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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Budget battle torpedoes NOAA Climate Service

by Michael Conathan, Director of Ocean Programs, Center for American Progress, April 12, 2011

The EPA’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gasses as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act survived the FY11 budget battle.  But climate hawks came out on the short end of another, lower-profile but no less vital, struggle related to the climate monitoring efforts of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.

E&E’s Greenwire (subs. req’d) reported today on an overlooked rider to H.R. 1 and also included in the final deal on the full year continuing resolution that the House and Senate will vote on this week:

The continuing resolution that would fund the government through the end of September would block funding for a new National Climate Service and any new catch-share fishery programs — the two keystone efforts from NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco. Details of the resolution were announced early this morning… 
If lawmakers include similar language in fiscal 2012 spending bill, it could halt the effort to create the new agency, which would be akin to the National Weather Service.
The idea for a climate service first arose during the waning days of the George W. Bush administration, but House Republican leadership expressed concern it would compromise science for politics. 
NOAA officials have said the new climate service would not change federal science but would merely centralize it so people could get the most benefit from the data gathered. The agency announced its plans to create the service last spring, arguing that the new “budget neutral” office would create a central federal source of information on everything from projections of sea-level rise to maps of the nation’s best sites for wind and solar power — information designed to help governments and businesses adapt to climate change.
So, in other words, an initiative that would add no net cost to the budget and would streamline the operations of a Federal agency—something lawmakers from both parties have hammered home as a primary goal of their fiscal reform efforts—was torpedoed when 227 Republicans and 6 Democrats voted in favor of an Amendment by Rep. Ralph Hall (R, TX-4) prohibiting any funding from being used to establish a NOAA Climate Service.

Their rationale? E&E quoted Rep. Frank Wolf’s remarks at a hearing before the House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee on April 4, in which he summed up the opposition.  Rep. Wolf altruistically suggested he didn’t want NOAA’s science to be “sacrificed for or driven by politics” as a result of the reorganization.

He can’t possibly be referring to the kind of scientific research referenced in testimony delivered by the Koch-funded Dr. Richard Muller before the House Committee on Science and Technology last month.  Dr. Muller praised NOAA among other organizations, finding their work monitoring temperature variations since the early 1900s to be “excellent.”

Isn’t it wonderful to have politicians like Reps. Wolf and Hall protecting climate science from being driven by politics?

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