Environmental advocates sued the Bush administration Tuesday for ignoring
a 2004 congressional deadline to report to lawmakers and the public on the
latest research on global warming.
A 1990 federal law requires the government to produce a scientific report
every four years on climate change and its effects on the environment,
including land, water, air, plant and animal life and human health.
The Clinton administration issued the first report in October 2000,
warning of severe effects on different regions. But the Bush administration has
not filed a report and has indicated it will not do so, environmentalists said
in the suit filed in federal court in San Francisco.
Instead, the administration's Climate Change Science Program says it will
issue 21 mini-reports on various aspects of the overall topic. The first
report, on temperature trends in the lower atmosphere, was released in May, and
others will be issued periodically through 2008, a spokesman said.
"The Bush administration has failed to comply with the law,'' said
attorney Julie Teel of the Center for Biological Diversity, which is a
plaintiff in the lawsuit. "I think the administration's afraid to release this
information because it makes climate change real for people.''
She said the May report on lower atmosphere temperatures is a technical
document that would be hard for the average citizen or member of Congress to
understand. A 14-page summary of the report on the agency's Web site
(www.climatescience.gov) contains findings about temperature variations at
different atmospheric levels but does not discuss how those variations affect
Kent Laborde, spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration, one of the agencies that make up the Climate Change Science
Program, said the 21 reports are being prepared with public input and are
intended to comply with the 1990 law.
"If you look at them in the aggregate, they are designed to be a complete
picture,'' Laborde said.
The suit asks U.S. District Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong to set a new
deadline for a comprehensive government report on global warming research.
The case was filed during the final days of the United Nations conference
on climate change in Nairobi, Kenya, where Britain and other nations are urging
the United States to drop its opposition to regulating emissions of greenhouse
gases that cause increased temperatures.
President Bush opposes mandatory limits on emissions, saying they would
damage the U.S. economy, and in 2001 pulled the United States out of the Kyoto
Protocol, which requires curbs on greenhouse gases. The U.S. Supreme Court is
scheduled to hear arguments Nov. 29 on a challenge by California, 11 other
states and environmental groups to the administration's refusal to regulate
vehicle emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth joined the Center for Biological
Diversity in Tuesday's lawsuit. They said the government is hurting the public,
Congress and regulatory agencies by failing to provide global warming
information that could affect policies in such areas as fuel economy standards,
mining and offshore oil drilling.
They also noted that the Government Accountability Office, Congress'
investigative agency, found in February 2005 that the administration had failed
to comply with the congressional reporting mandate. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.,
one of those who had requested the accountability office's report, said Tuesday
that the lawsuit is necessary.
"It's the right time to push Washington to grapple with this issue,'' he
said in a statement. "We can't respond to climate change if we can't make the
government comply with the laws already on the books.''
©2006 San Francisco Chronicle