The United States Global Change Research Program

The commitment of the United States to a national research program on climate began with the passage by Congress of the National Climate Program Act in 1978. The act was designed to establish a comprehensive and coordinated national climate policy and program. The following year, the National Research Council released Strategy for the National Climate Program (NRC, 1980c), the first of a number of reviews and advisory documents prepared by the NRC on the program.

Even though the National Climate Program Act established the National Climate Program Office as an interagency program, a subsequent review of the program by the NRC several years later (NRC, 1986) suggested that, among other problems, the Act's budget mechanism did not facilitate a coordinated and integrated program because each department and agency could and often did act independently in its budget submission. Around the same time, climate and global change issues began to rise on the scientific, political, and policy agendas. Driven by a substantial increase in the scientific literature, several high-profile discussions in Congress, and a growing recognition of the inherently interdisciplinary and interconnected nature of climate and other global changes, an NRC report in 1988, Toward an Understanding of Global Change: Initial Priorities for U.S .Contributions to the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (NRC, 1988), proposed a scientific framework to improve understanding of climate and other global environmental changes.

The Global Change Research Act of 1990 as amended1 is the currently mandated framework within which climate and global change research is implemented among U.S. federal departments and agencies. Unless altered by subsequent legislation, the Global Change Research Act of 1990 provides most of the necessary authority for a strategically integrated climate and global change research program. The Act sets the strategies and mechanisms for establishing the research and for setting priorities, stating the following inter alia:

• A Coordinated and Integrated Research Program. The climate and global change research program shall be coordinated and run as a national program

1 U.S. Global Change Research Act of 1990, P.L. 101-606 (11/16/90), 104 Stat. 3096-3104 (www.gcrio. org/gcact1990.html).


and the agency representatives in interagency Committee2 of the Program "shall be high ranking officials of their agency or department, wherever possible the head of the portion of that agency or department that is most relevant to the purpose of the program as describe in the Act." Further, the 1990 Act mandated that the "President should direct the Secretary of State, in cooperation with the Committee, to initiate discussions with other nations leading toward international protocols and other agreements to coordinate global change research activities ... the purpose of which is to: (i) promote international, intergovernmental cooperation on global change research; (ii) involve scientists and policymakers from developing nations in such cooperative global change research programs; and (iii) promote international efforts to provide technical and other assistance to developing nations which will facilitate improvements in their domestic standard of living while minimizing damage to the global or regional environment."

• Priority-Setting Responsibilities of the National Research Council. The NRC is charged in the Act with the responsibility to (i) evaluate the scientific content of the research program and plan, (ii) provide information and advice obtained from United States and international sources, and (iii) recommended priorities for future global change research. Historically, the NRC has established a variety of committees or boards to implement this responsibility.

• Guidance for Implementing the Research Program. The committee shall each year provide general guidance to each federal agency or department participating in the program with respect to the preparation of requests for appropriations for activities related to the program.3 This annual guidance historically has been implemented by a "Terms of Reference" document, prepared and issued jointly by OMB and OSTP Directors, that describes the responsibilities of (i) OMB and OSTP, (ii) all participating USGCRP agencies and departments, and (iii) the federal interagency committee for developing the research program and all elements of the budget submittals. The history of the USGCRP leads to a simple conclusion: An effective program must engage the leadership at high levels of (i) OMB and OSTP and other appropriate Offices of the

2 The Act states that "The President, through the Council (currently the NSTC and earlier the FCCSET), shall establish a Committee on Earth and Environmental Sciences (CEER). The Committee shall carry out Council functions under section 401 of the National Science and Technology Policy, Organization, and Priorities Act of 1976 (42 U.S.C. 6651) relating to global change research, for the purpose of increasing the overall effectiveness and productivity of Federal global change research efforts. The initial name of the Committee, the CEER, had its name changed to the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) with the same charge as the CEER.

3 This is a markedly different authority to conduct the interagency process than existed prior to 1990, resulting in implementation during the late 1980s and early 1990s that had more direct budgetary responsibility of the program's content and budget.

President, (ii) the participating agencies and departments, (iii) the committee structure under the NSTC, and (iv) the NAS through the NRC committees and boards and hence the science communities of the nation. The Act states the program of research "consider and utilize, as appropriate, reports and studies conducted by Federal agencies and departments, the NRC and other entities." Hence, the research program should be guided by NRC recommendations, and the NRC may need to reassess the means by which it provides advice on program priorities.

• Preparing a Global Change Research Plan. "The Chairman of the NSTC, through the Committee, shall develop a National Global Change Research Plan (including climate change) for implementation of the Program. The Plan shall contain priorities and recommendations for a national global change research. The Chairman of the Council shall submit the Plan to the Congress at least once every three years ... in developing the Plan, the Committee shall consult with academic, State, industry, and environmental groups and representatives."

• Conducting Climate and Global Change Assessments. "The committee shall prepare and submit to the President and the Congress an assessment every 4 years which (i) integrates, evaluates, and interprets the findings of the program and discusses the scientific uncertainties associated with such findings; (ii) analyzes the effects of global change on the natural environment, agriculture, energy production and use, land and water resources, transportation, human health and welfare, human social systems, and biological diversity; and (iii) analyzes current trends in global change, both human-induced and natural, and projects major trends for the subsequent 25 to 100 years." It was under this set of responsibilities that the United States sought to establish an international assessment process, leading to the creation of the IPCC.

• Congressional Oversight and Appropriations. The U.S. Congress played a critical role in the development of the 1990 Act, with senior staff working closely with OMB and OSTP to draft the 1990 Act. Thereafter, the House Committee on Science and Technology and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation have provided oversight to ensure compliance with the mandates of the Act. Further, the Appropriations Committees in both the Senate and the House hold hearings on the progress being made under the Act and its mandates, as the Act requires that an annual program and budget for the USGCRP be submitted concurrent with and as a separate companion document4 to the President's Budget.5 Finally, the Congressional Research

4 This is the origin of "Our Changing Planet," the program and budget document submitted in early February each year as a companion to the President's Annual Budget Submission to Congress.

5 As a result of this set of legislatively mandated responsibilities, immediately upon the enactment of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), the Director of OMB and the President's Science and


Service6 has developed a continuing oversight and review process to further document progress and accomplishments.

In the late 1990s, the USGCRP articulated a new strategic plan that focused explicitly on providing information for decision makers at regional scales. Then, in 2001, in response to a variety of inputs (including NRC, 2001), the George W. Bush Administration introduced the Climate Change Research Initiative (CCRI) to focus on key uncertainties associated with climate variability and climate change at global scales. In 2002, the administration integrated the USGCRP and the CCRI into the Climate Change Science Program (CCSP). The CCSP developed a revised strategic plan for the program that contained a focus on decision-support activities, including a series of 21 Synthesis and Assessment Products, an emphasis on adaptive management to support natural resource agencies, and comparative evaluations of response measures using integrated assessment models, scenarios, and other methods (CCSP, 2003). The National Research Council was involved in reviewing these plans (NRC, 2003a, 2004b) and later in helping to develop metrics to evaluate the progress of the program (NRC, 2005f).

With federal support ranging from $2.2 billion in 1990 (in 2008 dollars) to $1.8 billion in 2008, the USGCRP (known as the U.S. Climate Change Science Program from 2002 through 2008) has made enormous contributions to the understanding of climate change over the past two decades and provided key results and support for the IPCC. Congress, especially the Committee on Science and Technology of the House of Representatives, provided active oversight of the program in its early years, holding numerous hearings that sought to ensure compliance with the mandates of the Act. The annual budgetary guidance from the program committee to the participating agencies was a particularly important aspect of the interagency process, because it resulted in the implementation during the late 1980s and early 1990s of a process that had more direct budgetary responsibility for the program's content and budget.

Technology Advisor began issuing detailed management and budget responsibilities to the head(s) of the three components of government responsible for implementing the 1990 Act: (i) the various Offices of the President, (ii) the Secretaries and Heads of the participating Departments and Agencies, and (iii) the Committee, its Officers, and subcommittees. This document was issued several months in advance of the annual Presidential Budget development process.

6 The Congressional Research Service has produced numerous analyses and assessments of the USGCRP and the Climate Change Science Program (CCSP). A recent example is CRS No. 98-738, Global Climate Change: Three Policy Perspectives, November 26, 2008, which in summary concludes that "The purpose here is not to suggest that one lens is 'better' than another, but rather to articulate the implications of the differing perspectives in order to clarify terms of debate among diverse policy communities."

Geoengineering Options to Respond to Climate Change: Steps to Establish a Research Agenda

A Workshop to Provide Input to the America's Climate Choices Study

June 15-16, 2009 Washington Court Hotel 525 New Jersey Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20001


The workshop will inform the work of the America's Climate Choices suite of activities by examining a number of proposed "geoengineering" approaches, or interventions in the climate system designed to diminish the amount of climate change occurring after greenhouse gases or radiatively active aerosols are released to the atmosphere. The emphasis of the workshop will be on the research needed to better understand the potential efficacy and consequences of various geoengineering approaches.

The workshop will draw on a growing body of studies and previous workshops that have examined a broad range of geoengineering issues—from the international governance of deliberate climate interventions to the feasibility of specific approaches. The particular focus of this workshop will be approaches (i) to reduce concentrations of greenhouse gases after they have been emitted to the atmosphere (e.g., CO2 capture approaches) or (ii) to limit or offset physical effects of increased greenhouse gas concentrations (e.g., Solar Radiation Management approaches). Other parts of the America's Climate Choices study are addressing approaches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change. Furthermore, there is already a developed research effort in CO2 capture by conventional land-management approaches (e.g., conventional afforestation). Thus, these topics will be outside the scope of this workshop.

The workshop will be structured to bring multiple perspectives to the table—engineering, physical and environmental science, social science, policy, legal, and ethical—


to encourage an interdisciplinary dialogue and exchange of ideas, with an emphasis on the research needed to better understand the potential efficacy and consequences of various geoengineering approaches.

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