Cuts Will Limit Climate Research, Experts Say

Associated Press
Friday, September 14, 2007

The government's research on climate change is threatened by spending cuts that will reduce scientists' observations from space and on the ground, a report by the National Research Council concluded yesterday.

A major problem is the program director's lack of authority to organize spending and research among the 13 different agencies that study the impacts of climate, the study said. Nonetheless, it added, the Climate Change Science Program has made good progress "in documenting the climate changes of the past few decades and in unraveling the [human] influences on the observed climate changes."

In contrast, the report said progress in combining research results and supporting decision-making and risk management "has been inadequate."

The climate research program is "an important initiative that has broadened our knowledge of climate change, needs to package more of that knowledge for policymakers from the national to local level, and place more emphasis on understanding how people will be affected by climate change and how they might react," said Veerabhadran Ramanathan, chairman of a committee evaluating the government program and a professor of atmospheric and climate sciences at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.

The world has moved into an era when climate change is accepted as real, he said, and it is accepted that human activities are the major drivers for many of these changes.

But progress has been inadequate in determining how climate change will affect people, Ramanathan said in a briefing.

The research council, an arm of the National Academies, is expected to make recommendations on how to improve the program in a follow-up report next year.

William J. Brennan, deputy assistant secretary of commerce and director of the climate change program, said, "I don't take any issue with their recommendations," adding that officials had arrived at some of the same conclusions.

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