Daily Caller gets it wrong on global warming spending

Michael Bastasch’s shallow and oversimplified reading of federal spending for climate disruption vs. border security misleads his audience.

CATEGORY: ClimateAn article in the Daily Caller on October 28 incorrectly claimed that the federal government was spending twice as much to address industrial climate disruption as it was spending on border security. In the process, the author of the article, Michael Bastasch, misrepresented both the 2014 Department of Homeland Security budget and the federal climate change expenditures for 2013.

According to the Budget-in-Brief for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for the fiscal year 2014, the US Customs and Border Protection organization spent $11.86 billion. This is the source of Bastasch’s “nearly $12 billion on customs and border protection” line in his article. However, it ignores three other DHS organizations that play a significant part in customs and border protection – Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In the description of ICE in the DHS budget, it explicitly says that ICE enforces “approximately 400 federal laws governing border control, customs, trade, and immigration. (emphasis added)” The Coast Guard conducts not just maritime security, but also maritime law enforcement including detaining “352 suspected drug smugglers” and interdicting 2,955 undocumented migrants attempting to illegally enter the United States.” And besides granting citizenship to immigrants, USCIS is also responsible for “deterring, detecting, and pursuing immigration related fraud” among other “customs and border protection”-type actions.

In addition, five other DHS organizations could be involved in customs and border protection. These organizations include the airport-focused Transportation Security Agency (TSA), the cybersecurity-focused National Protection and Programs Directorate, the illness-tracking Office of Health Affairs, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, and the Science & Technology Directorate.

Adding just the budgets for ICE, the Coast Guard, and USCIS to Bastasch’s original “nearly $12 billion” results in $31.32 billion of direct federal spending, about 2.5x what Bastasch reported. And this fails to consider customs and border protection funding in budgets for departments other than Homeland Security.

The Federal Climate Change Expenditures Report (the Report) to Congress indicates that the total expenditures for climate disruption across the entire federal government is about $22.2 billion. This is the same total that Bastasch uses, but he fails to mention that total expenditures is not the same as total spending. Specifically, that $22.2 billion includes $13.08 billion in various tax provisions (credits, incentives, payments in lieu of tax credits, and the like). While these terms are tracked as “expenditures” in the Report, they are not direct federal spending and thus cannot be accurately compared to direct federal spending from the Homeland Security Budget. Removing the tax provisions would lower the total from $22.2 billion to $9.11 billion.

Additionally, the Report represents a sum total of all climate expenditures across the entire federal government. The budget values that Bastasch compares to the Report’s values are for just Homeland Security and don’t contain any money from any other federal Department. It is very likely that the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Health & Human Services, Justice, Labor, Transportation, and State all have some budget included for dealing with one aspect or another of customs and border enforcement, although it would take a detailed analysis of the entire federal budget to say for certain.

Finally, while it’s certain that not all of ICE’s or the Coast Guard’s efforts are focused exclusively on customs and border protection, it’s also certain that not all of the budget items identified in the Report are focused exclusively on industrial climate disruption. The Department of Agriculture is sponsoring research into water resources, reducing catastrophic wildfire risk, and improved forest management, none of which is inherently climate-focused. The efforts of the Department of Health and Human Services/National Institutes of Health are focused on “identifying emerging environmental threats to human health,” which includes classic air pollution and arriving pathogens like West Nile Virus and Dengue Fever in addition to how climate will affect them in the future. Nearly all of the NASA portion of the climate budget is usable for climate, but also for weather and fire forecasting as well as mitigating and responding to natural disasters of all types. The bulk of the Department of Defense “clean energy” spending is focused on energy efficiency and alternative fuel sources that enhance both national and operational security. And a significant amount of the Department of Energy spending is for nuclear power, not renewable energy or energy efficiency.

Accurately representing federal spending on industrial climate disruption research, adaptation, and mitigation would require a careful, nuanced reading of both the Report and the Homeland Security budget, if not the entire 2014 federal budget. Bastasch’s article, however, was neither careful nor nuanced, and as a result he misleads his audience about the nature of federal climate funding as compared to customs and border protection.

3 replies »

  1. There are significant amounts of Defense Department resources dedicated to border security.

    A 2012 GAO report: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-657T

    Note that that report does not include discussion of DOD’s role in drug interdiction operations, which is directly related to ‘border security’ and adds roughly $500 million / year into the equation: http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/drug_interdiction#sthash.sfqLH50m.dpbs
    “Department of Defense: $471.2 million
    “The Department of Defense (DoD) serves as the lead agency of the Federal Government for the detection and monitoring of aerial and maritime transit of illegal drugs into the United States. It fulfills this mission through the maritime and air assets it provides, its intelligence collection capabilities, as well as its operation of Joint Interagency Task Forces South and West, which work to detect, monitor, and disrupt the flow of illicit traffic to the United States.” – See more at: http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/drug_interdiction#sthash.sfqLH50m.dpuf

    Also, a ‘framing’ … your post seems at odds with Debunking Handbook.

    Why not have the opening sentence asserting the truth? Could open like this:

    The U.S. government is spending far more money on border control-related activities than it is on climate change. While illegal crossings of the border — both of individuals and goods — legitimately is a threat to U.S. national interests, it does not represent the same nature of existential threat posed by climate change.