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Climate policy takes center stage

In Congress yesterday, Americans saw one step forward and one step backward on dealing with the climate crisis.
The home of a hired farm hand is shown collapsed near the South Platte River September 17, 2013 near Evans, in eastern Colorado.
The home of a hired farm hand is shown collapsed near the South Platte River September 17, 2013 near Evans, in eastern Colorado.
We talked the other day about Rep. Jim Bridenstine's (R-Okla.) "Weather Forecasting Improvement Act," which as written, was intended to require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to "prioritize weather-related activities" in its research -- and not climate change. What happened to the bill?
It easily passed the House yesterday, but not before it was changed quite significantly.

The House passed legislation on Tuesday that would reprioritize the work of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on weather prediction, in order to help save lives and property threatened by severe storms. [...] The bill was originally envisioned by Republicans as one that would limit NOAA's ability to engage in any work on climate change. But ... the bill was amended to clarify that the bill only deals with NOAA's weather prediction functions, and doesn't affect ocean or atmospheric research. Those changes allowed Democrats to support the bill, and agree that improved weather forecasting would help save lives and billions of dollars in property.

There is no roll call on the vote; support was so one-sided that it was approved through a voice vote.
For those concerned with the climate crisis, it's worth noting that the bill effectively went from being openly hostile to climate research to one that doesn't have much to do with climate science at all. With the Democratic changes, included to ensure the bill's passage, according to co-sponsor Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), "ties the needs of forecasters at the National Weather Service to the research initiatives at" the NOAA's Office of Oceans and Atmospheric Research.
In other words, the original plan to deemphasize climate research was changed. Indeed, the word "climate" doesn't even appear in the bill.
So, good news, right? Yes, though yesterday also brought an entirely separate reminder about the right's hostility to climate science.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) unveiled a very conservative budget plan yesterday, and while its economic provisions understandably generated the most attention, the budget blueprint also aimed very specifically at attacking President Obama's climate agenda.

While the most notable cut in spending comes from repealing Obama's signature healthcare law, Ryan's budget targets funding across agencies that the administration is relying on to advance the Obama's climate agenda, a crucial piece of the president's second-term legacy. The blueprint hits spending for "government-wide climate-change-related activities," mainly through cuts to federal agencies' funds for overseas climate-change initiatives. It also targets the administration's clean technology and strategic climate funds, established in 2010, which provide foreign assistance to boost energy-efficient projects aimed at mitigating climate change. The budget blasts the administration's carbon-emissions rules, claiming the Environmental Protection Agency has abused it powers in furthering the president's climate plan. Nearly two of the 100 pages in the document are spent slamming the carbon-emissions rule as a war on coal.

Note the larger context: on Monday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its latest findings on the climate crisis, and the news was crushing. Scientists found that sweeping effects are already evident on every continent and in all of the world's oceans, and as the New York Times' report added, "they warned that the problem was likely to grow substantially worse unless greenhouse emissions are brought under control."
Just 24 hours later, the House Republican budget plan concluded that what Americans really need is a budget that stops trying to combat the climate crisis.