A little-known agency within the Commerce Department, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), will become the Obama Administration’s focal point for climate change information and services.
Commerce Secretary Gary Locke says NOAA is launching a separate unit, NOAA Climate Service, to address the nation’s “fast-accelerating climate information needs.” The agency is also creating a web portal for climate science and services. It will serve as a single entry point for the agency’s data on climate information, products and services.
The agency noted that individuals and decision-makers increasingly are asking for information about climate change so that they can make the best decisions for their businesses, communities and families.
Locke, in announcing the creation of the Climate Service office, said it will be “dedicated to bringing together the agency’s strong climate science and service delivery capabilities.”
NOAA, which has roots dating to 1807, is a scientific organization with missions encompassing the National Weather Service, the Office of Marine & Aviation Operations, and offices on satellite, fisheries management and research. It responds to millions of annual requests for climate data that is essential to planning and operations. “In vulnerable areas, infrastructure can be designed with a better understanding of projected sea-level rise, flooding and/or changes in hurricane frequency and intensity,” it says.
So a climate change office within the agency is a natural and logical extension of its basic purpose.
“More and more, Americans are witnessing the impacts of climate change in their own backyards, including sea-level rise, longer growing seasons, changes in river flows, increases in heavy downpours, earlier snowmelt and extended ice-free seasons in our waters,” the agency’s announcement said. “People are searching for relevant and timely information about these changes to inform decision-making about virtually all aspects of their lives.”
“By providing critical planning information that our businesses and our communities need, NOAA Climate Service will help tackle head-on the challenges of mitigating and adapting to climate change,” Locke said. “In the process, we’ll discover new technologies, build new businesses and create new jobs.”
“Working closely with federal, regional, academic and other state and local government and private sector partners, the new NOAA Climate Service will build on our success transforming science into [useful] climate services,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “NOAA is committed to scientific integrity and transparency; we seek to advance science and strengthen product development and delivery through user engagement,” she added.
Thomas R. Karl, director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, will serve as the transitional director of NOAA Climate Service.
“Addressing climate change is one of our most pressing environmental challenges. Making climate science more easily accessible to all Americans will help us gain the consensus we need to move forward,” said Jim Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy. “The new NOAA Climate Service is a welcome addition. It will help bring people together so we can also bring about an economic recovery by more rapidly modernizing our nation’s energy infrastructure.”
Unifying government climate capabilities under a single climate office, with the strong endorsement of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and other departments is another indicator of the serious approach the Obama Administration is taking on climate change.