CLIMATE:

In its final days, Bush admin released long-awaited studies

The Bush administration released the last of a series of major climate reports during its final days, after years of battling its critics, who claimed the documents were being suppressed to avoid U.S. engagement on global warming.

The U.S. Climate Change Science Program posted the final five of 21 climate change Synthesis and Assessment Products on Jan. 16, the final business day for the Bush administration before President Barack Obama's inauguration.

The reports cover topics including the effects of climate change on sea-level rise, in the Arctic and at high latitudes, and the thresholds of global warming in ecosystems.

Critics blasted the Bush administration for the reports' delayed release, saying President George W. Bush's White House deliberately tried to minimize the role the reports would play in climate policy by slowing their release and minimizing media scrutiny.

"This is the endlessly delayed process; all of these things were at least one and a half years overdue -- in some cases more," said Rick Piltz, director of the watchdog group Climate Science Watch and a former U.S. Climate Change Science Program official. "It really undermined the credibility of the federal climate change science program under the Bush administration."

Past reports issued by the climate change office have stirred up controversy among business groups.

Last August, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce asked the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to withdraw one of the climate change reports in the series, arguing that the analysis violated a federal law that requires agencies to employ "sound science" because it relied on unpublished information (ClimateWire, Aug. 4, 2008).

Bill Kovacs, the chamber's vice president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs, said the group wanted the federal government to withdraw the report until the unpublished studies were completed and publicly available.

In an interview today, Kovacs said the group's scientists were reviewing the recent reports, but he declined to comment further.

Click here to read the reports.