February 07, 2007
Scientific Integrity and Budget Cuts
Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Science + Politics
I am watching the Senate Commerce Committee's hearing this morning on "Climate Change Research and Scientific Integrity." I note in this hearing a conflation of allegations of Bush Administration interference in science communication with research budgets for climate scientists. Both Rick Piltz's testimony and that of Rick Anthes emphasized science budgets. Seems to me that such claims are crassly opportunistic. Here are some actual climate science budget facts that should give some pause to such arguments:
From 1995 to 2001:
Climate science funding was cut from $2.234B to $1.886B (constant dollars), representing a cut of 15.6%. With respect to climate science funding as a proportion of domestic discretionary spending the cut is 23%.
From 2002 to 2006:
Climate science funding was cut from $1.792B to $1.674B (constant dollars), representing a cut of 6.6%. With respect to climate science funding as a proportion of domestic discretionary spending the cut is 20%.
If the Bush Administration's cuts represent an assault on scientific integrity, then why wouldn't the larger cuts by the Clinton Administration also fall under that same category?
In my mind, conflating research budgets with heavy-handed Bush Administration communication policies is a mistake.Posted on February 7, 2007 09:09 AM
Thank you for your observations.
A related question is IF the science is so settled that mitigation is now the total focus of the new Congress, why not cut climate research even further in order to free research dollars for other cash-starved disciplines, and expand our general knowledge?
If the models are really so accurate now, why not shift budget priorities to where a few dollars can leverage large social returns, both domestically and internationally? Considerable human suffering can thus be reduced, could it not?
Posted by: Bob Ferguson at February 7, 2007 01:09 PM
A very good question sent in by email by someone wanting to remain anonymous, but the question is worth answering here:
"What effect did the Republican Newt Gingrich Congress play in the budget cuts 1995-2001? Should you have mentioned that?"
Here is my response:
This is a good point, and yes I should have mentioned it so thanks for asking.
1. Yes, the Republican Congress over this time period cut the President's USGCRP budget request annually over this time period.
2. But, the picture looks quite similar if one starts the analysis with the amount requested in the President's budget (i.e., before being sent to Congress and entering the appropriations process).
From FY 1995 to FY 2001 the cut (in constant dollars ) in what the President requested was from $2.298B to $1.893B, or a cut of 18%. So the Clinton Administration reduced its budget requests for the USGCRP by a significant amount.
I am no fan of the Bush Administration, but given the history of climate research budgets it is a stretch to suggest that agency budget politics across the sprawling USGCRP represent an assault on scientific integrity.
Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. at February 7, 2007 07:15 PM
Roger, on reflect the point that Pitlz and others have made about declining climate science budgets may not be so crass as you suggest.
First, the Clinton administration was advocating action on climate change, while the Bush administration was claiming that while climate change appeared to be a serious problem, more research and information is needed before action could be justified. Thus declining spending by the Clinton administration was more consistent with its expressed views on the need for action, while the spending by Bush has been at odds with his rhetoric.
Second, the Clinton administration actually brought the federal budget into balance, while the Bush era represents one of fiscal irresponsibility and ballooning deficits and pork-barrel spending.
Thus the nit that you are trying to pick seems rather illusory. If the Bush administration was truly concerned about climate change but believed that much more work was needed before concerted policy action should be taken, then we should have seen a more serious investment in climate science.
Posted by: TokyoTom at February 7, 2007 10:56 PM
Why do you start in 1995? Surely you should look at 1993-2001? What happened to the budget between 1993 and 2001?
Posted by: Tim Lambert at February 8, 2007 07:13 AM
Tom- Your recollection of the Clinton Administration's enthusiasm for action on climate change does not actually square with their behavior. The C/G policies were very similar to B/C.
Tim- The program started in 1989 and from 1989-1994 saw much movement of funds from a "contributing" status to the "focused" category. Arguably the program wasn't stabilized until 94 or 95 (budgets these years are about the same). So budgets, formally at least, skyrocketed from 0 in 1988 to $1.7B in 1994 increasing through Bush 1 and WJC. The reality is that it is hard to see what was actually going on during this period as the increases represented changing categories more than actual new monies.
See Table 1 in this paper:
Pielke, Jr., R. A., 2000: Policy History of the U.S. Global Change Research Program: Part I, Administrative Development. Global Environmental Change, 10, 9-25.
and this one might be of interest as well:
Pielke, Jr., R. A., 2000: Policy History of the U.S. Global Change Research Program: Part II, Legislative Process. Global Environmental Change, 10, 133-144.
Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. at February 8, 2007 07:30 AM
This cuts both ways. High energy physics researchers, defense contractors, and biotech folks were bellyaching just before Christmas about how the Democrats killed the "omnibus" federal budget that contained funds for their pet projects "earmarked" by Republican lawmakers.
Posted by: Don Thieme at February 8, 2007 07:43 AM
All this discussion seems to assume that the climate science budget is declining from what it should be and not toward what it should be. Seems to me that if Piltz, et. al. wish to complain about the declining budget they should begin with what it should be and also provide a clear justification (sort of like a business case)for that amount.
Posted by: shoes at February 8, 2007 02:49 PM
So, from 1994 to 2001 under Clinton, the budget increased from $1.7B to $1.886B. It seems to me that you cherry picked the start year to make it look like there was a decrease under Clinton when there was actually an increase.
Posted by: Tim Lambert at February 8, 2007 08:33 PM
Thanks, but you have confused constant and current dollars.
1994 was $1.763B
In current dollars. From Table 1 here:
After adjusting for inflation 1994 is higher than 1995. Starting the data in 1994 leads to exactly the same conclusion.
Keep trying! ;-)
Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. at February 8, 2007 08:56 PM
So, how do total US dollars on research compare with other nations?
Posted by: Steve Hemphill at February 8, 2007 09:18 PM
Steve- Thanks, I assume that you mean on climate research ... the only actual survey I am aware of concluded that the US funds about 50% of all global climate change research, see footnote 3 in this paper:
Since that time I'd be willing to bet that the US fraction has gone down. It is probably not too different from the US share of total R&D, at about 35%, see: http://publishing.unesco.org/details.aspx?Code_Livre=4423
Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. at February 8, 2007 09:38 PM
Yes, I meant on climate research.
My point is that due to the uncertainties that are extremely evident to the open minded, research is a good thing. Pronouncements of requirements of potential specialistic capitalizable solutions in lieu of said research are probably best left unsaid, at least until we determine the actual impacts of feedbacks on specific regions.
Those who would make money on the "emergency" and their dupes will, of course, not agree...
Posted by: Steve Hemphill at February 8, 2007 10:23 PM