Program, which was itself a presidential initiative of a previous administration. In addition to advancing understanding of the climate system, the CCSP has established three goals to improve the ability to predict and cope with the effects of climate change: (1) reduce uncertainty in projections of how Earth’s climate and related systems may change in the future; (2) understand the sensitivity and adaptability of different natural and managed ecosystems and human systems to climate and related global changes; and (3) explore the uses and identify the limits of evolving knowledge to manage risks and opportunities related to climate variability and change.6

The Global Earth Observation initiative led to the Earth Observation Summit, hosted by the United States, in July 2003 in Washington, D.C. Thirty-three nations and the European Commission participated in the summit and affirmed “the need for timely, quality, long-term, global information as a basis for sound decision making.”7 They noted, “In order to monitor continuously the state of the Earth, to increase understanding of dynamic Earth processes, to enhance prediction of the Earth system, and to further implement our environmental treaty obligations, we recognize the need to support improved coordination of strategies and systems for observations of the Earth and identification of measures to minimize data gaps, with a view to moving toward a comprehensive, coordinated, and sustained Earth observation system or systems….” At the second Earth Observation Summit, held in Tokyo in April 2004, the concept of the Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS) was accepted. Participating governments accepted the draft 10-year plan to implement GEOSS at the third summit, held in Brussels in February 2005.

Finally, the president’s vision for space exploration initiative8 led to a reorganization of NASA and established a new focus on exploration of the Moon, Mars, and solar system. The planning document that accompanied NASA’s FY 2006 budget proposal lists five guiding national objectives for NASA, including “study the Earth system from space and develop new space-based and related capabilities for this purpose.”9 However, the priority for Earth observations, which have direct and immediate relevance to society, appears greatly diminished in terms of the projected declining budgets that are proposed for FY 2006. The committee strongly believes that NASA must retain Earth science as a central priority, to support critical improvements in understanding our planet and developing useful applications.

Prior to setting a decadal agenda, which is the task of the Committee on Earth Science and Applications from Space and its panels during the next year, it is important to recognize emerging threats to the execution of Earth science research and applications programs. The reallocation of resources within NASA has emerged as a dominant consideration in addressing the decadal agenda. Resources available to Earth observation programs are declining, making it difficult for NASA to fulfill its obligations to the CCSP and GEOSS. A comparison of NASA’s proposed FY 2006 budget with previous budgets indicates that plans for at least six Earth observing missions have been canceled, descoped, or delayed. Explorer-class missions—conducted under NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder program and intended to provide a continuous


The other CCSP goals are to (1) improve knowledge of Earth’s past and present climate and environment, including its natural variability, and improve understanding of the causes of observed variability and change and (2) improve quantification of the forces bringing about changes in Earth’s climate and related systems. See Climate Change Science Program and Subcommittee on Global Change Research, Strategic Plan for the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, Washington, D.C., 202 pp., 2003.


See <>. The summit also affirmed the need for (1) a coordinated effort to involve and assist developing countries in improving and sustaining their contributions to observing systems, (2) the timely exchange of observations, and (3) a process for the preparing a 10-year implementation plan. To this end, the summit established the ad hoc Group on Earth Observations.


A Renewed Spirit of Discovery, the President’s Vision for U.S. Space Exploration, The White House, January 2004.


National Aeronautics and Space Administration, The New Age of Exploration: NASA’s Direction for 2005 and Beyond, NP-2005-01-397-HQ, Washington, D.C., 2005, <>.

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