For the last five years, the American Meteorological Society (AMS) and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) have teamed up to sponsor a member of our community for a year's work in the U.S. Congress. As the 2005/06 AMS-UCAR Congressional Science Fellow, I chose to work on climate policy in the U.S. Senate. I witnessed the following three major obstacles to legislation intended to protect the climate system: 1) there is a persistent gap in understanding between policy makers and the research community, 2) there is a small group of powerful interests that will experience the costs of climate policy acutely while many of the benefits of climate policy will be distributed diffusely among members of society, and 3) there is concern—legitimate and misplaced—over the economic consequences of unilateral U.S. action and the genuine need for international cooperation. The scientific community can help solve these problems. The Congressional Science Fellowship program, for example, provides a valuable opportunity for scientists to actively engage in the policy process and to help reduce the gap in understanding between the research and policy communities. During my year, I focused on developing powerful incentives to encourage international cooperation and provisions to ease acute distributional impacts that could arise from reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Based on my time in Congress and despite remaining political and technological hurdles, I conclude that we have the capacity to enact legislation that begins reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.
AMS Policy Program, American Meteorological Society, Washington, DC