Status Report

AIP FYI #119: Administration Plans for Climate Change Science

By SpaceRef Editor
September 9, 2004
Filed under , ,

On August 25, the Bush Administration submitted to Congress its
annual report on the science supported by the federal government to
better understand climate change. The report, “Our Changing Planet:
The U.S. Climate Change Science Program [CCSP] for Fiscal Years 2004
and 2005,” summarizes the government’s strategic plan for climate
change science, highlights some recent research results, and lays
out future plans for accomplishing the program’s research goals. It
does not offer any policy recommendations.

Many of the research elements in the strategic plan incorporate
research into human-induced impacts on environmental and climate
systems. The report acknowledges the human role in increasing
emissions of carbon dioxide, and refers to carbon dioxide as “the
largest single forcing agent of climate change.” It discusses the
approaches available to “decisionmakers searching for options to
stabilize or mitigate concentrations of greenhouse gases in the
atmosphere.” However, cautionary words note that the report itself
“does not make any findings of fact that could serve as predicates
for regulatory action. Agencies must comply with required statutory
and regulatory processes before they could rely on any statements in
this document or by the CCSP as a basis for regulatory action.”

The Climate Change Science Program coordinates and integrates the
climate and global change research performed and supported by 13
participating federal departments and agencies. FY 2004 funding
across those 13 agencies totaled $1,996 million; the FY 2005 request
is for $1,955 million, a 2.1 percent reduction. According to CCSP
Director James Mahoney, the report “documents our continued
commitment to providing the public and decision makers with the best
possible scientific information to address climate variability and
change, and related aspects of global change…. This research will
help decision makers and managers in the United States and other
countries evaluate and respond to climate change.”

This report summarizes the main points of the July 2003 strategic
plan for climate change research (available at,
including its seven interdisciplinary research elements. Each
research element is highlighted in a separate chapter, in which
strategic research questions, recent research results, and plans for
future research are outlined. The seven research elements are:
Atmospheric Composition; Climate Variability and Change; Global
Water Cycle; Land-Use/Land-Cover Change; Global Carbon Cycle;
Ecosystems; and Human Contributions and Responses.

In the chapter on the Global Carbon Cycle, the report notes that
carbon dioxide “is the largest single forcing agent of climate
change,” that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and
methane “have been increasing for about two centuries as a result of
human activities,” and that “approximately three-quarters of
present-day anthropogenic [carbon dioxide] emissions are due to
fossil fuel combustion.” For policymakers seeking to stabilize or
mitigate atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, the report
mentions two broad approaches: reduction of carbon emissions at
their source, and enhanced carbon sequestration. It warns, however,
that with sequestration, “uncertainties remain about how much
additional carbon storage can be achieved, the efficacy and
longevity of carbon sequestration approaches, whether they will lead
to unintended environmental consequences, and just how vulnerable or
resilient the global carbon cycle is to such manipulations.” The
chapter takes note of recent research progress in areas such as
quantifying greenhouse gas trends, measuring terrestrial carbon
sinks, and improving inventories of oceanic anthropogenic carbon
dioxide. Research plans for FY 2004 and 2005 include continuing “to
focus on understanding and quantifying global carbon sources and
sinks, with a particular emphasis on North America and adjacent
oceans for the near term, and on filling critical gaps in
understanding in order to reduce major uncertainties about the
global carbon cycle.” A number of specific research areas are

The report, “Our Changing Planet: The U.S. Climate Change Science
Program for Fiscal Years 2004 and 2005,” which runs 150 pages in the
hardcopy version, was accompanied by a transmittal letter signed by
Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans, Secretary of Energy Spencer
Abraham, and OSTP Director John Marburger. The report, with
transmittal letter and press release, can be found at and at .

Audrey T. Leath

Media and Government Relations Division

The American Institute of Physics

(301) 209-3094

SpaceRef staff editor.