WASHINGTON -- In a study commissioned by the White House, the National Academy of Sciences said Wednesday that global warming "is real and particularly strong within the past 20 years" and said a leading cause is emissions of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels.
The report was requested to help prepare Bush for his trip to Europe next week, but the academy was not asked for policy recommendations and it made none.
However, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said the report does not definitely conclude that human activity is the cause of rising temperatures.
"Yes, temperatures (are) rising. It is uncertain what has caused it and what the solutions might be," he said.
Bush wanted the study to help the administration decide what steps to take to combat climate change.
In Europe, Bush has meetings on global warming scheduled with various officials. Many Europeans protested vigorously after Bush, citing looming energy shortages, in March reversed a campaign promise to limit CO2 emissions from power plants.
Bush's Cabinet-level task force plans to keep studying the issue after the president goes to Europe, where he is expected to outline a set of mostly voluntary steps that countries could take to reduce emissions.
The 24-page National Academy of Sciences report, an assessment based on previous studies of the phenomenon, says, "The primary source, fossil fuel burning, has released roughly twice as much carbon dioxide as would be required to account for the observed increase" in temperature.
The report also blames global warming on other greenhouse gases directly affected by human activity: methane, ozone, nitrous oxide and chlorofluorocarbons.
"Despite the uncertainties, there is general agreement that the observed warming is real and particularly strong within the past 20 years," it says. "Global warming could well have serious adverse societal and ecological impacts by the end of this century."
One U.S. area likely to be hard hit by climate change is the United States' breadbasket, the Great Plains.
Two senior Bush advisers, John Bridgeland, who oversees domestic policy, and Gary Edson, an economist, wrote to the academy May 11 asking for help with "identifying the areas in the science of climate change where there are the greatest certainties and uncertainties."
In preparation for his round of meetings with European allies, Bush held a lengthy meeting with Cabinet members Tuesday to come up with a strategy on how to sell his almost-finished proposal for a global-warming agreement, according to senior administration officials. In March, he rejected an international pact former Vice President Al Gore signed in Kyoto, Japan, that would have set tight limits on emissions of many greenhouse gases.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said the academy report was unnecessary and "underscores the lack of leadership" by Bush on global warming.
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