Trump White House quietly cancels NASA research verifying greenhouse gas cuts

By Paul Voosen - Science Magazine - May 9, 2018

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. The adage is especially relevant for climate-warming greenhouse gases, which are crucial to manage—and challenging to measure. In recent years, though, satellite and aircraft instruments have begun monitoring carbon dioxide and methane remotely, and NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System (CMS), a $10-million-a-year research line, has helped stitch together observations of sources and sinks into high-resolution models of the planet’s flows of carbon. Now, President Donald Trump’s administration has quietly killed the CMS, Science has learned.

The move jeopardizes plans to verify the national emission cuts agreed to in the Paris climate accords, says Kelly Sims Gallagher, director of Tufts University’s Center for International Environment and Resource Policy in Medford, Massachusetts. “If you cannot measure emissions reductions, you cannot be confident that countries are adhering to the agreement,” she says. Canceling the CMS “is a grave mistake,” she adds.

The White House has mounted a broad attack on climate science, repeatedly proposing cuts to NASA’s earth science budget, including the CMS, and cancellations of climate missions such as the Orbiting Carbon Observatory 3 (OCO-3). Although Congress fended off the budget and mission cuts, a spending deal signed in March made no mention of the CMS. That allowed the administration’s move to take effect, says Steve Cole, a NASA spokesperson in Washington, D.C. Cole says existing grants will be allowed to finish up, but no new research will be supported.

The agency declined to provide a reason for the cancellation beyond “budget constraints and higher priorities within the science budget.” But the CMS is an obvious target for the Trump administration because of its association with climate treaties and its work to help foreign nations understand their emissions, says Phil Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts. And, unlike the satellites that provide the data, the research line had no private contractor to lobby for it.

Many of the 65 projects supported by the CMS since 2010 focused on understanding the carbon locked up in forests. For example, the U.S. Forest Service has long operated the premier land-based global assessment of forest carbon, but the labor-intensive inventories of soil and timber did not extend to the remote interior of Alaska. With CMS financing, NASA scientists worked with the Forest Service to develop an aircraft-based laser imager to tally up forest carbon stocks. “They’ve now completed an inventory of forest carbon in Alaska at a fraction of the cost,” says George Hurtt, a carbon cycle researcher at the University of Maryland in College Park, who leads the CMS science team.

The program has also supported research to improve tropical forest carbon inventories. Many developing nations have been paid to prevent deforestation through mechanisms like the United Nations’s REDD+ program, which is focused on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation . But the limited data and tools for monitoring tropical forest change often meant that claimed reductions were difficult to trust. Stephen Hagen, a senior scientist at Applied GeoSolutions in Newmarket, New Hampshire, was part of a team that with the Indonesian National Institute of Aeronautics and Space developed laser-mapping tools to automatically detect new roads and gaps in tropical forests, monitoring that helped the Indonesian government apply for REDD+ funding. The end of the CMS is disappointing and “means we’re going to be less capable of tracking changes in carbon,” Hagen says.

The CMS improved other carbon monitoring as well. It supported efforts by the city of Providence to combine multiple data sources into a picture of its greenhouse gas emissions, and identify ways to reduce them. It has tracked the dissolved carbon in the Mississippi River as it flows out into the ocean. And it has paid for researchers led by Daniel Jacob, an atmospheric chemist at Harvard University, to refine their satellite-based observations of methane.

It’s an ironic time to kill the program, Jacob says. NASA is planning several space-based carbon observatories, including the OCO-3, which is set to be mounted on the International Space Station later this year, and the Geostationary Carbon Cycle Observatory, due for launch early next decade. The CMS would help knit all these observations together. “It would be a total shame to wind [it] down,” Jacob says.

This type of research is likely to continue, Duffy adds, but leadership will pass to Europe, which already operates one carbon-monitoring satellite, with more on the way. “We really shoot ourselves in the foot if we let other people develop the technology,” he says, given how important the techniques will be in managing low-carbon economies in the future. Hurtt, meanwhile, holds out hope that NASA will restore the program. After all, he says, the problem isn’t going away. “The topic of climate mitigation and carbon monitoring is maybe not the highest priority now in the United States,” he says. “But it is almost everywhere else.”

Paul Voosen is a staff writer who covers Earth and planetary science.

PUCO offers electrical safety tips

Public Utilities Commission of Ohio

COLUMBUS (May 3, 2018) – In recognition of National Electrical Safety Month this May, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) offers tips to stay safe when working around electricity, indoors and outdoors.

Electricity plays a vital part in everyday life. Using electricity, you can turn on lights, prepare meals and complete home improvement projects. However, electricity is a very powerful force, and if proper safety measures are not taken, can be extremely dangerous and even deadly.

You can prevent accidents by practicing safety around electric appliances, tools and power lines.

Indoor safety:

  • Check to make sure all electric cords are free of fraying or cracking. Replace any cords that may be damaged.
  • When unplugging appliances, always pull from the plug, not the cord.
  • Avoid using extension cords, especially for a long period of time. Do not string extension cords together, and make sure the appliances do not exceed the amperage capability of the extension cord.
  • Unplug appliances when they are not in use.
  • Keep all electric appliances away from sinks, baths and other water sources. If an appliance falls into water, never reach in to get it.
  • Never use a metal object to dislodge something from an electrical appliance.
  • Make sure all electric plugs fit securely into the outlet. Never try to force a plug into an outlet, or use another object to make the plug fit.
  • Avoid overloading an outlet with too many appliances.

Outdoor safety:

  • Keep all ladders, scaffolding and tools at least 10 feet away from any overhead power lines. For high-voltage lines, allow even more clearance. Remember that overhead power lines are not insulated like normal electric cords, so you should never touch an overhead line.
  • Use clean, dry wood or fiberglass ladders around electric lines instead of metal.
  • When installing a satellite dish on a roof, allow a distance of at least 1.5 times the length of the dish away from any power line. If the dish falls during installation, do not attempt to catch it.
  • Before beginning a project that requires digging, call the Ohio Utilities Protection Service (OUPS) at 8-1-1 to have underground electric and utility wires marked. Call at least 48 hours before digging.
  • Select low-growing plants and shrubs that will not grow high enough to touch overhead power lines. If you are landscaping near an electric pad-mounted transformer, plant at least 10 feet away from it.
  • Do not attempt to trim trees or shrubs that are growing near power lines. Call the local electric utility if there are trees growing too close to a power line.
  • Do not use electric powered lawn tools in wet conditions.
  • Always wear rubber-soled shoes or boots when using electric lawn tools. Never operate an electric tool barefoot.
  • Never allow children to climb trees that are touching electric lines.
  • Never allow children to fly kites, balloons or other toys near power lines. If a flying toy becomes tangled in a power line, do not attempt to retrieve it. Instead, call the local electric utility for assistance.


  • If an electrical appliance catches on fire, do not try to put the fire out with water. Unplug the appliance, turn off the fuse or circuit, and use a fire extinguisher approved for use on electrical fires.
  • If you are in a car and come in contact with a downed power line, stay in the car and call for help. If you need to get out of the car, jump away from the car and do not touch both the car and the ground at the same time. Immediately call for help, and do not provide physical assistance to anyone who may still be in the car.
  • By keeping these safety tips in mind, you can prevent electrical accidents from happening and be prepared to respond if an accident occurs.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) is the sole agency charged with regulating public utility service. The role of the PUCO is to assure all residential, business and industrial consumers have access to adequate, safe and reliable utility services at fair prices while facilitating an environment that provides competitive choices. Consumers with utility-related questions or concerns can call the PUCO Call Center at (800) 686-PUCO (7826) and speak with a representative.

Beware Of Common Moving Scams Before Packing Your Boxes

Columbus (May 3, 2018) — May is National Moving Month, when many leases are up and residents throughout Central Ohio prepare to move into a new house or apartment. Over the past year, consumers across North America have searched for movers over 1.4 million times with BBB.

Be sure to do careful research when hiring a moving company to avoid turning relocating into an expensive nightmare. Moving scams can include missing items, massive price hikes, and in some cases, goods being held hostage for additional payment.

How the Scam Works:

There are several versions of moving scams. The simplest is getting a quote and leaving a deposit, but the “movers” never show. In another variation, the moving company quotes a price based on weight. After loading, they inform you that your belongings went over the weight estimate and the additional weight will be a lot more per pound (sometimes double).

With the most egregious scheme, everything seems to be fine. The movers quote a price, arrive on time, and load your belongings on a truck. But when the truck doesn’t show up at your new home, either your belongings are simply gone forever or are being held “hostage” and you have to pay another fee before scammers will deliver them.

Tips to Spot This Scam:

Watch out for signs of a fly-by-night company. Look out for company websites that have no address or information about a mover’s registration or insurance. Another warning is if telephone calls are answered with a generic “movers” rather than a company name, or the mover uses rented trucks. Another tip-off is the moving company that doesn’t make an on-site inspection but does estimates over the phone.

Be wary of unusual requests. If a mover asks for a large down payment or full payment in advance, that may be a warning sign. And if a company says it won’t return your items to you without more money than you agreed to pay, contact BBB or local law enforcement for help.

Get everything in writing. Check licensing with the authorities, confirm insurance coverage, and get a written contract. Carefully read the terms and conditions of the contract, as well as the limits of liability and any disclaimers.

Make sure pick-up and delivery dates are spelled out and understand how the rate is being calculated. Don’t pay cash and don’t prepay or make a large deposit. Understand the terms of the insurance coverage and consider purchasing full value protection.

Keep an inventory of your belongings. Make a detailed inventory of your property and number the boxes they are packed in for tracking. Know that a mover is not liable for loss or damage of contents in customer-packed boxes, unless there is provable negligence on the part of the mover.

Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything you don’t understand. If the moving company can’t or won’t answer your questions, you might want to look for another mover.

About BBB

For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2017, people turned to BBB more than 160 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Central Ohio, which was founded in 1921 and serves 21 counties in Central Ohio.

BBB Scam Spotlight: April 2018

Columbus (May 8, 2018) — Each year, one in four North American households are scammed. Because money loss and identity theft can happen to anyone, BBB encourages community members to protect and inform others by reporting any scam-related experiences to BBB’s Scam Tracker.

In April, Central Ohio consumers reported over $16,000.00 lost to scams.

BBB analyzed 66 Scam Tracker reports from April 2018 to shed a spotlight on three scams affecting our Central Ohio community:

1. Sweepstakes Scam:

A Circleville, Ohio woman reported losing $8,697 to a sweepstakes scam. She received a letter from the “Publishers Clearing House Award Notification Department”, claiming she had won $600,000 in a one time payment. Enclosed was a check for $8,697.13 and directions to call a phone number. She called and spoke with someone using the name Andrew Goldberg who told her to deposit the check and tell the bank the money was for roof repairs. The next day, he called back instructing her to keep $100, put the rest of the cash in an envelope, place the envelope in the middle of a magazine, take it to FedEx and deliver it to an address in Atlanta, Georgia. She sent it as a private delivery as requested but later realized the check was bad and she now owed the full amount to the bank.

A 70 year old woman from Reynoldsburg, Ohio lost $1,950 to a Publishers Clearing House Scam as well. She received a call from a man using the name Dave Sawyer, claiming to be with Publishers Clearing House. He told her she had won $8.5 million plus a 2018 Mercedes Benz. The man urged her to keep the situation private, telling her that her friends and family would be asking her for money. In order to finalize everything, the scammer told her to transfer $1,000 to Lauderdale, Florida. The man then called back after receiving the money, and asked for $950 more – assuring her that she would soon receive $500,000. She sent the $950 through a Walmart to Walmart money transfer. After, her husband went online and found a phone number for Publishers Clearing House that also ended up being fake. He called, and talked to a person named Jonathan Ward who connected him to a Dr. Charles Brown. He was told not to talk to Dave Sawyer again because he was a scammer, but that Dr. Charles Brown could get their money back for $1,000. After explaining that they didn’t have the money, he agreed to take $250 wired through Western Union to an address in Jamaica. The payment failed through Western Union. Growing skeptical, she searched online for how Publishers Clearing House gives out prizes, and realized she had been scammed.

You should never have to pay money in order to receive a prize. Be especially wary of requests to send money via wire, prepaid debit card, gift card or other unusual forms of payment. You also cannot win a contest you did not enter. You need to buy a ticket or complete an application to participate in a contest or lottery. Be very careful if you’ve been selected as a winner for a contest you never entered.

2. Tech Support Scam:

An Orient, Ohio senior citizen reported losing $750 to a tech support scam. Two years ago, a fake tech support company initially put a pop-up on her computer screen, then called her. She gave them her debit card number, and they recently withdrew $700 out of her bank account. The company contacted her again letting her know they were going out of business and would give her a $170 refund. She did not respond.

Protect yourself from tech support scams:

Don’t ever give a stranger remote access to your machine: Granting someone remote access to your computer permits them to install malware and access your files.

Be wary of anyone calling you and claiming to be from a big-name tech company: Most big tech company employees will not call customers who have not asked to be called.

Don’t believe Caller ID: Victims report falling for this scam because the calls appear to come from Apple Support. Scammers often spoof phone numbers, so don’t believe what you see on your phone.

Think twice when you see a pop-up notification on your computer that isn’t from a program you installed: Scammers make tech support scam pop-ups that look like they’re coming from your computer, but they are actually ads displaying in your internet browser.

3. Debt Collection Scam:

A Lancaster, Ohio Man lost $1,000 to a debt collection scam. He received a call from someone pretending to be from United Payment Services for a check that was declined in 2015. He agreed to let them take $75 every two weeks to make up for the total amount, but later asked multiple times who they were and who they were collecting money for without an answer. He eventually withdrew all of the money from his account so they couldn’t take any more money. They called him back, angry and threatening to take him to court.

If you receive one of these calls, ask the debt collector to provide official “validation notice” of the debt. In the U.S., debt collectors are required by law to provide this information in writing. The notice must include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor, and a statement of your rights. If the self-proclaimed collector won’t provide the information, hang up.

Do not provide any bank account, credit card, or other personally identifiable information over the phone. If the collector is legitimate, they should have details on the accounts in question.

Consumers are encouraged to report scams to BBB Scam Tracker to help protect others in the Central Ohio community.

For more information, follow your BBB on Facebook, Twitter, and at

By Paul Voosen

Science Magazine

May 9, 2018