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Science Academy Calls on Bush Administration to Implement Research Plan on Climate Change - 2004-02-21

A report released in February by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences calls on the Bush administration to implement its strategic plan for climate change research.

The report says the administration's latest draft plan is much improved, broader in scope and more ambitious than the previous draft. But the report notes that many of the new climate change strategies lack funding.

After the Bush administration rejected the United Nations sponsored Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change in 2001, it established its own Climate Change Science Program, known as CCSP.

A year ago CCSP released its first draft of a strategic plan that would coordinate climate change research across more than a dozen federal agencies.

The revised plan outlines a series of 21 reports in different subject areas, all of which are in the planning stages.

The report by the National Academy of Sciences focuses on revisions to the draft plan.

Thomas Graedel is a professor of industrial ecology at Yale University and chairman of the 17-member panel that reviewed the Administration's climate plan. He says while the plan could be improved, the science it calls for is of vital importance to the nation.

"Because of this our committee recommends that the CCSP implement the activities described in the plan with urgency," he said.

The committee praised the new emphasis on exploring the impact of climate change on human and natural ecosystems, and on research to aid decision-makers in adapting to the effects of climate change.

However, committee chair Tom Graedel says nothing in the plan or elsewhere shows a commitment to adequately fund the new or expanded programs.

"And, when we say under funded, we are speaking about their funding of the other components of the program and that they need to be rapidly brought up to speed so that the program is balanced across the goals that it itself has stated," he said. "Without balance across the program will not be effective in achieving its overall vision."

James Mahoney, who directs the Climate Change Science Program, said in an interview in The New York Times that short-term funding increases were not in the cards.

Panel chair Tom Graedel says another hurdle facing the Climate Change Science Program is to ensure that research is shielded from political pressures.

"Either the reality or perception of political influences on the program's priorities or scientific results would Tom serve to discredit the program," he said.

The National Academy of Sciences panel recommended an independent advisory committee to review the program with scientists, government officials and representatives from private industry serving as members.

In a statement, the panel said that the plan could guide climate change research effectively for decades, provided it is regularly updated to reflect advances in science and the needs of the nation.