Do we really need a National Climate Service?

I suppose its natural for Washington to try and wrap issues up in a tidy legislative package for bureaucratic purposes (or perhaps other things more nefarious).  But one has to wonder if we really need another government-lead group, especially when it comes to the climate and all the sometimes controversial information that entails.

But that's what's under way.  Today the House Science and Technology Committee's Subcommittee on Energy and Environment held a hearing on the need for a National Climate Service that could meet the increased demand for climate information, the committee said.

The NCS would provide a single point of contact of information climate forecasts and support for planning and management decisions by federal agencies; state, local, and tribal governments; and the private sector.

"Climate affects all of us everyday in communities across the country.  As our ability to understand and recognize climate cycles and patterns has grown, so has the demand for more information," said Chairman Brian Baird (D-WA) in a statement.  "It is in our best interest to structure a service that will utilize our expertise to deliver information that will not only support us nationally, but at the regional and local scale where adaptation and response plans can best be implemented."

According a release from the committee, the hearing included witnesses from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Department of Agriculture, and other organizations that deliver climate services as well as witnesses who utilize climate information that is currently available. 

The NCS would fall under the auspices of NOAA but would utilize the expertise and resources of other federal agencies to meet the growing demand for climate services, the committee stated.

NOAA describes the NCS as being the nation's identified, accessible, official source of authoritative, regular, and timely climate information.  That includes historical and real-time data, monitoring and assessments, research and modeling, predictions and projections, decision support tools and early warning systems, and the development and delivery of valued climate services.

One has to wonder though are climate issues, which can require nimble action in some cases really be served by what would likely end up being a huge governmental entity.

The site put the challenges this way:

The need to be able to translate the fruits of the good work of the IPCC [Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change], the US Climate Change Science Program, and other ongoing scientific climate-related research and observations into information that is usable, useful, timely and relevant to people whose lives and livelihoods depend on present and future climate conditions is what the drive to create US National Climate Service is all about.  In collaboration with officials from other agencies and research institutions, NOAA has been engaged in a deliberative planning process for establishing an overall framework within the federal government that would spell out the respective roles and responsibilities of NOAA and other federal and non-federal entities, and provide a prescription for managing and operating a NCS

Though the idea has been kicked around for years-for example, the National Research Council has issued two reports of relevance:  A Climate Services Vision:  First Steps Toward the Future (2001) and Fair Weather: Effective Partnerships in Weather and Climate Services (2003)-a consensus has still not been achieved on how best to design, operate, and fund such an entity, or even whether a National Climate Service as it is being currently framed is the right vehicle for meeting today's needs. 

What do you think?

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