Environmentalists sued the Bush administration Tuesday for failing to produce a required report on global warming’s impact on the country’s environment, economy and public health.
The plaintiffs claim the government must complete such a report every four years under the Global Change Research Act of 1990. The plaintiffs say the last report was due in November 2004.
The lawsuit seeks to compel the U.S. Climate Change Science Program to issue the national assessment, which should contain the most recent scientific data on global warming and projections for its future impacts.
Without the report, decision makers and the public “are without one of the most important tools to grapple with this complex, potentially overwhelming and yet all important issue,” the complaint said.
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, which was named in the lawsuit, had not received the complaint Tuesday and could not comment on it, said spokesman Ben Fallon.
But Fallon defended the administration’s record on combating global warming, pointing to increased funding for alternative energy research, for example. He said, “The president has been focused on results-driven research and looking for practical ways to address climate change in ways that aren’t damaging to the economy.”
Officials at the Climate Change Science Program, also named in the complaint, did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court in San Francisco by the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace.
The assessment is the “first step in crafting solutions to the devastating consequences of climate change if we don’t act now,” said Julie Teel, an attorney for the plaintiffs.
Environmentalists have accused the administration of trying to suppress dissemination of the previous assessment, issued in 2000, which predicted a dramatic rise in catastrophic storms, floods, droughts and heat-related deaths.
The lawsuit comes as experts from around the world meet in Nairobi for the two-week U.N. climate conference, where they have been trying to set a course for future controls on global greenhouse gas emissions.
Scientists attribute at least some of the past century’s 1-degree rise in global temperatures to the accumulation in the atmosphere of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases, byproducts of power plants, automobiles and other fossil fuel-burning sources.