Questions for Jane Lubchenco Senate confirmation hearing to become NOAA Administrator


During the confirmation hearing for Dr. Jane Lubchenco tomorrow, Climate Science Watch would like to see Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee members ask her about her views on how best to design, operate, and fund a “National Climate Service” for assisting society to better anticipate and respond to climate change and its impacts.  Lubchenco has been nominated to be Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere at the U.S. Department of Commerce, also known as the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 

by Anne Polansky

The Committee will also query and receive testimony from Dr. John Holdren, nominated to be Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President.  Our suggested questions for Dr. Holdren are posted here

The hearing will begin tomorrow, Feb. 12, following the completion of the Committee’s 10:00 a.m. Executive Session, in 253 Senate Russell Office Building.  Both of the nominees’ written testimony and a webcast (live and archived) will be posted tomorrow on the Commitee’s web page for the hearing.

See our previous post commending the choice of Lubchenco for this position:

Jane Lubchenco for NOAA Administrator

.. and a similarly enthusiastic post by Joe Romm at Climate Progress

For NOAA head, Obama appoints yet another scientist who gets climate

Lubchenco is expected to be a welcome change and major improvement over her predecessor, Conrad Lautenbacher, of whom CSW has been openly critical, see for example:

NOAA head Lautenbacher resigns, leaving troubled legacy on science and politics (Part 1)


Notes on Conrad Lautenbacher’s troubled legacy on science and politics at NOAA (Part 2)

Our questions for Dr. Lubchenco:

Q:  What are your plans for engaging stakeholders in the final phases of the strategic planning process for creating a National Climate Service?   

Q:  How, specifically, does NOAA intend to engage the EPA, USGS, and other federal agencies with programs and capabilities germane to climate services in the operations of a National Climate Service?   

Q;  How does NOAA plan to include non-federal partners—for example, state and local governments, the private and commercial sectors, universities and extension services, and non-government organizations—under the umbrella of a National Climate Service?  If so, how might such a network of entities be best governed and managed? 

Q:  When does NOAA plan to complete and release a final version of a National Climate Service Strategic Plan, and what level of public review and comment will be sought? 

Q:  How does NOAA plan to interact and overlap with the US Climate Change Science Program/Global Change Research Program?  For example, some NOAA managers have suggested that a Service should, in addition to providing climate products and services,  conduct climate impacts research and assessment (a role that is by law, under the Global Change Research Act of 1990, the responsibility of the USGCRP) and have an education and outreach component as well. 

Q:  We commend NOAA for selecting Tom Karl to be the Director of all of NOAA’s climate services; he has demonstrated a sophisticated understanding of climate change impacts as they vary from region to region and is abundantly qualified for this role.  How would Karl, as head of the National Climate Service, relate to and inform the activities of the Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, Carol Browner? 

Q:  Likewise, how would a National Climate Service relate to the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, John Holdren? 


The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that at least one third of the U.S. GDP is weather- and climate-sensitive.  Many aspects of our daily lives are potentially vulnerable to climate change impacts that will vary by location.  It is important to put in place an effective system for connecting climate information with society.
NOAA is currently in a deliberative, planning mode to determine how best to design, operate, and fund a “National Climate Service” for assisting society to better anticipate and respond to climate change and its impacts.  In response to concerns among federal agencies and entities other than NOAA (e.g. EPA and USGS) that NOAA should not be the sole entity providing climate services, NOAA organized and held a workshop in June 2008 in Vail, CO (see to review the draft NOAA Strategic Plan for a National Climate Service.  The workshop included representatives from multiple federal agencies and a variety of nongovernmental entities involved in delivering climate services.  NOAA received feedback that a federal climate services function needed to go beyond NOAA to include multiple federal agencies in a government-wide partnership that also brought in universities and private sector entities.  NOAA’s Science Advisory Board has been managing and overseeing the follow-up deliberations, and has received input from four “tiger teams” that have identified the pros and cons for each of four scenarios:

  * Create a national climate service federation that would determine how to deliver climate services to the nation
  * Create a non-profit corporation with federal sponsorship
  * Create a national climate service with NOAA as the lead agency with specifically defined partners
  * Expand and improve weather services into weather and climate services within NOAA

The Climate Working Group of NOAA’s SAB is to meet next in March, and to then submit formal recommendations to NOAA.  At a recent NOAA Senior Executive Service (SES) Summit, Tom Karl was named as the Director of all of NOAA’s climate services.   
NOAA is to be commended for its focused attention on this important function.  However, the deliberative process leading toward legislation to create a National Climate Service has been too closed, in our view.  It should be opened more widely to include additional input from other federal agencies and a diverse set of stakeholder groups, especially those who will be the primary recipients of data and information to be delivered by a National Climate Service.


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