Page 13 of 24
ecting an area of scientific inquiry that has benefited from an infusion of ove
r $20 billion in funding in the last tea years. Considerable progress has alrea
dy been made toward understanding the c mplex system of climate change, but mor
e remains to be done to eliminate criti al gaps in our knowledge.
administration issued a draft outline analyzing and proposing changes to the C
limate Change Science Program and welco ed all stakeholders - from scientists t
o the public - to discuss the future of climate research. The process is intend
ed to determine what areas of climate r search are in need of greater funding a
<br>The National Research Council organ-zed a panel to review
the draft. The panel was critical of the draft, but rather than clarify the exi
sting state of climate science and research, the panel's members muddied the wa
<br><b>On the One Hand, On the Other</b>
<br>On the one hand,
the panel members claimed that a human-made component of global warming has bee
n firmly established by the scientific community, thus obviating the administra
tion's call for research to reduce uncertainties over anthropogenic warming and
bolstering claims that a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is
necessary. But they also said, paradoxically, that significantly <I>more</I> re
search funding would be necessary to reduce the scientific uncertainties relate
d to human-made global warming.
<br>One of the panelists criticized the ad
ministration's research priorities, telling the <I> New York Times</T> that res
earch 'that would have been cutting edge in 1980 is listed as a priority for th
<br>Despite this panelist's assertion, there are longstanding
improvements needed in basic climate science. For instance, a deteriorating and
insufficient network for ascertaining surface temperature measurements must be
strengthened; and understanding of thE basic physics of convection that govern
s the transfer of large amounts of ene gy must be improved. Even after two deca
des of research in these areas, they r main at the leading edge of problems to
be solved to reduce uncertainty in for casts Of the human-made climate impact.
<br>Moreover, the panel asserted that more is known about a human-made war
ming trend than the Bush administration will admit. For example, one panel memb
er, Michael Prather, announced that ab ut half of observed warming trend of the
last few decades is anthropogenic while the remainder is natural.
is assertion leaves the impression that a human-caused global warming effect is
understood thoroughly enough to diffe entiate the human warming trend from nat
ural causes, and that research on the matter could be concluded and funding red
<br>Scientific claims about anthropogehic warming can be traced to
the conclusions listed in the U.S. National Assessment of the Potential Impacts
of Climate Variability and Change and the United Nations' Intergovernmental Pa
nel on Climate Change 2001's Third Ass ssment Report. But these conclusions are
uncertain because the main tools on w ich they are based are computer simulati
ons that have not reliably reproduced either past or current attributes of the
climate system. However, that is not surprising, since the natural influences
of climate are still difficult to mode . Reducing uncertainty about natural var
file:/D:SEARCHJ7-9O3 .. CEQ0123.f.ddjee 03..ceq-0.001.txt 8/14/2003
Page 14 of 24
iability remains a critical concern in Distinguishing human and natural warming
<br>The panel's claims are thus confusi g: While claiming we know
enough to act on global warming by red cing greenhouse gas emissions, the pane
1 also criticized the lack of a commitm nt to substantial new funding for impro
ving climate research.
<br><b>We Know What We Don't Know </b>
e panel's complaints try to have things both ways: Either the science is comple
te (or complete enough) to move ahead w-th substantial cuts in carbon dioxide e
missions, or the climate forecasts are Uncertain and require substantial advanc
es in order to give reliable forecasts )ne or two centuries into the future. In
the first case, the committee is calli g for reductions in fundamental researc
h in climate change, and a restructuring of energy policy in the U.S., with cos
ts that will be difficult to bear in th~ next decade. In the second case, the a
rgument for much more funding undercuts the previous assertion that the science
<br>Implementing large and immediate cu s in greenhouse gas e
missions will be costly to human health, welfare and the environment. Waiting f
or two or three decades while the techn logy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
improves and becomes more affordable d es not, according to computer simulatio
ns shown in the UN assessment, add significant warming at the end of 100 years.
It would make greenhouse gas cuts easier and more affordable. Most important,
prioritized research in that interval my allow scientific progress in understa
nding climate physics and defining the extent of human-made climate change - wh
ich was the original point of the draft document.
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