December 2002 / January 2003
Climate convocation mulls the state of U.S. research
Think of the U.S. Climate Change Science Programs three-day gathering on 35 December as a sort of Woodstock of climate conferences. It drew a large, disparate, and vocal group of people but ended on a relatively peaceful note. Starkly differing viewpoints were aired, and the meeting concluded with a substantive list of to-dos and a rallying cry for tackling what CCSP head and NOAA deputy administrator Jim Mahoney called a capstone issue for our generation.
The CCSP meeting arose out of President Bushs desire to address climate change in a different way than the Kyoto Protocol, which had been ratified by exactly 100 nations as of mid-December but rejected by the United States. In February 2002, Bush announced that a newly formed CCSP would incorporate the U.S. Global Change Research Program, authorized by Congress in 1990, as well as a White Housebased Climate Change Science Initiative. The latter is focused on producing decision-relevant information within the next two to five years.
The CCSP Planning Workshop for Scientists and Stakeholders drew an uncommonly broad set of participants. They included critics of the CCSP, who worried that the Bush administration was pushing for more research as a way of postponing mandatory curbs on carbon dioxide emissions, as well as CCSP supporters who criticized the science behind climate-change scenarios. The packed schedule included more than a dozen keynote speeches from Cabinet-level administrators and other top brass. However, the down-and-dirty work took place at 24 breakout sessions on a variety of research topics. At these sessions, panelists (including UCAR president Rick Anthes, a panel moderator, and NCARs Lisa Dilling, Linda Mearns, Kevin Trenberth, and Warren Washington) commented on the draft strategic plan released this fall, and stakeholders had a chance to ask questions and get on-the-record answers.
As each breakout group summarized its findings, the need to prioritize the CCSPs smorgasbord of goals came up repeatedly. There was angst over whether the CCSI can finish its ambitious agenda in a mere five years, and some worried that the spin-up process could delay ongoing research. Still, the marathon meeting ended with much-needed input in hand, and wheels seemed to be turning. If the nations policy makers have indeed lacked the guidance they needed on climate-related matters, that wont be the case by 2007if the CCSP has anything to do with it.