House GOP Fights Climate Research Funding

     WASHINGTON (CN) – House Republicans on Tuesday called for more funding for short-term weather forecasting during a subcommittee markup of the Weather Forecasting Improvement Act, a move that Democrats fear will come at the expense of climate change research.
     The Weather Forecasting Improvement Act seeks more funding for prediction of near-term weather events.
     “When you take a look at how much money the federal government is putting into climate research, no wonder those of us who are skeptical that mankind is causing the climate to change are a bit disturbed,” said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif.
     He continued: “Because climate research, with a close look, becomes synonymous with research cronyism. Over the last 20 years, 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 to justify restricting human activity, or controlling human activity by the government.”
     The Subcommittee on Environment, an arm of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology held the initial markup hearing for the bill before it heads to the full committee.
     Though it will face tough opposition in the Senate, if the bill passes as is, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration resources will be prioritized and shifted toward “a focused program of investment on near-term, affordable, and attainable advances in observational, computing, and modeling capabilities to deliver substantial improvements in weather forecasting and prediction of high impact weather events, such as tornadoes and hurricanes, and for other purposes.”
     Oklahoma Republican Jim Bridenstine, whose state was pummeled by an EF5 tornado in May that killed 23 people and injured 377, wrote the bill. He defended it against Democratic amendments that would have limited the bill’s effects on climate research.
     “Our goal here is not to render ineffective our research on climate,” Bridenstine said. “Our goal is to save lives.”
     Bridenstine used a bar chart to display that more resources are devoted to researching climate than to weather forecasting.
     “The Y axis of the chart measures peak capacity petaflops. Is there anyone in the majority that can tell me what a petaflop is?” asked Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla.
     “It’s a thousand teraflops,” answered Subcommittee Chairman Chris Stewart, R-Utah.
     “What’s a teraflop?” asked Grayson.
     “A million megaflops,” Stewart quickly answered.
     “I see where this is going,” said Grayson, who said that devoting more resources to climate research is not wrong, because it’s a more complex problem.
     Grayson’s amendments, to add “such as tornadoes and hurricanes” to the text, and a proposal to establish a hurricane warning precision program, were the only Democratic amendments accepted by the subcommittee.
     Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, the subcommittee’s ranking Democrat, from Oregon, argued that Republicans thrust the bill into the subcommittee’s lap the day before the Fourth of July holiday, giving staff members insufficient time to review Stewart’s changes to the bill.
     Stewart reassured Bonamici that the bill was nearly identical to its June 18, 2012 form, when it was debated before the full committee and that the only changes were largely “grammatical.”
     Grayson twice asked for an additional week, so the bill could be seen as a bipartisan effort, but Stewart denied him both times.
     In addition to focusing money on weather forecasting, the bill calls for a report from NOAA assessing the range of commercial opportunities for obtaining space-based weather observations.
     NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research would be required to conduct Observing System Simulation Experiments, a notion that Democrats fought against, noting that reliance on such experiments was not endorsed by expert witnesses who testified at the June hearing.
     “It’s been clear in our subcommittee and its been clear in our full committee that there is a deep animus to anything related to climate research on the side of the majority, but the fact is that climate impacts weather and that our experts need to have the full knowledge and expertise about this impact so that there can be better forecasting,” said Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md.
     “I suppose you can bury your head in the sand, if there’s any sand left on the beach when another severe climate event happens and our weather services aren’t able to keep up with it.”
     The bill’s next stop will be the full committee for another markup.

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