The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a full committee hearing November 14 on “A Time for Change: Improving the Federal Climate Change Research and Information Program.” We have a couple of questions for witness Dr. John Marburger, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
The hearing will be held:
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Room 253, Russell Senate Office Building
From the Committee’s Web site:
“The hearing will focus on the need to improve the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which is responsible for coordinating and directing Federal climate change research. It will also address the need for improved communication of climate information to decision makers.”
We understand that witnesses will be asked to comment on S. 2307, the Global Change Research Improvement Act of 2007 bill introduced on November 5 by Senators Kerry and Snowe. See our November 13 posting on the bill.
Webcast of the hearing
Dr. John Marburger
Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President
Dr. Jack A. Kaye
Accompanying Dr. Marburger
Director, Research Division, National Aeronautics and Space Administration Office of Earth Science
Dr. Donald F. Boesch
Professor of Marine Science and President
Center for Environmental Science, University of Maryland
Dr. Braxton Davis
Chair, Climate Change Working Group
Coastal States Organization
Dr. Peter C. Frumhoff
Director of Science and Policy, Chief Scientist
Climate Campaign, Union of Concerned Scientists
Dr. Lynne M. Carter
Dr. John R. Christy
Professor and Director, Earth System Science Center
National Space Science and Technology Center, University of Alabama in Huntsville
Dr. Richard Moss
Vice President and Managing Director, Climate Change
World Wildlife Fund
Here are a couple of questions for Dr. Marburger:
Q 1. On August 9, 2007, President Bush signed into law the America Competes Act, including a provision that requires you to “develop and issue an overarching set of principles to ensure the communication and open exchange of data and results” from Federal scientists and to “prevent the intentional or unintentional suppression or distortion of such research findings.” The principles were due “no later than than 90 days” after the law was enacted, i.e. no later than November 7. Have you developed and issued those principles? If not: Why not? How far along are you in developing the principles? When do you intend to issue them?
[Senator McCain was responsible for putting this provision into the law. See our November 7 posting (“Legal deadline today for White House to issue federal science communication principles”).
Q 2. In an article in the current issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the author Chris Mooney describes sytematic efforts by the current Administration to “deep-six” the National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change. That report was submitted by the U.S. Global Change Research Program to the Congress in late 2000, pursuant to the Global Change Research Act. Three years later, the program submitted a Strategic Plan from which references to the the National Assessment were systematically eliminated. Mooney describes the process as follows:
In the March 31, 2003 draft, there were a total of 12 references to the National Assessment. In the June 2, 2003 draft, four of these references had been removed. In the June 30, 2003 `Agency Concurrence Draft,’ seven references remained. In the July 24 pre-publication version that was released in a limited edition, five references remained. In the September 2003 final printed version of the plan, four of these five references had been removed. The National Assessment was mentioned only in a single sentence, which did not include the actual title of the report.
You once said (March 5, 2004): “I regard the committees of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council as the gold standard for scientific advice, and I always urge that their advice be considered very seriously in any policy context.” In its review of the strategic plan, the National Research Council said that the plan:
…does not acknowledge the substantive and procedural contributions of the U.S. National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change (NAST, 2001), a major focus of the Global Change Research Program (GCRP) in the late 1990s. Many participants at the December  workshop criticized how the draft strategic plan treated the National Assessment, as did this committee in its first report (NRC, 2003b). The revised plan does not reflect an attempt to address these concerns, and no rationale for this decision has been provided.
The Strategic Plan was submitted to Congress under your signature. What is your rationale for the systematic exclusion of the National Asessment from the program’s Strategic Plan?