Status Report

AIP FYI #101: Administration Releases Climate Change Research Strategic Plan

By SpaceRef Editor
July 29, 2003
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Commerce Secretary Don Evans, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and
OSTP Director John Marburger were among a panel of senior Bush
Administration officials who released the “Strategic Plan for the
Climate Change Science Program” at a July 24 briefing. Presented as
the Administration’s outline for the conduct of research into
climate change, and not as a policy document, the report sets forth
a lengthy series of research goals over the next ten years to guide
and coordinate the activities of thirteen federal departments and
agencies. The document, a year in the making, is billed as “the
first comprehensive update of a strategic plan for U.S. global
change and climate change research since the original plan for the
U.S. Global Change Research Program was adopted at the inception of
the program in 1989.”

The 360-page strategic plan is not quick reading. As befitting the
complexity of the subject, the report’s sixteen chapters describe in
some detail the research needed to inform future policy decisions.
The chapter on Atmospheric Composition, for example, outlines five
questions such as, “What are the climate-relevant chemical,
microphysical, and optical properties, and spatial and temporal
distributions, of human-caused and naturally occurring aerosols?”
For each of the chapter’s five questions the report summarizes in
four pages the State of Knowledge; Illustrative Research Questions;
Research Needs; and Milestones, Products, and Payoffs.

Abraham characterized the new plan as “far reaching,” and said that
“the science program will find the answers” to many unresolved
questions about climate change. He stressed DOE research programs
that could ultimately reduce greenhouse gases, including those in
hydrogen, clean coal, carbon sequestration, and fusion. Evans said
that “the solution ultimately is technology,” and said that “America
is leading” the research on climate change. Evans said the amount
of money the United States spends on climate change is more than
Europe and Japan combined, and described an Administration-hosted
international conference later this week on a proposed $100 million
plus global observation system to be developed over the next ten
years. Evans concluded his remarks by characterizing criticism of
the Administration’s actions as “superficial.”

Marburger repeated that the U.S. “is a leader in climate science,”
and characterized as “remote” and “difficult” climate science
issues. Energy Under Secretary Bob Card called the preparation of
the plan, which involved external reviews and a public comment
process, open and transparent. “We’re going after as much reduction
as we can,” Card said of greenhouse gases.

NOAA Under Secretary James Mahoney, Director of the Climate Chance
Science Program, spoke at length. Citing the “massive” investment
of time and funding in the program, Mahoney characterized the effort
as a paradigm changing process, and said “these are very big bets.”
He outlined how the public provided input into the designing of the
strategic plan, including a conference last December drawing 1,300
participants, and 270 sets of later written comments. Mahoney spoke
of a “very special commitment to full transparency.” A second
review of the plan by the National Research Council will be issued
in late 2003. The plan, he said, encompasses four approaches:
advancing science, observation and data management, developing
policy maker decision support resources and improved communication
methods. Mahoney predicted that the strategic plan will result in a
much better sense of the meaning of research findings.

In a question-and-answer session, Commerce Deputy Secretary Sam
Bodman was asked what policy options might result from this work,
such as Kyoto-type caps on emissions. “Anything is possible,”
Bodman said. “I would not put limits on anything that might come
out of this if it is warranted.” Policy might result from some of
the research that is scheduled to be completed in as little as two
years, he said. More than twenty synthesis and assessment reports
will be prepared in the next four years. Bodman added that “this is
a science document . . . an intellectually sound document.” He
insisted that the “politics” of climate change was not a major

The 360-page Strategic Plan, a 34-page synopsis, and a four-page
Executive Summary can be viewed at

Richard M. Jones

Media and Government Relations Division

The American Institute of Physics

(301) 209-3094

SpaceRef staff editor.