Proposed NOAA budget cuts could be tough for Southerners to weather

Charleston tour guide Larry Gerald live streams himself on social media as he crosses flooded S. Market Street in the wake of Hurricane Matthew on October 8, 2016. Charleston is expected to see more frequent and more severe storms in coming years. (© Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

Budget cuts that might strip hundreds of millions of dollars from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration could make it harder for the agency to track changes in the Earth’s climate and to help coastal communities brace for rising sea levels.

The cuts, part of a proposed $1.5 billion reduction to the Commerce Department budget, which includes NOAA, would target several programs, including those that monitor polar ice and prepare coastal communities for higher water levels and fiercer storms.

“This would be two strikes for vulnerable coastal communities like Charleston,” said Chris DeScherer, managing attorney in SELC’s Charleston office. “The Trump Administration is already reversing strides in addressing climate change and sea-level rise, and these cuts could jeopardize the tools needed to track bad weather and surging seas.”

NOAA also oversees the National Weather Service, which maintains an orbiting armada of satellites. The data collected by the satellites and by other means helps monitor environmental changes that affect polar ice and the level of the seas.

“With global warming, storms wil get worse,” DeScherer said. “Now, more than ever, people who live in places like Charleston need the most accurate weather forecasts and data available because they’re increasingly at risk from hurricanes and other large storms. Budget cuts to NOAA will have real effects on the millions of people who live along the coasts.”

According to the National Weather Service’s web site, the agency costs each American about $3 per year, or “the cost of your favorite specialty coffee drink.”

The Trump Administration’s proposed budget would also entirely eliminate research and funding to help coastal communities become more resilient to flooding, according to the Washington Post and Climate Central.

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