Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment

Committee on Environmental Research

Commission on Life Sciences

National Research Council

NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
Washington, D.C.
1993



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Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment Committee on Environmental Research Commission on Life Sciences National Research Council NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS Washington, D.C. 1993

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Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competence and with regard for appropriate balance. The report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to procedures approved by a Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. This study by the National Research Council's Commission on Life Sciences was sponsored by Environmental Protection Agency contract 68-C1-0025, National Science Foundation contract BSR-9109994, Department of Agriculture contract 59-0700-2-154, Department of the Interior contract 4-01-0001-91-C-25, Department of Energy contract DE-FG05-91ER61172, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 93–84438  International Standard Book No. 0-309-04929-6 Additional copies of this report are available from: National Academy Press 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Box 285 Washington, DC 20055 800-624-6242 202-334-3313 (in the Washington Metropolitan Area) B-156 Copyright 1993 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America First Printing, July 1993 Second Printing, April 1994

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Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH Dale R. Corson (Chairman), Cornell University, Ithaca, New York Richard A. Anthes, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado D. James Baker, Joint Oceanographic Institutions, Washington, D.C. Eula Bingham, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio Paul L. Busch, Malcolm Pirnie, Inc., White Plains, New York K. Elaine Hoagland, Association of Systematics Collections, Washington, D.C. Crawford S. Holling, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida Theodore L. Hullar, University of California, Davis, California Allen V. Kneese, Resources For The Future, Washington, D.C. Kai Nien Lee, Center for Environmental Studies, Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts Simon A. Levin, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey Jane Lubchenco, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon Richard S. Nicholson, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, D.C. Gordon H. Orians, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington Kumar N. Patel, University of California, Los Angeles, California Alan Schriesheim, Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, Illinois CLS Liaison: Paul G. Risser, Miami University of Ohio, Oxford, Ohio Advisor: Terrence Surles, Argonne National Laboratories, Argonne, Illinois Staff: Alvin G. Lazen, Program Officer from January 1992 Barry Gold, Program Officer until January 1992 James J. Reisa, Director, Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology

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Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment David J. Policansky, Senior Program Officer, Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology Eric A. Fischer, Director, Board on Biology Raymond A. Wassel, Senior Program Officer, Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology Sharon Holzmann, Staff Assistant Adriénne L. Staggs, Project Assistant Juliette Walker, Staff Assistant Editor: Norman Grossblatt NRC Liaison Staff: Susan Garbini, Commission on Engineering and Technical Systems Douglas Raber, Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Applications Paul Stern, Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education James Tavares, Board on Agriculture

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Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment Commission On Life Sciences Thomas D. Pollard (Chairman), Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland Bruce M. Alberts, University of California, San Francisco, California Bruce N. Ames, University of California, Berkeley, California J. Michael Bishop, University of California Medical Center, San Francisco, California David Botstein, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California Michael T. Clegg, University of California, Riverside, California Glenn A. Crosby, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington Leroy E. Hood, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington Marian E. Koshland, University of California, Berkeley, California Richard E. Lenski, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan Steven P. Pakes, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas Emil A. Pfitzer, Hoffmann-La Roche Inc., Nutley, New Jersey Malcolm C. Pike, University of Southern California School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California Paul G. Risser, Miami University of Ohio, Oxford, Ohio Jonathan M. Samet, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico Harold M. Schmeck, Jr., Armonk, New York Carla J. Shatz, University of California, Berkeley, California Susan S. Taylor, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, California P. Roy Vagelos, Merck & Company, Inc., Rahway, New Jersey Torsten N. Wiesel, Rockefeller University, New York, New York Staff: Paul Gilman, Executive Director Alvin G. Lazen, Associate Executive Director Solveig M. Padilla, Administrative Assistant

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Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Robert M. White is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of public policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth I. Shine is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy's purposes of furthering knowledge and of advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce Alberts and Dr. Robert M. White are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.

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Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment PREFACE The national and global environmental problems we face are acute. They include the familiar subjects of chlorofluorocarbons and the ozone hole in the stratosphere, global warming, and toxic-waste disposal (experts quote numbers as high as $50 billion to clean up the Hanford nuclear-energy site alone). We are beginning to understand the implications of the loss of biological diversity and extinction of species. These and other environmental problems derive from a combination of population growth and the increasing rate of natural-resource consumption stimulated by the rising standard-of-living aspirations of peoples everywhere. Some of the problems affect the very future of life on our planet. Environmental problems are international in character, and some international cooperation and coordination exist, but not nearly to the extent we think essential. The problem is eloquently stated in the Carnegie Commission report International Environmental Research and Assessment: "The free passage of winds and currents, without passports, makes environmental matters peculiarly and quintessentially international. Sustained, effective international action requires that the poor develop into the rich and that the rich improve their behavior with respect to the environment and resources." Because international considerations are beyond our charge, we do not deal with them in this report. However, the Carnegie Commission's report has called attention to these critical issues. The federal government spends a large amount, $5 billion a year in round numbers, on research and development that addresses environmental problems, much of it of high quality. Some of the research is coordinated, the global-climate change program, for example. Other programs appear uncoordinated. In spite of the large expenditures, our country has no adequate way to set national goals and a national environmental research agenda agreed to and participated in by federal agencies and national laboratories, by industry, and by academic institutions, a program understood and supported by an informed citizenry. Environmental policy, both legislative and regulatory, is often produced without benefit of the best science available. Scientists often pursue research programs without adequate consideration for the policy-makers who must make policy in the face of inadequate information and understanding.

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Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment Environmental science and technology is such a broad and encompassing field that attempts to analyze and organize it adequately exceed the capacity of this or any other single body. We narrowed the discussion from the beginning to an examination of environmental-research vigor and adequacy, with identification of strengths and weaknesses together with suggestions for closing the gaps and providing for more responsive organizational relationships. We have chosen to concentrate on the general nature of the research program as organized and supported by the federal government rather than on a detailed examination of specific research efforts. We excluded detailed examination of human-health research, even when related to environmental problems. We recognize the degree to which environmental factors jeopardize health and we recognize that environmental-policy decisions cannot be made without consideration of data and information concerning human health. However, the research and organizational arrangements for producing those data exists and there is a public commitment to maintain the institutional arrangements. To assess the status of the research pursued by the federal agencies, we talked to federal officials in their offices, we were briefed by officials in formal sessions, we consulted them in their offices again, and finally we submitted to them our written understanding of their programs. We sought input from the public interested in environmental research in a one-day hearing where we received both oral and written testimony. We also consulted, with excellent cooperation, other bodies that were conducting studies of environmental research problems: the Carnegie Commission study of environmental research organization, the Carnegie Commission study of international environmental research issues and the study by the National Commission on the Environment performed in cooperation with the World Wildlife Fund. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) report on the organization and funding of environmental research in the various federal agencies supplied us with an excellent oversight of agency programs. We also had good cooperation by the Committee for the National Institute for the Environment (CNIE). These several studies, the two Carnegie Commission reports, that of the National Commission, the AAAS report, our own and the CNIE proposal–all appearing within a few months, covering all aspects of environmental affairs, from the broadest policy, to governmental organization, to specific research fields–constitute a fortunate circumstance. These reports largely agree in their diagnosis of the problems and the reasons for their proposed solutions, even though their recommendations differ in details. The new federal administration has a set of carefully thought-out recommendations available as it seeks to define its environmental agenda. Because environmental problems result from both slow and fast processes, we have analyzed federal research programs from both short- and long-range

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Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment perspectives. Maximal assistance cannot be provided to policy-makers from either perspective alone. We use both time frames to identify research areas that are inadequately covered today, to identify gaps, and to suggest changes in administrative structures and resource allocation designed to respond more effectively to current and future environmental challenges. Based on our analysis of existing programs and their inadequacies, we set forth different organizational frameworks for closing the gaps. These organizational options range from maintaining the federal-agency mission and program status quo, adding only what is minimally required to close the gaps, to an outline of a rational structure for a Department of the Environment. Our judgments and conclusions are limited by the collective experience of our committee. Recognizing these limitations, we suggest a continuing process that will ensure inclusion of important environmental research in the national agenda, along with an organizational framework to ensure vigorous pursuit of the problems. Finally, turning again to the seriousness of our environmental issues, if we knew the time to irreversible change in any of the myriad problem areas, we could better assess the degree of urgency that should drive our responses. We do not know those times, however. Too much fundamental understanding is missing–hence the importance of research in critical areas. However, faced with a combination of potentially very serious consequences but great uncertainty about when or where the troubles will arise, an ounce of prevention is likely to be worth a pound of attempted cures. A healthy degree of risk awareness combined with serious efforts to understand the problems better will provide us with insurance we badly need. There are now about five billion people in the world, approximately one billion in the developed world and the others in the developing world. During the twelve days of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992, world population increased by three million people, all but 150,000 of them in developing countries (these numbers were called to our attention by Thomas F. Malone of North Carolina State University). At projected population and economic growth rates, the developing-world population will likely double in the next 50 years while the developed world will grow much more slowly, so that the population ratio of developing to developed world will be more like eight or ten to one. Our own vigorous economy has depended on exploitation of our natural resources. Our people have been industrious and innovative, and the developing countries want to emulate our success. Yet we know that if they do, the impact on the world environment will equal our own but multiplied ten times over. This is a formula for environmental catastrophe. Nonetheless, how can we deny those billions of people in other parts of the world the same opportunities we have had? How can we help them avoid our mistakes?

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Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment Research must help identify development pathways that are environmentally sustainable. The health of our own economy, as it operates today, depends on growth, and past growth paths have meant even heavier demands on natural resources and heavier demands have meant greater environmental problems. The demands on the world's fossil fuels, particularly oil, whose supply is measured in decades, not centuries, continues to grow. How can we adjust our economy so that it remains healthy but at the same time minimizes the burden on our natural resources and on the environment? We do not know how to deal with these problems, but we must learn and we must learn quickly. We have the potential to make our own future and that of the developing world more secure and more benign than will be the case if we do not use science, technology, and wise policy to avoid the pitfalls likely to face us if we simply replicate our past history. We must mobilize all our great talent and all our great institutions to cope with current and future environmental problems–a challenge that if not met jeopardizes our national security in its most fundamental aspect. We must learn how to bring our federal agencies with their national laboratories together with the best minds and the best laboratories in industry and the academic world, and we must tap the strengths of nongovernment organizations, all in the cause of finding our way ahead as our natural resources decline, toward extinction in some cases, and our environmental quality and functioning continue to be imperiled. Learning how to marshal all this national capital is one of the biggest challenges of all. I am grateful for the excellent work by Alvin Lazen, who became our study director after the committee began its work with Barry Gold's assistance. I want to thank Gordon Orians, Kai Lee, and Paul Risser for extraordinary effort in preparing drafts for much of the report and the reviewers for their thoughtful comments. We have been served in excellent fashion by our Staff Assistant Sharon Holzmann and Project Assistants Adriénne Staggs and Juliette Walker. We have had valuable help from James Reisa, David Policansky, Raymond Wassel, and Eric Fischer of the NRC staff, and from study directors of earlier NRC environmental study committees. Norman Grossblatt, of the Commission on Life Sciences staff, edited the report. Dale R. Corson Chairman

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Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment Contents     Executive Summary   1 1   Introduction   17 2   Perspective   23 3   Strengths and Weaknesses of Current Federal Environmental Research Programs   35 4   Desirable Characteristics of Federally Supported Environmental Research Programs   67 5   Recommendations   87 Appendix A:   Environmental Programs of Federal Research Agencies   129 Appendix B:   Biodiversity   201 Appendix C:   Proposal of the Committee for the National Institute for the Environment   209     Literature Cited   219     Information on Committee Members   225     Persons Involved in the Study   229

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