Plan of action? The Administration's 330-page report contains detailed research plans, but critics say it's a recipe for delay.

Climate Plan Gets Mixed Reviews

David is a Deputy News Editor specializing in coverage of science policy, energy and the environment.

WASHINGTON, D.C.--The Bush Administration is getting mixed reviews for its new climate change research plan. The 330-page blueprint, released today, lays out a detailed course for researchers to follow over the next decade as they seek to understand climate change and find possible solutions. Many climate researchers say the document is a vast improvement over an earlier draft and could give the field a boost. But critics say it plows little new ground and won't break the logjam on developing new policies to prevent climate change.

The new plan has its roots in the Bush Administration's 2001 decision to back away from international agreements to limit carbon emissions in a bid to slow global warming. Instead, the White House said it would reorganize and reenergize the government's climate science programs and develop technologies--such as hydrogen-powered cars--that might reduce carbon emissions over the long haul. A draft climate science plan released last year, however, drew sharp criticism from many researchers, with the National Research Council (NRC) saying it lacked “most of the basic elements of a strategic plan,” such as clear goals and deadlines (Science, 7 March, p. 1494). Administration officials, however, promised to shore up the blueprint and invited suggestions for improvements.

“We made a good faith effort to address everyone's concerns,” Department of Energy Undersecretary Bob Card said here at today's unveiling, noting that the final product includes hundreds of specific scientific targets. Overall, the report spells out five overarching goals, including gaining a better understanding of natural climate variability, the forces underlying climate changes, and reducing uncertainties in climate predictions. The White House also announced it would steer about $100 million in new funds over the next 2 years into four high-priority projects, including studies aimed at understanding the climate impact of atmospheric aerosols (tiny particles such as soot and dust) and programs that deploy buoys to monitor ocean conditions. Such studies are designed to provide policy-makers with the information they need to make decisions, said Department of Commerce Undersecretary James Mahoney, who led development of the plan. “We don't look to the scientists to recommend policy choices--we want them to lay out what we know,” he says.

Critics say the plan is a recipe for delay. “Basic research alone isn't enough. ... Going back to the drawing board is only a stalling tactic,” Representative Tom Udall (D-CO) said in statement. But even a climate policy scholar who says he is no fan of the White House policy stance gives the science plan good marks. “I might quibble with some of the specifics,” says William Clark of Harvard University in Cambridge. “But they've made a serious effort to grapple with the issues and develop mechanisms for accountability.”

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Climate Change Science Plan

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