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FYI Number 150: October 18, 2005

Public Comment Sought on S&T Strategic Report to Reduce Greenhouse Gases

The federal government is seeking comments on a recently released draft strategic plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the deployment of advanced technology. The deadline for public comments is Wednesday, November 2.

The U.S. Climate Change Technology Program "Strategic Plan" was released toward the end of September. The U.S. Department of Energy is the lead agency, which also includes the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Health and Human Services, Interior, State, and Transportation, as well as EPA, NASA and the National Science Foundation. In addition, the Executive Office of the President is a participant, including the Council on Environmental Quality, Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the Office of Management and Budget.

The Strategic Plan did not directly address the question of whether human activity is causing the earth's climate to warm. Nor does the plan deal with whether or not legislative mechanisms should be established to reduce greenhouse gases. The report states:

"Although the scientific understanding of climate change continues to evolve, the potential ramifications of increasing accumulations of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the Earth's atmosphere have heightened attention on anthropogenic sources of GHG emissions and various means for their mitigation. . . . Climate change is a serious, long-term issue, requiring sustained action over many generations by both developed and developing countries. Solutions will likely require fundamental changes in the way the world produces and uses energy, as well as in many other GHG-emitting activities of industry, agriculture, land use and land management. Developing innovative technologies and approaches that are cleaner and more efficient is the key to addressing our long-term climate challenge."

Rather, the plan charts a one hundred-year strategy to reduce greenhouse gases through the deployment of advanced technology. The approach taken in this plan is clearly stated in its opening paragraphs:

"As a party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the United States shares with many countries its ultimate goal: stabilization of greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the Earth's atmosphere at a level that prevents dangerous interference with the climate system. Appropriately, this Plan takes a century-long look at the nature of the climate change challenge and the potential for technological solutions across a range of uncertainties. The overwhelming majority of anthropogenic GHG emissions that will occur over the course of the 21st century will arise from equipment and infrastructure that is not yet built – a circumstance that poses significant opportunities for the United States and the world to reduce or eliminate these GHG emissions."

The Climate Change Technology Program (CCTP) has six strategic goals and seven approaches. The goals are:

"1. Reduce emissions from energy end-use and infrastructure
2. Reduce emissions from energy supply
3. Capture and sequester carbon dioxide (CO2)
4. Reduce emissions of non-CO2 greenhouse gases
5. Improve capabilities to measure and monitor GHG emissions
6. Bolster basic science contributions to technology development"

Later the plan explains:

"Consistent with the principles established by the President, CCTP will employ seven core approaches to stimulate participation by others and ensure progress toward attainment of CCTP strategic goals: (1) strengthen climate change technology R&D; (2) strengthen basic research at universities and federal research facilities; (3) enhance opportunities for partnerships; (4) increase international cooperation; (5) support cutting-edge technology demonstrations; (6) ensure a viable technology workforce of the future toward education and training, and (7) explore and provide, as appropriate, supporting technology policy."

The remainder of this 256-page plan outlines how these goals and approaches could be implemented. The government is seeking public comment on this plan, which will be released in final form in 2006. David Conover, Director of the U.S. Climate Change Technology Program, states:

"CCTP requests your review of and comments on its draft Strategic Plan. Comments from representatives of all communities are invited in order to improve and strengthen the Plan. In your review, CCTP asks that you provide your perspective on the content, implications, and challenges outlined in the Plan, as well as any suggestions for alternative approaches you may wish to have considered by policy makers and resource managers."

It is later noted that it is not necessary to review the entire document.

Comments can be emailed, and must be received by 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 2. Please see http://www.climatetechnology.gov/ for a copy of this plan, as well as instructions on offering public comments.

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
fyi@aip.org
301-209-3095

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