American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program UPDATE


December 1997


This monthly update goes out to members of the AGI Government Affairs Program (GAP) Advisory Committee as well as the leadership of AGI's member societies and other interested geoscientists as part of a continuing effort to improve communications betw een GAP and the geoscience community that it serves.

Although calendars show that we are well into 1998, it is never too late to send out a monthly update for December of last year. At least I hope not. The delay does afford us the opportunity to report on the successful launch of the Lunar Prospector missi on, which will search for ice on the Moon. If found, it will probably have to be classified as a non-renewable resource. The mission has special significance for planetary geologists as it carries on board some of the late Eugene Shoemaker's ashes, belate dly fulfilling his dream of going to the Moon.

This monthly update includes:

Climate Change Accord Signed in Kyoto
Senators Push for Science Funding
President's Next Budget to Freeze Science?
AGU Forum on Geophysics and Public Policy at Fall Meeting
Leadership Changes at USGS, National Research Council
Tentative Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
New Material on Web Site

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Climate Change Accord Signed in Kyoto
In a frantic, last minute effort, delegates to the United Nations conference on global climate change in Kyoto, Japan finally reached agreement on targets and timetables for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. According to the treaty, the U.S. will reduce emissions of six greenhouse gases -- carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and three halocarbons -- to 7 percent below what they were in 1990 by 2008-2012. In that time frame, the E.U. will cut emissions to 8 percent below 1990 levels and Japan will reduce emissions to 6 percent below 1990 levels. The U.S. succeeded in including emissions trading and joint implementation schemes in the agreement, but a major disappointment for the United States was a lack of provisions affecting developing cou ntries. Those negotiations will be delayed until the next climate summit, occurring in November 1998 in Buenos Aires. President Clinton will likely delay presenting the treaty to the Senate to be ratified until after that conference, as many Senators ha ve made it clear they will not support a treaty that excludes developing countries.

Senators Push for Science Funding
On December 4, Senators Phil Gramm (R-TX), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), and Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) wrote to President Clinton, urging him to use the FY 1999 budget "to establish a bipartisan national consensus on doubling non-defense f ederal R&D over the next ten years." The letter echoed the sentiments of S. 1305, the National Research Investment Act, of which they were all cosponsors. The bill seeks to double the federal investment in basic scientific, medical, and pre-competitive engineering research over a ten year period beginning in FY98.

President's Next Budget to Freeze Science?
Although the President's fiscal year 1999 budget will not be released until February, reports leaking from the White House suggest flat funding or at best small increases for most science-related agencies. The President has announced that he will introduc e a balanced budget for fiscal year 1999, three years ahead of schedule, placing added pressure on discretionary spending. The New York Times has reported that the National Institutes of Health will remain the exception to the rule with big incre ases expected and even bigger increases likely from Congress. In an interview with the Times, President Clinton stated: "I do believe that in scientific terms, the last 50 years will be seen as an age of physics and an age of space exploration. I think the next 50 years will very likely be characterized predominantly as an age of biology and the exploration of the human organism." The scientific societies that have called for a doubling of the federal investment in R&D in the coming decade are ur ging their membership to write the President and express support for such a plan. More on that in a forthcoming special update.

AGU Forum on Geophysics and Public Policy at Fall Meeting
At the AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco, GAP staff participated in a forum organized by the AGU Committee on Public Policy that focused on the role of geoscientists in the public policy process both nationally and in California. In the California sessio n, speakers related how geoscientific information is used by policymakers for decisions on issues such as coastal erosion, earthquake insurance and the siting of the new San Francisco Giants baseball stadium. In the national session, two staffers from the office of Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) spoke on how to provide helpful input to individual Members of Congress. They stressed the importance of getting to know staff both in the Washington office and back in the district offices before a crisis hits. Many of the talks in the session emphasized the importance of scientists becoming active constituents. Presentations were also made by USGS Associate Director Bonnie McGregor, AGU President Sean Solomon, and NSF Assistant Director for Geosciences Bob Corell.

Leadership Changes at USGS, National Research Council
The U.S. Geological Survey has established a new position of Deputy Director, and Tom Casadevall has been named to fill it effective February 1. The Deputy Director will be responsible for oversight of USGS scientific and management activities, and for le ading the Survey in the absence of the Director. Casadevall is currently serving as the Survey's Western Regional Director. A volcanologist and geochemist, he is a leading authority on volcanic hazards and aviation safety. With all indications that it ma y be some time before a permanent USGS Director is named, Casadevall will likely take over as Acting Director if and when current Acting Director Mark Schaefer returns to his day job as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science.

In other geoscience policy news, Bob Hamilton will be the new executive director of the NRC Commission on Geosciences, Environment & Resources, replacing Steve Rattien who left to join the Rand Corporation earlier in the year. Hamilton has recently retired from the USGS where he served in numerous positions including Chief Geologist. While w ith the Survey, Hamilton played a leading role in US and international efforts to reduce losses from natural disasters.

Tentative Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
The next GAP Advisory Committee meeting will take place on February 27-28, 1998 at AGI headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. That meeting would take place directly after the science community-wide Congressional Visits Day activities on February 25-26, wh ich committee representatives and other interested geoscientists are urged to attend as well. Logistical information for committee representatives will be sent this week.

February 25-26Science & Technology Congressional Visits DayWashington DC
February 27-28 GAP Advisory Committee Meeting Alexandria VA

New Material on Web Site
The following updates and reports were added to the Government Affairs portion of AGI's web site since the last monthly update:


(Contributed by David Applegate and Kasey Shewey, AGI Government Affairs)

Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program at govt@agiweb.org.

Uploaded January 7, 1998


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