NSF & Congress
Summary: House Committee on Science
New Directions for Climate Research & Technology Initiatives
April 17, 2002
The Science Committee held a hearing examining whether
and how to change the focus of the federal government's
climate research and technology programs. Specifically,
the hearing addressed whether research programs should
be more focused on targeted, shorter-term climate
questions that could help regional resource managers
(such as irrigation authorities or public health agencies,
who make decisions that are affected by climate) and
whether the technology programs could result in greater
changes in the marketplace.
The consensus of the witnesses was that climate change
research must involve decision makers and address
regional concerns, in addition to generating long-term
climate change forecasting and expanding scientific
knowledge. Both problem-directed interdisciplinary
research and discipline-focused research are needed
to understand climate and its effects.
When questioned by Chairman
Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) about their "top priority"
for climate change research and technology, Radford
Byerly, Jr. from the Center for Science and Technology
Policy Research at the University of Colorado at Boulder
responded, "connecting with users while planning research."
Eric J. Barron, director of the Earth
System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University
agreed, and also stressed an "integrated focus" that
will produce knowledge to protect life, property,
and an expanded economy, while allowing the US to
be good environmental stewards. Edward
L. Miles of Climate Impacts Group at the University
of Washington discussed the importance of a regional
focus, saying, "The crucial questions change by location,
ecosystems, human ecology, level of economic development,
and specific activity." In addition, technology needs
to be deployed and information disseminated on a regional
basis. In order to decrease energy consumption and
improve efficiency, Scott Bernstein, President of
for Neighborhood Technology suggested shifting
"the publicly available data on energy use in communities
from large administrative areas (states) to small
areas that relate to how people see their own lives
and how utilities actually manage energy delivery
(communities, neighborhoods, substations and feeders)."
He concluded, citizens need good and timely information
on energy consumption and costs to have a rational
basis for changing their behavior.
Wayne T. Gilchrest (R-MD) commented, "The consensus
of this panel and the vast majority of the scientific
community is that climate change is real and it is
demonstrably human-caused. Therefore, we have an obligation
to future generations to do all we can to understand
the global climate and invest heavily in technologies
that don't destroy it."
Subcommittee on Research Chairman
Nick Smith stated, "In a debate that can often
become emotional and heated, it is worthwhile for
both sides to begin where at least some agreement
lies - which is that we need to learn more about the
Earth's climate. We need to find ways to allow sound
science to drive our policy decisions. Indeed, there
are risks involved with not taking steps to address
global climate change, but there is also significant
risk associated with taking the wrong steps."
Witnesses' compelete written testimony and an archived
webcast of the hearing are available on the House
Science Committee website.