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Rare lift for climate science funding: president's 2015 budget request leaves most research flatlined.

Climate science is among the few research winners in President Barack Obama's fiscal year 2015 budget request, which generally kept research funding static. But even the modest increases the administration proposed for climate research are likely to face strong opposition from members of Congress who are resistant to new spending and skeptical of global warming.

The $3.9 trillion budget released on March 4 offered funding agencies like the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health mostly flat budget numbers, while other agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency would see overall cuts (see Table).

Nevertheless, a few agencies would see a modest rise for climate science, in line with the Climate Action Plan that the White House unveiled in June. "Climate change is no longer a distant threat," the administration declared, outlining a strategy that shifts policy from focusing on tallying the effects of climate change to finding ways to curb them.

The president's 2015 plan allotted $2.2 billion, a $164.8 million increase from 2014, to maintain and expand National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite systems that monitor weather and environmental conditions. Scientists plug such satellite data into global climate simulations that are used to project regional-scale changes.

The EPA, which overall would lose nearly $310 million compared with the enacted 2014 budget, would still see a $41 million boost for climate and air-quality research, for a total of $1.03 billion. The extra cash would help the EPA find ways to help vehicles meet emissions standards and to develop caps on allowable carbon dioxide pollution from power plants. Two million dollars would go to technical assistance, such as helping water utilities prepare for extreme weather events like storm surges.

For the U.S. Geological Survey, the president's budget packed an extra $18.2 million--a 37 percent increase--for a program devoted to climate science, totaling $67.6 million. "We're happy to see these proposed increases," says Matthew Larsen, associate director of the USGS Climate and Land Use Change division. "We know that we could put them to good use."

USGS' efforts to address climate change have focused on analyzing satellite data, tracking the country's stored carbon and setting up eight regional centers that translate the projections of global climate simulations into regional effects. More than half of the extra $18 million would fund these climate centers. These regional hubs move the nation beyond studying how climate is changing to researching ways to mitigate adverse effects, Larsen says.

Merging climate science into land management is a new and much-needed research area, says ecologist Andrew Hansen of Montana State University in Bozeman. Along with three other labs, Hansen won a $340,000 grant from the USGS North Central Climate Science Center in 2013 to help prepare Yellowstone National Park for climate change.

Picking apart global climate models to see how temperatures will change in the park, Hansen's team is helping managers decide where to plant new trees to dodge the mountain pine beetle. Thanks to a stretch of mild winters, a boom of the bugs has ravaged Yellowstone's forests.

"This is the way we need to move," adds climate researcher Christopher Castro of the University of Arizona in Tucson. With a nearly $173,000 grant from the USGS Southwest Climate Science Center, Castro and colleagues are using climate simulations to assess how the Colorado River basin's waterways--a source of drinking water throughout the Southwest--will change. The region has seen severe drought in the last decade, causing local agencies to rethink how they manage water. New management strategies include letting treated wastewater soak back into the ground to replenish subterranean water stores.

"I think it's great that this is a priority in the president's proposed budget," Castro says of the emphasis on climate change. "But I would suspect that there would be a lot of resistance in Congress." The EPA has already gotten a small taste of this opposition.

The president requested that the EPA receive $10 million to help set limits on carbon emissions from power plants, a key goal of the Climate Action Plan.

"Power plants are the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States, accounting for roughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions," Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, testified at a hearing of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

The March 12 hearing reviewed the science behind the EPA's September 2013 proposal to cap carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants.

At the hearing, the committee's vice chair, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., declared that he does not believe climate change is real, and committee member Rep. Randy Weber, R-Texas, referred to global warming as a "religion."
Proposed FY15 budgets for science-related
federal agencies (billions of dollars)

Agency 2015 * 2014 ** Change

CDC 6.60 6.84 -3.5%
DOE Office
 of Science 5.11 5.07 0.8%
EPA 7.89 8.20 -3.8%
FDA 4.75 ([dagger]) 4.39 ([dagger]) 8.2%
NASA, Science 4.97 5.15 -3.5%
NIH 30.36 30.15 0.7%
NOAA 5.50 5.32 3.4%
NSF 7.26 7.17 1.3%
USGS 1.07 1.03 3.9%

* requested ** enacted ([dagger]) includes user fees
Figures not adjusted for inflation

SOURCE: CDC, AIP, EPA, FDA, NASA, HHS, NOAA, NSF, DOI
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Title Annotation:HUMANS & SOCIETY; Barack Obama
Author:Mole, Beth
Publication:Science News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 5, 2014
Words:889
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