Reorienting the U.S. Global Change Research Program Toward a User-Driven Research Endeavor

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 03 May 2007 18:00:00 GMT

Reps. Mark Udall (D-CO) and Bob Inglis (R-SC) introduced the Global Change Research and Data Management Act to strengthen and streamline federal climate change research and reorient it for state and local governments, planners and researchers, replacing the U.S. Global Change Research Program established in 1990.


  • Dr. Philip Mote, Climatologist, State of Washington
  • Dr. Michael MacCracken, President, International Association of Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences
  • Dr. Jack Fellows, Vice President, UCAR
  • Franklin Nutter, President, Reinsurance Assocation of America
  • Sarah Bittleman
  • Dr. James Mahoney

2:50 Dr. Mote They want to know what the probable changes are in rainfall, snowfall, and streamflow. The Northwest Hydropower Council wanted streamflow estimates. There’s already been an observed shift of two weeks in the start of the snowmelt. A national climate service is needed. To properly construct probabilistic scenarios at the regional level would require using tens of models; it would be too much for a regional center to undertake. Sea-level rise. Monitoring the climate, as HR 906 rightly addresses. The monitoring networks are slowly dwindling. The American Association of State Climatologists calls on Congress to save these networks from decline.

2:55 In recess.

3:20 Ms. Bittleman I work for the governor of Oregon here in Washington DC. The Western Governors Association appreciates the effort to make this bill relevant to the western states. The US has spent considerable dollars on understanding the science of climate change. Now the time has come to fund the study of adaptation. I need to recite some of the very real changes: smaller snowpacks, more extreme floods, more droughts, more wildfire, pests and disease. Congress and the Administration should fund research that makes mitigation and adaptation easier. Some states are creating their own climate change research centers, including Oregon. It is important that the program under HR 906 integrates the state offices and regional centers. We recommend that the bill be amended to establish a national climate information service, as Dr. Mote mentioned. Additionally the NCIS could provide national policy papers.

Decision makers at all levels of government and the private sector need accurate information.

3:27 Udall Are you saying the director of the USGCRP needs direct budget authority?

Fellows I think that the director of USGCRP have some level of budget authority and be close enough to the political center to push changes. When I was at the OMB we had every agency come in and present their programs.

Mahoney I had a hybrid position; I was Senate-confirmed, so I had a political position and access to the top of the OMB and the relevant cabinet officers. I think there should be a definite recognized management and coordination function. The division that generates the reports is greatly underresourced. Some direction by the Congress to see a more effective and efficient process would be a positive step.

3:32 Inglis The bill calls for the program to be updated every four years. Any thoughts?

MacCracken The first was developed in the early 1990s. We shifted in the mid-1990s, though without a formal plan. You do need to take a different perspective. There’s no optimal way to cut this problem into pieces. Requiring something in an update is useful.

Fellows The world climate society takes a look every five years. It would be interesting to look if you staggered the vulnerability and policy assessments, but the four-five year cycle is good.

3:35 Inglis One degree fahrenheit change and we have no more mountain trout.

Bittleman From the state perspective the entire process of data collection and how climate change is being experienced on the ground is what’s important. Every year the states are acting based on the data coming in. When there’s a year date for a report, that’s not as important as the flexibility to include the data, activity that are happening in the states.

3:37 Udall Regional vs. national assessments. How do we ensure the USGCRP meets both needs? I don’t see these things as separate. In Oregon and the Pacific Northwest we would like to gather information on a watershed level. We would like to see all of this information integrated. We see the possibility of integration being the real hope.

Nutter From the insurance perspective, regional assessments are imperative. The effect of climate change on extreme weather events in the Gulf is different from the Midwest or the Northeast.

McCracken We have tried to have sector assessments. If you’re interested in the forests locally, you need a regional perspective. If you’re looking at forest industry, you need national perspective. We also need the international perspective—migratory species, foreign investments, global health, refugees. The IPCC kind of looks at this, but hasn’t really taken a look at individual countries.

Udall Wehn we figure this out as a human race we’ll have created a template to face other challenges we’ll face. That keeps me going.

McCracken Climate change is intimately tied to meeting the Millenium Goals. It is all coupled and has to be looked at this way.

3:43 Nutter Those who look at protecting people’s property and lives. New York State has $2 trillion of insured properties. It’s a remarkable exposure to extreme weather events and climate change. This bill will have a real impact.

MacCracken In the 1990s we didn’t want climate change to be a justification for funding fusion research, for example. One of the things we struggled with in creating a useful assessment was what to focus on. That whole social science part of what has to be in climate change research isn’t well funded.

Mote Another aspect of this separation is that mitigating and adapting sometimes come together. As we design portfolios of alternative energy, are they resilient to climate changes? Such as hydropower. Climate change actually makes our hydropower generation more in line with demand for Washington, but means there will be less spare power for California in the summer.

3:50 Inglis Thank you.

Udall Thank you for appearing. I take the challenge of addressing global warming, as does Rep. Inglis and many other members of the House, very seriously. It’s one of our highest priorities in the Congress. This hearing is now adjourned.

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