Biden Budget Makes Tackling Climate Change A Priority

NASA Pearce
Credit: NASA

President Joe Biden is proposing the creation of a DARPA-like organization to conduct high-risk, high-payoff advanced research into climate resilience as part of a fiscal 2022 budget request that would bring a dramatic ramp-up of U.S. climate-change investment.

The $1 billion requested to create the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Climate and invest in the existing Advanced Research Projects Agency—Energy (ARPA-E) is part of an overall increase of more than $14 billion over fiscal 2021 in climate investments requested across multiple agencies.

Reversing the previous administration’s stance, Biden’s first budget request outlines a “whole-of-government-approach to combating climate change,” which it describes as “one of the greatest challenges of our time.”

The request proposes more than $4 billion to fund a broad portfolio of research across multiple agencies to improve understanding of climate change. Funding of NASA’s Earth Sciences program would be boosted to $250 million to allow development of the next generation of Earth-observing satellites to study the climate.

Several initiatives indirectly would benefit efforts already underway to reduce aviation emissions, such as electric and hydrogen propulsion and sustainable fuels. These include cleaning up the U.S. electrical grid, investing in production of green hydrogen, and advancing carbon capture and storage for sectors such as aviation that are difficult to decarbonize.

Directly benefiting aviation, the budget request proposes $915 million for aeronautics research at NASA, an increase of $86 million from the enacted 2021 level, to broaden and accelerate testing of technologies to enable ultra-efficient next-generation airliners.

NASA has outlined plans to invest in an ultra-efficient subsonic transport X-plane flight demonstrator, as well as electrified-propulsion flight demonstrations and highly thermally efficient, small-core turbine engines to power commercial transports.

The Biden administration is seeking $43.1 billion in funding for the Energy Department, an increase of 10.2% from the 2021 level. This includes $1.9 billion to build clean-energy projects aimed at achieving carbon-free electricity by 2035.

Another $8 billion is sought for research into clean energy, including advanced nuclear technologies and green hydrogen. This is up 27% from 2021 and would put the U.S. on a path to increase clean-energy research four-fold in four years, the request said.

The administration also plans to revitalize the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management to advance carbon-reduction and mitigation in sectors that are difficult to decarbonize. This includes investing in direct air capture of atmospheric CO2.

The budget request seeks $11.2 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency, a 21.3% increase over 2021, intended to restore the agency’s ability to carry out its core mission. The EPA lost nearly 1,000 staff members over the four years of the previous administration, the request noted.

The request includes $6.9 billion for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an increase of more than $1.4 billion from the 2021 level. The additional funds would allow the agency’s climate observation and forecasting work to expand.

The Biden team also is seeking funding to mitigate the effects of climate change and improve the resilience of Defense Department facilities. The request includes proposals to invest in power and energy research and development aimed at improving the energy performance of military installations and platforms.

Graham Warwick

Graham leads Aviation Week's coverage of technology, focusing on engineering and technology across the aerospace industry, with a special focus on identifying technologies of strategic importance to aviation, aerospace and defense.