Letters in support of the NOAA Climate Service that the House Science Committee hasn’t made public


Dust on Snow Reduces Colorado River Flow (Source: NOAA)

Climate Science Watch has obtained and is posting here a set of letters to the House Science Committee from a wide range of industry, nonprofit, and scientific organizations, as well as from the former NOAA Administrators under the Clinton and Bush administrations. The letters express unequivocal support for the creation of a NOAA Climate Service and point to the many potential benefits to the nation of connecting climate data and information to U.S. management decision-making. The enlightened perspective in these letters, which the Committee has yet to share with the public, stands in stark contrast to the combative climate denialism with which some of the Committee members attacked NOAA at a June 22 hearing on the Climate Service proposal.

See earlier post for full report on the hearing.

On June 22 the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology held a hearing on the proposal to create a Climate Service line office at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  Witnesses included Dr. Jane Lubchenco (Administratior, NOAA) and Mr. Robert Winokur (Deputy Oceanographer, Department of the Navy).

‘Conservatives’ attacked the proposal, characterizing it as a tactic for the administration to advocate for greenhouse gas emissions reductions as a response to human-induced climate change. On the other hand, committee members Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), David Wu (D-Oregon), Brad Miller (D-North Carolina), Terri Sewell (D- Alabama), and John Sarbanes (D-Maryland), among others, showed their full support for Dr. Lubchenco and this proposal.

Dr. Lubchenco pointed out that this organizational shift is simply “good government,” allowing NOAA to meet growing demand for climate services, creating increased transparency and collaboration between government agencies and the private sector, and supporting economic innovation in related private sector industries.  “Americans are demanding more and better products to help them prepare for severe weather events and other hazards” (written testimony).

Bolstering Dr. Lubchenco’s arguments and the views of Democratic committee members are letters of support for the planned NOAA Climate Service, sent to the Committee prior to the hearing.  Committee ranking member Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) submitted the letters for inclusion in the hearing record.  The Committee has not yet made these letters available to the public, though clearly they should be shared. The letters are from:

  • D. James Baker and Conrad Lautenbacher, NOAA Administrators during the Clinton and Bush Administrations. Dr. Baker was NOAA Administrator from 1993-2001; Adm. Lautenbacher was NOAA Administrator from 2001-2008.

Letter from former NOAA Administrators

  • 23 scientific, industry, and nonprofit users of climate informations, including:
    • AccuWeather
    • Alliance for Earth Observations*
    • American Geophysical Union
    • American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA)
    • American Weather and Climate Industry Association (AWICA)
    • Asheville Buncombe Sustainability Initiatives, Inc.
    • Atmospheric and Environmental Research (AER)
    • Biltmore Farms, LLC
    • The Campaign for Environmental Literacy
    • Centers for Environment and Climate Interactions (CECI)
    • Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC)
    • CMG, Inc.
    • The Elumenati
    • GeoEye Foundation
    • I.M. Systems Group
    • National Weather Service Employees Organization
    • The Planetary Society
    • Raytheon Intelligence and Information Systems
    • Reinsurance Association of America
    • UNC-Asheville’s National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center (NEMAC)
    • University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR)
    • WeatherBank, Inc.
    • ZedX, Inc.

Letter from Alliance for Earth Observations and other organizations

*The Alliance for Earth Observations “is the voice of the private sector as the world enters a new era in Earth Observations … a critical component in the quest to achieve a better understanding of our planet.” Among the 24 current member organizations are: Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, SAIC, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

  • Dr. Timothy Brown (Director, Western Regional Climate Center at Desert Research Institute)

Letter from Desert Research Institute

  • Steven Hilberg (Director, Midwestern Regional Climate Center)

Letter from Midwestern Regional Climate Center

  • Dr. Kevin Robins (Director, Southern Regional Cimate Center)

Letter from Southern Regional Climate Center

Ranking this winter’s storms. The U.S. Northeast corridor saw four high-impact snowstorms this past winter. How did these storms compare to the worst in history? (Source: NOAA)

Dr. Timothy Brown at DRI holds that “Initiation of a NOAA climate service is important for streamlining weather/climate data collection and archiving…increasing interagency and partner coordination and collaboration, and increasing efficiencies to reduce tax payer costs.”  Pointing out that climate fluctuations have a pervasive impact on the daily lives of American citizens. He cites a “quarter century of Congressionally supported Regional Climate Center experience” with a broad array of economic sectors in his affirmation that the proposed climate service “will benefit the Nation’s economic interests and its global competitiveness.”

Former NOAA Administrators Baker and Lautenbacher emphasize the role NOAA plays in informing “major decisions relating to agriculture, health, transportation, water and natural resources, energy production and national security.”  Demand for this kind of information is increasing, they argue, and “it is critical that NOAA be able to adapt to efficiently meet this demand.”  They also warn against the dangers of inaction:

“The longer we wait, the greater the delay in establishing an organization that can serve the needs of the American people and help catalyze a private sector climate services industry much like that which has evolved with our weather enterprise. Clearly, establishing a Climate Service in NOAA is an idea whose time has come.”

Mr. Hilberg at the Midwestern Regional Climate Center emphasized the role that the reorganization will play in providing “a more coordinated and efficient delivery of climate services to the nation.” Similarly, Dr. Robins at the Southern Regional Climate Center cited the importance of the proposed climate service in their efforts to “add a regional perspective tailored to climate and environmental issues, industries, and economic sector differences that occur at the regional level.”

Finally, a large group of organizations and weather service providers pointed to dependence of the US climate service industry, “currently estimated to exceed $4 billion in annual revenue,” on NOAA’s ability to efficiently provide climate data. “A key next step in transforming the advances in our understanding of climate into the actionable information that decision-makers need is the creation of a single point of access for basic climate information,” they argued.

Amidst conservative cries of “sensationalism” and ‘propaganda,” Climate Science Watch is encouraged to see such strong support and engagement from organizations that will be directly affected by the proposed Climate Service.  One can only hope these letters will demonstrate to committee members, including at least some of those who are currently unsupportive, the importance of an efficient Climate Service for the well-being of American citizens.  Shouldn’t the nation’s preparedness to predict, respond to, and lessen the impacts of future climate-related events hold more importance than the maintenance of a denialist ideology?

Earlier post:

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

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