Science Policy & Funding News

House Freshman Democrats Urge Funds for Climate Change Programs

More than half of the newly elected Democratic representatives signed onto a letter calling for “robust funding” for U.S. climate change research programs.

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who is the lead sponsor of the Green New Deal resolution in the House of Representatives, isn’t the only freshman Democratic member of Congress pushing for action on climate change.

More than half of the freshman Democrats in Congress have signed onto a 24 April letter urging the House Committee on Appropriations “to provide robust funding for our nation’s climate change research programs” in fiscal year (FY) 2020 appropriations bills. The letter, dated 16 April, was released on 24 April, after members of Congress signed onto it.

The Trump administration’s FY 2020 budget request “recommends across the board cuts to climate science,” states the letter that was signed by 35 of the 64 newly elected House Democrats, including Ocasio-Cortez. Among those cuts, the letter highlights the administration’s plans to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Global Climate Change Research Office, decrease the National Science Foundation’s budget by 12%, and slash funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research by 41%.

“Without strong funding for climate science programs such as these, we will not be equipped to address the greatest challenge facing our nation today,” according to the letter.

The letter calls for significant funding for climate research at those agencies and others, including NASA, the Department of Energy, and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Noting that “communities throughout the nation are experiencing the direct impacts of climate change and its effects on their health, economy, and safety,” the letter states that “the leading climate scientists from around the world have urged us to respond.”

The letter cites several recent cautionary reports, including the U.S. government’s Fourth National Climate Assessment, issued in November 2018, which stated that “without significant global greenhouse gas mitigation and regional adaption efforts, climate change is expected to cause substantial losses to infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century.”

An “All-Encompassing Challenge”

“Combating the climate crisis is truly an all-encompassing challenge impacting our citizens in all aspects of their daily lives,” said Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.), who helped spearhead the letter along with Reps. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) and Mike Levin (D-Calif.). “It is imperative that our nation not run from this challenge as the President signaled he would do in his 2020 budget but instead lead the world in facing this crisis head on.”

“The Trump Administration’s FY2020 budget has utterly failed to meet the challenge of the climate crisis by cutting or eliminating a variety of world-class climate research programs across the federal government,” said Neguse.

“The climate crisis is the existential threat of our time and we owe it to the next generation to address the impacts with urgency and action,” Neguse told Eos.

Neguse is also taking the lead on letters to increase funding for the National Environmental Education Act and the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Scientific and Technical Research and Services and on letters to restore funding to NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research and EPA’s Global Climate Research Program.

“This issue needs to be a priority at every stage of our legislating and appropriating process. We hope this letter will express the urgency of this issue to our colleagues and ensure that robust climate science funding is included in the FY2020 process,” he said.

“A Testament to How Serious Our Generation Takes This Issue”

Neguse told Eos that it is significant that so many new members of Congress signed onto the letter.

“The fact that so many new members of Congress signed on is a testament to how serious our generation takes this issue,” he said. “The freshman class this Congress is younger and more diverse than any in history, and as a result, climate change is a defining issue for many of the new members. Scientists have made it perfectly clear that we have a very short runway to stop catastrophe consequences. The climate crisis requires urgent action, and we can’t afford to leave it out of our appropriations process this upcoming year or any discussion that we have about the future of our planet.”

—Randy Showstack (@RandyShowstack), Staff Writer

Citation: Showstack, R. (2019), House freshman Democrats urge funds for climate change programs, Eos, 100, https://doi.org/10.1029/2019EO122305. Published on 25 April 2019.
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