Amendments to kill U.S. funding for IPCC proposed for House 2011 appropriations bill

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Proposed amendments that would eliminate U.S. funding for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are among hundreds of amendments that would modify legislation (H.R. 1), currently being debated on the House floor, to fund the U.S. government through September 30.

The following is re-posted from the World Wildlife Fund Climate Blog.

U.S. House of Representatives Considers Amendments to Eliminate Support for International Climate Change Assessment

Published by Nick Sundt on Fri, 02/18/2011

… WWF on 16 February joined a large coalition of other groups -- representing millions of Americans -- in sending a letter to members of Congress urging them "to oppose all anti-environmental amendments to H.R. 1, the Full Year Continuing Resolution, 2011. The bill already includes destructive cuts and unrelated policy provisions that would harm our air, water, lands, oceans, wildlife and families and communities. We urge you to support any efforts to remove these provisions and to oppose anti-environmental amendments that would further worsen this already terrible bill..."

Among the amendments mentioned in the letter are the following:

  • Amendment No. 574, offered by Rep. Stevan Pearce (R-NM):  "None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to make any contribution on behalf of the United States to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
  • Amendment No. 149, introduced by Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer (Republican, Missouri):  "None of the funds made available by this Act may be used for contributions to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)."  A press release issued by Luetkemeyer on 11 February 2011 (Luetkemeyer Bill Seeks to Prohibit U.S. Contributions to UN Climate Change Panel) characterized the IPCC as "an organization fraught with waste and engaged in dubious science."

He introduced similar legislation in July 2009. In a press release Luetkemeyer issued on 8 July 2009, he outlandishly claimed that the IPCC "is nothing more than a group of U.N. bureaucrats that supports man-made claims on global warming that many scientists disagree with" and that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency "recently reported that we are undergoing a period of worldwide cooling."  He also claimed that the legislation would save taxpayers $12.5 million -- a wildly inflated claim since the recent average annual U.S. contribution to the IPCC is closer to $2 million.  

The United States contributes funds to the IPCC Trust Fund, which one IPCC document [PDF] characterized as follows:

"The IPCC Trust Fund is vital to the existence of IPCC. Its Secretariat, participation of developing countries and economies in transition in IPCC activities, communication, and many other activities are fully dependent of availability of the Fund's resources. The Fund, at its turn, is entirely dependent on voluntary contributions by governments."

The budget for the IPCC in FY2011 is on the order of $10.5 million.

These are not the only members of the House who have sought to choke off support for the IPCC.  In January, the Republican Study Committee -- representing 175 House Republicans -- recommended that the U.S. eliminate its contribution to IPCC funding.  See House Republican group proposes to kill U.S. funding for the IPCC – and a great deal more, Climate Science Watch, 20 January 2011. 

In March 2010, Texas Congressman Joe Barton (Republican), who at the time was the ranking minority member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, sought to halt U.S funding for the panel (see Congressman wants halt to U.S. contributions to IPCC pending full audit, press release from committee Republicans, 4 March 2010). 

Four months earlier (in December 2009), Barton dismissed mounting evidence that climate is rapidly changing, that the impacts already are evident, and that it is being driven by rapidly increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases emissions from human activities.  "We don’t have an icecap in Texas," said Barton, apparently suggesting that melting polar ice was not a concern in his state. See Texas Congressman in Copenhagen Dismisses Climate Science: "We don’t have an icecap in Texas," WWF Climate Change Blog, 23 November 2009.

WWF responds to the latest attempt to cut U.S. funding for the IPCC:

  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a collaboration of hundreds of volunteering US scientists alongside scientists from 194 countries around the world. It represents knowledge-sharing on an unprecedented scale. 
  • The IPCC compiles and assesses what the world’s best scientists know about climate change. It doesn’t do new research; it pulls together already published research and explains it to policymakers and the public. This process is absolutely critical to supplying the facts that policymakers need in order to make informed decisions.
  • Amendments #149 (Luetkemeyer) and #574 (Pearce) would eliminate US funding for the IPCC. These amendments are an attack on science and our efforts to understand and communicate America's best science on climate change. Given the potential risks and uncertainties that we are facing, we need more answers, not fewer.  If there are those who have questions about climate science, then they should be the ones most supportive of pursuing the science that can help to answer those questions.
  • The US is and must remain a scientific leader. Ours are some of the best science and scientists in the world. Science has been the foundation of our advancement and our international standing. Our country is a major source of the best knowledge on climate change and an essential partner in the IPCC. It makes no sense for us to disengage from a process we have helped to lead. By eliminating the ability of the US to contribute to one of the world's major scientific bodies, these amendments would undercut both American science and America's leadership.
  • The modest funding the US provides to the IPCC (just over $2 million dollars per year) specifically funds efforts to assess the impacts of climate change and ways we can reduce our vulnerability to them. The cost of these impacts and vulnerabilities are expected to grow to hundreds of billions of dollars annually in the US alone by mid-century. Denying funding to this process will leave US policymakers in the dark about threats and vulnerabilities affecting the American people, including drought in the southeast, water shortages in the west, and sea level rise along our coastal states. By stifling science, these amendments would leave the US ill-informed and ill-prepared, thereby increasing the costs to the American taxpayer in the long-run.
  • America keeps its promises. This amendment seeks to break an international commitment to contribute to the IPCC - a promise first made by President George H.W. Bush and ratified by the US Congress. This small amount of money carries a great deal of weight when it comes to US standing in the world.  Breaking our bipartisan promise to support the IPCC will undermine that standing and hurt US foreign policy goals.
  • There has been long-term bipartisan support for investments in scientific research, including climate science. People may disagree about potential policy solutions, but we should all be able to agree that we have to keep improving our knowledge of the science and potential threats. We cannot just bury our heads in the sand.
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