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How can climate scientists spend so much money?

08 Jan

US Federal government spending on climate change research in 2011

Until a few days ago I knew that the US government spent an excessive amount of taxpayer money on climate change research. It was just a general notion; I had read occasional articles showing the funding of certain agencies like NASA but I didn’t know many specifics. Then on New Years Day, I wrote a very quick article where I randomly picked a document from a Google search showing funding for climate change. The numbers astonished me. I decided to take a closer look.

The document is the The American Association for the Advancement of Science’s report:

AAAS REPORT XXXV

RESEARCH AND
DEVELOPMENT
FY 2011

The entire report is here, but I am only looking at chapter 15 which is here. The report is basically a snapshot of US Federal spending on research, including budgets for 2011 and how these numbers compare to previous years. The chapter on climate change is short and easy to read. It shows that all US agencies that conduct climate change research are expected to have larger budgets for 2011. Remember, these numbers are not set in stone, but they will not be drastically different from the actual numbers. I also need to make a caveat. Just because this funding has been labeled ‘climate change research’ does not mean it is necessarily not linked to another field as well. For example, some of the costs associated are for satellites, which are important in more than just climate research. This is not entirely frivolous spending. Even so, the numbers are staggering. Let’s look at some agencies and their budgets.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

NOAA’s total budget request is $5.6 billion, which would be an increase of 17.0 percent. Of this, $437 million would be for climate research funding, which is an increase of $77 million.

$437 million spent on climate change research in one year, in one agency. Here’s another:

National Science Foundation (NSF). NSF would receive $7.4 billion in FY 2011, an increase of 8 percent relative to the FY 2010 appropriation. The request includes $370 million under the USGCRP framework, which is an increase of 16.0 percent. The Geosciences Directorate would receive $955 million (a 7.4 percent increase) in FY 2011 with $480 million going to Atmospheric and Earth Sciences. NSF’s Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability (SEES) program would receive $765.5 million. This is intended to promote discoveries and capability needed to inform societal actions in ways that contribute to environmental and economic sustainability. NSF’s request also includes $19 million for RE-ENERGYSE, a joint program with the Department of Energy intended to promote education in clean energy research. An additional $10 million would fund Climate Change Education, which seeks to increase understanding of climate among the next generation of Americans.

$480 million here, $765.5 million there, throw in another $10 million for climate education and you’ve got $1.25 billion dollars spent on climate change research just at the NSF, just in ONE YEAR! Next is NASA:

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NASA’s FY 2011 budget request is $19.0 billion. NASA Earth Science is a relatively small fraction of this total, $1.8 billion or 9.5 percent, but would increase substantially relative to the FY 2010 appropriation (up 26.8 percent). NASA Earth Science funds climate change R&D through several programs. Two of particular note are Earth Science Research, which would receive $438.1 million (an increase of 14 percent)

It seems like the $450 million mark is a common budget for climate research among these agencies. NOAA’s funding, the NSF’s atmospheric science funding, and NASA’s Earth Science research are all around $450 million. It may be an interesting coincidence. Next is the Department of Energy:

Department of Energy (DOE).

The President’s budget request for DOE in FY 2011 is $28.4 billion. This includes $4.6 billion for R&D in the Office of Science (an increase of 3.8 percent), and $2.4 billion for energy R&D (an increase of 6.8 percent). Within the Office of Science, the Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER), which supports basic research in atmospheric sciences, terrestrial ecosystems and climate modeling, would receive $627 million (an increase of 3.8 percent). BER’s request includes $28.6 million for the Terrestrial Ecosystem Science (TES) program, which examines the impact of climate change on biological systems and land-surface carbon cycle feedbacks to climate change.

$627 million taken from a taxpayer or borrowed from a future taxpayer, spent in one year. Next the Department of the Interior:

Department of the Interior (DOI).

DOI requests $171 million (an increase of 26.0 percent) for its Climate Change Adaptation initiative, which seeks to identify areas and species most vulnerable to climate change and implement coping strategies. Of this, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) would receive $77.9 million for climate science (an increase of 15.5 percent).

How many jobs could be created in 2011 if $171 million were still in the hands of US taxpayers, instead of being spent on climate studies which have been done many times before? Studying areas vulnerable to climate change? That’s already been done by every agency, twice. Next is the EPA:

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

EPA requests $169 million to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (an increase of 1 percent). Of this, $43.5 million is new funding for regulatory efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the Clean Air Act. EPA requests $22 million for its Global Change Research Program, which assesses the impacts of global change on air and water quality, ecosystems, human health, and socioeconomic systems in the United States with a primary goal of promoting adaptation efforts.

I don’t even understand what this means. How does giving the EPA $169 million reduce emissions? Also, does it really cost $43.5 million a year (more) to regulate greenhouse gases? Lastly, the USDA:

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

USDA requests $159 million for climate change research, an increase of 42.0 percent, and $179 million for renewable energy, an increase of 41.0 percent. USDA’s climate change efforts (and those of the U.S. Forest Service which is part of USDA) center on helping farmers and land owners adapt to climate change impacts (e.g., enhanced fire stress, insect outbreaks, droughts, floods, and heat stress) and promoting carbon storage in soils and forests.

A 42% increase in climate change research? $159 million spent in a single year, by the USDA? Crop yields are up! CO2 helps crops! Imagine spending $159 million in 2011 to research things that actually help people.

The amount of money being spent on climate change research this year is astounding. I urge you to read the document yourself. Here is the question to take away: what are we getting for the billions of dollars we’ve spent? When 2011 is over will we look back at the published research and be satisfied with how our billions have been spent? This type of spending has occurred for some time, and what do we have to show for it? Multiple federal agencies having multi-hundred million dollar budgets in the same (controversial) field is wasteful. Let’s make sure 2011 is the last year these budgets increase.

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36 Comments

Posted by on January 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

36 responses to “How can climate scientists spend so much money?

  1. C Monster

    January 8, 2011 at 8:46 am

    Excellent. Now I can make a better pitch to Don Blankenship and the Koch brother for some EvilBigOil/BigCoalAGWDenier® money.

    Oh, and the oversight of not having you in the blogroll has been corrected.

     
  2. CAPT Mike

    January 8, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    This is good journalism!

     
  3. David Spurgeon

    January 8, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    Like we’ve always said – it’s simply a racket which makes the banks and the corporations seem positively white as snow in comparison. Eh, talking of snow……!

     
  4. You are kidding

    January 8, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    @ David Spurgeon, since 2009 the US banks and corporations cost taxpayers thousands of billions of dollars to get them back on their feet after they nearly sank the world economy, as well as countless jobs lost. I expect you were being sarcastic 🙂

     
  5. Mkjon

    January 9, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    I will say again that our Federal Government is too big.

     
  6. T. A. Speaker

    January 9, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    An important post. Thank you.

     
  7. You are kidding

    January 9, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    When governments take action to prevent dumping waste into the atmosphere and more vigorously addresses the resulting significant adverse impacts on agriculture, health, town planning, drought, flood, dying forests etc, then we might be able to do something to tackle the problem.

    As long as the funding is so miniscule as shown above, compared to what is spent subsidising oil and gas production and usage, and otherwise propping up the companies that dump toxic gases into the air, then we are rapidly approaching even more extreme weather than we’ve seen so far. And it’s bad enough now.

    With major mines out of production from unprecedented flooding (impacting steel production and prices), oil pipelines busting and other events caused by our changing climate, coal and oil among the very things that are causing the warming, maybe more people will wake up.

     
  8. Sam

    January 9, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    You are kidding –

    I completely agree that government should not subsidize oil or gas.

    However you say ‘dumping waste’ and then you say ‘dump toxic gases’, so let’s be clear about something. CO2 is absolutely not waste and it is not toxic. Without it, you and I would both be dead along with all plant life on the earth.

    Your anecdotal evidence of flooding and pipelines bursting means nothing. Floods and burst pipelines are nothing new, CO2 increase contributed nothing to these events. I’m sure you would believe headlines that claim CO2 is responsible for both flooding and drought, record snowfall and lack of snow.

    You can go ahead and blame CO2 for all the world’s problems, then whine about how nothing is being done. Or you can look for genuine solutions which rarely come from government.

     
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  10. You are kidding 2

    January 10, 2011 at 5:49 am

    @You are Kidding: the mortgage financial crisis has its roots in Big Democrat Government: (1) the Community Reinvestment Act under Jimmy Carter, (2) the work of Andrew Cuomo and Janet Reno under Bill Clinton, (3) the efforts of Barney Frank and Chris Dodd who prevented both McCain and GW Bush from regulating Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac, and (4) such luminaries as Maxine Waters, Franklin Raines, and Jamie Gorllich.

     
  11. Moonbat

    January 12, 2011 at 7:50 am

    snip – we don’t allow that kind of talk

     
  12. Hillary Guerra

    January 12, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    You are kidding – I completely agree that government should not subsidize oil or gas. However you say ‘dumping waste’ and then you say ‘dump toxic gases’, so let’s be clear about something. CO2 is absolutely not waste and it is not toxic. Without it, you and I would both be dead along with all plant life on the earth. Your anecdotal evidence of flooding and pipelines bursting means nothing. Floods and burst pipelines are nothing new, CO2 increase contributed nothing to these events. I’m sure you would believe headlines that claim CO2 is responsible for both flooding and drought, record snowfall and lack of snow. You can go ahead and blame CO2 for all the world’s problems, then whine about how nothing is being done. Or you can look for genuine solutions which rarely come from government.

     
  13. Bryce

    January 16, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    You do realize that most of this money isn’t being spent by “climate scientists.” You’re conflating money spent researching climate change (a small fraction of the numbers you post) with the money spent mitigating and adapting to climate change. A lot of the research money goes to simply maintaining and upgrading scientific equipment, including satellites and globe-spanning networks of recording instruments. Just keeping all that equipment working and keeping the data flowing is a large chunk of the NOAA budget.

    NASA is re-launching the Orbiting Carbon Observatory, which is an expensive proposition, but will give us a really clear picture of how CO2 moves through the ecosystem for decades to come.

    Much of the DOE’s portion goes not to “climate research” per se, but to advances in energy infrastructure. We’re talking about things like smart grids, superconducting transmission lines, solar panels… stuff that ought to be researched solely from an energy independence perspective. They also pay for actual programs that go out and install solar panels and weatherize homes and businesses. That’s in the “climate change” money category, but it doesn’t pass through climate scientists’ hands in any way.

    You talk repeatedly about duplicate research, but give no real evidence for it. The USGCRP program mentioned in the report is specifically designed to coordinate the research between various federal agencies. To prove that there is duplication, you can’t just quote a bunch of large and scary looking numbers (which I might add only add up to about 2% of the federal budget). You have to dig in, understand the many different research programs and the questions they’re trying to answer.

    There are a lot of different types of research that are being done, and pretty much every area in the United States needs a separate study of how climate change will affect their area on a number of fronts, like agriculture, tourism, population, water supply, ecosystem and endangered species effects, and a dozen other things I’m too lazy to think of right now. Some of these analyses may have to be repeated or updated every five or ten years. In order to know that two research programs really overlap, you have to dig into their details, which this article hasn’t done.

     
  14. Sam

    January 16, 2011 at 9:28 pm

    Bryce, you raise good points, but you are mostly wrong. You mention the NASA carbon project and other satellites, but if you read the article you’d notice I said this:

    “I also need to make a caveat. Just because this funding has been labeled ‘climate change research’ does not mean it is necessarily not linked to another field as well. For example, some of the costs associated are for satellites, which are important in more than just climate research. This is not entirely frivolous spending.”

    You mentioned other agencies such as the DOE. The DOE gets 28 billion. I only highlighted the 627 million which goes to the BER, which does not go towards advances in energy infrastructure as you claim.

    Addressing duplicate research, I know from personal experience that many of these “impact” reports overlap (because I’ve read them). I didn’t address that issue in this post, because that’s not what this post is about.

    Simply claiming that we need to fund research on climate change in every single area on every single topic doesn’t make it true. The world has warmed a small amount over a long period for reasons we aren’t entirely sure of. Using taxpayer money (my money included) to fund one side of a controversial issue to the tune of BILLIONS a year is crazy.

    Show me the benefits from the 4 billion dollars spent in the last two years on climate change research.

     
  15. Johnny

    January 28, 2011 at 8:00 am

    To keep things in perspective, the National Cancer Institute spends about 5 Billion.

     
  16. Sam

    January 28, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    Johnny, you said:

    “To keep things in perspective, the National Cancer Institute spends about 5 Billion.”

    This is an excellent point. Cancer is a pervasive threat to our society. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been affected by it. It was estimated to kill over 500,000 people in 2010 alone.

    Let’s compare that to climate change. It doesn’t even remotely come close to a fraction of cancer’s impact. It can’t be said with certainty that anyone was killed by GHGs in 2010. Even if we claim to know that GHG emissions caused heat death or extreme weather events, the death toll would hardly reach into the hundreds, much less hundreds of thousands.

    Let’s take the climate science budget and give it to cancer research. It might actually save lives.

     
  17. David Spurgeon

    February 8, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    @Sam –

    Everything but everything you have said in these comments is so so true. I salute you, sir!

     
  18. David B

    October 13, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    What a scam! Nobody I mean nobody steals as good as libs! From UN food for oil to global warming to climate change to Freddie and Fannie to obama and the unions to fast and furious to Medicare fraud the dems/libs do it best!

     

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