24 House members call for new National Climate Impacts Assessment

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On December 11, Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA), Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD), and 22 House co-signers sent a letter to William Brennan of NOAA, the Acting Director of the Climate Change Science Program, in which they say: “The failure of the CCSP to produce a National Assessment report within the time frame required by law has made it more difficult for Congress to develop a comprehensive policy response to the challenge of global climate change.” The Members are on the right track here. The National Climate Impacts Assessment is a key issue for oversight of the CCSP in the new Congress, and one we have been raising for some time.

Our article, “Toward a Second U.S. National Climate Change Assessment.”
Our entries on taking the CCSP and the White House Science Office to federal court on the National Assessment:
(November 14) Conservation groups file suit against Bush administration to compel second National Assessment
(November 14) Sen. Kerry statement in support of lawsuit on National Assessment of Climate Change Impacts
(November 16) Press coverage and comment on the National Assessment lawsuit

Full text of the Inslee, Gilchrest, et al. letter follows.  The letter in PDF format is here: House-NA-ltr.pdf 

December 11, 2006

Dr. William Brennan, Acting-Director
Climate Change Science Program
14th Street & Constitution Avenue, NW
Room 6217
Washington, DC 20230

RE: Request for National Assessment of Climate Change Required by the Global Change Research Act of 1990

Dear Dr. Brennan,

The Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) was launched in 2002 to fulfill the duties of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (GCRP) and to coordinate interagency climate change research activities.  However, the CCSP has not completely fulfilled the statutory obligations of the GCRP, because it has failed to produce a comprehensive scientific assessment report detailing the effects of climate change on the United States. Climate change has many serious implications for the well being of our country’s economy, critical infrastructure, public health, energy security, environmental health and national security.  To help Congress shape a well-informed, forward-looking climate change policy, we call on the Bush Administration to comply with the law by producing a policy-relevant climate impacts assessment report at the earliest possible date.

When the Global Change Research Act (GCRA) was enacted in 1990, Congress recognized that formulating a comprehensive and effective policy response to the challenge of global climate change would require access to the best available scientific information.  As such, the GCRA (Section 106) mandated that the CCSP prepare, not less frequently than every four years, a scientific assessment report, or National Assessment, of global climate change research that, among other things, analyzes the effects of global change on eight specific areas, including: “the natural environment, agriculture, energy production and use, land and water resources, transportation, human health and welfare, human social systems, and biological diversity.”

In July 2003, the CCSP laid out their Strategic Plan to meet the requirements under the GCRA by producing 21 individual Synthesis and Assessment (S&A) reports.  Moreover, the current CCSP Web site acknowledges that the law directs the agencies to “produce information readily usable by policymakers attempting to formulate effective strategies for preventing, mitigating, and adapting to the effects of global change,” and that “the S&A products will support informed discussion and decisions by policymakers.”  Despite these reassurances from the administration, an April 2005 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report concluded that the S&A reports do not meet the requirements of the GCRA.  Firstly, the administration “did not submit a scientific assessment in November 2004, 4 years after the previous assessment, as required by the GCRA.”  Secondly, the CCSP has no “explicit plan for assessing the effects of global change on the eight areas enumerated in the act.” 

In response, former CCSP Director Mahoney reiterated that the “CCSP is committed to providing policy-relevant summary information within each product.”  Yet, when the first and only S&A report was released, in April 2006, it contained no explicitly policy-relevant information.  In fact, the entire 180-page report—which concluded that global temperatures are indeed rising – provided no discussion whatsoever of the environmental implications of global warming or of the eight topic areas outlined in the GCRA.

The failure of the CCSP to produce a National Assessment report within the time frame required by law has made it more difficult for Congress to develop a comprehensive policy response to the challenge of global climate change.  We urge you to comply with the letter and spirit of the GCRA by integrating critical policy-relevant information into the 20 pending S&A reports.  A single coherent synthesis scientific assessment report that explicitly addresses the eight topics enumerated in GCRA, on a regional basis, should also be produced at the earliest possible date.

Thank you for your time and attention to this important matter.  We look forward to your prompt response.

Sincerely,

Jay Inslee & Wayne Gilchrest

Cosigners:
Jerrold Nadler
Ron Kind
Tim Ryan
Sam Farr
Lloyd Doggett
Henry Waxman
Doris Matsui
John Olver
Adam Schiff
Mike Honda
George Miller
Tammy Baldwin
Jim Saxton
Betty McCollum
Frank Pallone
Tom Allen
Jim Moran
Rush Holt
Eliot Engel
Lois Capps
Stephanie Herseth
Anthony Weiner

cc: Dr. Marburger, Secretary Gutierrez, and Secretary Bodman

Dr. John Marburger III, Executive Director
Office of Science and Technology Policy
Executive Office of the President
725 17th Street Room 5228
Washington, DC 20502

Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez
U.S. Department of Commerce
14th & Constitution Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20230

Secretary Samuel Bodman
U.S. Department of Energy
1000 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC 20585

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