Hectic summers and big monies

The dearth of posts the last week or so has been because of a ramp-up of activity around here, including giving talks, traveling and buying a house. Speaking of which, don't forget to click those adverts!

Anyway, I'm still trying to get caught up on things, and haven't stumbled on anything all that blog-worthy. However, I just remembered that I had found some interesting numbers that I'm happy to share. The question is, how much research money is really available for climate research? And how does that compare to money for other things, other science topics and completely different endeavors?

Well, I can't answer completely, but we can start putting some things in perspective. First off, let's just restrict our attention to the United States, which isn't fair, but let's do it anyway. What is the total annual budget for the USA? According to the USA Office of Budget and Management, the typical fiscal year has about 2.8 TRILLION DOLLARS of spending. Unfortunately for the USA, it only has around 2.5 Trillion of income (the difference each year is the national deficit) [LINK]. Amazingly, the deficit is 1-2% of the gross national product. Just under half of the total budget is allocated in "discretionary spending," which I think means that Congress gets to dole it out more or less as it sees fit (and the president approves it). More than half of the discretionary spending goes to "security;" which means that about 25% of the total budget, somewhere in the neighborhood of $600 BILLION goes to security. That's a spicy meatball! About $400 billion goes to everything else; yes, I know these numbers are rough, that's why I am supplying the link for you to go take a look yourself. Let me know if I'm totally misinterpreting something.

Of the remaining $400 billion, we can start to see how it gets distributed by looking at which departments get a piece of the pie. It looks like Health and Human Services and Education are the biggest beneficiaries of this money, getting about $70 and $55 billion respectively. The National Institutes of Health is mainly funded through the Dept of Health and Human Services, and is able to dole out about $30 billion annually [LINK]. Moving into physical sciences, much more of the research comes through the Dept of Energy, NASA, the Dept of Commerce, and the National Science Foundation, with lesser contributions from other departments (e.g., $1billion to all of USGS through Dept of Interior).

The total budgets for those organizations are roughly $24billion for DoE, $6billion for DoC, $16billion for NASA, and $6billion for NSF. The first three all have significant non-research allocations, while the NSF is the dominant source of funding for all basic science research in the USA.

Let's say that somehow if we were combing through the budget, we could take that NSF money and double it from other agencies. That gives around $12 BILLION for basic physical sciences (excluding biology/medicine money from NIH). That is about 2% of the USA's annual defense budget, and LESS THAN 1/10th of 1% of the USA GDP. Isn't that shocking?!

So I can't tell you how much of that is available for climate-related research, but bear in mind that that money covers most of physics, chemistry, mathematics, geology, astronomy, and a lot of engineering research in the USA, along with quite a lot of biological sciences, climate, and multidisciplinary science. The bottom line is that science in general is a drop in the proverbial bucket, and funding for climate research is a tiny fraction of that drop.

We're throwing around some crazy numbers here. How about comparing against some non-governmental values? The annual payroll for the National Football League teams this year is hovering around $3billion [LINK]. Football players are getting paid half as much as the entire NSF. There are 53 players per team on the 32 NFL teams, giving 1696 players getting paid $3,000,000,000. There are somewhere around 250,000 scientists and engineers employed just at research universities in the USA; this includes non-physical scientists, but doesn't include government labs [LINK].

Just as another number to compare with, USA and Canada citizens spend about $8-9 billion per year in cinema tickets [LINK]. Full a third more than the entire NSF budget.

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