More Legislating Via Budget Votes: House Kills IPCC Funding

While the rest of the nation slept, House Republicans pushed through another defunding amendment. This time, the victim is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which “prepares comprehensive international climate science assessments.” The amendment was sponsored by second-term Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO).

I call this legislation via budget process because the vote was on an amendment H.R. 1, a continuing resolution to fund the federal government through September 2011. The vote was not on Luetkemeyer’s own bill, H.R. 680, designed to “prohibit United States contributions to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.” But the language of the amendment was exactly the same as that of the bill, which had yet to come before committee.

In floor debate, Luetkemeyer asserted:

My constituents should not have to continue to foot the bill for an organization to keep producing corrupt findings that can be used as justification to impose a massive new energy tax on every American.

Nevermind that ClimateGate*, the source of Luetkemeyer’s heartburn, has been debunked:

A number of investigations have been launched since a vast number of emails from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK were released on the internet – and triggered now-debunked allegations of a global warming cover up… reviews largely cleared the researchers involved, although they noted that there could have been more openness.

Rising in opposition, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), who pointed out that the U.S. is not the sole funder of the IPCC, that the IPCC won the Nobel Prize in 2007 and that the funding level is minor. Moreover, it’s important to understand that the IPCC “was established with the support of the George H.W. Bush administration to provide authoritative international assessments of climate change.”

Nevertheless, with “climate change is not real” as part of its rallying cry, the GOP pushed through the generally party-line vote (244-177). (Note: There are 241 Republicans and 193 Democrats in the House.)

Leutkemeyer claimed a savings of $13 million. But Stanford ecologist Chris Field, the lead author on one of three IPCC working groups, “said that 2009 funding for the IPCC was about $3 million.” For context, that’s less than a penny-per-person for every U.S. citizen.

Without the federal support, he said, “We’d have no ability to organize meetings, we’d have no ability to coordinate chapters,” he said. “He said the meetings allow U.S. scientists, who volunteer their time, to combine their knowledge with the work of colleagues around the world. “A small amount of funding goes a long way,” he said.

Field said that climate scientists need to do a better job of explaining the value of their work. “The IPCC didn’t understand that part of its mandate was explaining to people why its information is useful. I hope it can do a better job in the future,” he said.

Climate skeptic Roy Spencer of the University of Alabama, Huntsville, says that scientists have lost touch with the public because their message is flawed. (emphasis added)

Chris Mooney writes for Discover Magazine:

It’s pretty staggering that we’re now at a point where the most definitive outlet for information about the state of the climate is being not only rejected, but defunded, on partisan grounds.

A final point from the NRDC to explain what the IPCC does:

If you have questions about something do you go in your basement and turn off the lights? No you turn on the TV, look it up on the internet, or listen to the radio. This is basically what the IPCC does. The IPCC assesses what scientists know about climate change. It doesn’t do new research; it pulls together already published research and explains it to policymakers and the public. It is a collaboration by hundreds of volunteering US scientists alongside scientists from 194 countries around the world.

Science, and scientific research, should be non-partisan. Funding the IPCC has been, until today.

* Backstory on ClimateGate:
ClimateGate was the result of hackers breaking into Britain’s Climate Research Unit in November 2009. (Hmmm… did Luetkemeyer try to defund IPCC in the 2010 legislative session or is he being opportunistic?) Global warming skeptics, like Glenn Beck, immediately claimed collusion to withhold information. At the time, the scientists at RealClimate wrote (emphasis added):

More interesting is what is not contained in the emails. There is no evidence of any worldwide conspiracy, no mention of George Soros nefariously funding climate research, no grand plan to ‘get rid of the MWP’, no admission that global warming is a hoax, no evidence of the falsifying of data, and no ‘marching orders’ from our socialist/communist/vegetarian overlords. [...]

No doubt, instances of cherry-picked and poorly-worded “gotcha” phrases will be pulled out of context. One example is worth mentioning quickly. Phil Jones in discussing the presentation of temperature reconstructions stated that “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.” The paper in question is the Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1998) Nature paper on the original multiproxy temperature reconstruction, and the ‘trick’ is just to plot the instrumental records along with reconstruction so that the context of the recent warming is clear. Scientists often use the term “trick” to refer to a “a good way to deal with a problem”, rather than something that is “secret”, and so there is nothing problematic in this at all. As for the ‘decline’, it is well known that Keith Briffa’s maximum latewood tree ring density proxy diverges from the temperature records after 1960 (this is more commonly known as the “divergence problem”–see e.g. the recent discussion in this paper) and has been discussed in the literature since Briffa et al in Nature in 1998 (Nature, 391, 678-682). Those authors have always recommend not using the post 1960 part of their reconstruction, and so while ‘hiding’ is probably a poor choice of words (since it is ‘hidden’ in plain sight), not using the data in the plot is completely appropriate, as is further research to understand why this happens.

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