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House Votes to Eliminate Funding for NSF Climate Change Education Program

Richard M. Jones
Number 73 - May 24, 2012  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

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Earlier this month the House of Representatives passed HR. 5326, the FY 2013 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Bill.  Before doing so, Members voted on 63 amendments to the bill, of which 36 were adopted.

Among those amendments that the House approved was one offered by Rep. Chip Cravaack, a first term Republican representing Minnesota’s 8th District.  Under his amendment, funding was eliminated for the National Science Foundation’s Climate Change Education Program in FY 2013.. 

The Climate Change Education Program is a cross-cutting program administered by the foundation’s Research and Related Activities, and Education and Human Resources directorates.  The current budget is $10.0 million; the Administration requested $6.3 million for FY 2013.

A foundation document states:

“The Climate Change Education Partnership (CCEP) program seeks to establish a coordinated national network of regionally- or thematically-based partnerships devoted to increasing the adoption of effective, high quality educational programs and resources related to the science of climate change and its impacts.  Each CCEP is required to be of a large enough scale that it will have catalytic or transformative impact that cannot be achieved through other core NSF program awards.  The CCEP program is one facet of a larger NSF collection of awards related to Climate Change Education (CCE) that has two goals: (1) preparing a new generation of climate scientists, engineers, and technicians equipped to provide innovative and creative approaches to understanding global climate change and to mitigate its impact; and, (2) preparing today's U.S. citizens to understand global climate change and its implications in ways that can lead to informed, evidence-based responses and solutions.”

The House passed this amendment primarily on a party line vote of 238-188. Selections from the floor debate follow:

Rep. Cravaack:

“I rise today to offer an amendment that would prohibit any more funding going to a duplicative program. I'd like to think that everyone in this room is well aware that we are $15.7 trillion in debt.  Our spending is out of control. We are simply spending money we don't have and massively indebting future generations of Americans.
“The GAO reports duplicative U.S. Government programs costs billions of dollars. Thirteen agencies fund 209 different science, technology, engineering, and math education programs. Of those programs, 173 overlap with at least one other program. We have to be responsible for how the government spends Americans' hard-earned tax dollars. We cannot afford to borrow money to fund duplicative programs that are already under the purview of established agencies and protocols.

“The Climate Change Education program at the National Science Foundation duplicates education programs already in place. Currently, worthy research proposals are subject to rigorous peer-reviewed processes. The Climate Change Education program sets aside money for a specific purpose, which is already covered in interagency education programs. This is just more Big Government and a waste of taxpayer dollars.
“Last year, the Climate Change Education program funded partnerships among K 12 education, related nonprofit organizations, and relevant education and/or climate-related policymakers. This year, however, the program has morphed into the Sustainability Research Network to create new interdisciplinary learning experiences for graduate and undergraduate students, as well as literacy programs. In the military, we call this mission creep.
“The National Science Foundation funds basic research and serves as an engine of our innovation economy. However you feel about global warming, that is not the debate here today, though I look forward to engaging in that in the future.
“This amendment addresses a duplicative program that is not necessary and is costing the taxpayers money we simply don't have. We need to prioritize innovation and research and NSF, and eliminate duplicative education programs that do nothing to improve the economic outlook of our future. We need to get back to the basics.
“I ask all of my colleagues to join me in this commonsense amendment in ending a duplicative program that is wasting taxpayer dollars and further indebting future generations.  Mr. Chair, I yield back the balance of my time.”

House Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Chaka Fattah (D-PA):

“Mr. Chair, I oppose this amendment.  Climate change is a big issue in the world we live in. It affects our economy, our ability to move goods. We've had the most severe weather season we've had in history over the last 12 months at a cost of a billion-plus dollars. Our ability to understand the weather and the climate and its impact on business and industry and agriculture is critically important.

“I think that the National Science Foundation -- which is an entirely merit-based system of scientific awards in which they fund less than one out of every five meritorious pieces of research proposals. There is absolutely no politics. The National Science Board, which is confirmed by the Senate, reviews these proposals, they make selections. The idea that we don't want to know more or learn more, I think is interesting. I would hope that the House would reject that, and that what we would do is seek knowledge as a way to retain our global leadership as the leading Nation in the world.”

Rep. Cravaack:

Mr. Chairman, regarding duplicative programs -- again, this is about duplicative programs. The National Science Foundation already funds STEM education and even climate-change education programs in the Directorate for Education and Human Resources with worthy peer-reviewed proposals.  Total U.S. spending for the U.S. Global Change Research program for 13 agencies is more than $2.5 billion, primarily at NASA, NOAA, and NSF. NSF spending for the U.S. Global Change Research program is over $333 million. NSF spending for education is $1.2 billion a year. Climate change education can be addressed through NSF climate research activities and NSF education activities. There is no need to fund additional special climate-change education programs.
“This newer program under the Obama administration is currently funded at $10 million a year, $5.5 million from the Education Directorate and $4.5 million from several research directorates as identified. Again, this is a duplicative program and a waste of the taxpayer dollars.”

Richard M. Jones
Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics