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FYI Number 39: April 5, 2001

Global Climate Change: Bush Remarks and New Report


At a March 29 press conference, President George Bush was asked about his position on the control of CO2. He replied:

". . . circumstances have changed since the campaign. We're now in an energy crisis. And that's why I decided to not have mandatory caps on CO2, because in order to meet those caps, our nation would have had to have had a lot of natural gas immediately flow into the system, which is impossible. We don't have the infrastructure able to move natural gas.

"We need to have an active exploration program. One of the big debates that's taking place in the Congress, or will take place in the Congress, is whether or not we should be exploring for natural gas in Alaska, for example, in ANWR [Arctic National Wildlife Refuge].

I strongly think we should in order to make sure that we've got enough gas to be able to help reduce greenhouse emissions in the country. See, gas is clean, and yet there is not enough of it. And we've got pipeline capacity problems in the country. We have an energy shortage.

"I look forward to explaining this today to the leader of Germany as to why I made the decision I made. We'll be working with Germany; we'll be working with our allies to reduce greenhouse gases. But I will not accept a plan that will harm our economy and hurt American workers."

Later in the press conference, President Bush was asked about consultation with American allies about the Kyoto Treaty. The President replied:

"In terms of the CO2 issue, I will explain as clearly as I can, today and every other chance I get, that we will not do anything that harms our economy. Because, first things first, are the people who live in America. That's my priority. And I'm worried about the economy. I'm worried about the lack of an energy policy. I'm worried about rolling blackouts in California. It's in our national interest that we develop a strong energy policy, with realistic, common-sense environmental policy. And I'm going to explain that to our friends."


Last year, the National Assessment Synthesis Team released a draft version of a report entitled, "Climate Change Impacts on the United States: The Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change" (see FYI #69.) This report, prepared under the US Global Change Research Program, was completed in November. The team was co-chaired by Anthony Janetos, Thomas Karl, and Jerry Melillo.

There are two components of the report, the first being a recently published 600 page "Foundation" report. Of perhaps greater interest to the public is the 154-page "Overview." Both are available for viewing and purchase at The Overview is enriched by easily-understood graphs, maps, photos and other illustrations.

The Overview begins by stating, "The Assessment's purpose is to synthesize, evaluate, and report on what we presently know about the potential consequences of climate variability and change for the US in the 21st century." It observes that "present knowledge is limited," and later states, "Because we cannot predict many aspects of our nation's future climate, we have used scenarios to explore US vulnerability to climate change." Limitations and differences in the scenarios are clearly explained.

"Long-term observations confirm that our climate is now changing at a rapid rate. . . . The science indicates that the warming in the 21st century will be significantly larger than in the 20th century," the report declares. The Overview then examines the projected consequences of a 5 to 9 degree warming in average U.S. temperatures in the next century. Regional climate change will vary widely, with some areas of the United States subjected to more frequent heavy and extreme precipitation events while other areas will become drier. Ecosystems will respond differently, with some vulnerable systems, such as barrier islands, disappearing completely. Snowpack changes in the West, Northwest, and Alaska are termed "especially important." It is predicted that the food supply will remain secure, with varying impacts on forest growth. Projections indicate that coastal areas and Alaska's permafrost will be threatened. Adaptation will be necessary to mitigate negative human health impacts. Climate change will very likely magnify other environmental stresses. The Assessment cautions that "uncertainties remain and surprises are expected."

An important contribution of this report is its presentation of how climate change could affect different areas of the United States. Policymakers will find these sections of particular interest. Also explained are the possible impacts on five specific sectors: agriculture, water, human health, forests, and coastal areas and marine resources.

The report concludes with a discussion of Research Pathways. It states: "It is vital to our national interest that we meet these research needs so that we can, with increasing certainty, address the critical question: How vulnerable or resilient are the nation's natural and human resources and systems to the changes in climate projected to occur over the decades ahead? With the new vision of regional analysis and scientist-stakeholder partnerships developed in the National Assessment, we have a powerful approach to effectively address this complex question."

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
(301) 209-3095

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