It took two tries, but the Bush Administration has now gotten its plan for climate research basically right, according to a review released here today by a committee of the National Research Council (NRC). But such a broad, ambitious program "will require a concomitant expansion in funding" beyond the $1.7 billion per year that climate research currently gets, the committee cautioned.
The White House plan "articulates a guiding vision, is appropriately ambitious, and is broad in scope," says the NRC report, all qualities that the same committee said the draft version of the plan lacked (Science, 7 March 2003, p. 1494). During a telephone briefing today, NRC committee members seemed pleased that so many of their previous recommendations were adopted by the Administration. The plan now includes a clear focus not just on understanding how climate might change but also on the effects of climate change on ecosystems and human systems. It also emphasizes research into how climate change might be prevented or how humans might adapt to it.
The plan is ready to be implemented, the committee found, but it will need enhanced oversight. The management structure designed to integrate the activities of the 13 federal agencies doing climate science is "complex, challenging ... [and] essentially untested," said Thomas Graedel of Yale University, who chaired the committee. The committee reiterated its contention that a single, independent advisory body with oversight of the entire Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) will be needed to counter the appearance of political influence by high-level leaders in CCSP.
Then there's the bottom line. "The present CCSP budget does not appear to be capable of supporting all of the activities in the strategic plan," the committee observed. "We're certainly aware there are a lot of fiscal constraints these days on all government programs," said Graedel; if the plan can't be fully funded, CCSP leadership will have to fully explain how it will establish priorities for the limited funds.
The NAS report