updated 3/9/2004 5:56:43 PM ET 2004-03-09T22:56:43

A $60 million program for researching sudden or unexpected changes in the climate would be created under legislation that won approval Tuesday by a Senate committee.

By voice vote and with little discussion, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee sent the bill to the full Senate for consideration.

Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, told fellow committee members the bill was important for Alaska. He had previously expressed concern with climate warming problems in his home state such as melting permafrost, possible village relocations, receding Alaskan forests and submerged air strips.

Under the bill, the research program for studying “abrupt climate change” — rapid alterations that people, animals and plants have difficulty adapting to — would be established within the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

It would be run by NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research.

Senators barred global-warming plan
In October, the Senate rejected a plan to address global warming. Senators voted 55-43 to defeat a bill co-sponsored by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., who heads the Commerce committee, and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., that would have cut industrial emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

All the sponsors of the abrupt climate change bill — Maine Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, Washington state Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and Sen. Jim Jeffords, I-Vt. — voted for the McCain-Lieberman bill, while Stevens voted against it.

McCain and Sen. Ernest Hollings of South Carolina, the committee’s most senior Democrat, also have asked congressional investigators to detail the effects of global warming on federally owned lands and coastal waters, an environmental group said Tuesday.

San Francisco-based Bluewater Network said its 2002 report on the subject prompted the senators’ request that the General Accounting Office, Congress’ investigative arm, estimate the impact of global warming and predict the timing of the consequences.

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