PRESIDENT'S COMMITTEE OF ADVISORS ON SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20500
January 7, 1997
President William J. Clinton
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
The President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) believes that theUnited States must continue to lead the nations of the world through the transition to a moresustainable future. The work of the President's Council on Sustainable Development has placed us on the right path. Now America needs a comprehensive andintegrated science and technology agenda to support such a transition, one that addresses majorinterrelated issues of national and global consequence.
PCAST has identified five sustainable development issues that provide "targets of opportunity";they offer the potential for significant progress toward a more sustainable future, and we wantyour support in making them priorities in the Administration's science and technology portfolio during your second term in office. The issues are climatechange, biodiversity, energy, ecosystems, and food supplies. PCAST proposes the followingspecific actions:
The U.S. should vigorously continue to play a leadership role internationally in the climatechange issue. To date, most research has focused on the physical climate system. As evidenceof a changing climate becomes ever clearer, we must rapidly increase our ability toanticipate and mitigate the ecological and economic consequences for the United States. Theseissues are poorly understood, have been inadequately studied, and must become a larger part ofthe climate research portfolio. The Federal government should begin analyzing the regional implications of climate change and possible mitigation andadaptation options. This effort should involve regional representatives of Federal, State, andlocal governments.
Yet, we depend on biodiversity for our general welfare. Individual organisms -- plants, animals,fungi, and microorganisms -- are sources of our food, medicines, clothing, and shelter. We mustbegin to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss and protect our heritage in the genes. species, and ecosystems of the world. Only in this way can we preserve ourcapacity to adapt to future global changes, including those associated with a growing humanpopulation. The United States should take a leadership role in preserving biodiversity by ratifying the International Biodiversity Convention; providingenhanced funding for research and training in systematics through all relevant agencies; andunderstanding, sustainably managing, and conserving our biodiversity.
The United States needs a more comprehensive and robust program of energy R&D to respondto the challenges of building environmentally sustainable prosperity in this country, and aroundthe world. Addressing global climate change requires the revolutionary development of moreefficient and less polluting technologies for energy supply. The mostimmediate priorities should be substantial increases in Federal funding for R&D on energyefficiency and renewable-energy options, which have particularly high leverage in reducingdependence on fossil fuels.
An ecosystem approach to managing our natural resources requires increased emphasis onintegrating ground- and space-based monitoring systems, and making maximum use ofdeclassified satellite data. Although there is a tremendous array of capabilities to assess physical and biological resources at Federal, State, and local levels, most were developedto provide resource-specific information. Currently, there is little coordination between thesecapabilities in terms of spatial or temporal scale. We must integrate all available information to help us understand why change has occurred, what changescan be anticipated, and how we can best manage resources in the face of change. Federalagencies should develop a coherent monitoring system capable of producing a report card on thestate of the Nation's ecosystem health by 2001.
Federal agencies must help farmers understand and adopt the most appropriateagricultural practices to enhance the capacity to produce food while sustaining the ecosystems onwhich human communities depend. Limiting the application of pesticides on agricultural cropsand reducing nonpoint pollution from farming are extremely important. The possibility ofshifting from our principal dependence on annual crops. which have high requirements for waterand fertilizers, to greater use of perennials and mixed crops, should be explored more frilly. Integrating highly sophisticated satellite information about crop quality and nutrient requirementinto everyday farming offers great promise for reducing the need for multiple agriculturalinputs. Federal agencies should be challenged to initiate multiple agriculturaldemonstration projects based on sound ecosystem management, including improved methods ofcultivation, the use of genetically modified crop species, integrated pest management, lowpesticide use, and water conservation.
In the attached report, R&D Priorities for Sustainable Development, PCAST offers abrief description of each area and recommendations for Federal research investment priorities foradvancing the Nation's goal of sustainable development.
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