Reorienting U.S. Climate Science Policies

May 10th, 2007

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Last week the House Committee on Science and Technology held an important hearing on the future direction of climate research in he United States (PDF).

The major scientific debate is settled. Climate change is occurring. It is impacting our nation and the rest of the world and will continue to impact us into the future. The USGCRP should move beyond an emphasis on addressing uncertainties and refining climate science. In addition the Program needs to provide information that supports action to reduce vulnerability to climate and other global changes and facilitates the development of adaptation and mitigation strategies that can be applied here in the U.S. and in other vulnerable locations throughout the world.

This refocusing of climate research is timely and worthwhile. Kudos to the S&T Committee.

For a number of years, Congressman Mark Udall (D-CO) has led efforts to make the nation’s climate research enterprise more responsive to the needs of decision makers (joined by Bob Inglis (R-SC)). Mr. Udall explained the reasons for rethinking climate science as follows:

The evolution of global science and the global change issue sparked the need to make changes to the 1978 National Climate Program Act, and gave us the Global Change Research Act of 1990. It is now time for another adjustment to alter the focus of the program governed by this law.

The debate, about whether climate change is occurring and about whether human activity has contributed to it, is over. As our population, economy, and infrastructure have grown, we have put more pressure on the natural resources we all depend upon. Each year, fires, droughts, hurricanes, and other natural events remind us of our vulnerability to extreme weather and climate changes. The human and economic cost of these events is very high. With better planning and implementation of adaptation strategies these costs can be reduced.

For all of these reasons, we need the USGCRP to produce more information that is readily useable by decision makers and resource managers in government and in the private sector. People throughout this country and in the rest of the world need information they can use to develop response, adaptation, and mitigation strategies to make our communities, our businesses, and our nation more resilient and less vulnerable to the changes that are inevitable.

We must also move aggressively to reduce greenhouse gas emissions if we are to avoid future increases in surface temperature that will trigger severe impacts that we cannot overcome with adaptation strategies. We need economic and technical information as well as information about system responses and climate responses to different concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The USGCRP should be the vehicle for providing this information.

The hearing charter (PDF) is worth reading in full.

3 Responses to “Reorienting U.S. Climate Science Policies”

  1. BobKC Says:

    Hmmm. That first line – “The major scientific debate is settled.” reminds of another famous line from somewhere. Now I remember.

    Was there, by chance, a “Mission Accomplished” poster behind the chairman at the hearing?

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  3. Harry Haymuss Says:

    And none too soon. The carbon traders need to get the show on the road before everybody realizes that despite the theory, “global warming” seems to have stopped in its tracks, and there’s a lot more to the anthropogenic effects than ghg’s anyway…

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  5. Jason Says:

    It will be interesting to see what climate actually _does_ once we start limiting/reducing emissions.