Science Policy & Funding News

Climate Research Funding Still Under Threat, Report Warns

Congressional appropriations may not be sufficient enough to fund climate research if the Trump administration reprograms funds or takes other steps to limit funding, the report says.


Despite recent congressional appropriations that reversed many of the Trump administration’s efforts to reduce science funding for current fiscal year 2018, a new report raises an alarm about what it says are the administration’s attacks on climate research and funding for it.

Ernest Moniz (right) speaks about climate science research and threats to funding with John Podesta.
Ernest Moniz (right), who served as secretary of energy in the Obama administration, speaks about climate science research and threats to funding with John Podesta, founder and director of the Center for American Progress. Credit: Constance Torian/Center for American Progress

“The Trump administration’s budget proposals and explicit attacks on science, scientists, and scientific norms indicate their intent is to undermine not just individual programs, but the entire scientific process, and in so doing to cast doubt upon the severity of the climate challenge facing the United States and the world,” according to the report, titled “Burning the Data: Attacks on Climate and Energy Data and Research.” The Center for American Progress (CAP), a left-leaning think tank based in Washington, D. C., issued the report on 14 June.

The report cautions that even though Congress passed legislation in March to maintain or increase science funding for a number of federal agencies, political appointees have broad discretion to reprogram funding away from climate change–related activities, leave funds unspent, and make policy changes to alter how science is used in federal decision-making, among other measures.

Funding cuts or shifts in spending could create gaps in data for U.S. and international climate studies, according to the report. It notes “the critical importance of the federal budget process to building and maintaining the foundation of domestic and international climate and energy research.”

Appropriating the Dollars “Isn’t Enough”

“Simply appropriating the dollars just isn’t enough,” said Christy Goldfuss, CAP’s senior vice president for energy and environmental policy, at a 14 June briefing to discuss the report.

“There is a lack of transparency in the budgeting process that will make this an extraordinary challenge for Congress and those compelled to protect the data necessary to protect the planet,” she said.

A Call for Vigilance Beyond the Appropriations Process

Ernest Moniz, who served as secretary of energy during the Obama administration, said at the event that “a state of vigilance is required beyond the appropriations process” and that “international concerns already have been expressed about what is going to happen if the United States creates data gaps” in climate studies.

“The things that should be completely noncontroversial are the underlying data to understanding what’s happening to the Earth system,” said Moniz, now a principal with the Washington, D. C.–based Energy Futures Initiative. And yet, he explained, it is concerning that those underlying data could be in jeopardy.

“It doesn’t matter if you choose the frankly completely unsupportable decision about questioning the need to respond to global warming in a policy sense,” Moniz said. “No matter where you stand on that, it is completely illogical to not want to see those data continue, unless, frankly, you don’t have a pursuit for the truth and for the necessary responses at the heart of what you are doing.”

—Randy Showstack (@RandyShowstack), Staff Writer

Citation: Showstack, R. (2018), Climate research funding still under threat, report warns, Eos, 99, Published on 21 June 2018.
Text © 2018. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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