Court Rules Against Bush Administration in Global Warming Case

The Bush Administration was rebuked recently by a Federal judge for suppressing scientific reports on the impacts of global warming on the United States. In response to a lawsuit brought last year by conservation organizations, Federal District Court Judge Saundra Armstrong issued an order finding the Bush Administration in violation of the Global Change Research Act of 1990 for failing to produce an updated Research Plan and a National Assessment as required by the statute.

"This administration has denied and suppressed the science of global warming at every turn," said Brendan Cummings of the Center for Biological Diversity and one of the attorneys arguing the case. "Today?s ruling is a stern rebuke of the administration?s head-in-the-sand approach to global warming."

The Research Plan and National Assessment required by the Global Change Research Act are intended to be the preeminent documents guiding federal research and policy-making on issues related to global warming. The Research Plan guides all federal climate research while the National Assessment serves to provide an understandable summary of global warming impacts on the environment, economy, human health and human safety of the United States and is to by used by Congress and federal agencies in setting policy and responding to global warming. The last National Assessment was issued in late 2000 under the Clinton Administration. Its use and dissemination was suppressed by the Bush Administration and the required update in 2004 was never produced. The Research Plan was required by law to be updated in 2006 but also has never been produced.

The Court ordered the Bush Administration to issue the draft overdue Research Plan by March 1, 2008 with a final 90 days thereafter, and the National Assessment by May 31, 2008.

"Knowledge is the key to effective action," said Danielle Fugere, Global Warming Program Director for Friends of the Earth. "Congress knew this when it required the best minds in our government to conduct a National Assessment documenting the impacts of global warming on the U.S. Today?s ruling will help make that information available."

In April 2005, at the request of Senators John Kerry and John McCain, the U.S. Government Accountability Office investigated the Bush administration?s failure to produce a 2004 National Assessment. It concluded that 1) the administration ?did not submit a scientific assessment in November 2004, 4 years after the previous assessment, as required by the Global Change Research act," 2) the administration expressly refuses to complete a single National Assessment, and 3) the White House?s piecemeal approach lacks an "explicit plan for?assessing the effects of global change on the eight areas enumerated in the act: the natural environment, agriculture, energy production and use, land and water resources, transportation, human health and welfare, human social systems, and biological diversity."

"From muzzling NASA?s top climate scientist to political cronies in the White House editing climate science reports, the Bush administration has repeatedly tried to obscure and deny the science, while attempting to run out the clock on his administration," said John Coequyt, energy policy analyst with Greenpeace.

Scientific research continues to indicate that rapid global warming from human production of greenhouse gases threatens every aspect of society, from our economy and public health to water availability and biological diversity. Recent scientific literature documents the melting of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets at a rate faster than predicted. There is also evidence that the Arctic permafrost is beginning to melt, which will result in massive emissions of the powerful greenhouse gas methane. James Hansen, Ph.D., NASA?s leading climate scientist, has warned that just 10 more years on current greenhouse gas emissions trajectories will commit us to large-scale, disastrous climate impacts.

The court ruling comes in the case Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, and Greenpeace, Inc. v. Brennan, et al., (Case No. 06-CV-7062 (SBA) (N.D. Cal.)). Senator Kerry along with Congressman Jay Inslee filed an amicus brief and moved to intervene in support of plaintiffs in the case.

This article originally appeared in the 08/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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