NOAA 2003-002
Contact: Bob Hopkins
NOAA News Releases 2003
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Announces U.S.- Sponsored Earth Observation Summit
to Improve Climate, Ecosystem and Environmental Data

In testimony today before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, James R. Mahoney, Ph.D., director of the United States Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) and assistant secretary of commerce and deputy administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), provided an overview of U.S. climate change science efforts. Mahoney also discussed the U.S. Climate Change Science Program Strategic Plan Workshop recently held in Washington, D.C. and the development of a new strategic plan that will provide direction for federal research on climate change over the next several years.

Mahoney noted that the workshop and strategic plan directly responds to President Bush’s call that the best scientific information be developed to assist the United States in developing a well-reasoned approach to climate change issues. “If we fail to fully evaluate the scientific information bearing on global change, we would be subject to the justifiable criticism that our strategy to cope with potentially our largest-ever investment in environmental management would be seen as a ‘ready-fire-aim’ approach,” Mahoney said.

Building on the need for a truly integrated global climate and ecosystem observation and data management system which was a key focus of the recent workshop, Mahoney also announced that the Bush Administration will host an Earth Observation Summit to be held in the summer of 2003 for senior national and international officials who support global-scale environmental observations.

“Such a forum will promote the value of high quality global Earth observations, and focus on the framework for a truly integrated observing system, which is a high priority for the Bush Administration,” Mahoney said. “This high level event will be aimed at generating support from the international community by bringing together senior international government and nongovernment leaders in climate science, technology and the environment to strengthen the focus on global Earth observation. The investments made by the United States and our international partners over the past decade have provided unprecedented views of the Earth as a complex, interacting system – and have clearly identified a need for a truly comprehensive framework for future observations. We believe the Earth Observing Summit will be particularly timely as all nations prepare to review the adequacy of the Earth’s climate observing systems at the Ninth Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in December 2003.”

The expected applications for a fully integrated Earth Observation System are many, including climate analyses and prediction, regional and global natural resource management, and the evaluation of the interactions between climate and ecosystems. The ultimate goal is better coordination in the acquisition and use of data. Seamless acquisition and long-term storage of data on the Earth’s physical, chemical and biological cycles — water, carbon, open ocean nutrients, atmospheric chemistry, energy balance — are essential to fill in the data gaps for more accurate climate analyses.

The U.S. Climate Change Science Program’s Planning Workshop for Scientists and Stakeholders ended recently in Washington. More than 1,300 climate specialists and stakeholders participated in the workshop, including individuals from 47 states and 36 nations. “We believe this to be the largest ever participation in a focused climate science review program,” Mahoney said. “The workshop set a high standard of open and transparent proceedings – which is the goal of the Administration in this important area.” All elements of the strategic planning process, including the discussion draft strategic plan, all of the workshop proceedings and all public comments received after the workshop are openly available at the Web site

The Dec. 3-5 workshop presented the current state of climate change science and gathered comments from both scientists and public stakeholders on defining a strategy for continuing and accelerating climate observations and research. Some of the topics included carbon and water cycles, atmospheric composition, climate variability and change, human contributions and responses to climate change, international scientific collaboration and others. Participants also discussed the specifics of the strategy for scientific research into causes of climate change, understanding natural variability and integrating and expanding global observing systems, among other topics. The open comment period begun at the workshop is currently continuing, with a deadline of January 18, 2003 for receipt of written comments. The draft strategic plan is due to be completed in April.

The U.S. Climate Change Science Program was formed as part of President Bush’s initiatives to strengthen climate change science and technology programs by creating a new cabinet-level management structure that places responsibility and accountability for the $3 billion annual budget for these programs in the relevant cabinet departments. CCSP integrates the work of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, created by the Global Change Research Act of 1990, with the Climate Change Research Initiative, launched by President Bush in June 2001 and coordinates efforts among thirteen sponsoring federal agencies (the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health & Human Services, the Interior, State, and Transportation; together with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Scient Foundation (NSF), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Smithsonian Institution) and overseen by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the National Economic Council (NEC)and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Mahoney emphasized CCSP’s “fact finder” role in providing a source of credible and useful information in three broad categories: science, observations and data, and decision support resources. The draft strategic plan for the Climate Change Science Program, the workshop review process, and an independent review of the strategic plan that CCSP has requested from the National Academy of Sciences, have all been designed to support the “credible fact finder” role of CCSP. “The science and decision support activities conducted by the CCSP are designed to provide essential information in support of public discussion and policy development regarding climate change issues,” Mahoney said.

To read Dr. Mahoney’s full Senate testimony and for more information on the Climate Change Science Program and the draft strategic plan, please visit