The U.S. Senate last week unanimously adopted the Climate Change Strategy and Technology Innovation Act proposed by Sens. Ted Stevens of Alaska and Robert Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat.
The act became an amendment to the Senate energy bill, which passed last week, and could be an important step forward in addressing the growing problems related to global warming. Stevens said the measure's intent is to find ways to address climate change while minimizing damage to the economy.
The world is in a long-term warming trend and that trend's impacts are being seen strongly in the Arctic. Pack ice is shrinking, increased storm activity is causing beach erosion that threatens Alaska's northern communities and sea ice is significantly thinner than it was just 30 years ago.
Similar problems are cropping up in the Russian Arctic. And if one can believe the tabloid-style coverage given to the situation by usually professional news media like the Los Angeles Times, they could be worse.
Whether human activities are contributing significantly to the warming is unclear. But the time has come to find out and to develop ways to reduce any possible impact of burning fossil fuels. Stevens' announcement on passage of the new measure said it ''establishes a major research effort to invent the advanced technologies necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the use of our existing energy resources.''
One of the bill's provisions authorizes $35 million for creation of a Barrow Arctic Research Center to replace the old Naval Arctic Research Laboratory. NARL, as it was called, closed in 1980 after decades as one of the premier sources of research on the American Arctic.
NARL was funded by the Navy and the University of Alaska and was headed by Max Brewer, a geologist and permafrost expert who was one of the state's leading science figures in the 1960s and 1970s. Brewer and his staff provided vital research information to oil companies operating on the North Slope and to the builders of the trans-Alaska Pipeline.
Stevens said the climate change bill ''will address an immediate need to stimulate our nation's research and development in innovative technologies and attempt to resolve any remaining uncertainties on the causes of climate change.''
The time is right for such a research effort. Hopefully it will provide valid data to provide real guidance and offset some of the end-of-the-world alarms being spread by the hysterical crowd.
And it seems especially fitting that the program involve a new research facility in Barrow.
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