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President Trump’s 2020 Budget: A Dangerous Exercise in Ignoring the Reality and Threat of Climate Change

Mar 22, 2019

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To achieve its deep and irresponsible reductions to non-defense discretionary spending, the President’s 2020 budget slashes clean energy and climate science programs, ignoring the government’s own experts, who recognize that communities across the country are already beginning to feel the harmful effects of the climate crisis. Although the budget fails to provide transparent, consolidated information on its treatment of climate change, a review of significant programs across agencies paints a disturbing picture, especially for the programs most likely to have the most direct positive impact.

Abandons clean energy innovation

The Department of Energy (DOE) supports the largest share of government research, development, and commercialization-readiness programs to advance clean energy technology and the industries it can create. The budget cuts DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy by an astounding 86 percent, crippling U.S. innovation in solar, wind, electric vehicle, biofuel, and home and industrial efficiency technologies. It eliminates the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) for high-risk, high-reward energy research; the Weatherization Assistance Program for low-income families; and Loan and Loan Guarantee Programs for innovative energy and vehicle technologies. Other applied energy programs for electric grid, nuclear, and fossil energy technologies, including carbon capture and storage, are reduced by 26 percent.

Eviscerates EPA climate programs

The Environmental Protection Agency’s clean air programs include climate research, greenhouse gas tracking, and emissions reduction activities – and the budget appears to eliminate all of them, except for minimal funding for those required by law. The Atmospheric Protection Program, which provides data and analysis on greenhouse gas emissions and manages voluntary climate-related partnership programs, is cut by 87 percent, with 14 partnership programs eliminated. Reductions of 66 percent to the EPA’s Air and Energy Research Program include $17 million in cuts to climate change research. The EPA’s Federal Vehicle and Fuels Standards and Certification program, which implements vehicle emission standards and the Renewable Fuel Standard Program, is reduced by 17 percent. Meanwhile, the EPA would continue to work on rulemakings to replace the Clean Power Plan and weaken other pollution regulations.

Shrinks federal investment in climate science

Coordinated, cross-agency climate research under the auspices of the U.S. Global Change Research Program seeks to advance scientific knowledge of the integrated Earth system, inform timely decisions on adaptation and mitigation, conduct sustained assessments, and foster greater public understanding. The budget reduces this scientific funding, including:

  • U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) – a 46 percent cut to the Climate Adaptation Science Center, disinvesting in science to inform land-use decisions, support adaptive management plans, and protect U.S. natural resources.
  • DOE Office of Science – a 30 percent cut to Biological and Environmental Research, impacting advanced research and computational modeling of Earth’s interconnected systems.
  • National Science Foundation (NSF) – an approximately 12 percent cut to U.S. Global Change Research, across multiple directorates, affecting fundamental research on the interaction among physical, chemical, biological, and human systems. NSF’s “Navigating the New Arctic” Big Idea to understand the Arctic’s rapid changes would continue.
  • USGS – a 12 percent cut to the National Land Imaging Program, reducing investments in remote sensing capability for understanding of how land and resources are changing at local, regional, and global scales.
  • NASA – an 8 percent cut to Earth Science, including the termination of two missions to implement new and more accurate methods for monitoring oceans and the climate.

Favors fossil fuels in permitting and deployment

The Department of the Interior oversees the permitting, leasing, and development of energy resources on public lands and the Outer Continental Shelf. The budget increases Bureau of Land Management (BLM) funding for both renewable energy and oil, gas, and coal management by 2 to 3 percent. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management funding for offshore wind permitting is reduced by 2 percent; its offshore oil and gas leasing program is expanded by 10 percent.

Guts funding for climate adaptation and resilience activities

Preparing for the impacts of climate change on American communities, infrastructure, and natural resources is increasingly crucial. Successfully building resiliency often involves integrating climate considerations into existing programs – which the Trump Administration is failing to do. The budget reduces BLM’s Soil, Water, and Air Management funding by 54 percent and eliminates its climate change program. It cuts non-fee funding for FEMA’s Flood Hazard Mapping and Risk Analysis Program by 62 percent, slowing efforts to map waterways, assess flood risks, and provide data for the National Flood Insurance Program. It proposes crop insurance reforms that decrease support for insurance premiums, commodity payments, and conservation programs, even in the face of increasing droughts and risks to agricultural productivity. The budget does include up to $2.25 billion for additional wildfire suppression if needed – but without acknowledging the role of climate change in the increasing frequency and intensity of wildfires.

Walks away from international climate change assistance

Climate change is a global issue, and the U.S. needs to take a leading role in assisting developing countries in their mitigation and adaptation efforts. The budget cuts economic and development assistance at the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development by 32 percent, but detailed sector allocations are not yet available. It is likely, however, that bilateral and multilateral funding for international environment and climate change programs will be drastically reduced, including for clean energy, adaptation, and land-use and forest management activities.

Biases tax expenditures in favor of carbon-producing fuels

The President’s budget also eliminates $18 billion over 10 years in tax incentives for renewable energy, residential energy efficiency, and plug-in electric vehicle deployment – while preserving more than $28 billion in estimated tax expenditures for the oil, gas, and coal industries.

The President's 2020 budget:  selected clean energy and climate change programs[1]

($ in millions)



FY 2019
Enact. or Est.

FY 2020
Pres Budget

FY 2020 change
from FY 2019

Clean Energy Innovation

DOE - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy






DOE - Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy






DOE - Other Applied Energy Programs







EPA Climate Programs

EPA - Atmospheric Protection Program






EPA - Air and Energy Research






EPA - Federal Vehicle and Fuels Standards and Cert.








Climate Science

NASA - Science - Earth Science






DOE - Science - Biological & Environmental Research






NSF - U.S. Global Change Research Program






NOAA - Climate Research






USGS - National Land Imaging Program






USGS - Climate Adaptation Science Center








Adaptation and Resilience

FEMA - Flood Hazard Mapping and Risk Analysis






BLM - Soil, Water, and Air Management








Permitting and Deployment

BLM - Energy and Minerals Management






BOEM - Renewable Energy





* Not yet available.  The President’s 2019 budget provided $99 million for NOAA’s Climate Research activity.






[1] This table is intended to provide a representative sample of significant climate-relevant programs, but it does not provide a complete accounting, nor are all activities within selected programs designed to address climate change.