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National Imperatives for Earth and Climate Science

Tuesday, February 13, 2007 - 12:00am
Washington, D.C.

Opening Statement By Chairman Bart Gordon

Good morning.  I’d like to welcome our witnesses to today’s hearing.  We look forward to hearing your views.

As you know, last week the Science and Technology Committee held the first hearing in Congress on the just-released report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  That hearing provided a useful glimpse into the current scientific understanding of climate change.

It is clear that advances in our scientific understanding of climate change are critically dependent on the data collection and modeling enabled by our investments in Earth science research and applications at NASA and NOAA.  In addition, those investments play a crucial role in improving the accuracy of our weather forecasts, monitoring land use, and managing our natural resources.

In short, this nation needs to continue to invest in a robust system of environmental satellites.

Two years ago, one of today’s witnesses, Dr. Berrien Moore, stated that the Interim Report of the National Academies’ Decadal Survey had concluded that the nation’s system of environmental satellites was “at risk of collapse.”  That was a sobering assessment.

Now the Decadal Survey is finished, and we will be hearing their findings and recommendations today.

One of those findings is particularly troubling.  Namely:  “In the short period since the publication of the Interim Report, budgetary constraints and programmatic difficulties at NASA have greatly exacerbated this concern.  At a time of unprecedented need, the nation’s Earth observation satellite programs, once the envy of the world, are in disarray.”

I don’t think the National Academies could be any clearer than that in voicing its concern.  So at today’s hearing, I want to get answers to the following questions:

When the Decadal Survey panel says that the nation’s Earth observation satellite programs “are in disarray”, what does that mean in specific terms?

What is the impact of that disarray, and why does it matter?

And, what needs to be done to fix the situation?

Of course, in these times of tight budgets, some will look at the Academies recommendations and simply say “we can’t afford to do more than we are now.”  However, the simple fact of the matter is that the nation is getting ready to spend a lot of money to deal with climate change in the coming years.

We will continue to need good data to make sure that those investments are wise ones and that we are getting the intended results.  I’m worried that we are going to be “flying blind” if we don’t ensure that the nation’s environmental satellite system is up to the task of collecting critical climate science data…and the Decadal Survey is sounding the alarm that unless we take steps to reverse the current decline, we aren’t going to have the satellite system we will need in the coming decade.

Well, we have a lot to discuss today.  I again want to welcome our witnesses, and I now want to recognize Ranking Member Hall for any opening remarks he would care to make.




1 - Dr. Richard Anthes
Co-Chair, Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond President, University Corporation for Atmosphe
Download the Witness Testimony

2 - Dr. Berrien Moore
Co-Chair, Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond Director, Institute for the Study of Earth, Oc
Download the Witness Testimony

3 - Hon. Jim Geringer
Governor of Wyoming (1995-2003) Director, Policy Environmental Systems Research Institute Director, Policy Environmental Systems Research Institute
Download the Witness Testimony

Witness Panel
Dr. Richard Anthes testifies before full Committee
Dr. Anthes
dr. Berrien Moore testifies before full Committee
Dr. Moore
Hon. Jim Geringer testifies before full Committee
Gov. Geringer
For information on the witnesses, use the links at left
110th Congress