U.S. Senate Launches Probe of NSF Climate Grants

Published August 9, 2018

Sens. Rand Paul (R–KY), Ted Cruz (R–TX), Jim Inhofe (R–OK), and James Lankford (R–OK) sent a letter to National Science Foundation (NSF) Inspector General (IG) Allison Lerner requesting her office investigate a grant program administered by NSF designed to educate meteorologists about climate change.

The letter says the grants are not promoting science but instead are doing politics. NSF “issued several grants which seek to influence political and social debate rather than conduct scientific research,” the senators write.

The letter says the organization may have violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from taking public political stances.

‘Propagandizing’ for Climate Change

Among the programs the senators ask the IG to investigate is NSF’s providing of more than $4 million to a climate-change activist coalition including the self-described advocacy group Climate Central, to turn television meteorologists into what Cruz called “climate change evangelists” in a press statement his office sent out commenting on the letter.

“Research designed to sway individuals of a various group [sic], be they meteorologists or engineers, to a politically contentious viewpoint is not science—it is propagandizing,” the senators wrote. “Such efforts certainly fail to meet the standard of scientific research to which the NSF should be devoting federal taxpayer dollars.” 

‘Parasites on the Government’

The NSF is incapable of performing an objective evaluation of data and science because it has the self-interested motive to expand the size and funding of government regardless of the issue being studied, says physician and lawyer John Dale Dunn, a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News.

“Just like the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the NSF is a quasigovernmental agency, dependent upon federal money to exist,” said Dunn. “NAS, for example, gets 200 to 300 grants from the government to study various issues, including climate change, and as a result they have millions of dollars to spend while encouraging scientists to be part of their activities and sit on committees for research projects or investigating committees.

“Since NSF is also to a great extent populated by people who are parasites on the government, they do what the government agencies want them to do, which is propagandize in favor of greater support for government intervention in peoples’ lives and increased government funding of regulatory and research agencies that in turn give grants to bodies like NAS and the NSF,” Dunn said. “They are creatures owned lock, stock, and barrel by the government. When it comes to climate change and meteorologists, NFS is going to promote an indoctrination agenda and they will expect to see it repeated in meteorologists’ professional work and in the media in the case of TV and radio weather forecasters.”

‘It’s a Club’

Steve Milloy, founder of JunkScience.com and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute, says groups like NSF, NAS, and other associations dealing with science have been captured by activist researchers who want grants.

“They have a symbiotic relationship, with these groups always supporting additional funding for ‘research’ for whatever government agency has the money,” Milloy said. “That’s kind of how it works. There is an application process, and while in theory anyone can apply, the reality is it’s a club and they only fund the people they know and whose research they trust to come to the ‘right’ conclusion.

“It is not really an honest competition, and it’s not really about scientific inquiry, because there are other agendas at work,” Milloy said. “This is not only true in climate research funding or at the NSF; it is true across the board at the National Institutes of Health or the Environmental Protection Agency, for example, every place where there’s government money tied to research. Government needs to be removed from science because it corrupts it.” 

Favoring ‘Apocalyptic Predictions’

William F. Shughart, research director at the Independent Institute, says the climate issue has been entirely politicized.

“Any time you see climate science in print, the word ‘science’ ought to be in quotation marks, because it is a political issue and anybody who is not part of the climate change religion has their viewpoints suppressed in favor of apocalyptic predictions about what will happen if the temperature goes up by about 1 degree centigrade,” Shughart said.

The politicization of the climate issue through government grants is a form of public thought policing, says Marlo Lewis, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

“Climate alarmists are trying to scare people into embracing policies which are all cost for no benefit,” Lewis said. “They only present one side, a highly exaggerated side, of the spectrum of possibilities that climate change is occurring and will cause a humanitarian disaster supposedly worse than any disease or other problem, when in fact there is an amazing correlation between the rise in carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere and incredible, unprecedented gains in human health and welfare.”

‘A Disservice to Meteorology’

Meteorologists perform a valuable service when they forecast the weather and leave politics aside, Lewis says.

“It is a disservice to meteorology to embroil it in what is an ideological controversy,” Lewis said. “Because climate alarmists know people trust their weather forecasters, they are trying to use them to preach the gospel climate change is the worst calamity the world has ever seen.

“To the extent NSF uses these grants to recruit activists and fund advocacy, rather than to support actual meteorology, it should stop or it risks having the public’s confidence in weather forecasters undermined,” said Lewis. 

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.


Sen. Rand Paul (R–KY) et al., “Senate Letter to NSF IG Requesting an Investigation of Climate Grants,” June 18, 2018; https://heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/senate-letteR–to-nsf-ig-requesting-an-investigation-of-climate-grants