US Senators go to bat for the Center for Capacity Building at NCAR


Four US Senators —Robert Menendez (D-NJ), John Kerry (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Bob Casey (D-PA) —are protesting the decision by the National Center for Atmospheric Research and its parent organization (University Corporation for Atmospheric Research) to shut down the Center for Capacity Building and to abruptly discharge its director, Dr. Mickey Glantz, a 35-year NCAR veteran, citing budget constraints.  (See our recent post.)  The Senators sent a strongly worded letter to President Bush urging him to “rededicate [the] administration to global warming research, to fund the Center for Capacity Building, and to increase international aid for adaptation and mitigation.” 

… by Anne Polansky, Sr. Associate (CSW Director Rick Piltz is on a book-writing sabbatical until the end of August)

Sen. Robert Menendez (D) of New Jersey chairs the (get ready for a mouthful) Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance, Economic Affairs, and International Environmental Protection of the Committee on Foreign Relations in the US Senate.  Among the subcommittee’s responsibilities is to oversee US involvement in drafting and abiding by international environmental treaties. 

On August 15, Sen. Menendez issued a press release (see below) calling attention to the link between helping other nations deal with climate change and our own national security, and publishing the letter to President Bush asking him to reopen the Center and increase international aid to help nations less fortunate than the US to better cope with and adapt to the challenges posed by global climatic disruption. 

Dr. Glantz is currently on travel in Libya assisting the government there with an expansion of their meteorological services.  Before he left, he wrote an editorial that New York Times reporter Andy Revkin posted on his Dot Earth site dated August 16.  The piece is an impassioned plea to “tear down the wall” between the social sciences and the physical climate sciences, a wall he perceives is creating serious obstacles to our collective ability to adapt to climate change consequences across many economic and social sectors.  A rebuttal by Dr. Kevin Trenberth, also an NCAR scientist, offers food for thought in this ongoing debate. 

While the decaying budgets for much-needed climate science—both the “hard” physical sciences and the “soft” social sciences—is the root of the problem and needs to be corrected swiftly with the incoming administration in 2009, we also need a better set of metrics and more transparent procedures at our research institutions for deciding what stays and what goes when budgets are lean.  Do we have a better explanation for the Center’s abrupt demise other than simply “times are hard?”  Not that I have heard yet. 

Press Release of Senator Menendez


Sens. Menendez, Sanders, Casey and Kerry urge funding for Center for Capacity Building
and increased international aid to help developing nations adapt to consequences of climate change

Friday, August 15, 2008

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee in charge of international environmental treaties, along with Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Bob Casey (D-PA) and John Kerry (D-MA) today called on President Bush to provide funding for a recently-closed federal office that was helping developing countries cope with the consequences of global warming. The Center for Capacity Building, which was part of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, was purportedly shut down because the NCAR lacked funding to keep it operational.

In their letter to Bush, the Senators point out the need to support developing countries predict and adapt to the consequences of global warming in order to promote global stability, which affects national security here at home. They also urge Bush to increase international aid for this purpose, which has been a focus of the global warming negotiations that began last year in Bali and will be a critical component of future international climate change treaties.


Text of letter to Bush:

August 15, 2008

The President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C.  20500

Dear Mr. President:

We are deeply concerned to learn that the National Center for Atmospheric Research has eliminated the Center for Capacity Building (CCB). You have acknowledged the threat which global warming poses to our country and to our planet. You have also emphasized the global nature of this problem and the need for an international response. Moreover, you have indicated that poverty and health concerns in developing countries are a major concern of your administration.

Unfortunately, your actions do not seem to match your words. Your administration continues to undermine scientific research on global warming, and has now eliminated a productive program which connected this research with the people who need it most.

The CCB helped developing countries anticipate and respond to the changes caused by global warming. Many of these countries, while they have done nothing to cause the problem, will unfortunately be hardest hit by droughts, floods, and rising sea levels. As the world’s leading per capita emitter of greenhouse gas pollution, it is our moral responsibility to help them prepare for the changes which are unavoidable.

Instead of cutting climate change research, we should be expanding it. This is particularly true in the areas of environmental risk and international adaptation.  Food insecurity, water shortages, and increases in tropical diseases threaten to undermine the security of all nations and could lead to greater incidence of international conflicts.  Fighting global warming requires international cooperation, and eliminating a program aimed at helping developing countries develop the capacity to respond sends precisely the wrong signal.

Moreover, we are astounded that you would reduce our international efforts after agreeing to the Bali Action Plan and its December, 2009 deadline. We are rapidly approaching the next rounds of United Nations climate change negotiations in Accra, Ghana, and Pozdan, Poland.  This is the worst possible time to eliminate the CCB program.

Now is the time for us to secure our place as world leaders on climate change, but the timing of your cuts may instead cause other nations to lose confidence in the international process or even to question the United States’ commitment to solving the problem. We urge you to rededicate your administration to global warming research, to fund the Center for Capacity Building, and to increase international aid for adaptation and mitigation.


ROBERT MENENDEZ              
United States Senator            

United States Senator            

United States Senator

United States Senator


Dr. Arden L. Bement, Jr.
Director, National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22230

Dr. Eric Barron
Dirctor, National Center for Atmospheric Research
P.O. Box 3000
Boulder, CO 80307-3000



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