House Votes to Eliminate Funding for NSF Climate Change Education Program

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Publication date: 
24 May 2012

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 documentstates:

“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.”