Congress: Ask Condi Rice, Why has the U.S. Climate Action Report been held up for more than a year?


On January 11 Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is scheduled to appear before both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House International Relations Committee to talk about the Administration’s position on Iraq. While Iraq is certainly more than enough of a problem to consume the committees’ attention, some committee member (Committee Chair Sen. Biden? Ranking Member Lugar? Boxer? Kerry? Obama? Hagel?) might want also to ask Secretary Rice a question about why the Administration has failed to issue the fourth U.S. Climate Action Report, a national communication that is required by the climate treaty to which the U.S. is a party. U.S. stonewalling on global warming cooperation has only added to the low regard in which the Administration is held internationally and has not helped U.S. relations with allies. Prolonged holding up of the Climate Action Report exemplifies the Administration’s failure to communicate.  [Editor’s Note: See also the 30 July 2007 posting, Bush Administration submits evasive Climate Action Report to the UN.]

A number of members of the committees, particularly the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have made clear their interest in climate change policy.  Sen. Joe Biden, the incoming committee chair, has called global climate change a national security issue.

See Sen. Biden’s May 23, 2006 press release, “Time for U.S. to Re-Engage in Global Warming Negotiations”—

WASHINGTON, DC—Today the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee called on the Bush Administration to reverse course on global warming and return the United States to a leadership role in international climate change negotiations.

In a major restatement of the Senate’s position on international climate treaties, the bipartisan resolution—co-authored by Senators Joe Biden (D-DE) and Dick Lugar (R-ID) – calls global warming a threat to international stability as well as a risk to the environment and our economy….

And Sen. Biden’s December 7, 2005 Op-Ed in The Financial Times, “America Must Start Talking More About the Weather”—

…This week, leaders from 189 nations are meeting in Montreal to discuss new plans for combating global warming. Unfortunately, the Bush administration has decided to sit on the sidelines while other countries determine where our global environmental policy is headed.

Since 2001, President George W. Bush’s policy on climate change has been to go it alone. He withdrew the US from the Kyoto protocol to the United Nations framework convention on climate change and left us out of discussions on its implementation. Under the protocol, industrial nations committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5 per cent below 1990 levels. The US is the only big industrial nation that is not a signatory to this international agreement.

The US should return to the international process of protecting our global environment from climate change. This is not just about the environment, it is also about our economic and national security….

See our earlier post (September 18, 2006) on the missing-in-action Climate Action Report, and why it is missing. A condensed and modified version of that post, without the embedded links to sources:

The fourth U.S. Climate Action Report, required to fulfill a legal requirement of the U.S. government as a party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the foundational climate treaty, was due no later than January 1, 2006.  A public review draft of the report announced by the State Department as upcoming in the summer of 2005 is now a year-and-a-half overdue.  What has happened to this report, which has been missing-in-action inside the Bush Administration?  Climate Science Watch calls for the fourth Climate Action Report to be submitted expeditiously for public review.  We call on the Administration and the leadership of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program to ensure that the report contains an honest discussion of U.S. vulnerability to climate change impacts.  Experts and stakeholders should be ready to subject to critical scrutiny the required chapter on vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation, when and if it is ever made available. 

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the climate treaty to which the United States is a party, sets forth requirements for UNFCCC Parties to provide periodically a national communication that lists the steps they are taking to implement the Convention.  The U.S. Climate Action Report is a series of official national communications that has been submitted by the U.S. Government to the UNFCCC Secretariat to fulfill this commitment. According to an April 2005 State Department announcement in the Federal Register, the fourth national Climate Action Report was due to be issued no later than January 1, 2006.  The State Department announced that a draft of the report would be posted for public review in the Summer of 2005.  No public review draft has yet been posted. 

Recall the last national communication, Climate Action Report 2002: The United States of Americas Third National Communication Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which was submitted to the climate treaty secretariat in 2002. Chapter 6, “Impacts and Adaptation,” drafted to meet the requirement for a discussion in the national communication of “Vulnerability Assessment, Climate Change Impacts, and Adaptation Measures,” addressed U.S. vulnerabilities to the adverse consequences of climate change and identified the most promising adaptation measures being explored.

Chapter 6 on Impacts and Adaptation was based to a large extent on the results of the U.S. National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change—֭ a seminal body of work that has been praised by a committee of the National Academy of Sciences.  We have discussed the Administration’s scandalous suppression of the National Assessment report and the abandonment of the National Assessment process in numerous previous posts.  When the identification in Chapter 6 of a wide range of likely adverse impacts of climate change on the United States prompted an article in the New York Times, the President essentially disowned this official U.S. Government communication, which had been vetted and cleared by all the relevant agencies and the White House, with a cavalier reference to it as a “report put out by the bureaucracy.”

So now we await the fourth Climate Action Report.  Will it ever be released by this Administration?  Why has it been held up for so long?  We expect that the delay is centered in the White House Council on Environmental Quality, in coordination with the State Department, and probably involves, along with whatever other considerations are in play, a refusal by the White House to officially acknowledge, as a U.S. government statement, the nation’s vulnerability to the likely impacts of climate change. 

Climate Science Watch calls for the fourth Climate Action Report to be submitted expeditiously for public review.  We call on the Administration and the leadership of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program to ensure that the report relies on the best available information on climate change impacts, starting explicitly with the 2000 National Assessment as a baseline and updating with the growing body of scientific findings on impacts that has been developed during the last five years, much of which is the result of research supported by the federal government.  Experts and stakeholders should be ready to subject to critical scrutiny the chapter on vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation, when and if it is ever made available

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