Washington, 25 Jul 2003
A U.S. multi-agency federal panel has issued a 10-year strategic plan to address what it says are some of the most complex questions the United States and the world now face with regard to climate variability and change.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Donald Evans told reporters July 24 that the Climate Change Strategic Plan brings together for the first time the science resources of 13 federal departments and agencies, and includes input from 1,200 scientists and climate change specialists from over 35 countries.
Evans said the federal agencies that make up the Climate Change Science Program -- a joint federal program of President Bush's Committee on Climate Change Science and Technology Integration -- are spending $4,500 million on climate change programs.
"This report we're releasing today is an integrated, comprehensive, transparent report," he said. "We've drawn on resources within government, outside government and outside the country of America." Noting that the United States is spending more money on climate change programs than Europe and Japan combined, Evans added, "it shows the world we're leading and we take this issue very seriously."
Evans also announced a $103 million two-year federal initiative to accelerate the deployment of new satellite-based global observation technologies. The new, integrated global observation system would be aimed at providing critical scientific data needed to make more informed decisions regarding climate, the environment, and a host of other economic and social issues that are affected by the Earth and climate change. Ministers from the G-8 and other countries are scheduled to attend a summit on July 31 in Washington, D.C. to discuss the development of the proposed Earth observation system.
Evans said the global observation system, which would include space-borne, airborne and Earth-based observations, fits in with the scientific goals of the strategic plan. These goals include improving knowledge of the Earth's climate and the potential response of the climate system to human-induced changes in the atmosphere and land surface.
White House Science Advisor John Marburger said the report represents the U.S. government's determined effort to outline the way forward from the present state of knowledge on long-term climate variability and change.
The plan is aimed at finding answers "about why our climate continually changes; how much the climate is expected to change during the next year, the next decade and next 100 years; and how much of climate change is predictable, including abrupt climate change," he said.
Marburger added that rapid advances and ideas in climate science and technology are expected to continue, and will almost certainly require revisions in the plan as new knowledge accumulates.
"Climate science has benefited greatly from the convergence of new and innovative ideas about how the complex machinery of Earth works," Marburger said, "and from numerous new technologies to measure Earth's atmosphere, land and oceans, and from remarkable advancements in computing."
While the plan is designed for 10 years, it also outlines 21 priorities to be completed by 2007, including efforts to measure heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions and making predictions based on the estimates.
Secretary Evans said that President Bush has asked his advisors to consider approaches to reduce greenhouse gases, "including those that tap the power of markets, help realize the promise of technology and ensure the widest-possible global participation. And that is indeed what we are doing."
President Bush has set a national goal of reducing the nation's greenhouse gas intensity by 18 percent over the next 10 years while sustaining economic growth needed to finance investment in innovative clean energy technologies. The president has also challenged industry to voluntarily reduce its greenhouse gas emissions -- mainly carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels -- which contribute to global warming.
Deputy Secretary of Commerce Sam Bodman said scientific studies emanating from the strategic plan could support a whole range of eventual outcomes -- including a decision to place firm caps on greenhouse gas emissions as the only feasible approach for addressing the problem of climate change. While the 1997 Kyoto Protocol would require industrialized nations to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, the Bush administration opposes the treaty, saying it would harm the U.S. economy while exempting developing countries from mandatory emissions targets.
The strategic plan also calls for accelerating research projects to reduce scientific uncertainty about the role of aerosols -- tiny particles in the atmosphere such as soot and dust that affect climate. Some aerosols, like sulfates, reflect incoming sunlight and, thus, cool the atmosphere; but for some aerosols like black carbon, it is uncertain whether they heat or cool the atmosphere. With new observations, the uncertainty about the role of aerosols in climate science will be reduced.