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Society's Environmental Goals

This report focuses on science, technology, and the environment. As will be seen in discussion of some of the existing goal statements, the "environment" can be taken to cover an extremely broad range of topics. For the purposes of this report, the committee used the following definition:

The environment is all physical and biological features of the earth that can affect or be affected by human activities.

CHARGE TO THE COMMITTEE

As described in more depth in the preface, this committee had several charges.

  • Call for Comments. First, to broaden the national awareness of long-term goals and to obtain the views of groups that will ultimately affect the attainment of goals, the committee was to conduct a national "call for comments" to obtain input before the summer study. These contributions were to be cataloged and synthesized (see Appendix D).

  • Commissioned Papers. Second, the committee was to commission a series of papers that would discuss national science and technology goals related to domestic environmental policy. These papers were to become part of the final publication (see Part II).

  • National Forum. Third, the committee was to hold a forum where there could be a dialogue among persons from industry, academe, nongovernment organizations, and the interested public as to what the long-term science and technology goals are to be to meet society's environmental goals. This dialogue took



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Linking Science and Technology to Society's Environmental Goals 1 Society's Environmental Goals This report focuses on science, technology, and the environment. As will be seen in discussion of some of the existing goal statements, the "environment" can be taken to cover an extremely broad range of topics. For the purposes of this report, the committee used the following definition: The environment is all physical and biological features of the earth that can affect or be affected by human activities. CHARGE TO THE COMMITTEE As described in more depth in the preface, this committee had several charges. Call for Comments. First, to broaden the national awareness of long-term goals and to obtain the views of groups that will ultimately affect the attainment of goals, the committee was to conduct a national "call for comments" to obtain input before the summer study. These contributions were to be cataloged and synthesized (see Appendix D). Commissioned Papers. Second, the committee was to commission a series of papers that would discuss national science and technology goals related to domestic environmental policy. These papers were to become part of the final publication (see Part II). National Forum. Third, the committee was to hold a forum where there could be a dialogue among persons from industry, academe, nongovernment organizations, and the interested public as to what the long-term science and technology goals are to be to meet society's environmental goals. This dialogue took

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Linking Science and Technology to Society's Environmental Goals place both in written form, via a ''call for comments," and in a public forum, which took place on August 20-24, 1995, in Irvine, California. The forum would include presentations of the commissioned-paper authors and invited guests and discussion of the topics in plenary and breakout sessions in relation to several key questions that would form the framework of the report (see Parts II and III). Report. Fourth, the committee, which was to include a group of persons with broad relevant experience, was to convene, consider commissioned papers, discuss potential long-term goals, receive the views of selected representatives of those who are interested and affected by the policy in question, and attain consensus on recommended national goals in a published report. The short report would present the committee's consensus as to what should be the nation's science and technology goals for the environment, summarize the call for comments, and include the commissioned papers. The environmental goals will never be achieved absolutely—this is an ongoing process. —Forum Participant Comment* Questions that seemed to recur in the committee's deliberations were, Who is the audience for this report? and What, exactly, are science and technology goals? After some discussion, the committee concluded that the audience for its report was the science and engineering community—particularly, though not exclusively, those working in environmental research and development. In addition, the report provides guidance to government officials who fund research in some of these subjects as to which ones the committee believes need the most attention in response to societal needs. Furthermore, government agencies are a source of the much of the information analyzed by scientists. The report suggests ways in which agencies can focus their efforts. Science and technology goals are more than a "research agenda" (i.e., more than a list of all the items in which we need research). Instead, science and technology goals identify research subjects on which there is insufficient focus by scientists and engineers relative to responding to societal goals. FORUM PRESENTATIONS Environmental goals were discussed with respect to industry, federal agencies, states, the nation, and the world.1 These differ qualitatively and quantitatively. *   Throughout the report, the reader will find boxes that provide some of the comments from those who responded to the call for comments or who participated in the forum discussions. The purpose of these boxes is to describe some of the varied opinions on societal goals that influenced the committee's choices on topic selection. Inclusion of these boxes does not represent an endorsement of the opinion expressed by the authors. To be consistent with the ground rules that were established as part of this process, the committee does not identify the individual authors of the statement. 1   One of the committee members noted that goals for the environment can be inferred in the preamble of the US Constitution, which calls on the federal government to "insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare…."

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Linking Science and Technology to Society's Environmental Goals Recipients of the call for comments were asked to rank a set of current Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) goals. Clean air was ranked first by 50 of the 80 who offered a first-place ranking, and clean was water ranked second by 40 of 66. This forum focused on the future, several decades into the next century. Regarding future goals, there was no consensus in the responses to the call for comments. As one respondent said: We have the answers to solve today's needs, if we think and act the right way. —Forum Participant Comment Environmental goals are, by nature, multifaceted, and a detailed listing of all important issues is subject to preferences and priorities. To avoid these choices at this stage, we believe that stating the following overall goal is more productive and allows specifics to be developed later. The nation's environmental goal should be to achieve an economy built on the principles of Sustainable Development. In the United States, much environmental interest has focused on the principal environmental agency, EPA. This agency was described as having "fashioned an environmental policy out of the sum of the parts," referring to the many statutes administered by the agency, each of which "contains some form of a goal statement." (see Truitt and Wise presentation in Part III). This approach was criticized by Morgenstern (see Part II): "Many of our major environmental statutes contain little more than hortatory phrases that offer scant guidance to the implementing agencies." In addition, he noted that concerns have arisen on ''whether our legislative goals are really the right ones or provide sufficient direction for the present and/or the future." In his presentation to the forum, Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management Thomas A systems approach to achieving current environmental goals would include at least three steps: (1) identifying and characterizing problems, (2) formulating solutions, and (3) identifying end-states resulting from the application of specific solutions to specific problems. Science and technology (S&T) can make important contributions to all three steps. S&T are critical components of step (1) through elements such as basic research (e.g., increasing our knowledge of environmental systems), instrumentation (e.g., measuring/monitoring systems), and information technology (e.g., disseminating data and communicating the information provided by these data). S&T are critical components of step (2) through elements such as applied research and engineering. S&T are critical components of step (3) primarily through predictive studies (e.g., modeling) and retrospective studies (e.g., epidemiology). It is important to realize that S&T are a necessary but not sufficient part of all three steps. For example, S&T can describe and predict end state, but cannot determine whether a given end state is "desirable" or "worth achieving." —Forum Participant Comment

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Linking Science and Technology to Society's Environmental Goals Grumbly also questioned the adequacy of the legislative approach, stating that "we have been making environmental laws, not establishing environmental goals. We should consider what are we doing today that future generations will question." Presented in Morgenstern's appendixes are three recent major efforts by the executive branch to develop environmental goals: EPA's Proposed Environmental Goals for America with Milestones for 2005, Ten National Goals to Put the United States on a Path Toward Sustainable Development, by the President's Council on Sustainable Development (PCSD), and the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources' (CENR) Strategic Planning Document. For example, the CENR presents five cross-cutting topics for integrated environmental research and development: Ecosystem research. Observations and data management. Social and economic dimensions of environmental change. Environmental technology. Science policy tools: integrated assessments and characterizations of risks. We have yet to do the R&D that will enable us to address environmental issues seriously or even know what goals are appropriate and how to get there. —Forum Participant Comment As background for the forum, Morgenstern analyzed those three major efforts. His paper is included in Part II. He notes that "the three goals reports address three fundamentally different sets of problems [and]… have different technical approaches…" Although each of the efforts has identifiable weaknesses, Morgenstern concludes, in an opinion shared by this committee, that "an overwhelming strength common to all three projects is the implicit recognition that our environmental management system is in need of significant reform." Morgenstern compares the goals using such measures as scope, time frame, success, and inclusion of an implicit assessment of tradeoffs in goal choices. He finds that the three sets differ substantially in those measures. "CENR seeks to conduct relevant and useful research … the EPA aims to protect the environment … and the PCSD attempts to enhance the public welfare." He concludes that "none of the goal schemes prioritize individual goals or acknowledge the basic tradeoffs between desired outcomes." However, "the CENR strategy—which addresses research as opposed to policy goals—is clearly the most focused effort." He concludes that "the EPA project is oriented to implementation of current environmental statutes and treaties … the PCSD tries to fashion a vision for the next century …[and] the CENR project … is a research strategy rather than a game plan for environmental policy.'' EPA proposes 15 long-range environmental goals for the nation and provides quantitative milestones, usually for the year 2005. The PCSD interim report proposes eight "priority national goals" designed "to put the U.S. on a path toward

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Linking Science and Technology to Society's Environmental Goals Broad, national environmental policies would incorporate science and technology as important elements in achieving the following scientifically driven outcomes: Risk-based decision-making. Creation of human health effects knowledge that improves risk-based standards, which protect all sectors of the population. A knowledge base and ecosystem understanding that provides the scientific basis for risk-based decision-making by legislators and the public. Innovative technologies available or being developed to restore contaminated sites at home and abroad. U.S. legislators promoting strategies for assessing the risks of global environmental change and their impact on investment decisions and making the commitment to succeed in the assessment. —Forum Participant Comment sustainable development." "The goals are oriented toward the basic objectives of promoting efficiency, protecting the environment, and ensuring equity." Morgenstern concludes that "the PCSD has clearly opted for breadth over specificity", which can be seen in that two of the goals are economic prosperity and sustainable communities. The CENR goals are presented in the context of five overall goals for science and technology. Federal funding for the environment is spread across many agencies. As Albert Teich's paper in Part II indicates, EPA is not even the largest part of the federal environmental program.2 Nevertheless, environmental goals tend to be interpreted on the basis of their relevance to EPA's programs. However, in addition to the federal agencies, states and industry are examining goals, as described in several of the commissioned papers. In his paper, Richard Minard describes growing activity at the state level. He notes that "states appear to be setting up processes to identify and promote technological 'winners,' rather than focusing on the problems that most need to be solved." However, Minard perceives that "setting goals for the environment is useful if it helps people focus on problems and discover a shared commitment to solving them." He concludes that "almost every government effort to set goals will also suffer from the related dilemma of involvement: too few people will set the goals and too many people will have to pay in some way to achieve them." That is related to another Minard observation: ''When real money is at stake and when decisions get close to home, the strength of the information-based, consensus-building process is put to the test." 2   As shown in Teich's paper in Part II, the Department of Energy (DOE) Environmental Management (EM) program (i.e., the nuclear materials and weapon facilities cleanup) is the largest. Of the $22.7 billion spent on environmental and natural resource programs in FY 1995,$7 billion was spent on DOE's program, compared with about $5.5 billion for EPA's activities.

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Linking Science and Technology to Society's Environmental Goals The paper by Konrad von Moltke provides an international context. He indicates that comparisons are difficult for several reasons, including the presence of different perspectives that stem from different histories, cultures, and educational systems." At all levels of economic activity, however, social preferences for environmental quality may differ." He describes several possible approaches for international comparison, all of which have weaknesses. For example, "generally expressed in technical terms, standards appear to offer a comparable basis for evaluating environmental policies in different countries. However, two difficulties exist in comparing standards: variations in the definition of standards and in their application in practice." "These difficulties in comparing environmental policy have permitted public officials … everywhere to claim that their policies are the most advanced, the most stringent and the most effective.… By picking the times and the areas where a country has been active it is even possible to provide proof for these mutually exclusive statements." Moltke, not surprisingly, concludes that "attempts to 'harmonize' standards internationally have proven difficult." The answer to the potential contribution of science and technology is intuitive in nature. Science and technology are the cornerstones to meeting any environmental goals that are developed. One can only learn new things by studying them. Research on environmental problems is rather new compared with other areas and is highly dependent upon technological advancements. Therefore, to insure that our national environmental goals are met, sound basic research is needed. My fear is that policies are being debated and enacted without the scientific support that is necessary to insure that they are sound. Some of this is the fault of the scientist by not publishing data in a timely manner and some of the fault is with the policy-makers making hasty decisions (reactive instead of proactive) to please the public. —Forum Participant Comment Ehrenfeld and Howard, in their paper, discuss the approach taken by several major U.S. industries. They see industry as taking a market-driven, short-time view: "U.S. industry traditionally has a short time and myopic framework for setting goals." In their view, industry moves through a series of stages, beginning with seeing environmental issues as problems to be solved through compliance, emissions reduction, source reduction, and finally managing for the environment, "the Green Company." They also criticize the approach to environmental improvement through laws: "where specific targets have been written into laws, they have often been grossly over ambitious." Nevertheless, they acknowledge that sometimes the government has led industry to accomplish what it claimed it could not. They cite "the technology-forcing requirement to reduce auto exhaust emissions … the first instance of an environmental technology goal for industry."

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Linking Science and Technology to Society's Environmental Goals The barriers to achieving environmental goals may be classified into the following major categories: Economic—The current method of accounting for life-cycle costs, natural resources depletion or increase, capital depreciation, and other environmental expense does not provide the correct price signals to the owners, builders, engineers, taxpayers and other stakeholder groups. Legislative and Regulatory—This category includes a variety of barriers to innovation that either create prescriptive methods of addressing problems, increase the risk and liability for innovators, or increase the time/cost of changing current ways of doing business. Leadership and Political—There is no clear mandate from national and community leaders for innovation and insufficient numbers of "champions of innovation" in the industry. Knowledge—There is often no objective, credible data to provide demonstration or verification of the real-world cost and performance of environmental technologies with the potential for addressing the goals. Educational—The potential of positive change has not been sufficiently documented and communicated to leaders and the public at large. —Forum Participant Comment The authors note that "many of the technological advantages of later Japanese automobiles that fueled their competitive onslaught in the American market were spawned by these earlier engineering approaches taken to meet environmental standards." The authors describe several approaches taken by industry, including life-cycle analysis, design for the environment, and the recommendations of the international group, the Business Council for Sustainable Development (BCSD). BCSD advocates "creating a new target for industrial performance—eco-efficiency… 'achieved only by profound changes in the goals and assumptions that drive corporate activities.'" Nevertheless, industry must keep a focus on the market and ensure that shareholders interests are protected. For the government, the shareholders are present and future generations. The government can focus on long-term programs that might not have any direct payoff to any specific industry; industry cannot. The paper by Bowman addresses whether the environment issue is on the top of the public's agenda. If it were, there would be an additional urgency in establishing a clear set of national goals. According to polling data, it is not. "Today Americans remain committed to the goal of protecting and improving the environment, but they no longer see an urgent problem." This might conflict with an impression that some have. "Americans have been asked repeatedly in a wide variety of formulations to affirm a core value, in this case the importance of the environment. Each time, not surprisingly, they responded that a clean and healthful environment was important to them. These questions tell us little about what a

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Linking Science and Technology to Society's Environmental Goals We need science to become a greater voice, and to use that voice to explain the "relevance" of scientific findings, helping the citizenry understand what implications might be, preventing panic or knee jerk reaction to incomplete information. Technology could be a greater boost to environment goals if there was a Science & Technology clearing house as a communication tool between it, industry, government, and community. —Forum Participant Comment society with many demands on it is willing to do to advance the value, what trade-offs the public is willing to make for it, or what happens when one important value clashes with another." Regarding the conflict often described as needing to choose between the environment and development, "in the 1990s, this belief that economic growth and a clean world are simultaneously obtainable has substantially broader support than previously." The public thinks that "growth versus the environment" is a false choice. Furthermore, in a belief shared by the committee, "Americans also believe that the United States is above average when compared with other nations in its effort to protect the environment." "Viewed in isolation, the results to these questions seem to suggest enormous concern.…[However,] many polls like the ones above confirm the view that other problems are far more urgent than the environment for Americans today.'' CALL FOR COMMENTS A detailed of the responses to call for comments is provided in Appendix D. Discussions at the forum and the comments indicate that there is no clear consensus on what should be the environmental goals for the next century, beyond "sustainable development" (which itself has many definitions), and that there is no agreed-on comprehensive set of baseline data to use as a foundation to measure progress (see paper by Phillip Ross et al. in Part II). Although substantial progress has been made in the last 25 years in improving environmental quality, the country still lacks a unified national strategy. That is due partly to the fact that the current set of goal statements are not consistent and are in a constant state of change. However, they do provide a general framework aimed at improving the environment. COMMITTEE APPROACH The committee has chosen neither to develop a new set of goals nor to select a subset from the existing array on which to concentrate. Instead, the committee has focused on how science and technology can contribute substantially to improving the environment—the goal toward which the country is moving. The commissioned papers in Part II provided a background for the public

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Linking Science and Technology to Society's Environmental Goals sessions. On the last day of the forum, participants met in small breakout groups to discuss the principal subjects on which the committee should focus (see Appendix F). The forum was held 25 years after the first Earth Day, and so it seemed appropriate to focus discussion on what we should do now to meet society's goals 25 years from now. For example, one of the breakout groups concluded that, looking back 25 years from now, people will ask, "Why did they not sort out some priorities?" This group noted that today everything seems to have high priority. On the basis of those discussions, the responses to the call for comments, and their own experience, committee members discussed the critical subjects on which science and technology should be focused, looking ahead 20–25 years. Of immediate importance is a need to set priorities for the environmental R&D community. Each member was asked to select his or her top three candidates. After discussion, a list of 38 possibilities was generated. The committee then selected those on which this report would concentrate: energy, in many aspects; monitoring, the structure and continued collection of data; environmental impacts; and population. In addition, four others were identified to be addressed: industrial ecology, ecological systems, economics, and risk analysis. The committee decided to develop those eight subjects and make recommendations on them. In writing the report, the committee combined several subjects and went from eight to six topics. The chapters of the report are based on that committee process. In summary, the following process was used: Via the call for comments and forum discussion, the committee developed a list of some 30-plus topics that could possibly be discussed in the report. The committee then voted on these topics, selecting the ones believed most important for the scientific and engineering community to focus on relative to the current intellectual and financial resources provided to each. Eight topics were selected. Of the eight, six topics eventually emerged as the chapters for this report. The nation should strive for sustainability, which means that this generation should be able to provide an acceptable standard of living for its people without affecting the ability of the next generation to provide for its own. The nation should strive to maintain the natural areas it has left by careful management of tourism and public use and restricting or eliminating the presence of private profit-makers on public lands. It should also do what it can to acquire new areas and improve those it already owns that are damaged. On the basis of sound risk assessment principles, individuals should have an environment that does not contribute to illness, both at home and at work. —Forum Participant Comment

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Linking Science and Technology to Society's Environmental Goals Quit copping the attitude that science and technology are all we need to problem—solve. Science and technology are only tools that humans can use to make decisions and to "manage" things. We need to balance our facts and figures with human dimensions of cooperation [and] attitudes. —Forum Participant Comment An issue related to setting priorities is funding. Given fiscal realities, the committee recognizes that recommending expanded effort, or even continued effort, in the face of declining resources implicitly selects subjects that should gain while others, unmentioned, lose. The committee recognizes that, especially in the near term, tradeoffs must be made; therefore, it suggests in Chapter 2, on societal choices, how such changes might be made. (In the long-term, although tradeoffs still must be made, the tradeoffs are not necessarily those currently considered. 3) Many topics are mentioned only in passing, both in the responses to the call for comments and in this report. That constitutes an implicit judgment that they will be or are of less importance to the public and the scientific and technological community. But several subjects, although not explicitly covered in this report, are extremely important. One is global climate change, on which there is an enormous federal effort, including that of National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, DOE, and EPA. Another is the largest federal environmental program, the management and cleanup of the wastes at DOE weapons facilities, currently estimated to cost at least $250 billion and to take more than 50 years. This program involves institutional and technical challenges as large as any other we discuss. The committee has not had the material and time to evaluate how to implement its recommendations as financial and institutional arrangements change rapidly in the U.S. public sector's programs on environment and related R&D. Until it becomes clear to what degree environmental responsibility will devolve to state and local governments, for instance, reorganization of the federal apparatus is unlikely to be successful. At the same time, the committee believes that the national (i.e., the federal, state and local) environmental R&D effort needs more coherence. Alternatives for federal agencies have already been assessed and identified by the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering, and the Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology, and Government (1992). In spite of the above caveats, the committee in general agrees that the issues on which science and technology programs should especially focus for achieving the nation's environmental goals over the long-term are as shown in the following chapters of this report. 3   A good example of this is the original tradeoff between automobile emissions reduction and energy efficiency emissions which proved to be less drastic than was originally expected after three-way catalysts were introduced.

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Linking Science and Technology to Society's Environmental Goals STRUCTURE OF THIS REPORT This report is divided into four parts. The first contains the result of the committee's discussions after receiving and hearing comments from forum and call-for-comments participants. As noted earlier, these discussions focused on the areas where the committee believes that the science and technology community should focus its efforts to be responsive to society's environmental goals. They led to chapters as follows: Use Social Science and Risk Assessment to Make Better Societal Choices. Focus on Monitoring to Build Better Understanding of Our Ecological Systems. Reduce the Adverse Impacts of Chemicals in the Environment. Develop Environmental Options for the Energy System. Use a Systems Engineering and Ecological Approach to Reduce Resource Use. Improve Understanding of the Relationship Between Population and Consumption as a Means to Reducing the Environmental Impacts of Population Growth. Set Environmental Goals via Rates and Directions of Change. Although the chapters are of varied lengths, it should not be assumed that the subjects within shorter chapters are of less importance. Part II of the report includes the papers commissioned by the committee. Each of these papers is interesting, useful, and well worth reading independently of the report. The titles of these papers are National Environmental Goals: Implementing the Laws, Visions of the Future, and Research Priorities (Richard D. Morgenstern). Measurement of Environmental Quality in the United States (N. Phillip Ross, Carroll Curtis, William Garetz, and Eleanor Leonard). Attitudes Toward the Environment Twenty-Five Years After Earth Day (Karlyn Bowman). Environmental Goals and Science Policy: A Review of Selected Countries (Konrad von Moltke). Can States Make a Market for Environmental Goals? (Richard A. Minard, Jr.). Setting Environmental Goals: The View from Industry. A Review of Practices from the 1960s to the Present (John R. Ehrenfeld and Jennifer Howard). Status of Ecological Knowledge Related to Policy Decision-Making Needs in the Area of Biodiversity and Ecosystems in the United States (Walter V. Reid). The Federal Budget and Environmental Priorities (Albert H. Teich).

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Linking Science and Technology to Society's Environmental Goals Part III contains the keynote addresses and presentations made at the forum by D. James Baker, Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Thomas Grumbly, Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management, United States Department of Energy. Barry Gold, Chief, Scientific Planning and Coordination, National Biological Service, United States Department of the Interior. Harlan Watson, Staff Director, House of Representatives Committee on Science, Subcommittee on Energy and Environment. David Garman, Professional Staff Member, Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. John Wise, Deputy Regional Administrator, Region 9, United States Environmental Protection Agency. Peter Truitt, Senior Analyst, Office of Policy, Planning, and Evaluation, and Manager, National Environmental Goals Project, United States Environmental Protection Agency. Judith Espinosa, Former Secretary of the Environment, New Mexico, and Member, President's Council on Sustainable Development. Peggy Duxbury, Coordinator for Principles, Goals, and Definitions Task Force, and Staff, President's Council on Sustainable Development. Gilbert Omenn, Dean, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle. Part IV contains the appendixes, in which the committee provides the agenda for the forum, the participants in the forum and a call for comments, and a summary of the responses to the call for comments and of the forum breakout group discussions. Also included is biographical information on the committee members. CONCLUSION The committee has had some difficulty in getting its hands around such a large, amorphous issue as the environment, but it hopes that it has made a credible effort to advance the discussion of science and technology's role in defining and addressing society's environmental objectives. The major down-side of the effort is that the Forum format, with its relatively limited time frame, at best permits only a first cut at these issues. Nevertheless, the committee believes that this report will be an important guidebook for both the scientific and policy communities, and a starting point for further deliberations.