Climate Change Science Program under Fire

Issues in Science and Technology, Winter 2008 | Go to article overview

Climate Change Science Program under Fire


As discussions in Congress shift from debating the causes of climate change to examining solutions to address it, increasing attention is being paid to the research that supports these decisions. In particular, the Climate Change Science Program (CCSP), which funds approximately $1.5 billion in R&D in 13 government agencies, has come under scrutiny, and several efforts are under way to refocus its research portfolio to emphasize information relevant to policymakers.

A National Research Council (NRC) report, Evaluating Progress of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program: Methods and Preliminary Results, captures many of the issues raised by members of Congress and other stakeholders. The NRC report found that the research program has been successful in identifying and attributing global temperature trends and their corresponding environmental effects. But the report notes that the program has been less successful in understanding local temperature trends and regional effects of climate change and their impact on society. In addition, the report found that the CCSP has failed to sufficiently analyze adaptation plans and mitigation tactics.

Most of the witnesses at a November 14 Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing shared these concerns and voiced their support for the Global Change Research Improvement Act (S. 2307) introduced by Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME). The bill seeks to realign the research program to "a comprehensive and integrated United States observation, research, assessment, and outreach program which will assist the nation and the world to better understand, assess, predict, mitigate, and adapt to the effects of human-induced and natural processes of global change."

The bill calls for a new strategic plan for the program and would establish a program office within the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to coordinate research activities and budget proposals. S. 2307 would create within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration a National Climate Service that includes a network of regional and local facilities for operational climate monitoring and prediction. …

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