House Cuts Funding for Climate Education, Outreach
The House passed a bill on Thursday that would make significant cuts to federal climate change education and outreach efforts. Within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the House approved an amendment to cut off funding for the agency’s online portal for climate information, Climate.gov. The website, which has been in a prototype phase supported by a shoestring budget for more than a year, is aimed at communicating climate science information to policy makers, businesses, and the public. It contains climate data, imagery, videos, and lengthy stories about climate change adaptation measures, as well as lots of detailed information on recent climate news.
The House also voted in favor of an amendment that would cut off all funding for the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) climate change education program. That amendment passed by a vote of 238-188.
Both cuts came during consideration of the Fiscal Year 2013 appropriations bill covering the Commerce, Justice, Science and related agencies. NOAA is part of the Commerce Department.
The NOAA amendment, sponsored by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md), would prevent the website from receiving a 56 percent increase in funds compared to last year, for a total of $542,000. “I don’t know of many Maryland families who have received a 56 percent increase in their incomes this year during the longest sustained period of high unemployment in our country’s history — and it’s not fair for a government agency to do so either,” Harris said in a press release.
As Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang blog reported, the website is intended to give state and local decisionmakers the tools necessary to help make their communities more resilient to climate variability, climate change, and extreme events. Among the plans for the next year, NOAA hopes to construct online decision support tools on Climate.gov to help decision-makers prepare for, and respond to, climate and extreme weather events.
The website aims to solve one of the key problems the public faces when trying to access NOAA's climate data — that information is scattered across a half dozen or more offices within the agency, from the Climate Prediction Center to the National Climatic Data Center. One currently needs a Ph.D. in bureaucratic acronyms to navigate all of the different websites, but with Climate.gov, there would be a one-stop shop for this information.
The House move to cut off the modest amount of funding for the climate website is noteworthy because it runs contrary to NOAA’s mission, which is to “understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts” and “to share that knowledge and information with others.”
In other words, if agreed to by the Senate and signed into law by the President, the amendment would hinder NOAA from doing the job it is supposed to be doing.
Last year, Congress blocked NOAA's attempt to reorganize itself and form a new National Climate Service. This reorganization plan, which would not have required any new funds, was met with hostility largely because many congressmen interpreted it as an attempt to set up an Obama Administration global warming "propaganda" agency.
The House-passed appropriations bill now heads to the Senate, where these cuts and other provisions are likely to face opposition.