among the dozens of agencies and departments shuttered by the shutdown—now in its 14th day—are several shops that spearhead the government’s response to global warming, notably NASA, NOAA, the Agriculture Department and EPA.
The impact, so far, has been irritating if not terribly consequential, said activists, analysts and former agency officials. Travel has been curtailed, for example, and research largely has been put on hold.
But they warned that the problems would multiply if President Trump and congressional Democrats can’t reach a deal quickly to reopen the federal government.
“The inevitable result [of a shutdown] is that everything costs more and you do less,” said Keith Cowing, editor of the space publication NASA Watch.
Most of NASA’s workforce has been furloughed, with the exception of top officials and those who work on critical missions such as the continued operation of the International Space Station.
That puts NASA’s climate scientists in a strange position, Cowing said. Their instruments and satellites still will collect data, but few if any researchers will be around to analyze the information.
“What’s affecting them is affecting every mission at NASA,” he said. “There’s nobody there. The lights are not on.”
It’s a similar situation at NOAA. A planning document released last month by the Trump administration ordered the suspension of “most research activities” at NOAA in the event of a shutdown.
That’s a bad thing—and not just for NOAA scientists, said Addie Haughey, the associate director of government relations at the Ocean Conservancy, an environmental group.
She said a broad swath of people rely on NOAA for new data, and during a government shutdown, “there’s no one to make it available to the public.”
Travel and research by scientists with NASA, NOAA and the EPA is being impacted