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Wednesday, March 05, 2003

The National Academies' National Research Council (made up of some the most distinguished scientists in the USA) has said that the US Government's Climate-Change Research Plan is a good start, but that major improvements are needed to meet the nation's needs.

The federal government formed the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) a year ago to facilitate climate-change research across 13 federal agencies. The CCSP released its draft strategic plan for public comment in November and also held a workshop in Washington where hundreds of climate scientists and other stakeholders commented on the plan and the CCSP asked the Research Council to review the draft plan...

The National Academies' press release for the completed review is rather long and detailed but in summary states that:

"While the federal government has taken a good first step toward better understanding + responding to climate change by drafting a strategic plan that contains new research initiatives, the plan lacks a clear guiding vision + does not sufficiently meet the needs of decision-makers who must deal with the effects of climate change"

"The president's fiscal year 2004 budget request appears to leave funding relatively unchanged for the CCSP, which wrote the draft plan, despite the important new initiatives called for in the plan."

"The government's goals should be accompanied by ways to measure progress, clear timetables, and an assessment of whether current research efforts are capable of meeting them."

"The plan should be revised to present clear + consistent goals for a new component of CCSP called the Climate Change Research Initiative, designed to support activities that would produce results of value to decision-makers within 2 to 4 years."

"The committee agreed with CCSP's new emphasis on short-term results to inform decisions, but said that scientific support for decision-making also will be needed over the long haul."

"The draft plan has serious gaps when it comes to studying the effects of climate change on human societies and ecosystems"

"The revised plan should ensure that CCSP supports research on understanding + predicting the impacts of climate change, and providing the scientific foundation for possible actions to minimize the effects."

"Research on the costs + benefits of possible strategies for responding to climate change is also needed."

"The draft plan misses an opportunity to improve cooperation with other countries on research, observation networks, and future assessments because the plan is too focused on U.S. issues and includes little on international activities."

"While it acknowledges both that uncertainty is inherent in science and that it is not an excuse for inaction by policy-makers."

In conclusion the report recommends that:

"The revised plan should do more to identify which uncertainties are most important to reduce and by how much, and to look at how uncertainties can be better explained to policy-makers."

"Existing management processes may not be adequate to ensure that the 13 agencies involved in CCSP cooperate toward the program's goals."

"The revised strategic plan needs to clearly describe the responsibilities of program leadership and ways to foster greater agency cooperation."

Earth-Info.Net is in awe of this example of diplomatic criticism...