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FYI Number 77: June 19, 2001

President Bush's Remarks, Report on Climate Change

The day before he departed for Europe, President Bush, in a Rose Garden speech, called for more research into global climate change. Calling the Kyoto Protocol "fatally flawed," Bush said " I am today committing the United States of America to...develop with our friends and allies and nations throughout the world an effective and science-based response to the issue of global warming." He continued, " Today, I make our investment in science even greater." However, according to the National Journal's CongressDaily, many European officials have criticized U.S. policy as being " short on action."

Bush's June 11 remarks were based on an interim report prepared by a Cabinet-level working group which has been meeting for over 10 weeks to review the status of the U.S. climate change effort and to develop policy recommendations. This panel of Cabinet members and senior White House staff, in turn, sought input from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) on the most current climate change science and the existing uncertainties.

The Academy's report, "Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions," states that " greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise. Temperatures are, in fact, rising. The changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities, but we cannot rule out that some significant part of these changes are also a reflection of natural variability."

The NAS report identifies a number of areas where key gaps remain in our understanding, including: the amount of carbon sequestered by oceans and terrestrial sinks; the feedbacks in the climate system; the effects of aerosols; the impacts of regional climate change; the nature and causes of natural climate variability; and the future emissions from fossil fuels and methane. The NAS report calls for strengthening the interagency management of the 10-agency U.S. Global Change Research Program, and for building a global observing system for long-term climate monitoring. This document can be read on-line.

Bush acknowledged that " the surface temperature of the earth is warming," and that the NAS findings " indicate that the increase is due in large part to human activity. Yet, the Academy's report tells us that we do not know how much effect natural fluctuations in climate may have had on warming.... And, finally, no one can say with any certainty what constitutes a dangerous level of warming, and therefore what level must be avoided." He criticized the Kyoto Protocol for excluding China and India from emissions requirements, and for establishing emissions targets that " were arbitrary and not based upon science."

His Cabinet-level group, Bush said, " is recommending a number of initial steps, and will continue to work on additional ideas." According to CongressDaily, EPA Administrator Christine Whitman commented last week that the working group would resume meeting " as soon as the president gets back " from his European trip, to begin considering whether emissions targets should be set and, " if so, what kinds of targets and what further steps should the administration be recommending." In addition to urging greater R&D efforts, the group's report assesses current U.S. climate change actions, evaluates the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol, and incorporates suggestions from the administration's National Energy Policy. The working group's major recommendations so far are highlighted below:


Promote increased energy efficiency through a variety of projects and programs; provide recommendations on Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards; direct agencies to use environmentally- friendly technologies and conserve energy at federal facilities; improve appliance standards; promote congestion mitigation technologies; establish a ground freight management program; increase use of renewable and alternative forms of energy by tax credits and other methods; promote construction of nuclear capacity; establish a market-based strategy to cap and reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury from power generators; and increase research into clean coal technologies.


Establish a National Climate Change Technology Initiative to enhance coordination among federal agencies, academia and industry. President Bush will charge the Secretaries of Energy and Commerce, working with other agencies, to evaluate and make recommendations on the current state of U.S. climate change R&D; provide guidance on strengthening basic climate change research at universities and national labs; develop and enhance public-private partnerships; recommend demonstration projects; and develop better technologies for measuring and monitoring greenhouse gas emissions.


Establish a U.S. Climate Change Research Initiative, which will direct the Secretary of Commerce, working with other agencies, to review and set priorities for investments in climate change research; maximize coordination across federal agencies; fully fund all priority research areas that are underfunded or need accelerated; challenge major greenhouse gas emitting countries to increase their research; help build climate observation systems in developing countries; and propose a joint venture with Europe, Japan and others to develop a state-of-the-art climate modeling capability.


President Bush will direct the Secretary of State, working with other agencies, to seek opportunities for enhanced cooperation with other nations; strengthen research within the Western Hemisphere; assist developing nations with measuring and monitoring activities; promote exportation of environmentally-friendly, clean energy technologies; and encourage sustainable land use and forest conservation efforts.

To find the "Climate Change Review - Initial Report," go to the White House news archives and look under June 11, 2001.

The topics of energy use and climate change are high on the radar screens of Members of Congress from both parties. Last week Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) held a field hearing on the subject in Alaska. Stevens and Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), the top Senate appropriators, have introduced a bill (S. 1008) that would authorize $4.8 billion over the next decade for a White House Office of Climate Change Response, a multi-agency Center for Strategic Climate Change Response, and an Office of Carbon Management within DOE.

Audrey T. Leath
Public Information Division
American Institute of Physics
(301) 209-3094

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