Re:: Interesting posts by David E. Wojick (Dec 2002, Jan 2004)
> --------- Forwarded message -------------------------
> Re: Dec2-6 climate conference
> From: David E. Wojick
> Date: Mon, 16 Dec 2002 11:09:00
> The following article sums it up pretty well.
> 1300 people talking and nobody listening.
Bush Climate Change Plan Short on Details
By J.R. Pegg
WASHINGTON, DC, December 6, 2002 (ENS) - Scientists and climate experts
applauded the Bush administration's coordination of a three day workshop
on global climate change, but found its draft plan for study of the issue
short on priorities, details and funding.
Without serious revisions, experts say, the plan is unlikely to provide a
strategy for policymakers to adequately address the issue of climate
"By focusing so much on the uncertainties and on the costs of action, the
plan biases decision makers toward inaction," said Dr. Susanne Moser, a
scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) Global Environment
Program. "This plan also shouldn't oversell the ability of the research
community to overcome uncertainty, especially in the short term. We
should be honest about how our work typically resolves some, and creates
"This is a wonderful document but it is not a strategic plan," said
Berrien Moore, a professor at the University of New Hampshire's Institute
for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space. "It lacks an overarching
strategy, but the plan and the meeting are remarkable achievements in
More than 1,300 climate scientists and experts attended the
administration sponsored meeting to offer public comments on the draft
version of a new strategic plan for climate change and global change
studies.It was held in Washington,DC from December3 to5.
Further public comments on the plan, which was prepared by the 13 federal
agencies participating in the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP),
will be accepted through January 13, 2003 with the final version set for
publication in April 2003.
Uncertainty and the cost of action remain key sticking points on how to
address climate change. So far, the Bush administration has only called
for voluntary measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Administration officials have repeatedly said further research on the
effects of global warming and on humanity's influence on climate change
is needed before sound policy can be formed. Its draft plan centers on
reducing this uncertainty.
"We hope that this workshop and the strategic plan under discussion will
map out the strategy by which these uncertainties can be cleared up or
better understood," said U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Sam Bodman.
"There is a great deal we don't know or don't know well enough," added
William O'Keefe, president of the George C. Marshall Institute. "We think
there may be a problem but we are far from understanding the causes.
Unfortunately, in the climate change arena, skepticism has become a vice,
not a virtue."
Many environmentalists and scientists contend that the administration's
call for further research masks a strategy that seeks to delay any
substantive action on the issue of climate change. There is ample
evidence of global warming, they say, but this administration and its
draft plan on climate change are ignoring it.
"Do we have enough evidence to decide that aggressive action to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions is appropriate? The rest of the world has
answered yes and many states and cities in this country have answered
yes," said Dr. Janine Bloomfield, a scientist with tne New York based
nonprofit group Environmental Defense.
"Narrowing down uncertainties is a legitimate goal," added Donald
Goldberg, senior attorney with the Center for International Law's Climate
Change Program. "What is not legitimate is to use the existence of
uncertainties as an excuse not to act. We all know there are
uncertainties, there always are in science. If we could never act to
avert an environmental catastrophe until we resolved all the
uncertainties, then we would never act at all."
"This is not a delaying tactic," responded meteorologist Dr. James
Mahoney, assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and
director of the CCSP. "Reasonable people can and do disagree with the
interpretation of the research on climate change, but no one disagrees
that we need continued research on this issue."
Financial resources available to address potential climate change are not
infinite, Mahoney added, and the administration wants to ensure its
policies do not pose undue burdens on either the U.S. or global economy.
This cautious approach, he said, should not be misconstrued as inaction.
"We may well find that the solutions we need to address global warming
are solutions that cost trillions of dollars," he added. "When we look at
major shifts in energy use, one question for a government that has the
largest economy in the world has to ask is 'what will the effects of
these shifts be on our trading partners and within this country?'"
"We are greatly concerned that anything we might do in the U.S. economy
might impede the ability of developing countries to sell to America,"
Mahoney said. "That is always a relevant question."
"You can achieve almost anything today, it is just a question of how much
you want to pay," added Robert Card, undersecretary for energy, science
and environment at the U.S. Energy Department.
Card and other administration officials noted that the U.S. federal
government has spent some $20 billion on climate change research since
1990, but must begin to focus these resources to provide better science
on the issue. According to several experts more resources are needed.
"Resources are limiting the rate of progress," said Dr. Richard Anthes,
president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. "We
could justify one million times the present computing power worldwide."
Anthes and other conference participants repeatedly highlighted this need
for more resources along with more clearly set budget priorities. They
also found the draft strategic plan needs better integration among
government and intergovernmental agencies and programs, and a global
observation system, as well as improved modeling of regional climate
The plan needs to include costs of inaction and costs of adaptive
measures to climate change for comparison with projected costs of
mitigation efforts, experts say.
Many participants agreed that there is enough evidence for actions beyond
voluntary measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, something the Bush
administration appears reluctant to embrace. Critics point to the plan's
failure to fully integrate findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change or from the U.S. Global Change Research Program's National
Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Change.
"When you read the plan, you definitely get the feeling that it is not
building on previous
work," Bloomfield said.
"The global models all point towards warming and not to any small
degree," Moser said. "There is huge agreement on some of the global
patterns that we are seeing and on the human contribution, even if there
is a natural element. This report doesn't highlight that or build on that
Beyond the need to further incorporate the existing science, many experts
found the plan in dire need of a more integrated international outlook.
Goldberg, who served on a panel that reviewed the draft chapter on
international collaboration, said there was "no sense of how the Bush
administration is going to collaborate with other countries."
"It is entirely unfocused," he said. "Almost all of the chapter was a
recitation of things
that the United States has already been doing. You get the sense that
they didn't really sit down and try to come up with a real, overarching
plan that addresses all of the objectives in a cohesive, coherent way."
The administration now expects to digest the public comments with the aim
to release a final version of the plan by April 2003. In addition, the
simultaneous review of the plan by a new committee of the National
Academy of Science's National Research Council could offer further
insight into how seriously public comments are considered in the process.
According to National Academy of Science president Bruce Alberts, the
organization will review both the draft and final versions of the plan,
with a report expected in September 2003.
The open process, repeatedly touted by Bush administration officials,
will let stakeholders understand how their comments and suggestions were
addressed. This is could add further pressure on the administration to
take these comments and suggestions to heart, said UCS' Moser.
I"It will be really, really difficult for the Bush administration to
completely dismiss and
ignore this. Many of the critical comments are on public record," she
said. "I still have my
doubts to the extent they will take all this to heart. But so many
comments on public record will make it difficult to ignore."
"The openness of the workshop got everyone hopeful again that they could
have an influence on this plan and that it is something that is not a
done deal already," she added. "They'll frustrate some of the best
scientists in the country if they do not respond to it in a constructive
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