Members of Congress:

I am pleased to forward to you a copy of "Our Changing Planet: The FY 1996 U.S. Global Change Research Program." This supplement to the President's Fiscal Year 1996 Budget was prepared by the Subcommittee on Global Change Research (SGCR) of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources Research (CENR), a committee of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC). This document complements the report, "Preparing for the Future Through Science and Technology: An Agenda for Environmental and Natural Resources Research," that was prepared by the CENR last winter.

The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) has spurred much improved scientific insight into the processes and interactions of the Earth system. As a result, we're making progress in our ability to forecast seasonal to interannual climate changes that can lead to significant events such as floods, droughts, and heat waves. Improved forecasting of these events can save human lives and billions of dollars.

Recent measurements made through the USGCRP confirm that the growth rates of total organic chlorine and bromine in the troposphere are slowing, which suggests that the depleted stratospheric ozone layer will recover over the next several decades in response to measures taken as part of the Montreal Protocol and its amendments. USGCRP research in FY1996 is expected to improve our understanding of how ozone depletion relates to increased UV radiation. In parallel, health research on the mechanisms by which UV radiation causes skin cancer, immunosuppression, and cataracts will lead to better methods of prevention.

General Circulation Models (GCMs), which were developed to predict climate changes over the next few decades, have improved substantially and can now better account for the observed global warming of the last century of about 0.5°C. Improvements in GCMs enable us to better understand the potential for significant climate change and its impacts over the next century, so that we can develop wise adaptation and mitigation strategies. Equally important is our improved ability to observe changes in global land cover by remote sensing and to assess and prevent undesirable impacts on the global productivity of forests, fisheries, and agriculture through USGCRP supported field programs.

The USGCRP, a program initiated under President Reagan and elevated to a Presidential Initiative under President Bush, has brought our nation huge dividends by greatly increasing our knowledge of Earth system science, thereby giving us a better understanding of the global ecosystem on which we so greatly depend. President Clinton strongly endorses this program and proposes to maintain federal support of the USGCRP at a level of $1.8 billion for FY 1996.

I would like to commend Dr. Robert Corell of the National Science Foundation and Chair of the SGCR, for leading the efforts which have made this program a success. We look forward to another productive year for the support of Earth system science as an investment for the nation's future.

John H. Gibbons
Director, OSTP

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Last updated 04/10/96