Published February 14, 2010
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, told FoxNews.com.
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.
"This is a travesty," he told FoxNews.com.
But other scientists applauded the proposed boost in federal money for climate research.
"Funding for neglected basic research in geophysics, climate, and allied sciences is welcome," said Dallas C. Kennedy, a physicist with a doctorate from Stanford University. Kennedy believes those fields have seen dwindling resources in recent years, and money spent on them will yield better science.
The administration's proposed changes include the creation of a new federal agency that will serve as a clearinghouse for climate-change data and resources. U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke explained the potential benefits, saying "we'll discover new technologies, build new businesses and create new jobs."
Howard Hayden, a professor of physics at the University of Connecticut who runs a newsletter called The Energy Advocate, said he believes good data has been gleaned from 20 years of global warming research. "The data collection is useful and necessary," he said.
Another scientist, Dr. Mitchell Taylor of the department of geography at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont., said funding priorities for the federal government need to be reshaped. There should be an "independent reconciliation" of the climate-change data that has been researched by the government and private institutions, he told FoxNews.com. He is calling for an independent body of experts -- including critics of the global warming hypothesis -- to sort through all the conflicting research.
What's more, he said, the government should re-frame research to look critically at the global warming hypothesis in light of the recent data and "investigate in a fair and balanced manner alternative explanations for climate change."
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.
NSF and EPA spokesmen in Washington did not return e-mails requesting additional comment on the increased spending. But a fact sheet from the White House Office of Management and Budget portrays the global warming funding as part of the Obama administration's new jobs-creation policy, which aims at making the U.S. "the world leader in developing the clean energy technologies that will lead to the industries and jobs of tomorrow."
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.
"Investments in climate science over the past several decades have contributed to an improved understanding of the global climate," said John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, in testimony before a House committee.
Bryan Murphy and Sueanne Lee contributed to this report.