U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke this week announced his intention to create the NOAA Climate Service to bring together and integrate all of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's climate capabilities, science and services and to make them more accessible to scientists, businesses, educators, other federal agencies and the public.
NOAA responds to millions of requests every year for climate information that helps businesses, federal agencies, and state and local governments make informed decisions about planning, operations and infrastructure. At the same time, Locke said, Americans are witnessing the impacts of climate change in their own communities and seeking relevant and timely information that can help them make decisions 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 a press release. "In the process, we'll discover new technologies, build new businesses and create new jobs."
Thomas R. Karl, director of NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, will serve as transitional director of the NOAA Climate Service and six new NOAA Regional Climate Services Directors will be hired to provide regional leadership and to help integrate user engagement and on-the-ground delivery of climate services nationwide.
Creation of the NOAA Climate Service was applauded by leading decision makers inside and outside the government. Here are a few examples:
Jim Rogers, President and CEO of Duke Energy, said: "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. The new NOAA Climate Service is a welcome addition to our national climate change capabilities. It will help bring people together so we can also bring about an economic recovery by more rapidly modernizing our nation's energy infrastructure."
Carol M. Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change and former EPA Administrator under President Clinton, said: "NOAA has consistently led the world in climate research and observation. Businesses, communities, and governments will rely even more on its expertise and the critical information it provides to make informed decisions based on the best science available. Through NOAA's improved climate services we will be better able to confront climate change, and the many challenges it presents for our environment, security, and economy."
Georges C. Benjamin MD, FACP, FACEP (Emeritus), Executive Director of the American Public Health Association, said: "NOAA's proposed climate service would be a welcome and critically needed asset to the public health community, both in the U.S. and around the world. Every key sector of the public health community, from first responders to those who provide food and medical supplies and services, would draw on the information. Forecasting air quality, drought, natural hazards and climate-sensitive diseases all impact public health. Better predictive tools, monitoring and other resources will inform our decision-making and advance our efforts to get further ahead of the curve. Lives can be saved as a result."
And William D. Ruckelshaus, EPA Administrator under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and former Commissioner of the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative, offered this eloquent endorsement:
"There is very little debate among scientists about whether changes to the earth's climate are occurring, and whether human activities contribute to these changes. There is still a great deal of debate, however, about the rate of change, and exactly what the best approaches are for addressing current and forecasted problems associated with these changes.
The complexity and breadth of issues associated with efforts to understand, mitigate, and adapt to climate change make it essential that the nation have the best science possible to address this challenge. Establishing a Climate Service at NOAA will significantly strengthen the federal government's capacity to respond to climate change in a coordinated way.
Strengthening NOAA and realigning its functions will greatly enhance its capacity to provide climate-related services. NOAA is the logical choice for this vital function. Its capacity to connect climate change with the many goods and services provided by our oceans will greatly benefit our country and the world."
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