NOAA Climate Service blocked in 2011 budget – Will Obama and Democrats let this happen again in 2012?


In the 2011 federal budget deal, Congress has blocked the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from reorganizing to establish the prospective new NOAA Climate Service. “It’s terrible to see the White House and Democrats going along with this,” we told the Washington Post Capital Weather Gang. The proposed NOAA Climate Service is “taking a very large taxpayer investment in scientific research and finding a way to make it more useful for people who have responsibility for making important societal decisions.” NOAA creating a Climate Service to integrate observations, monitoring, predictive modeling, and decision support is a significant step in the right direction, and was identified as a key NOAA priority for this year. Obama and the Democrats need to stand up and get this done in the 2012 budget.

The Capital Weather Gang online blog in the Washington Post posted this on April 13 (excerpt):

NOAA Climate Service squashed in FY 2011

By Jason Samenow

For a number of years, NOAA has been working toward the development of a Climate Service. The premise of the Climate Service is that it would make climate information and data available in “accessible and timely” formats to assist people in making decisions. But in their Continuing Resolution for Fiscal Year 2011, Congress and the White House have blocked any funding for the effort.

To be exact, the Spending Bill (on page 218) prevents the use of funds “to implement, establish, or create a NOAA Climate Service.” As NOAA’s proposal is to establish the Climate Service in FY 2012, the lack of funding for the Climate Service in FY 2011 does not appear to have material impact on its plans unless this prohibition is carried over into the 2012 spending bill. …

In testimony today before the Senate Committe on Commerce, Science and Transportation, NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco described the motivation for the Service:

“The FY 2012 budget request includes a proposed budget-neutral reorganization that brings together NOAA’s existing but widely dispersed climate capabilities under a single line office”

“The climate services we currently provide demonstrate the utility of continually improving our scientific and technological capacity. Advances in science make it possible for us to provide useful information about the months-to-years time-frame – something that has potential to be of immense utility to businesses, communities, and military operations.” …

I spoke with Rick Piltz who runs the website Climate Science Watch who said:

“NOAA creating a climate service to integrate observations, monitoring, forecasting and decision support is a major step in the right direction. NOAA is really taking the lead in the Federal government for this type of activity. It needs to be connected with other agencies and adaptation efforts.”

“It’s dead wrong to say NOAA climate services politicizes climate science. It’s taking a very large taxpayer investment in scientific research and finding a way to make it more useful for people who have responsibility for making important societal decisions.”

“This attempt to prevent NOAA from creating a climate service is a political attack on climate science. It’s terrible to see the White House and Democrats going along with this.”

We see the establishment of a NOAA Climate Service as one potentially very valuable component of a larger, overall national preparedness strategy for dealing with climate change and variability. But with the denial machine appearing to make it politically necessary for members of Congress to adopt a cynical, ‘skeptic’ position on human-caused climate change and its implications, the nation’s capital appears to be hamstrung in taking even basic steps forward, let alone developing and implementing a coherent policy.  The anti-climate-science, anti-climate-policy political motivation of the Congressional sponsors of blocking the Climate Service is evident, and is just one component of their overall effort.

The issue of establishing a Climate Service in NOAA will have to be revisited in the fight over the FY 2012 budget, on which Congress is only now starting to focus, just 5 ½ months before the start of the 2012 fiscal year. The White House and the NOAA leadership have identified the Climate Service as one of the top NOAA priorities for the coming year. We’ll see whether the White House and Congresssional Democrats start to stand firm on this, or whether they cave to the slash-and-burn budget cutters and climate change deniers.

NOAA has a website that explains the rationale for the Climate Service, its structure and functions.

Earlier CSW posts:

Straight talk from Kevin Trenberth

Trenberth’s comments include this, on the need for a climate service and regular assessments:

Waiting 6 years for the next IPCC report is not an option. The media continue to report highly misleading material about how cold outbreaks, snow events, or one cold month nullifies global warming when the big picture continues to indicate otherwise.

Routine climate services and regular assessments of the state of the climate and the short-term prognosis as part of a climate service, much as is done for weather forecasts, is an essential development. At present this is being approached at best in a piecemeal fashion, and the needed investment is not available. It should be a high priority and linked to any climate legislation on mitigation and adaptation.

Far too little is happening on all fronts: communicating and informing the public, reducing emissions and building new energy infrastructure by decarbonizing the economy (mitigation), and planning to cope with future climate change and its consequences.

Tom Karl discusses plans for NOAA Climate Service

The post includes this:

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is developing its capability to play a leading role in providing data and information services in support of climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts nationwide. This is one potentially valuable element of an overall U.S. climate change response strategy. …

Karl outlined how the proposed service aligns with NOAA’s vision: that of an informed society able to anticipate and respond to climate and its impacts to make the best social and economic decisions. He said that the NOAA Climate Service is designed to inform the mitigation and adaptation decisions needed to respond to the impacts of a changing climate.  The Service aims to support decision-makers regionally to globally, on timescales of weeks to decades, in areas including public policy, resource management, infrastructure investment, business development, and decisions of individuals in their daily lives. 

The proposed NOAA Climate Service represents an intra-agency initiative to transform current science and data into understandable, usable and accessible information, and in doing so, position NOAA to effectively engage with a broader national climate service strategy.  As Karl noted, NOAA provides core capabilities to national climate services through its expertise in observing, monitoring, research, assessments, and modeling. 

NOAA has substantial regional service capacity that can be leveraged to better connect users with existing products and services, including the Weather Forecast Offices, Sea Grant Education and Extension programs, the Coastal Services Center, River Forecast Centers, and Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments.

NOAA deserves credit for advancing this initiative and should play a crucial role in providing climate information services in support of mitigation and adaptation efforts nationwide.  However, a national adaptation strategy will have to incorporate and coordinate the expertise and institutional capacities of other agencies, all of which will need to consider climate change adaptation and mitigation in relation to their ability to fulfill their missions and to larger national interest in adaptive preparedness. …

We asked Karl how he views the NOAA Climate Service in relation to what we believe is the need to go beyond providing data and information to develop a fully operational national climate change adaptive preparedness capability, i.e., one that will connect the federal government with states and local communities and provide funding and technical support to implement practical actions to prepare for and seek to limit a wide range of potential damaging consequences of climate disruption.

He responded that NOAA should be able to provide essential information to inform adaptation planning, but left open the question of whether and how NOAA would extend its capabilities and role to engage more directly with stakeholder management decision-making. Clearly, the system is still without essential capabilities and is still near the beginning of a long road in dealing with the impacts of climate change.

Commerce Department proposes NOAA Climate Service

The post includes this:

On February 8 [2010], the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) unveiled a major new proposal for the establishment of a NOAA Climate Service, a new office tasked with serving the nation’s increasing climate information needs. We support this initiative as a significant step in the right direction, while noting that it appears to leave aside, for now, the question of how the Climate Service office will ultimately coordinate with the full suite of federal activities relevant to climate change adaptation and preparedness planning. …

Climate Science Watch has consistently advocated for the creation of a federal capacity to provide operational support for state and local adaptation, supported by a comprehensive, proactive national planning and preparedness strategy for attempting to limit the socioeconomic and environmental impacts of climate change. A Climate Service office should play a key role in this support capacity, which will be a vehicle for applying USGCRP and Climate Service information in operational contexts, and as such must articulate with a national adaptation strategy and related federal programs.

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3 Responses to NOAA Climate Service blocked in 2011 budget – Will Obama and Democrats let this happen again in 2012?

  1. Emily says:

    Would the climate service be for the public and written in the public’s nomenclature? By that I mean, would it be written in a way that an average person who may not have a college degree can understand it? I think that’s important to get skeptics who don’t understand science onto our side… the dark side mawh ha ha..just kiddin’! I don’t understand why the government would even reject it some hidden plot to help endorse big business that fund skeptic organizations and don’t want the general public to be informed? If the public was informed, they’d want to move beyond coal, quit off shore drilling, and support such as thing as the climate service. Who wouldn’t want the general public to be informed, it’d sure make this world a whole lot better.

    • Rick - Climate Science Watch says:

      The question of how information from the Climate Service would be presented would have to be answered in practice when the servicve goes into operation. For more information from NOAA about its intentions with the propspective Climate Service, see:

      NOAA says: “The principal goal of this reorganization is to more efficiently and effectively respond to the rapidly increasing demand for easily accessible and timely scientific data and information about climate that helps people make informed decisions in their lives, businesses, and communities. NOAA provides this to citizens as climate services. The Climate Service will allow NOAA to provide a reliable and authoritative source for climate data, information, and decision support services and to more effectively coordinate with other agencies and partners.”

      I expect that much of the data, information, forecasting, assessments, and decision-support would be aimed at particular constituencies with various decision-making responsibilities – state and local government officials, water infrastructure managers, natural resource managers, agricultural producers, home builders, electric utilities, and so forth. I also would hope and expect that the Climate Service would become a source for a wealth of information that is readily accessible by the general public.

  2. vincedc says:

    This looks like an organization in search of a mission. The fact is that if NOAA weren’t so disjointed it would not need establish another line office. The only requirements seem to be coming from the community itself and not from the users. It would certainly make it easier to get grant money if it all came out of the same office. Sorry, but climate has always been an orphan in NOAA, and they need to integrate it more into mainline services rather that separate it further from the public.

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