Climate Change Assessment: Administration Did Not Meet Reporting Deadline

GAO-05-338R Published: Apr 14, 2005. Publicly Released: Apr 22, 2005.
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Highlights

For many years, scientists have observed a warming trend in the earth's climate and have projected additional changes in the coming decades, with potential implications for human society. To provide for the development and coordination of a comprehensive and integrated U.S. research program that will assist the nation and the world in understanding, assessing, predicting, and responding to such changes, the Congress, in the Global Change Research Act of 1990 (act), required the administration to, among other things, prepare a national global change research plan, a summary of the achievements and expenditures in the area of federal climate change research, and a scientific assessment. The scientific assessment is to be prepared at least every 4 years and is to: (1) integrate, evaluate, and interpret research findings on climate change of the Global Change Research Program (implemented under the Global Change Research Plan) and scientific uncertainties associated with such findings; (2) analyze the effects of global change on the natural environment, human health and welfare, and other specified areas; and (3) analyze current trends in global change and project major trends for the next 25 to 100 years. In 2002, the President announced the creation of the interagency Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) to coordinate and direct U.S. research efforts in the area of climate change. CCSP is now responsible for producing and submitting the climate change assessment and is led by the Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere at the Department of Commerce. In July 2003, CCSP's strategic plan was transmitted to the Congress. The strategic plan contained a schedule for preparing the next assessment by publishing 21 reports, each focusing on a specific topic. Congress asked us to evaluate the extent to which CCSP's planned assessment meets the requirements of the act regarding the timing and content of such an assessment.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Other To ensure that the climate change assessments required under the Global Change Research Act of 1990 present information in a manner that is most useful for the Congress and the public, the CCSP should develop plans to prepare the next assessment within the prescribed time frame, or if 4 years are insufficient to complete the assessment, recommend to the CCSP interagency Committee that CCSP request an extension from the Congress.
Closed - Implemented
In accordance with GAO's recommendation, the Climate Change Science Program requested an extension from Congress for completing the required products.
Other To ensure that the climate change assessments required under the Global Change Research Act of 1990 present information in a manner that is most useful for the Congress and the public, the CCSP should develop a specific plan to address all eight of the assessment areas.
Closed - Implemented
As recommended by GAO, the Climate Change Science Program developed a plan for addressing all eight of the assessment areas required under the 1990 Global Change Research Act.
Other To ensure that the climate change assessments required under the Global Change Research Act of 1990 present information in a manner that is most useful for the Congress and the public, the CCSP should recommend to the CCSP interagency Committee that a summary report be prepared to integrate the findings of the 21 or more individual reports.
Closed - Implemented
This recommendation was closed, as documented by GAO-09-1832A, "Administration Implements GAO Recommendation on Preparing Integrated Climate Change Report." In our 2005 correspondence on the extent to which the administration met the reporting requirements of the 1990 U.S. Global Change Research Act, we recommended that, once the administration had completed all 21 synthesis and assessment reports, it should prepare a summary report that integrates the findings of the 21 shorter reports. On June 16, 2009, the administration issued a new report called "Global Change Impacts on the United States." As noted in the document, the foundation for this report is the 21 synthesis and assessment reports.

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