Federal Funds for Climate Panel Saved, But Foe Plans New Assault

Eli is a contributing correspondent for Science magazine.

The U.S. government will be able to continue supporting the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change after language banning those contributions was dropped from the compromise spending bill for 2011.

That language had been included in the House of Representatives draft of the spending bill, known as H.R. 1, as one of the so-called "policy riders." It was first authored as a standalone bill by Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO), who said in a February press release that IPCC "is an entity that is fraught with waste and fraud, and engaged in dubious science, which is the last thing hard-working American taxpayers should be paying for. "

Luetkemeyer spokesperson Paul Sloca tells ScienceInsider that the congressman plans to reintroduce the bill. The fact that the measure was included in H.R. 1, said Sloca, shows that there's "strong support for the measure" among House Republicans.

But there is some confusion about how much spending is involved, and Luetkemeyer may also want to broaden his proposal to bar the government from supporting any meetings aimed at negotiating a global treaty on climate change.

The United States spent roughly $3 million last year on its contribution to IPCC, says Carnegie Institution for Science's Chris Field, who runs the IPCC's technical support unit for its Working Group II out of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. The money went mostly for U.S. scientists to attend meetings to discuss and write the voluminous reports. But on the House floor and in his press release, Luetkemeyer repeatedly asserted that his legislation would prevent the United States from spending "$13 million" on IPCC.

As explained by Nick Sundt, the $13 million is actually spent on both IPCC and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is not mentioned in Luetkemeyer's bill. When asked about the error today, Sloca said of the framework convention: "They're doing the same kind of thing, supporting the climate change [effort]. I don't think it matters one way or another. We're opposed to spending taxpayer dollars on either of them." At presstime, Sloca was checking whether his boss planned to amend the bill to clarify that it would bar U.S. spending on the framework convention as well. [Update: At 1 p.m., Sloca would not say either way.] Luetkemeyer's best chance of success would be to attach his legislation to another vehicle, like another spending bill. The White House strongly supports the IPCC and would be expected to veto any stand-alone measure that was approved by Congress.

Posted in Funding Budget 2012