U.S. District Court Judge Saundra Armstrong ruled Tuesday that the Bush administration had violated the Global Change Research Act of 1990 when it failed to meet deadlines for an updated U.S. Climate Change Research Plan and National Impact Assessment.
The judge ordered the Bush administration to issue the draft overdue research plan by March 1, 2008, with a final version of the plan no later than 90 days thereafter, and the National Assessment by May 31, 2008.
The last National Assessment was issued in late 2000 under the Clinton administration.
The plaintiff groups clained that use and dissemination of this assessment 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.
'This administration has denied and suppressed the science of global warming at every turn,' said Brendan Cummings of the Center for Biological Diversity, 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 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.
'Knowledge is the key to effective action,' said Danielle Fugere, global warming program director for Friends of the Earth, one of the plaintiff groups. '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, a Massachusetts Democrat, and John McCain, an Arizona Republican, the U.S. Government Accountability Office, GAO, investigated the Bush administration's failure to produce a 2004 National Assessment.
The GAO concluded that the administration 'did not submit a scientific assessment in November 2004, four years after the previous assessment, as required by the Global Change Research Act.
The GAO also found that the administration 'expressly refuses to complete a single National Assessment.'
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,' wrote the GAO, the investigative branch of the U.S. Congress.
'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, the third plaintiff group in the lawsuit.
The U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy, which was named in the lawsuit, had no comment on the ruling.