House Science Committee Republicans aim to slash climate and sustainable energy programs


In a letter to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chair Ralph Hall (R-Texas) and 10 of his Republican colleagues have called for budget cuts, and in some cases program terminations, that directly target climate science research and efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for climate change impacts. 

Full text of the October 14 letter here.

The letter was signed by:

Rep. Ralph M. Hall (Texas), Chair
Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (Wisconsin), Vice-Chair
Rep. Paul Broun (Georgia), Chair, Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight
Rep. Steven Palazzo (Mississippi), Chair, Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics
Rep. Mo Brooks (AL), Chair, Subcommittee on Research and Science Education
Rep. Andy Harris (Maryland), Chair, Subcommittee on Energy and Environment
Rep. Lamar Smith (Texas)
Rep. Judy Biggert (Illinois)
Rep. Todd Akin (Missouri)
Rep. Michael McCaul (Texas)
Rep. Randy Hultgren (Illinois)

House Science Committee Republicans October 14 press release

Here are a few of the proposed cuts:

Department of Energy 

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy: Currently funded at a level of $1.8 billion, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERA) funds a wide array of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, including energy-efficient vehicle technologies, building technologies, and industrial technologies, as well as solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass technologies. Proposed cut from current $1.8 billion to $1.2 billion.

The letter says: “We would encourage the Joint Select Committee to look more closely at the following core DOE `clean tech’ programs to achieve reductions in spending: Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), and the Loan Guarantee Program Office (LPO).”

Biological and Environmental Research: “We intend to continue to work to identify areas within the Office of Science which warrant consideration for cuts. Of particular interest in this regard are Biological and Environment Research activities, which fund significant research in areas ancillary to DOE’s primary mission and/or potentially duplicative of research funded elsewhere in the government (such as climate change. … We are concerned that the Atmospheric System Research and the Climate and Earth Modeling programs are duplicative of research programs that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Science Foundation.” Proposed cut from current $611.8 million to $547 million.

Fossil Energy: Current discretionary funding level for R&D support by office is $444 million.  “The vast majority of this funding is directed toward advancing carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) efforts. This nearly exclusive emphasis on a technology that will not be deployed in the absence of cap and trade or similar mandatory carbon constraints – a prospect that was rejected by Congress – is unwise.  We believe the United State must develop domestic energy resources to improve America’s energy security.  Accordingly, we recommend restoring DOE’s Fossil Energy program to its prior focus on fundamental R&D to advance oil and gas exploration and production technologies and enable near-term environmental improvements, such as increasing power plant efficiency and research on non-greenhouse gas related pollution abatement technology.”

NASA, Science Mission Directorate

The Science Mission Directorate plans, develops, and manages NASA’s space and Earth exploration missions (Earth orbiting satellites and releated Earth Science research).

Cancellation of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO)-2 environmental satellite. Received $89.0 million in the FY2011 Continuing Resolution. “$149 million savings over five years. Life cycle cost savings could be higher as NASA struggles to define a launch vehicle to carry OCO-2 to orbit."

Note on OCO: The original Orbiting Carbon Observatory satellite was lost in a launch failure in February 2009. The President’s budget request includes funding to develop and launch a replacement OCO-2 satellite. The OCO mission, sponsored by NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder Program, will carry an instrument that will take the most precise measurements of carbon dioxide ever made from space – accurate enough to show for the first time the geographic distribution of carbon dioxide sources and sinks on a regional scale. The data are expected to improve understanding of the global carbon cycle, and are intended to enable more reliable forecasts of future changes in the concentration and distribution of CO2 in the atmosphere.)

Reduce by 20% ($74 million in FY2012) the “Other Missions and Data Analysis” account within the Earth System Missions account.  This includes many instruments and missions related to climate change. The administration has intended to sharply ramp up this budget through at least FY2016 (the FY2012 request, for example, represents an increase of 66.8% over FY2010 enacted).

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

“With respect to research and service activities, we believe opportunities for some cuts exist particularly with respect to climate-focused efforts unrelated to weather forecasting and emergency preparedness functions….

“We do not support any funding for NOAA’s proposed Climate Service.  Despite the claim that this is a budget neutral proposal that would include assets consolidated from other line offices, we have serious concerns regarding the objectivity and utility of a new line office that will place greater strain on existing resources.  Furthermore, we are concerned about the tendency that this line office would be used for advocacy as opposed to providing real services.  The Committee on Science, Space, and Technology launched an investigation into NOAA’s Climate Services on September 21, 2011, and will not support the creation of a climate service until that investigation is complete.”

Environmental Protection Agency

EPA’s Office of Research and Development has been a participating agency in the US Global Change Research Program since the program's inception more than 20 years ago. EPA’s global change research currently focuses on assessing the potential consequences of global change (particularly climate variability and change) on air quality, water quality, aquatic ecosystems, and human health in the United States. EPA uses the results of these studies to investigate adaptation options to improve society’s ability to effectively prepare for and respond to global change, and to develop decision-support tools for resource managers coping with climate change.

The letter says: “Due to EPA’s disturbing pattern of regulating based on insufficient or faulty scientific evidence, we feel that it is unnecessary to continue to fund EPA’s research at existing levels until reforms are undertaken.  For example, the Air, Climate and Energy (ACE) research program at ORD includes activities to develop tools to assess behavioral responses to mitigation or adaptation policies.  This type of research does not further EPA’s mission of protecting human health and the environment.  Instead these activities appear to be driven by policy advocacy, which is not an appropriate use of research dollars.  Therefore, we recommend reducing the $20.8 million from ORD that funds EPA’s global change research.”

Note: That amount is the entire EPA contribution to the USGCRP, so the letter, in effect, calls for abolishing climate and global change research at EPA.

National Science Foundation

NSF plays a unique role in the U.S. Global Change Research Program as the leading agency for support of climate and global change research in the universities, across a wide range of academic disciplines, from the geosciences to the biological sciences to the social sciences.

The areas of emphasis of NSF funding for the US Global Change Research Program for FY2012 are:

  • Improving our knowledge of Earth’s past and present climate variability and change
  • Improving our understanding of natural and human forces of climate change
  • Improving our capability to model and predict future conditions and impacts
  • Assessing the Nation’s vulnerability to current and anticipated impacts of climate change (includes the National Climate Assessment)
  • Providing climate information and decision-support tools

The letter says: “We are strongly opposed to the 144.5 percent ($63 million) budget request increase over the current spending of $25.7 million for the NSF contribution to the Climate Change Technology Program (CCTP) and the 33 percent ($106 million) budget request increase over the current spending of $319 million for the NSF contribution to the U.S. Global Change Research ProgramWe support further reductions to current spending for both of these programs.  Further, we recommend elimination of the $10 million Climate Change Education program, as worthy climate change education proposals are certainly eligible for other education funding at the Foundation.”

Note on the NSF USGCRP budget: The letter may give a misleading impression of the President's budget request. The NSF budget for global change research was slashed from $390 million in FY2009 to $320 million in FY2010. The cuts were in three important areas of university-based research:

  • Long-term climate cycles, paleoclimate, past climate extremes and modulations
  • Carbon cycle and response of biota and ecosystems to changes in climate, biogeochemical cycles
  • Feedback processes involved in response of climate system to natural and human-induced forcing

A requested increase to $425 million in FY2012 would bring the NSF global change research budget to 9% above the FY2009 level -- about enough to cover inflation, i.e., it's a flat budget if the Republican ax is removed from it.

The letter says: “[A]s part of the Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (SEES) program that crosses all NSF directorates and has a goal of advancing `climate and energy science, engineering, and education to inform the societal actions needed for environment and economic sustainability and sustainable human well-being,’ the FY2012 budget request is $998.1 million, an increase of $337.5 million or 51 percent over current spending.  We recognize the broad interdisciplinary activities within the SEES program, but are greatly concerned that ten percent of the entire Foundation’s current spending is being devoted to this issue, particularly given the strong emphasis on these programs across all relevant federal agencies.”

Note on SEES: The NSF home page for the SEES program is here. The letter may give the misleading impression that the President is requesting $998 million mainly for climate-related research. In fact, the NSF Mission Statement for SEES is:

"To advance science, engineering, and education to inform the societal actions needed for environmental and economic sustainability and sustainable human well-being.”

No reference to climate change.

NSF’s brief Synopsis suggests the breadth of this interdisciplinary program’s interests (and again, no framing in terms of climate change):

Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability (SEES) is a portfolio of activities that highlights NSF's unique role in helping society address the challenge(s) of achieving sustainability.

A sustainable world is one in which human needs are met equitably without harm to the environment, and without sacrificing the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Meeting this formidable challenge requires a substantial increase in our understanding of the integrated system of society, the natural world, and the alterations humans bring to Earth. NSF's Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability (SEES) activities aim to address this need through support for interdisciplinary research and education.

Fundamental to all sustainability research is the simultaneous consideration of social, economic, and environmental systems and the long-term viability of those systems. Concepts that underlie the science of sustainability include complex adaptive systems theory, emergent behavior, multi-scale processes, as well as the vulnerability, adaptive capacity, and resilience of coupled human-environment systems. An important research goal is to understand how patterns and processes at the local and regional scales are shaped by-and feed into-processes and patterns that manifest at the global scale over the long term. These topics guide research to explore alternate ways of managing the environment, migrating from finite resources to renewable or inexhaustible resources, and applying technology to improve human well-being. Conceptual frameworks for sustainability, including general theories and models, are critically needed for such informed decision-making.

SEES activities span the entire range of scientific domains at NSF and aim to: 1) support interdisciplinary research and education that can facilitate the move towards global sustainability; 2) build linkages among existing projects and partners and add new participants in the sustainability research enterprise; and 3) develop a workforce trained in the interdisciplinary scholarship needed to understand and address the complex issues of sustainability.

There is more to the 14-page letter, but there is no question that important climate science and communication activities and sustainability research and sustainable energy R&D are being targeted for political attack, deep cuts, and in some cases termination.

More to come on climate research funding in the FY2012 budget and beyond.

Earlier posts:

Dangerously Unprepared: Congressional Budget Cuts are Leaving Americans Vulnerable to Climate Extremes (July 22)

Letters in support of the NOAA Climate Service that the House Science Committee hasn’t made public (June 25)

Proposed NOAA Climate Service attacked and defended at House Science Committee hearing (June 24)

NOAA Climate Service blocked in 2011 budget – Will Obama and Democrats let this happen again in 2012? (April 14)

The U.S. Congress has entered the anti-science intellectual wilderness of willful ignorance, says the science journal Nature


This entry was posted in Congress: Legislation and Oversight, U.S. Global Change Research Program. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to House Science Committee Republicans aim to slash climate and sustainable energy programs

  1. Forest says:

    Frustrating. Clean air, potable water, viable ecosystems and a food supply are not important to these people. If saving money and creating money is the only value in the conservative mind, then perhaps they should develop policy centered on eliminating all mandatory insurance (for cars, for houses, for business, for anything). Just assume there are no accidents and no mismanagement, now or in the future. No need to check data, statistics, or evidence related to why insurance might be a good thing. Just focus on how much money can be saved. After all, this would be the same kind of policy thinking mentioned above. I only wish these people could have their own world: the far side of the moon comes to mind: no air, no water, no sunlight, no top soil, no living thing. Perfect. Mining mountains of gold, silver and platinum and printing lots of money would suffice. They could eat it, drink it and sleep on it.

  2. bobarl says:

    Well, I see what these unthinking politicians are doing. They're just going to legislate out these attempts to stop the disasters that our credible climate scientists are warning us about. I would be willing to bet a few bucks on my belief that these so called politicians haven't even checked what climate science is all about and WHY these scientists are saying we better get serious. I think they must believe all of these scientists including those in our main scientific group, the National Academy of Science are all Democrats or something like that. Well, I have news for them, they can't legislate out the problems we will cause with continued use of fossil fuels. I see a few of these politicians are from Texas where serious weather problems are occurring. It reminds me of those people who still believe astronauts didn't go to the moon or the holocaust never occurred.

  3. sailrick says:

    House Science Committee Republicans...

    Now there is an oxymoron

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