Four Republican senators described the National Science Foundation as a political rather than scientific organization because of its study of climate change and have called for an investigation into the group by the agency’s inspector general’s office. In a scathing letter to the IG’s office last week, the senators lambasted NSF for granting over $4 million to two programs that encouraged TV newscasters to discuss climate science on air. This is not the first time Republican lawmakers have asked for the nonpartisan science agency to be investigated for supposed partisan bias.
“NSF, intended to be a supporter of basic research beneficial to the common good, has issued several grants which seek to influence political and social debate rather than conduct scientific research,” reads the letter, which was signed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.), Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). “The manner in which grants such as these receive federal funding is deserving of further scrutiny.”
The senators’ main beef with the 68-year-old independent science agency concerns two grants that constitute approximately 0.0005% of its $7.8 billion budget. Both focus on providing TV meteorologists with additional scientific education about climate change. The first is for a project that tests the benefits and obstacles to using TV meteorologists “as effective informal communication vehicles for scientific information about climate change.” The second is to expand the climate education program, known as Climate Matters, with different newscasters nationwide. Both requests were proposals from George Mason University, but it was the second one, which detailed a partnership with the nonprofit organization Climate Central, that really disturbed the senators.