July 12, 2018

Whitehouse, Democrats Challenge Republican Attack on NSF Climate Grants

Washington, DC – Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) led 18 senators in introducing a resolution establishing a sense of the Senate that the National Science Foundation (NSF) should be able to share critical climate science from federal agencies with the public.  The resolution follows an unprecedented attack by four Senate Republicans on an NSF grant program that helps to educate TV meteorologists around the country about the science of climate change. 

Joining Whitehouse in introducing the resolution are Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tom Udall (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), and Edward J. Markey (D-MA).

“Americans ought to be able to learn about the science coming out of taxpayer-funded agencies like NASA and NOAA.  Those federal scientists are smart enough to put a rover on Mars.  They also do vital work tracking our changing climate and preparing our communities for serious threats like severe weather and sea level rise,” said Whitehouse.  “The fossil fuel industry holds sway in Congress right now, and that enables attacks like this on sound, peer-reviewed climate science.  Our resolution sends a signal that the Senate stands behind our scientists.”

In a letter to the NSF’s Inspector General, the Republicans alleged the agency had shown partisan bias by facilitating the exchange of peer-reviewed information on climate change with television meteorologists.  Whitehouse and his colleagues’ resolution would establish that it “is within the authority and aligned with the mission of the National Science Foundation to provide grants to broadcast meteorologists to improve their understanding of climate change science and ability to communicate climate change science to the public.”  It would also resolve that the Senate considers climate change to be real and driven by human activity.

Congress created the NSF “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; [and] to secure the national defense.”  As the senators note in their resolution, any NSF grant award undergoes a rigorous merit review process, including assessment by independent reviewers who have no affiliation with the NSF nor the institution that employs those applying for the funding.

The NSF is one of a vast array of federal agencies, professional and scientific associations, and other highly regarded American research institutions to help disseminate peer-reviewed research on climate change. 

Climate change has already caused billions of dollars in damage in the United States, according to the federal government’s watchdog agency the Government Accountability Office.  According to the American Meteorological Society, the premier U.S. professional association for meteorologists and others working in atmospheric and related science, Americans will see dramatic shifts in weather as climate change continues, including extreme heat, droughts, and flooding.

Read the senators’ resolution here.


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