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Updated 8 February, 2004

Statement of Dr. Robert T. Watson (OSTP) & Dr. D. James Baker (NOAA) before the Committee on Science, Space and Technology U. S. House of Representatives, May 4, 1994
Appendix II: Initial Strategy for Environment and Natural Resources R&D

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Sound environmental and economic policies require a solid scientific and technical foundation
  • Environment and natural resources R&D should be policy relevant, not policy driven, and must be broad enough to catch, and respond, to surprises
  • The research should be anticipatory, not just focused on the policy and management issues of today
  • A systems approach to environmental issues requires the complete integration of the social and natural sciences

1. Environmental Vision and Overall Strategy

A guiding vision of the Clinton/Gore Administration is to protect the environment for present and future generations by employing policies and approaches that enable development to proceed in a sustainable manner, while preserving ecological integrity and diversity, protecting human health and safety, and enhancing the quality and quantity of food, fiber, energy and water supplies.

The coupling of a sustainable economy with a sustainable environment is a central theme of Clinton/Gore policies, which can be expressed through the following principles: (i) long-term economic growth that creates good jobs and protects the environment; (ii) world leadership in basic science, mathematics and engineering; (iii) continued progress toward implementation of the goals of U.S. environmental statutes; and (iv) sustainable use of ecological systems.

Sustainable development, which is the basis of a sustainable economy, improves the quality of human life, while at the same time living within the carrying capacity of supporting ecosystems. This requires a new kind of development, where scientific and technical knowledge, coupled with a political will to change, sets society on a new course away from unsustainable resource use, unwise technological practices, and continued population growth. Indeed, environmental degradation, depletion of natural resources, and associated stresses on societies are likely to be major national security issues of the 21st century forcing changes in policies and practices nationally and internationally.

The agencies of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources will facilitate the realization of this vision of sustainable development by developing a balanced, comprehensive, integrated, and coordinated multidisciplinary environmental and natural resources R&D policy-relevant program that provides the scientific and technical information needed for national and international policy formulation and implementation. This will require understanding:

  • the state of the natural system including its extreme events, and its susceptibility to change by human activities;
  • the socioeconomic dimensions of environmental changes;
  • the human health consequences of environmental degradation;
  • the vulnerability of ecological systems and the goods and services they provide; and
  • the development of technologies and strategies to mitigate change, to adapt to change, and to restore damaged ecological systems, in response to human-induced stresses on the system.

Therefore, there is a need to develop an interdisciplinary environmental research strategy that:

  • coordinates the currently fragmented agency programs;
  • addresses the various environmental issues in an integrated fashion;
  • is responsive to regulatory time frames and needs, but is also anticipatory and supports long-range priority-setting and problem solving;
  • builds broad and credible integrated assessments involving all stakeholders;
  • invests in the future human-resource and technical research capabilities;
  • strengthens extramural academic research programs, within the limits of existing legislation;
  • encourages external peer-review of all R & D programs, where guidelines do not already exist;
  • encourages international cooperation and engagement to leverage U.S. resources and provide access to research sites worldwide; and
  • facilitates innovative technologies and institutional adjustments that will allow us to move away from the control, restoration and remediation of pollution, to pollution prevention by embracing the tenets of industrial ecology and efficient use of resources.

This research strategy will result in the most efficient utilization of scarce R&D resources, and will provide the scientific and technical information needed to maximize the cost-effectiveness of environmental protection, management and restoration, and set us on a course of sustainable development where the societal costs of, and need for, clean-up will be drastically reduced.

The range of environmental issues is diverse and encompasses local, regional and global issues such as pesticides and toxic substances, hazardous and solid waste disposal, water quality and quantity, urban and rural air pollution, resource use and management, loss of wetlands, soil erosion, degradation of aquatic and terrestrial ecological systems, desertification, deforestation, marine pollution, natural disasters, loss of biological diversity, stratospheric ozone depletion, and climate change.

Specifically the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources will provide the scientific and technical information needed to support the development and implementation of :

  • Administration Initiatives and Priorities, including:
    • a cleaner environment, by providing the scientific and technical information needed to continue to refine environmental and economic policies;
    • healthy safer Americans, by improving our understanding of the human health implications of environmental changes and the societal vulnerabilities to natural hazards;
    • a strong economy, through the continued development of cost-effective pollution prevention technologies, and a reduction of market and government inefficiencies that prevent the diffusion of technologies and efficient use of legal, economic and environmental resources;
    • national security, by providing the information needed to reduce destabilizing environmental degradation and resource depletion that leads to conflict, environmental refugees, and further ecological damage resulting from war; and
    • improved education and training of Americans through environmental education curriculum development and strengthening environmental continuing education initiatives, utilizing such mechanisms as government-private sector partnerships.

  • Environmental Statutes including:
    • Clean Water Act;
    • Safe Drinking Water Act;
    • Clean Air Act;
    • Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act;
    • Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act;
    • Toxic Substances Control Act;
    • Coastal Zone Management Act;
    • Endangered Species Act;
    • Magnuson Fisheries Act;
    • Resource Conservation Planning Act;
    • Forest Land Management Planning Act;
    • Renewable Natural Resources Planning Act;
    • Disaster Relief Act;
    • Marine Plastics Pollution Research and Control Act;
    • Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act;
    • Ocean Dumping Ban Act;
    • Shore Protection Act;
    • National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act;
    • Energy Policy Act;
    • Global Climate Change Protection Act;
    • Global Change Research Act;
    • Oil Pollution Act;
    • National Environmental Policy Act;
    • Weather Service Modernization Act.

  • Regional and Global Agreements and Conventions, including:
    • Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution and its associated amendments;
    • Vienna Convention to Protect the Ozone Layer and its associated Montreal protocol;
    • Framework Convention on Climate Change;
    • Convention on Biological Diversity;
    • International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction;
    • London Dumping Convention;
    • International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships;
    • Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal;
    • Global Forestry Agreement;
    • Agenda 21 (follow-on activities such as the U.N. Council on Sustainable Development);
    • North American Free Trade Agreement;
    • General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade

The environment and natural resources R&D program will build upon three important priorities of the Administration: (i) world leadership in basic science, mathematics and engineering; (ii) the National Information Infrastructure (NII) initiative; and (iii) the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) initiative:

  • the U.S. scientific community must meet the challenge of world leadership in basic science, mathematics and engineering if we are to obtain the scientific and technical information needed to realize the vision of sustainable development. This will challenge the best and brightest scientists in academia, industry, national laboratories and other government institutions in the U.S. and worldwide;
  • the NII initiative will be an critical tool in filling the "information gap", a prerequisite for realizing the vision of sustainable development. The NII initiative views information as an empowerment tool that can assist our pursuit of sustainable development by diffusing useful information to citizens, businesses, and research institutions. Utilization of the NII will also help us achieve greater research efficiencies through the efficient distribution of information;
  • the GLOBE initiative will provide a significant opportunity for environmental education world-wide at the school level. This initiative, which will itself build upon the NII, will be embedded within a more comprehensive effort at environmental education for K-12, undergraduates, post-graduates, and the workforce.

2. Overall Environmental Policy Issues and Summary of Research Areas Needing Additional Emphasis

Policy Issues

The over-arching policy question is how to ensure the compatibility of long-term economic growth while protecting the environment and quality of life. For each environmental issue, the policy questions are similar:

  • What are the natural and anthropogenic drivers of environmental change?
  • When, where, and by how much and at what rates, will the environment change as a result of human activities?
  • How will natural and human systems be affected by environmental change, including extreme events?
  • What are the present and prospective technical options and policy responses for mitigation and restoration of, and adaptation to, environmental changes?
  • What are the institutional and economic barriers to implementing available options, and what will be the costs and benefits of implementation?

Research Areas Needing Additional Emphasis

This section summarizes critcal research that is currently not being conducted or that is funded at insufficient levels. These areas have been derived by synthesizing the research needs from each of the individual environmental issues and cross-cutting issues, which are described in more detail in section 3 of this report.

An improved understanding of the environmental issues requires a long-term commitment to a balanced research program of systematic observations (monitoring), data and information systems, process studies, and predictions. However, if the federal environment and natural resources research program is to provide the scientific information needed by decision-makers for policy formulation there are a number of research areas that need to be augmented in the near term. The areas most in need of augmentation are: (i) the scientific basis for integrated ecosystem management; (ii) the socio-economic dimensions of environmental change; (iii) science policy tools; (iv) observations, and information and data management; and (v) environmental technologies. Supporting these high priority areas will require a combination of: (i) additional funding for some strategic areas of environment and natural resource R&D; (ii) redirection of resources from lower priority areas of research; and (iii) redirection of resources by eliminating redundancy among different agency programs.

Scientific Basis for Integrated Ecosystem Management:

We must develop the knowledge required for an integrated ecosystem approach that can evaluate the vulnerability, better manage the use, and restore the function and integrity of ecosystems in a changing world, by utilizing a multidisciplinary approach that examines the physical and biotic interactions among the land, water, air and human activities at sea and landscape levels. Specifically, there is a need for an improved understanding of:

  • the natural and human forces (including changes in land- use, atmospheric composition, and climate) driving the loss of biodiversity at all levels (genes to ecosystems) and the degradation (structure and function) of ecosystems;
  • the value of biodiversity and ecosystems in utilitarian (goods and services) and intrinsic terms;
  • how to maintain biodiversity and manage ecosystems (agriculture, fisheries, forestry, and parks) in a sustainable way in a changing global environment (including consideration of economic and social activities and institutions).

Specific research in need of additional emphasis:

  • assessing the vulnerability of food, fiber and renewable energy production, water resources, and ecosystems to simultaneous changes in atmospheric composition, aquatic quality and quantity, temperature, precipitation, nutrient status, and land use, including the responses and interactions with humans;
  • developing the knowledge and tools required to sustainably manage terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems;
  • initiating a limited number of pilot studies of research and observations to support interdisciplinary, integrated approaches for adaptive management and restoration of unhealthy terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

Socio-Economic Dimensions of Environmental Change:

We must develop an improved scientific understanding of the relationship between humans and their environment, including the design of policy instruments and the selection of environmental goals. This information will assist in:

  • improving predictions of changes in the environment;
  • decision making in the face of scientific uncertainty;
  • developing policy alternatives that will mitigate anthropogenic effects on the environment;
  • developing policy alternatives that will facilitate adaptation to environmental changes;
  • assessing the impacts (on the economy, on the environment, on living standards, and on particular groups within our society) of adopting, or failing to adopt, ameliorative policies;
  • enhancing our understanding of individual perceptions of, and responses to, environmental risks, and how meaningful participation in addressing those risks can be supported.

Specific research in need of additional emphasis:

  • understand the societal drivers of environmental changes, including the analyses of the environmental impacts of various patterns and growth of population, economic growth, and international trade;
  • to promote policy analysis, including the design, comparison, and ex post evaluation of the effectiveness of policy alternatives to prevent, ameliorate, or manage environmental problems;
  • to promote the analysis of environmental goals, encompassing the concepts of distributive justice, procedural fairness, community participation, and economic well-being; and
  • to promote the analysis of the barriers to the diffusion of environmentally beneficial technologies.

Science Policy Tools: to improve the links between the physical, biological, social and economic sciences, and environmental policy:

There is a need to improve the links among the physical, biological, social and economic sciences, and environmental policy. Specifically there is a need to further develop and utilize tools such as:

  • integrated assessments, ensuring, for instance, that feedbacks between human behavior and environmental change are appropriately taken into account. These assessments can be used to analyze the value of various kinds of information, enabling the prioritization of policy relevant research;
  • risk assessments, with increased emphasis on non-cancer human health end-points and ecological endpoints, as well as exposure assessment;
  • those needed to value information and facilitate policy development under conditions of scientific uncertainty.

Specific research in need of additional emphasis:

  • development of integrated assessments for different geographic and temporal scales depending on the environmental problem;
  • risk assessment methodologies to a wide range of environmental applications including, natural hazards, toxic chemicals, and development of resources on federal lands;
  • improved exposure assessments and hazard characterization (exposure-dose-relationships), evaluation of the variability of the susceptibility within populations, effects on vulnerable populations, and the impact of cumulative exposures.

Observations, and Information and Data Management:

We must significantly improve our collection and dissemination of data and information by developing an evolutionary and cooperative international environmental monitoring and information system, using civilian and dual-use technologies. This will support the identification of trends, advancement of scientific understanding, and the development of prediction systems, but will require the successful implementation of an international policy for securing open and stable exchange of environmental data and information. A multi-step strategy is proposed:

  • inventorying, collecting and assessing existing data sets for a range of environment and natural resources issues;
  • increased use of existing "operational" monitoring systems, by making minor modifications, thus enhancing the value of ongoing observations;
  • improve existing monitoring systems and data bases to develop enhanced observational capabilities;
  • improved data collection, data base management, and information systems building upon the evolutionary concepts of initiatives such as EosDiS and the NII, and consistent with the terms and conditions of the executive order on a National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) coordinated through the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC). Initial implementation of this strategy will involve pilot projects that address high priority areas that are in need of greater attention. Priorities will be determined on the likely contribution to prediction capabilities and relevance to policy needs.

Specific research in need of additional emphasis:

  • air quality monitoring, particularly of urban and regional ozone;
  • development of land/ecosystem-use change maps, with emphasis on utilizing Landsat data;
  • development of natural resource information (ecological and related socio-economic) needed for vulnerability studies and integrated ecosystem management;
  • determination of the status and trends of biodiversity;
  • geologic, geochemical, and geophysical maps at scales commensurate with delineation of energy and mineral resources.

Environmental Technologies:

We must develop environmental technologies that enable sustainable development, and accelerate their diffusion into the marketplace through partnerships with industry, state government, academia and non-governmental organizations. The challenge is facilitate the evolution from pollution control and waste management to pollution prevention and resource conservation, while continuing an aggressive program to clean up and remediate environmental hazards.

Specific research in need of additional emphasis:

  • elimination of hazardous wastes;
  • improved environmental technologies information infrastructure; and
  • developing more environmentally benign:

    • manufacturing and industrial maintenance processes;
    • personal and shared transportation;
    • alternative materials; and
    • energy.

3. Visions, Policy Objectives, Policy Questions, and Research Areas Needing Additional Emphasis for Each of the Environmental and Cross-Cutting Issues

This section summarizes the environmental vision, the policy context, key policy questions, and research areas needing additional emphasis for each of the environmental issues. In each case the research programs will be designed to provide the scientific information needed to answer the policy questions. In addition to the discussion of the environmental issues, there is a discussion of the goals and research priorities for each of the cross-cutting issues.

A. Global Change Research

Environmental Vision

To protect the global environment for present and future generations by employing policies and approaches that enable development to proceed in a sustainable manner while preserving human health, and the diversity and vitality of managed and unmanaged ecological systems.

Relevant Conventions, Congressional Legislation, and Policy Objectives

The research supports the Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Vienna Convention to Protect the Ozone Layer and its associated protocols, and UNCED's Agenda 21. Further, the research supports the U.S. Climate Change Action Plan and such activities as the "Beyond 2000 Climate Change Task Force" effort. Finally, the research is guided by the U.S. Global Change Research Act of 1990.

Policy-Relevant Questions

  • What are the fundamental causes of global changes?
  • When, where, how much, and at what rates will the environment change because of human activities?
  • How will natural and human systems respond, and be affected by change?
  • What are the present and prospective technical options and policy responses for mitigation and/or adaptation?
  • What are the institutional and economic barriers to implementing available options, and what will be the costs and benefits of implementation?

Specific research in need of additional emphasis:

Global change research is designed to observe and document change, to improve estimates of human and natural emissions, to understand chemical, physical and biological processes and feedbacks, to predict changes using integrated Earth system models, to determine ecosystem vulnerabilities, to support the development of policies analysis tools, and to conduct integrated assessments of the consequences of and options for dealing with global change. FY 96 priorities build on this base and on the assumption that the FY 95 high priorities on terrestrial ecology, coupled Earth system modeling, international field programs, socio-economic dimensions, and the development of integrated assessment tools will be implemented and continue to receive priority treatment in FY 96. The three highest priority research areas for the FY 96 budget are:

  • Comprehensive Research on System Vulnerabilities: Develop a program to evaluate the vulnerability of food, fiber, renewable energy production, water resources, ecosystems and socio-economic systems to short-term climatic fluctuations such as the El-Nino Southern Oscillation, and simultaneous changes in atmospheric composition, aquatic quantity and quality, temperature, precipitation, nutrient status and land use, including the responses and interactions with humans?
  • An Observing/Monitoring and Analysis Capability to Detect Global Change: Develop and commit to a long-term international observation (in-situ and remotely-sensed data), monitoring, and prediction program that detects global change. Develop plans in FY 95, and implement an effort in FY 96, to integrate and preserve observations that will address such topics as land cover and use, impacts of global change on ecological systems, UV radiation, and ocean and climate data sets.
  • Improvements in Research Infrastructure: Investigate new modes of support for scientific personnel involved in multidisciplinary global change research, infrastructure to support modeling activities, and improvements in institutional arrangements implementing research on global change.

B. Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics

Environmental Vision

To ensure the sustainability of the ecological systems and processes that support life on Earth and provide the goods and services necessary for human life, opportunity, and well being. This includes minimizing the loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystems as well as the restoration of ecosystems, where appropriate.

Relevant Conventions, Congressional Legislation, and Policy Objectives

The research supports the Convention on Biological Diversity; UNCED's Agenda 21; the Endangered Species Act; Natural Environmental Policy Act; Clean Water Act; Clean Air Act; the Pollution Prevention Act; and the White House ecosystem management initiative.

Policy-Relevant Questions

  • What is the value of biodiversity and ecosystems in utilitarian (goods and services) and intrinsic terms?
  • What are the major human and natural forces driving loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystem function, and what can be done to mitigate/adapt to these changes?
  • How can biodiversity and ecosystems be managed in a sustainable way in a changing global environment (including consideration of economic and social activities and institutions)?
  • How can U.S. R&D programs most effectively contribute to conserving the large majority of the Earth's biodiversity, which is in other countries?
Specific research in need of additional emphasis:

  • Develop the National Partnership for Biological Survey to:
    • Assess and understand the status and trends of biodiversity and improve organization of and access to natural resource information (e.g., world ecosystem mapping developed from remotely-sensed (e.g., Landsat) and field-based data, systematic collections, National Information Infrastructure, National Biodiversity Information Center);
    • Conduct research and develop tools to improve knowledge of the interactions among biodiversity, ecosystem dynamics, ecosystem management, and environmental degradation.

C. Resource Use and Management

Environmental Vision

The sustainable management and use of our natural resources to provide the goods and services in a manner that is both compatible with environmental goals and enhances our health, welfare and prosperity.

Relevant Conventions, Congressional Legislation, and Policy Objectives

The research supports the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, U.S. Climate Change Action Plan, DOE's Domestic Natural Gas and Oil initiative, the Administration's reform of the 1872 Mining Law, the Endangered Species Act, NAFTA, National Geologic Mapping Act, the White House ecosystem management initiative, and the Administration's effort to integrate management of Federal lands.

Policy-Relevant Questions

  • How are natural resource systems defined, for what purpose, at what scales, by whom, and what scientific data are required to characterize, assess, predict and monitor their use?
  • What is the scale of human activity, rates of use of non- renewable resources, and the role of renewable energies and energy efficiency in sustaining materials?
  • How can the understanding of natural resource systems be integrated and used to develop creative and accommodating resource management strategies across multiple jurisdictions and spatial/time scales?
  • How can scientific information for natural resource management be shared with all stakeholders?

Specific research in need of additional emphasis:

  • Integrated Assessments: Expand the resource mix by:
    • completing basic geologic, geochemical and geophysical mapping of the U.S. (offshore and onshore) at scales commensurate with delineation of energy and mineral resources by the year 2005; and
    • preserving and linking existing, but endangered, natural resource data bases and archival systems by the year 2000.
  • Adaptive Management: Develop prototypes for adaptive management concepts and procedures by conducting multidisciplinary pilot studies in forestry, fisheries, and renewable energy.
  • Research Infrastructure: Establish funding and other incentives for integrated, multidisciplinary studies of natural resource systems.

D. Air Quality Research

Environmental Vision

Protect human health and the environment from adverse risks from ambient and indoor air pollution and deposition.

Relevant Conventions, Congressional Legislation, and Policy Objectives

The research focuses on surface-level ozone, acidic deposition, toxics, airborne particles, and indoor air, to provide the scientific basis for efficiently and effectively implementing the requirements, and meeting the goals, of the Clean Air Act, and for characterizing the relative risks and sources of air pollution that are not covered by comprehensive legislation or regulation, such as degraded indoor air,

Policy-Relevant Questions

  • What are the direct and indirect effects and impacts of air pollutants and deposition on humans, ecosystems, materials, and cultural values at spatial scales ranging from local to continental?
  • What are the roles of technological and social systems in causing these effects and in potentially mitigating these effects?
  • What are the levels of risk from adverse effects from air pollutants and the uncertainties in their magnitude and causes?
  • What options exist for reducing, mitigating and managing adverse effects and what are the costs of these options?

Specific research in need of additional emphasis:

Building upon a maintained and continued broad base of research in monitoring, process understanding, model development and evaluation, control/prevention approaches, and health and environmental effects, immediate and heightened research should be focused on two critical research areas:

  • Substantially improve the understanding of the formation of ground-level ozone in urban and rural areas, with two special emphases: (i) Better coordinate and specifically augment field observations and observing networks that characterize human- influenced and natural sources of ozone precursors, formation and loss processes, exposure levels and impacts, in order to improve our overall predictive capabilities. (ii) With the above observations and other information, carry out an "end-to-end", integrated state-of- understanding assessment of ground-level ozone, its consequences, and mitigation options. Payoffs to policy: Improved scientific assistance with "mid-course" Clean Air Act State Implementation Plans (SIPs) and a defensible observation- based evaluation of how well regulations are meeting their intended goal.
  • Better characterize the impacts of airborne fine particles, with an emphasis on identifying the risks and causality mechanisms by which particles adversely affect human health, with particular foci on (i) exposure levels, (ii) size and chemical content, (iii) role of exposure to multiple stresses, and (iv) identification of particularly susceptible populations. Payoffs to policy: Earlier formation of an effective, efficient, and defensible particulate-matter control strategy as required under the Clean Air Act.

E. Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Solid Waste

Environmental Vision

To prevent, reduce, or eliminate human and ecological exposure to environmental toxic materials and their adverse human health, ecological, and social and economic consequences. Actions will be guided by principles such as sustainable development, community involvement, environmental justice, and the risk of alternatives.

Relevant Conventions, Congressional Legislation, and Policy Objectives

The research supports the Clean Water Act; the Safe Drinking Water Act; the Clean Air Act; the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act; Toxic Substances Control Act; Resource Conservation and Recovery Act; Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act; Occupational Safety and Health Act; Hazardous Materials Transportation Act; Agenda 21; and the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.

Policy-Relevant Questions

  • How to use risk assessment for public policy decisions in the face of science gaps?
  • How can we integrate prevention and risk communication in private and public sector decision making?
  • How can cost-benefit analysis be used in making risk management decisions?
  • How can we incorporate environmental justice in risk management?

Specific research in need of additional emphasis:

  • Risk Assessment: Increase research in the area of risk assessment including: models for predicting adverse public health and environmental responses; biological and ecological mechanisms of action of toxic materials; variability of susceptibility within populations; biological measures of exposure; effects on vulnerable populations; methods for monitoring and assessing exposure; models for estimating and predicting exposure and environmental fate; and biological doses of toxic materials.
  • Site remediation: demonstrate and evaluate more cost- effective innovative technologies for site characterization and site remediation, with an emphasis on ground water cleanup, radioactive and mixed wastes, and other hard-to-treat wastes.
  • Pollution prevention: support development and evaluation of pollution prevention technologies and strategies. As cleanup becomes more effective, transition resources from remediation research to the development of pollution prevention methods and cleaner technologies and processes in partnership with industry.

F. Water Resources and Coastal and Marine Environments

Environmental Vision

To provide reliable supplies of clean water as a resource for domestic, agricultural, and industrial use, and ensuring the integrity of aquatic ecological systems and watersheds.

Relevant Conventions, Congressional Legislation, and Policy Objectives

The research supports the Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Coastal Zone Management Act; Magnuson Fisheries Act; the Endangered Species Act, the White House ecosystem management initiative; and Agenda 21.

Policy-Relevant Questions

  • How can we provide data and decision tools for integrated water resources and aquatic ecosystems management plans at appropriate scales that meet the multiple human and ecosystem needs?

Specific research in need of additional emphasis:

The highest priority is to support the research and observations needed to implement an interdisciplinary approach to maintaining and restoring aquatic ecosystem functions at watershed and regional scales. Integrated studies in a few geographically targeted areas are required that will result in the development of methods and tools that can be used broadly in support of management and regulatory activities. More specifically this includes:

  • Observing and Prediction Systems: Development of interagency continental and coastal observing and prediction systems. The products of this effort will be forecasts, models, and data most needed by natural resource managers.
  • Process-related studies: This includes mass balance studies which look at the flux, fate and ecological effects of water and dissolved and particulate material from the atmosphere, through the watershed, and into estuaries and the coastal ocean.
  • Restoration of Ecosystems: An interdisciplinary (physical, chemical, biological, and social) science program to guide the management and restoration of aquatic ecosystems. These studies will further the understanding of the cumulative effects of stressors on aquatic systems, provide the methods and tools for restoration activity, and evaluate through ex post analyses the outcomes and success of such efforts for future management decisions.

G. Natural Disasters

Environmental Vision

Reduce the loss of life, property damage, and economic disruption caused by natural hazards.

Relevant Conventions, Congressional Legislation, and Policy Objectives

The research will support the requirements of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, as amended; the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act, as amended; the Weather Service Modernization Act; and the NOAA 1993 Reauthorization Act. Reduce the impact of natural hazards on safety and environmental quality as directed by CERCLA, the nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, et seq., and the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.

Make the U.S. more sustainable by active planning and management in hazard sensitive economic sectors such as agriculture, energy, and transportation, thus reducing the need for unbudgeted federal outlays for disaster relief.

Policy-Relevant Questions

  • What risks do natural hazards represent for the U.S. in coming years? How are global changes, technological advance, and rapid societal change, transforming our vulnerability? Who should bear the costs? What is the Federal share? Can the U.S. insurance industry survive a major earthquake or hurricane? If not, what assistance or restructuring is needed? What is the threat of natural hazards to the production of food and fiber, and to ecosystems and biodiversity?
  • What are the opportunities for mitigation? What changes are needed in land-use and management; building codes and other engineering design and practice; financial and insurance frameworks; education and training?
  • How can the U.S. foster its technology exports and reduce global tensions by helping other nations cope with natural hazards?

Specific research in need of additional emphasis:

  • Risk Assessments: Conduct integrated Federal, State and local, risk assessments to improve estimates of expected losses from natural hazards and their likely societal and environmental consequences, leading to a comprehensive assessment by the year 2000.
  • National Mitigation Strategy: Under FEMA leadership, develop a National Mitigation Strategy, identifying Federal, State, local and private sector responsibilities. Improve the scientific basis for analysis, evaluation and implementation of the full range of societal opportunities for mitigation.
  • Improved Prediction of Natural Hazards and Their Effects:
    • building on the National Weather Service Modernization, implement the U.S. Weather Research Program, and
    • upgrade observation systems and analytical capabilities for seismic, volcanic and wildfire hazards;
    • improve the dissemination of natural hazards information through utilization of the National Information Infrastructure Initiative.

H. Social Sciences and Economics

Vision:

A better scientific understanding of the relationship between humans and their environment and the social and economic consequences of the policies and the environmental changes, which is essential for predicting more accurately changes in the environment, for developing policies that will mitigate anthropogenic effects on the environment and that will facilitate adaptation to environmental changes.

Relevant Conventions, Congressional Legislation, and Policy Objectives

The research program supports the Biodiversity Convention, White House ecosystem management initiative, the Framework Convention on Climate Change, Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, and Clean Water Act.

Policy-Relevant Questions

  • How can we measure and value losses in environmental assets, such as biodiversity and pristine natural environments, that may be associated with global change, acid rain, toxic substances, or resource use and depletion?
  • How can society best plan for, and manage, natural hazards in the most cost-effective manner?
  • What are the most effective and equitable ways to preserve important ecosystems, to sequester carbon, and to protect wildlife migration paths?
  • What role can labeling, education, demonstration projects and other provision of information play in reducing energy, fertilizer, and chemical use?

Specific research in need of additional emphasis:

The research priorities identified are common to the seven environmental issues of the CENR. Underlying the success of the research agenda is enhanced investment in methodological research and in the management and collection of social science data sets.

  • Human driving forces and mediating influences, including analyses of the impacts of various patterns and growth of population, economic growth, and international trade. Adaptation processes are an important part of this research area.
  • Policies and goals in the design of environmental strategies. This area includes the design and comparison of policies to prevent, ameliorate, or adapt to environmental problems, and the formulation (and content) of environmental goals--goals which consider concerns about distributive justice, procedural fairness, community participation, and economic well-being. One research priority is a better understanding of the determinants of the creation and diffusion of environmentally beneficial technologies. Another priority is the ex post evaluation of the effectiveness of environmental and natural resource policies.
  • Links between physical sciences, social and economic sciences, and environmental policy. This area includes integrated assessments ensuring that feedbacks between human behavior and physical and natural systems (e.g. climate change) are taken into account; research analyzing the value of various kinds of information, enabling the prioritization of policy relevant research; and research enhancing our understanding of individual perceptions of and responses to environmental risks and how meaningful participation in addressing those risks can be supported.

I. Technology and Engineering

Vision

To foster the development of environmental technologies that enable sustainable development, both domestically and internationally, and add value simultaneously to both the environment and the economy.

Key Policy Objectives

  • effect a policy for well-paced, cost-effective correction of past and current environmental degradation, while setting a deliberate course for sustainable development. Over time, the investment balance between these two technology needs must be carefully formulated;
  • overcome the regulatory, financial, institutional and market barriers that inhibit the commercialization of innovative environmental technologies.

Policy-Relevant Questions

  • In a Federal strategy, what is the appropriate balance among technologies designed for pollution prevention, control, remediation, and monitoring.

Specific research in need of additional emphasis:

Accelerate the diffusion of clean energy and environmental technologies into the global marketplace through integrated activities and partnerships and risk sharing among industry, government, and academia; evaluate and modify regulatory and legal systems that impede innovation; improve mechanisms for information dissemination, increased prototyping, and new technology demonstration and performance verification; and environmental training, education, and literacy for the general population and skilled workforce. The challenge is facilitate the evolution from pollution control and waste management to pollution prevention and resource conservation, while continuing an aggressive program to clean up and remediate environmental hazards. The priorities for Federal R&D action in the near term emphasize increased investment in:

  • the elimination of hazardous wastes;
  • an improved environmental technologies information infrastructure;
  • and developing more environmentally benign:
    • manufacturing and industrial maintenance processes;
    • personal and shared transportation;
    • alternative materials; and
    • energy.

J. Risk Assessment

Vision:

To promote the use of risk assessment in the most effective, efficient, and fair manner to prevent, reduce, and manage health and environmental hazards. The goal is to establish an appropriate balance between basic research in the natural, physical, and social sciences and applied research on how risk assessment might best be used to inform decision making. A multi-disciplinary research framework is recommended to identify couplings, correlations, and feedback mechanisms in response to various stimuli (e.g., natural disruptions, chemical contamination) within biological, ecological, physical, and engineered systems.

Policy-Relevant Questions

Critical policy questions for risk assessment include: what criteria should determine whether a risk assessment should be undertaken?; what is the incremental value of obtaining additional information through increased research, and in which areas?; how should various social concerns frame a risk assessment and define data needs?; how might one weigh and compare different endpoints, time frames, and/or populations?; how might uncertainty be weighed into policy decisions?; how can one risk be compared to another? and, what is the most appropriate role of risk assessment (i.e., "science") in setting policy or management priorities?

Specific research in need of additional emphasis:

  • Endpoints: identifying and predicting the magnitudes of new ecological risks, non cancer human health effects and intermediate endpoints with research on the biological mechanisms (both human and ecological). Such knowledge is crucial for setting research and testing priorities, and understanding variations in human susceptibilities to hazards;
  • Environmental Fate and Transport: Concerns regarding especially susceptible subpopulations and/or communities impacted by multiple hazards dictate that research should be directed toward multiple and/or cumulative exposures and alternative pathways of exposure to hazardous pollutants, particularly for mixtures (both of chemicals and physical stressors).
  • Risk Communication: identifying factors that influence individual, group and institutional perceptions and responses to risks;
  • Use of Risk Assessment in Decision-Making: developing better and more explicit methods for characterizing uncertainty and defining defaults for where data are lacking; advancing methods and strategies to prioritize risk avoidance and mitigation options; developing decision criteria to aid in determining when it is appropriate to undertake a risk assessment; the level of precision desired; and how risk estimates ought to be used in decision making.

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