BUSH ADMINISTRATION REFUSES TO ISSUE NATIONAL ASSESSMENT OF CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS ON THE U.S.
Still No Sign of Critical Report Due in 2004
On Tuesday November 14, 2006, the Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, and Friends of the Earth sued the Bush administration for violating the Global Change Research Act of 1990 by refusing to produce the overdue National Assessment of Climate Change Impacts on the United States. The assessment is critical to Congressional and agency decision-making on global warming.
|On November 14, 2006 Senator John Kerry reiterated his call for the government to comply with the Global Climate Change Research Act of 1990. "It's the right time to push Washington to grapple with this issue. We can't respond to climate change if we can't make the government comply with the laws already on the books. This lawsuit sends an important message not just to follow the Global Change Research Act, but also to pass legislation imposing mandatory and substantial cuts in our greenhouse gas emissions. Let's get serious." Read the full statement.
Climate change from society’s production of greenhouse gases, most notably carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O), poses an enormous challenge to our nation and the world. Climate change threatens every aspect of society, from our economy and public health to water availability and biological diversity. Already, the World Health Organization estimates that 150,000 lives are lost each year due to human-induced climate change. Rising ocean temperatures contribute to more intense tropical storms that have battered the U.S. Gulf Coast and other parts of the world, causing billions of dollars in damage. Plants and animals have suffered similarly. A recent survey of more than 30 studies of approximately 1,600 hundred species discovered that approximately one half of the surveyed species were already showing significant impacts from global warming (Parmesan and Galbraith 2004). Unfortunately, the changes we have experienced to date are relatively modest compared to those that will be wrought by the greater increases in temperature and sea level predicted for this century.
Acknowledging that access to the best available scientific information is especially critical in formulating climate change policy to address these threats, in 1990 Congress passed the Global Change Research Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2931, et seq. to help the U.S. and the world “understand, assess, predict, and respond” to the impacts of climate change.
The centerpiece of the Global Change Research Act is its requirement that the U.S. Climate Change Science Program prepare every four years a National Assessment of Climate Change Impacts on the United States that integrates, evaluates, and interprets the findings of the federal government’s climate change research.
The assessment is required to analyze the effects of global change on the country’s natural environment, agriculture, energy production and use, land and water resources, transportation, human health and welfare, human social systems and biological diversity. Another key and required component of the assessment is an analysis of the current trends and projection of the major climate change trends for the next 25 to 100 years. Congress intended the assessment to be used by all federal agencies in formulating climate change policy and in decision-making that either contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, is affected by climate change, or both.
Despite the key role the assessment was designed to play, the administration has not submitted a National Assessment to Congress since October 31, 2000. The 2000 National Assessment was a single 600-page volume entitled Climate Change Impacts on the United States: The Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change, developed by a distinguished synthesis team with input from hundreds of other scientists. The 2000 National Assessment identified specific vulnerabilities of particular regions and economic sectors of the United States to climate change impacts.
The Global Change Research Act required submission of the second National Assessment to Congress no later than October 31, 2004. The updated assessment is nowhere to be found. Due to the rapid increase in scientific understanding of climate change, an updated National Assessment is of the utmost importance.
However, this administration has no plans to produce a second National Assessment. Instead, as former Climate Change Science Program senior associate Rick Piltz pointed out in his resignation letter and subsequent interviews in Environmental Science and Technology Online and Greenwire, the administration has made a decision to deep-six the 2000 assessment and issue 21 shorter technical reports over the next several years that will be micromanaged by White House officials in lieu of an updated National Assessment.
Concerned by the Climate Change Science Program’s failure to submit the required National Assessment, Senators Kerry and McCain requested that the Government Accounting Office (GAO) evaluate whether the Climate Change Science Program’s strategic plan for 21 shorter reports met requirements of the Global Change Research Act.
In April 2005, the GAO issued a responsive report concluding that it does not. As an initial matter, the Climate Change Science Program’s schedule is clearly at odds with the timeline provided in the statute. Also, the 21 proposed shorter reports may not adequately address all of the topics required by the Global Change Research Act. Finally, the 21 shorter reports cannot substitute for the single, coherent synthesis report required by the Global Change Research Act and urgently needed by Congress and federal agencies to guide climate change policy.
The Center for Biological Diversity hopes that this lawsuit will force the Bush administration to issue this critical document, cease obstructing the research of climate scientists and allow progress on climate change solutions.