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USA - President Biden's 'Whole of Government' Climate Spending Extravaganza

Just two years ago, the National Endowment for the Arts made only one grant to an art project that promised to address the issue of climate change, awarding $25,000 to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art to commission work informed by "research on the Earth's dissolving permafrost layer."

During the last two years, the federal agency has provided $1,369,000 to fund some 40 climate-focused projects. The 29 such grants approved for fiscal year 2022 include support for multidisciplinary artist Hajra Waheed's collaboration "with researchers and organizers on issues such as land sovereignty and food and climate justice"; development of a Baltimore Center Stage production titled, "A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction"; and a grant to the Dance Exchange in Takoma Park, Maryland, to use "movement and storytelling to explore the ways different landscapes and communities are navigating climate change."

Never mind the prospect of reins on executive climate action in light of the Supreme Court's stinging regulatory rebuke last week: These art projects are one small piece of an explosion of climate spending since President Biden called during his first days in office for a "whole-of-government approach to combating the climate crisis." In response, every department, bureau, and agency has climate-related budget lines, responding to Biden's mandate by claiming a slice of the climate pie.

Where the Trump administration's 150-page budget overview for the fiscal year 2020 mentioned the word climate just once (and that was a reference to "school climate" – that is, educational environment), the current White House 2023 budget overview mentions the word "climate" 187 times and the phrase "climate crisis" 33 times in its 158 pages.

The administration's proposed budget for fiscal year 2023 calls for "a total of $44.9 billion to tackle the climate crisis," $16.7 billion more than climate spending in 2021, according to the president's budget.

"Climate change is not only a real and growing threat," Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan said, "but it also presents an economic opportunity." These include:

  • The Department of Health and Human Services plans to boost spending on the CDC's Climate and Health Program from $10 million to $110 million, to "identify potential health effects associated with climate change and implement health adaptation plans."
  • The National Institutes of Health are ramping up research on "climate change impact on health," with grants for projects "that address the impact of climate change on health" and technologies for measuring "the effects of climate change and extreme weather events on human health."
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