- Joint Program Report
Global climate change is on the political agenda primarily as a result of science and the warnings of the scientific community, and is commonly seen as a quintessentially scientific matter. However, the development of policy on this issue in the U.S. today does not turn on the scientific evidence. Rather, policy is determined by the political and economic forces involved, with reference to the science only to support positions reached on other grounds. The reasons relate primarily to the uncertainty in the evidence, the structure and politics of the government, the economic costs and impact of change and of policies to reduce greenhouse gases, the international structure in which the issue is being confronted, the role of the media, and the effects of partisan politics. In this situation, the scientific and engineering communities (including social scientists and especially economists) have a major responsibility to maintain their professional values and objectivity so dominated at the moment by other pressures. Only that way can they retain the public trust that will be necessary if and when costly policy measures must be undertaken.