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Panel frets over cash-short climate studies.

Panel frets over cash-short climate studies

Warning that the United States and other nations have severely underfunded research into global warming and related issues, a committee of nongovernment experts this week asked Congress to almost triple the current funding for studies of global change.

The panel recommends approval of the President's 1990 global-change budget request of $190 million and calls for spending an additional $170 million on climate studies. This type of research received $134 million in fiscal year 1989.

Convened by the Washington, D.C.-based Climate Institute and led by Gordon J. MacDonald, vice president and chief scientist at the MITRE Corp. in McLean, Va., the 16-member panel offers specific recommendations on improving climate research. Many suggested funding increases would go toward developing a comprehensive global monitoring system, designed to detect any changes in climate.

The committee proposes spending more to study how climate warming might affect sea level, shorelines, agriculture, forests, wildlife and human health. Noting that worldwide efforts are required, the panel recommends funds to strengthen international negotiations and research on this issue. It also suggests an additional $14 million for programs to accelerate the phaseout of substances that destroy the ozone layer.

Panel member Courtland Perkins, former president of the National Academy of Engineering, says Congress needs such specific recommendations to identify holes in current global-change research.

In its report, the committee expresses concern that one important global-studies project, the Earth Observing System (Eos), might not receive sufficient support in coming years because NASA has linked this satellite system to the costly and controversial Space Station program. "The Eos mission could be accomplished just as effectively through much less expensive satellites," the panel says.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), on the Senate Appropriations Committee, says the report "zeroes in on the most important areas which need beefing up as we try to assess what global warming and ozone depletion will do to our world."

Recognizing the limitations on the federal budget, MacDonald's panel suggests Congress provide the increased funds for global-change studies through a "very modest reallocation" of money planned for the manned space program. But NASA spokesman Charles Redmond in Washington, D.C., says this move seems unlikely. "The chances of pulling a dollar out of the shuttle budget are like trying to

pull a tooth out of a large tiger. You can argue that it's a great place to get the money, but it's never been done, and it's not likely to be done."
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Author:Monastersky, Richard
Publication:Science News
Date:Mar 11, 1989
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