Obama’s Request for Climate Change Funding in FY2011 Revealed

The Obama Administration has recently released its budget for FY2011, including climate change expenditures. There are a number of domestic departments and agencies vying for money to do climate change and energy research and development, education, modeling, and adaptation programs.

The main focus of these efforts is mitigation, though there is a growing budget for adaptation. Education seems to be the biggest loser. While mitigation is a worthy goal, putting climate change adaptation and education by the wayside is a disservice to the public.

The focus on climate change mitigation is most apparent in the R&D budget. The largest request comes from the Department of Energy (DOE), which has asked for $8.2 billion for the Office of Science for clean energy-related R&D projects. Other departments and agencies have applied for billions in energy-related outlays as well.

The push for mitigation not only focuses on investing in new, clean energy sources, but also on making the price for dirty energy more in line with the actual costs. DOE’s request not only asks for $8.2 billion to fund clean energy research, but also includes a request to eliminate $2.7 billion in subsidies for the coal, natural gas, and oil industries. This will help low emissions technology become more competitive with dirty technology faster.

In contrast, only the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) have specific requests for climate change adaptation projects. Between these two departments, they’ve only requested $330 million for adaptation, or roughly 4% of the mitigation budget requested by the DOE alone.

Education is by far the smallest part of Obama’s climate change budget. The National Science Foundation (NSF) is the only agency requesting money for climate change education. Even then, NSF requested only $10 million, or roughly .1% of DOE’s climate change R&D budget.

Given the gap between public understanding and climate researchers about the evidence of climate change, this seems like a missed opportunity. Educating the public about climate change could put more pressure on leaders to pass a comprehensive climate bill. In addition, it would allow individuals to make better personal decisions on how to both mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Devoting more money to adaptation is also important. Even if all emissions were to stop tomorrow, there would still be climate change in the pipeline. For example, the Southwest is expected to become dryer, which will further tax scarce water resources. Putting money towards adapting water delivery and use systems to the effects of climate change would have immediate and long-term benefits.

If Obama’s climate change budget were more balanced, the benefits would extend far beyond the atmosphere to protect livelihoods and inspire personal mitigation actions. Adaptation and education shouldn’t be left in the dust.

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