NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

A Different Approach To Climate Change Research

December 28, 2001

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has become too politicized, according to a panel of scientists and public policy experts chaired by former Secretary of Defense and Energy James Schlesinger. And U.S. climate change research efforts are fragmented and lack specific goals.

The scientific and policy conclusions in the IPCC's periodic reports -- particularly its summaries, which downplay uncertainties and conclude observable global warming is caused by human activity -- are not supported by the underlying science or existing climate models, says the panel.

Thus it is important that the U.S. develop an alternative approach to climate change. The U.S. Global Change Research Program is the umbrella for federally-funded research on climate change.

  • But the effort is not really a "program," since according to the National Research Council it lacks a comprehensive strategy, a mechanism for prioritizing research and adequate funding.
  • Nor does the U.S. does have a credible, ongoing assessment process to turn scientific information into useful input for public policy decisions.

The panel of experts says a more cost-effective approach "requires focused research programs with tangible deliverables that address significant, policy-relevant scientific uncertainties."

Building better models also requires a better understanding of climate processes which, in turn, requires a long-term commitment to climate observations and data collection.

  • For instance, some of the data required to build better models of climate processes (such as weather information) are collected and analyzed by a specific agency.
  • However, other data (such as solar variability) are collected and analyzed as part of research projects with other objectives.
  • Instead, collecting and analyzing all critical data need to be an operational responsibility for the appropriate agency, not a research effort subject to short-term changes in direction and priorities.

Source: "Climate Science and Policy: Making the Connection," December 2001, George C. Marshall Institute, 1730 K St. NW Suite 905 Washington, D.C. 20006, (202) 296-9655.

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