The President's proposed 2019 federal budget, which includes dramatic cuts to climate change programs and already carries a hefty addition to the national debt, could be even more dangerous for US fiscal health than it appears.
That’s because it almost entirely eliminates funding for climate change programs.
The White House released its $4.4 trillion budget proposal on Monday, which includes a $200 billion plan for funding infrastructure projects throughout the country over the next decade.
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The budget request calls for more military funding, private partnerships for infrastructure investments, and deep cuts to welfare programs like food stamps, Medicare, and Medicaid, the New York Times reports.
“The current fiscal path is unsustainable, and future generations deserve better,” President Donald Trump wrote in a foreword to the budget. “The Budget makes the hard choices needed to stop wasteful spending, lower the national debt, and focus Government on what matters most—protecting the Nation.”
Despite this emphasis on fiscal sustainability, the budget is expected to add $7 trillion to the national debt over 10 years, according to the Times.
And for all the administration’s stated concern about using public money efficiently, the broader budget and the infrastructure plan are cutting a few billion dollars in climate change funding that could end up costing the US hundreds of billions if not trillions of dollars in the years ahead.
“President Trump’s infrastructure proposal is a disaster,” Shelley Poticha, managing director of the Healthy People & Thriving Communities Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. “It fails to offer the investment needed to bring our country into the 21st century.”
A 30% cut is recommended for the the Environmental Protection Agency, which would bring the agency to its lowest level of funding since 1991 and would eliminate most climate change programs ranging from promoting energy efficiency to researching renewable energy, according to Business Insider.
The budget proposal asks to eliminate the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency’s program to study sea-level rise, end the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood-mapping projects, scrap the Energy Department’s renewable energy ventures, shed aid for countries most affected by climate change, drastically reduce NASA’s efforts to study climate change with satellite footage, and more, Business Insider reports.
When it comes to infrastructure, the plan fails to stipulate funding for climate change resilience, the Times reports.
That follows the Trump administration’s decision to rescind Obama-era rules to consider the consequences of climate change when building coastal infrastructure.
From a purely fiscal perspective, that’s a dangerous oversight because the costs of climate change are increasing throughout the US.
Over the past decade, for example, the US shelled out more than $350 billion on climate change-related damages.
And the costs of Hurricanes Harvey and Maria alone could climb into the hundreds of billions of dollars.
As extreme weather patterns and sea level rise accelerate, the damage done to private and public infrastructure will most likely exceed the Trump administration’s infrastructure allocations.
In the proposed budget, the White House argues that latest cuts are to reduce redundancies and inefficiencies.
“I believe we can fulfill the mission of our agency with a trimmed budget, with proper leadership and management,” EPA director Scott Pruitt said last year in anticipation of earlier proposed cuts.
But the wholesale elimination of climate change programs across the federal government sets the US for long-term economic decline.
As climate change intensifies, health care costs from heat waves, increased pollution, and more are expected to climate.
Industries such as agriculture, fishing, insurance, and tourism are expected to be severely affected by climate change.
And with the budget proposal, the US is signalling it no longer wishes to remain competitive in the booming field of renewable energy.
Further, as drought, extreme weather, ocean acidification and more sweep across the globe, many countries are at risk of becoming destabilized, which threatens US security.
The White House budget is just a recommendation and has little chance of passing through Congress unchanged, the Times reports.
But even if it’s mostly symbolic in nature, it continues the administration’s campaign of denying the threat posed by climate change.
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