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Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment
budgets for existing federal environmental research programs, one would be adding about $500 million a year–about what EPA's annual research costs are. That is a great deal of new research.
If reorganization of the federal environmental research programs were undertaken with the aim of achieving as many of the desirable goals as possible, through either Framework A or Framework D recommendations, and eliminating as much duplication as possible, and if there were a commitment to begin by adding 10% of the present research budget, it could be achieved. If the objectives were more ambitious, through expansion of the NSF budget to cover fields of research not now covered (for example, through rapid expansion of the monitoring program or through markedly expanded international cooperation), the increased budgets would be much larger.
We believe that there are compelling reasons for spending more money on environmental research than is now being spent. Almost any amount of money–from the 10% increase suggested above to the tripling of the federal investment in environmental research suggested by the National Commission on the Environment–could be wisely invested, provided that the recommended cultural and organizational changes were adopted.
In thinking about costs, one must keep in mind the costs of doing nothing. Many environmental matters have been driven into the courts when scientific uncertainty has made it difficult to establish agreed-on standards of environmental quality and methods of attaining them. Use of the courts will always be part of the problem-solving machinery, but the costs of litigation are large.
Estimates of the cost of present and future efforts to protect and restore the environment are staggering. We have heard $50 billion quoted as the cost of cleaning up the Hanford nuclear site alone. We have a total backlog of toxic-waste remediation that might cost as much as $2 thousand billion (William Reilly, EPA, Congressional testimony, March 1992). We have no adequate technology for that waste cleanup, and we will not have it until we invest in much more research to learn how to do it effectively. Who can estimate the cost to the nation occasioned by loss of biological diversity and extinction of species, if that threat proves as great as biologists predict?
Our national security is at issue. Ensuring that security by spending money to understand the problems that we now see only dimly must have a very high priority.