As President Bush prepares to deliver his final State of the Union address to Congress Monday, a prestigious group of nearly 200 U.S. climate scientists, policy experts and mayors are calling on the president -- and his potential successors -- to take stronger action to combat global warming.
"The United States is the nation that is most responsible for the problem," said the State of the Climate declaration released today. "Yet today our nation stands virtually alone among developed nations in refusing to accept the need for decisive action. Consequently, we regret to report that the state of the nation's climate policy is poor."
The State of the Climate paper is an offshoot of the Presidential Climate Action Project -- or PCAP -- which last December released a report suggesting ways the next U.S. president could begin to tackle climate change within the first 100 days of taking office. The initiative is run by the University of Colorado.
One of the signers, James Hornaday, doesn't have to be convinced that humans are the cause of global warming that is already changing his part of the world.
Over the last 40 years, Hornaday, the mayor of Homer, Alaska, has watched massive glaciers melt away, bark beetle infestations destroy large swaths of spruce trees and encroaching sea levels erode 2½ feet of shoreline every year.
"Even the fishermen are finding strange-looking critters that never used to be here before," he said.
Like many local and state governments, the city of Homer has studied the effects of global warming and even implemented a plan to address it head on. But Hornaday is frustrated that Bush and Congress have so far failed to come up with a national strategy to address global warming -- a topic, he also notes, that has not garnered much attention from the candidates vying for the White House.
"It's one of the sleeper issues that really hasn't caught fire in the presidential campaign yet," Hornaday said.
With issues like Iraq, the economy and immigration occupying much of the current public debate, PCAP Executive Director William Becker said global warming is not getting the attention it deserves.
"This issue -- in its duration, scope and importance -- eclipses most of the other important things we tend to talk about," Becker said. "We are focusing on the next administration because we don't see a major change in policy with this administration. We would love to see that, but we don't anticipate that's going to happen."
The statement is signed by top climate researchers from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Federation of American Scientists, among others.
Georgia Institute of Technology hurricane researcher Judith Curry said she's seen similar "call to action" petitions and statements in the past. Each time she's refused to sign any of them, because she said they often called for policies that were too narrowly focused or unrealistic in their simplicity.
This one changed her mind, she said, because it appeals to a broad political spectrum while presenting global warming as a complex problem without a single, "silver bullet" solution.