Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Cost of Obama's Pet Projects: Climate Change Research

Global warming skeptics are agog that President Obama is seeking to dramatically increase federal funding for global warming research in the wake of the Climate-gate scandals that have emerged during the last three months.

The federal budget for 2011 proposes $2.6 billion for the Global Change Research Program, a 21 percent boost over 2010. It will bring funding to a level higher than under any administration dating back to 1989 -- when global warming first attracted federal budget funds.

In fact, critics note, overall climate funding is approximately as large as the entire federal government's budget was in 1932 -- $3.994 billion. (Additional money for climate science is apportioned to a number of federal agencies, like the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.)

Critics are lambasting the Obama administration, saying it remains unfazed by the revelations of Climate-gate: doctored research statistics by British environmental scientists, attempts to discredit skeptics of global warming science, and disclosures that the U.N.'s own Nobel-Prize-winning climate science research was based on faulty research about the Amazon rain forest and Himalayan ice caps.

Some public policy experts are expressing outrage that the White House is seeking to boost global warming research funding. "Spending more money on research does not necessarily lead to concrete results," Norm Rogers, a senior policy adviser at the Chicago think-tank The Heartland Institute. He said tens of billions of dollars have been spent on climate research in the last 20 years, and there remains no consensus on the science.

Another expert, Professor Don Easterbrook at Western Washington University's department of geology, said the federal money "ought to be spent carrying out real research on the climate." Easterbrook said most of the federal funds so far have been spent on what he terms "political science," which aims to find a manmade cause of global warming when there are any number of ways to investigate the causes of temperature change. These are political motivations rather than purely scientific reasons, he said.

What, exactly, will the American taxpayer get for its global warming research dollars? The EPA is spending $43 million to implement the greenhouse-gas reporting rule, to perform regulatory work for the largest stationary sources of greenhouse gases, and to develop new standards for cars and trucks.

Research being funded at the National Science Foundation seeks to promote "discoveries needed to inspire societal actions leading to environmental and economic sustainability," according to an agency statement. The NSF's portfolio for global warming will reach $766 million.

Last year's budget provided $2.0 billion for the climate science program, a figure that doesn't include the half a billion in stimulus money that the White House directed to global warming, as Obama's science adviser recently told Congress.

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