Profs Review Clinton Climate Plan

Harvard earth and planetary sciences professors offered mixed reviews of the Clinton Administration's plan to fight greenhouse gases that may cause global warming.

"It's a modest start and we need more," said Michael B. McElroy, Rotch professor of atmospheric science.

The Climate Change Action Plan, which President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore '69 formally announced on Tuesday, depends heavily on voluntary cooperation among businesses and industries, rather than on mandatory regulations.

It also calls for dramatic reduction of waste in landfills which release methane, a greenhouse gas.

Other tougher proposals, such as a higher fuel efficiency standard for cars, were not included.

McElroy, chair of the earth and planetary sciences department, said that while the plan does promote cooperation with business, he fears it may not give sufficient attention to the future.

"The more demanding problem is how we stabilize the emission of greenhouse gases after the year 2000," McElroy said. "We need to take more than just preliminary steps."

However, one other Harvard professor in the planetary science department questioned whether there is sufficient evidence on the effects of greenhouse gases to support the use of harsher restrictions.

"The greenhouse hard evidence is not yet in," said Daniel J. Jacob, associate professor of atmospheric chemistry. "There is no economic justification for slapping extremely harsh regulations on something we are still figuring out."

Jacob said there is still uncertainty over whether the one degree global temperature increase over the last century is caused by harmful gases or by completely natural causes.

But for McElroy, that uncertainty does not justify withholding tough regulation.

"We must entertain the possibility that any increase will cause serious and violent effects on weather patterns," McElroy said.