Legislation Passed by U.S. House Would Strip U.S. Funding for International Climate Change Assessment Panel

Early today (Saturday, 19 Feb 2011) -- after temperatures in Washington, DC, rose to a record high for the date on Friday -- the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would eliminate U.S. funding for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  Missouri Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer, who proposed the IPCC amendment that was approved by nearly all his Republican colleagues,  claimed the U.S. would otherwise contribute about $13 million to the IPCC.  Fact-checking shows that his claim may be more than 5 time larger than the actual U.S. contribution.

In our post on Friday (18 Feb 2011), U.S. House of Representatives Considers Amendments to Eliminate Support for International Climate Change Assessment , we reported that the House was considering amendments that would eliminate U.S. funding for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  U.S. support for the panel is focused on its work to assess the impacts of climate change, vulnerability to those impacts, and measures that can be taken to reduce vulnerability and to adapt.  The amendments were among hundreds that would modify legislation (H.R. 1) to fund the U.S. government through 30 September 2011.

One of the amendments, Amendment No. 149 introduced by Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer (Republican, Missouri), passed early this morning (19 Feb 2011): 244 (235 Republicans and 9 Democrats) to 179 (176 Democrats and 3 Repubicans) (see final vote results for roll call 132).

The House then passed the amended budget bill, 235 (all of which were Republicans) to 189 (186 Democrats and 3 Republicans) (see final vote results for roll call 147).  The bill now goes to the Senate.  Once the Senate -- controlled by the Democrats -- passes its budget legislation, it will meet with the House in an effort to reconcile differences.  If successful, the compromise legislation emerging from the House-Senate deliberations will be sent to the President who can either sign it into law or veto it.

For an excellent commentary on House passage of the bill cutting IPCC support, see the blog posting of Rick Piltz, director of Climate Science Watch, House votes 244-179 to kill U.S. funding of IPCC.  As Piltz concludes in his post: "The Senate can put a stop to this."

Republican leaders of this and earlier efforts to eliminate the U.S. contribution to the IPCC have wildly exagerated the potential savings from such a move.  For example, Rick Piltz quotes the IPCC amendment sponsor, Congressman Leutkemeyer, as saying during debate over the amendment:

"The international panel the last year or two has been funded at the rate of about $12.5 million per year. The President has it in his 2012 budget at $13 million a year."

Leutkemeyer repeated the unsubstantiated claim in a press release today, saying the provision "would prohibit $13 million in taxpayer dollars" from going to the IPCC, adding that it was "engaged in dubious science."

Yet just last year, House Republicans in a press release said that "[s]ince fiscal year 1994, the United States has provided roughly $50 million to the panel."  That's works out to something on the order of $3 million per year -- a fraction of the $12.5 million per year figure Leutkemeyer used in convincing his colleagues to vote for the amendment last night.  This is the same Congressman who in a 2009 press release argued against IPCC funding by making the wild claim that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency "recently reported that we are undergoing a period of worldwide cooling."

Our sources suggest the U.S. contribution to the IPCC fluctuates depending on the stage of the assessment process, and that in recent years it probably has averaged $2 million per year.  For FY2011 it might be closer to $2.4 million, assuming no law is passed to the contrary.  That is less than one-fifth of the $13 million cited by Leutkemeyer.

So where does the $13 million figure comes from?  It turns out that the number represents the combined expenditures related to the IPCC and the U.N. Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  The IPCC is engaged in scientific assessments while the UNFCCC involves international negotiations.  The combined budget for activites related to the IPCC and UNFCCC was $13 million in FY2010, $8 million in FY2009 and $5.5 million in FY2008, reflecting stepped-up activity in both the IPCC assessment process and in the UNFCCC negotiations.  Most of those funds are not contributions to the IPCC.

Online Resources:

 

Executive Summary.  Function 150 & Other International Programs, Fiscal Year 2012.  U.S. Department of State, 14 Feb 2012.

Esteemed Scientist Blaine Luetkemeyer: Ax Funding for UN Climate Panel & Its "Junk Science".  Fired Up! Missouri, 8 July 2009.

 

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