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Collaboration among 13 Government Agencies, Academia and the Public Lays Groundwork for next Five Years of U.S.-led Climate Change Science

NOAA image of Earth.December 3, 2002 — The U.S. Climate Change Science Program’s Planning Workshop for Scientists and Stakeholders begins today in Washington with more than 1,200 scheduled to attend. Those registered come from a wide range of interests in academia, government and economic and environmental organizations, including those from more than 30 countries and almost every state in the United States.

The three-day workshop will present the current state of climate change science and gather comments from both scientists and public stakeholders on defining a strategy for continuing and accelerating climate observations and research. Some of the topics include carbon and water cycles, atmospheric composition, climate variability and change, human contributions and responses to climate change, international scientific collaboration and others. Participants will also discuss the specifics of the strategy for scientific research into causes of climate change, understanding natural variability and expanding global observing systems, among other topics.

“The workshop will ‘jump start’ a comprehensive review of the updated research and reporting plans for U.S. global change research,” said Commerce Secretary Don Evans. “Our work will focus on key unresolved issues, plans for needed global climate and ecosystem monitoring systems and plans to develop and demonstrate decision support resources to facilitate public discussion about climate change.”

The objective of the workshop is to review the Strategic Plan Climate Change Science Program, a document that sets the direction of climate-change research initiatives led by the U.S. government, and directly responds to President Bush’s call that the best scientific information be developed to assist the United States in developing a well reasoned approach to global climate change issues. The Strategic Plan is a road map for U.S. global climate change research programs to meet the highest standards of credibility, transparency and responsiveness to the scientific community, interested user groups and international partners.

“Comprehensive activities are under way to accelerate the elements of our nation’s climate and global change research, monitoring and decision tool development,” Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said. “As an example, the Energy Department is hosting public meetings to improve the technologies to measure and monitor greenhouse gas emissions. We have also just expanded our program to develop carbon sequestration, a promising technology in which carbon emissions are captured and permanently stored, rather than being released into the atmosphere.”

The workshop is coordinated by the Climate Change Science Program, a precedent-setting intergovernmental collaboration between 13 science-intensive agencies. Charged with overseeing the science projects for the Congressionally mandated U.S. Global Climate Research Program and the White House-sponsored Climate Change Research Initiative, CCSP is comprised of the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Interior, State, and Transportation, The Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Science Foundation, Smithsonian Institution and U.S. Agency for International Development.

“In announcing the Climate Change Research Initiative, President Bush directed us to reestablish priorities for climate change research, including a focus on identifying the scientific information that can be developed within two to five years to assist the nation’s evaluation of optimal strategies to address global change risks,” said James Mahoney, director of CCSP and assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere. “We’re setting our goals high to undertake climate change research at an accelerated rate compared to the previous decade so that policy-decision-support resources are available for action in the near future.”

The workshop incorporates a process that is open, inclusive and robust. Registration for participants was open to the public, with no charge for attendance. Discussions will address specific questions outlined in a report by the National Academy of Sciences in 2001 regarding scientific uncertainty concerning climate change, and will map out the strategy by which these uncertainties can be cleared up or better understood.

Comments on the Strategic Plan may be provided during the workshop and during a subsequent public comment period extending until Jan. 13, 2003. A specially formed committee of the National Research Council is also reviewing the Strategic Plan, and will provide its analysis of the plan, the workshop and the written comments received. A final version of the Strategic Plan, setting a path for the next few years of research under the CCSP will be published by April 2003. The draft version of the Strategic Plan is available online.

Resolving uncertainty in climate models will have a major impact on determining policy on mitigation steps affecting emission management, curbing greenhouse-gas production and forecasting the scope of impact on ecosystems.

Implications of climate change affect every aspect of the world including commerce, technology, agriculture, weather, transportation and more. The scientific data used as a basis for policy must be accurate, comprehensive and verified by several disciplines across government, academia and private industry, Mahoney said. Policy decisions made in a less-than-fully informed environment could do more damage than good. The full use of scientific information must be exercised to determine the optimal actions on global, national and regional scales.

The workshop will continue until Dec. 5 and will be webcast for those unable to attend but interested in participating.

Relevant Web Sites
Climate Change Science Program

NOAA's Climate Page

Media Contact:
Kent Laborde, NOAA, (202) 482-6090