By Karen Gullo
The Bush administration violated U.S. law by failing to produce a study on the impact of global warming and must issue a summary by March, a federal judge ruled.
District Judge Saundra Armstrong in Oakland, California, said the U.S. government “unlawfully withheld action” required under the Global Change Research Act of 1990 to update a research plan and scientific assessment of climate change.
The law mandates the research plan should be revised every three years and the assessment every four years. The last research plan was in 2003 and the last assessment was published in 2000. Greenpeace International and two other environmental groups who say the U.S. government suppresses science on climate change sued in November seeking a court order to produce the reports.
“As the research plan is now more than a year overdue, the court orders that a summary of the revised proposed research plan be published in the Federal Register no later than March 1,” Armstrong said in the order today. The scientific assessment must be produced by May 31, she said.
The administration will review the ruling before commenting, said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. Calls to the U.S. Climate Change Science Program and Martin LaLonde, a Justice Department attorney involved in the case, weren’t immediately returned.
President George W. Bush, citing economic reasons, in March 2001 rejected the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty among industrialized nations that would have required cuts in carbon dioxide emissions and other gases linked to global warming.
The Bush administration said in court filings that it determined “only recently that the initiation of a process to revise the research plan has become necessary and advisable” and that the government has discretion about how to handle the revised reports, which Armstrong said was “wrong.”
The reports may be completed by the end of the year, government lawyers said in court filings.
“This is the first court order specifically rebuking the Bush administration for suppressing climate change science,” said Matthew Vespa, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups that sued. “The report will provide updated information that all federal agencies will have to look at when assessing the impact of climate change.”
The case is Center for Biological Diversity v. Brennan, 06-7062, U.S. District Court, for the Northern District of California (San Francisco).