Amid a growing “climate disconnect” among House GOP members, as cited in a new report released yesterday by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), the Environment Subcommittee of the House of Representatives Committee of Science, Space, and Technology proved true to form earlier this week. On Tuesday, in yet another example of partisan split on climate issues, the body passed the Weather Forecasting Improvement Act of 2013.
The innocuous-sounding legislation would improve weather forecasting research, but do so by cutting NOAA’s spending on climate change research. The bill eventually passed out of the subcommittee by a voice vote along partisan lines.
Both sides agree that increased funding for weather forecasting research is critical, but Democrats criticized Republican plans to take money away from climate change research, which already contributes to weather prediction capabilities. Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) pinned the blame squarely on her GOP colleagues, in pointing out the folly of robbing one forecasting program to pay for another.
There is a deep animus to anything related to climate research on the side of the majority… But the fact is, climate impacts weather. Our experts need to have full knowledge and expertise about this impact so there can be better forecasting.
This logic failed to resonate with Republicans, as Vice Chairman Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) explained his opinion that NOAA is spending too much money on “ineffective research on climate,” and suggested weather forecasting should be a higher priority than climate change research.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), took his cue from the Vice Chairman in representing the views of the anti-science, climate denier caucus:
We have seen grant after grant being given to anyone who can come up with something that will excite the public about global climate change in a way that would suggest that mankind is responsible in order to justify restrictions on human activity.
Such grants are, of course, perfectly rational in light of NASA’s recent finding that fully 97 percent of scientists believe climate change is “very likely due to human activities.”
The Science Subcommittee’s actions came the same day that the House Appropriations Committee decision later that same day passed its version of the 2014 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Bill. Their work also showed a greater affinity for weather forecasting over climate change research. Despite cutting NOAA’s funding by $89 million from the previous fiscal year, the committee boosted the Naitonal Weather Service funding while cutting other vital ocean and climate programs.
The cost of a warmer planet will be significant. Climate change induced extreme weather events have become increasingly frequent and we are all paying for it.
In 2011-2012, the United States experienced 25 floods, storms, droughts, heat waves and wildfires that caused at least $1 billion in damages each. An analysis by the Center for American Progress found that the federal government, or taxpayers, spent $136 billion from 2011 to 2013 in disaster relief – equivalent to almost $400 per household per year. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates that “a dollar spent on [pre-disaster] mitigation saves society an average of $4” in damage-recovery costs. Climate change modeling helps identify areas most vulnerable to future extreme weather events and rising sea levels that can benefit the from mitigation efforts.
As Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) said, “Weather should not be, cannot responsibly be, a partisan issue…. I’m disappointed we don’t have a bipartisan bill that entire committee can rally behind.
Rep. Johnson isn’t the only one should be disappointed that climate change has become such a partisan issue that has in turn affected legislation about weather. According to a recent poll from The Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and George Mason University, 70% of Americans agree that global warming should be a priority for the President and Congress. As Republicans continue to politicize climate change, they distance themselves from the priorities that most Americans share. Anyone who makes climate change a partisan issue must be held accountable when the bill comes due.
Judy Li is an intern and Michael Conathan is the Director of Ocean Policy at the Center for American Progress.