Over the next couple of days, the Senate Environmental Public Works (EPW) committee will conduct hearings on the EPA’s budget for fiscal year (FY) 2011. What’s interesting from the hearings is that it provides an inside look at how policymakers are not only debating the issue, but also how they are constructing arguments on facts that best suite their existing positions on climate change. This is nothing new in terms of the political process, but does highlight some of the challenges where science and politics converge in developing public policy.
Highlights of the request include:
- The overall request for FY2011 is approximately a $10B budget for the EPA.
- The request includes a reduction to overall agency funding by about $300M from FY2010 while reallocating about $56M (includes new funding of $43M) for programs to regulate and control greenhouse gas emissions.
- There have been concerted efforts led by Senator Linda Murkowski (R-AK) and Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) to introduce legislation to strip from the EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The budget process for the EPA serves as a forum for these legislators to block, or water-down, regulatory efforts by the EPA.
Nevertheless, from watching the hearings there are many questions left unanswered:
- Should the EPA regulate carbon dioxide or is it the role of Congress?
- Why do EPW senators provide such differing causal arguments about climate change ?
- How does the public perceive the arguments for or against climate change? Do public perceptions matter?
- How can we redefine this issue beyond the current rhetoric (e.g. partisanship, personal attacks, binary divisions in the global context of “us versus them,” etc.)? Has the debate become too cavalier?
- Do you feel the EPW and EPA are representing our interests or the interests of special groups who would benefit from this type of legislation?
- Should government regulate industries over environmental issues or develop markets and provide subsidies for industries to compete in environmental markets?
- What are some of the limits of environmentalism in shaping environmental policy?
- Why does Senator Inofe have an issue with political scientists?
- How important is using political arguments around scientific certainty in order to develop competing policies to regulate carbon dioxide?