May 13, 2009

Bill Would Create National Climate Service

By Christy Gullion

The House Science and Technology Subcommittee on Energy and Environment is expected to mark up draft legislation today that would create an office similar to the National Weather Service to predict changes in climate.  The new “National Climate Service” would be established within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  A National Climate Service (NCS) would provide a single point of contact of information for the user-community.  An NCS would provide climate forecasts and support for planning and management decisions by federal agencies; state, local, and tribal governments; and the private sector.

NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco has indicated that an NCS is a high priority for the administration.  Similar legislation is included in a draft climate and energy bill that the House Energy and Commerce Committee plans to mark up before Memorial Day.

Some members in the scientific community worry that an NCS would duplicate existing programs and others worry that the service should not be housed within NOAA because other agencies and departments hold more of the required expertise.

The following is a summary of the draft legislation.

The National Climate Service Act of 2009 (H.R.XXXX)

Section1. Short Title:  The National Climate Service Act of 2009

Section 2. Purpose:  Designates the purpose of the legislation to be the establishment of a National Climate Service at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to serve three primary purposes: to advance understanding of climate variability and change at all geographic scales; to provide forecasts, warnings, and information to the public on climate variability and change and its effects on the public; and to support development of adaptation and response plans by Federal agencies; State, local and tribal governments, the private sector and the public.

 Section 3. Definitions:  Defines terms used in the legislation. Advisory Committee is the Climate Service Advisory Committee established in Section 5 of the bill. Director is defined as the Director of the Climate Service Office. A Representative serving on the advisory committee is defined as an individual who is not an employee of the Federal Government and who is appointed to the committee to represent the views of an entity or entities outside the Federal Government. Special Government Employee is defined with the same meaning as in section 202(a) of title 18, United States Code. The Under Secretary is defined as the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere.

Section 4. National Climate Service:  Directs the Under Secretary to establish the National Climate Service and establish a Climate Service Office. Defines five functions of the Office: to coordinate the activities within NOAA’s line offices that are relevant to climate services; ensure distribution of data and information on national, regional, and local climate variability and change; ensure that new technologies, information, and tools developed through research are incorporated into the operational offices at NOAA; ensure exchange of information with other Federal agencies; ensure collaboration with the State, local, and tribal governments; academic, non-profits, and the private sector; and ensure exchange of research and information between the Climate Service and the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

Directs the Under Secretary to operate the National Climate Service through a national center, the Climate Service Office, and a network of regional, state, and local outlets. Directs the Under Secretary to maintain the network Regional Climate Centers and defines their role in the Climate Service. Directs the Under Secretary to maintain a network of Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISAs) programs and defines their role in the Climate Service.

Section 4 also directs the Under Secretary to utilize the assets and expertise of other offices and programs at NOAA that produce information or products relevant to the Climate Service including: the National Weather Service, the National Environmental Data and Information Service, the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS); and other NOAA offices and programs.

Section 4 further defines five core elements of the National Climate Service to include: conducting analyses, studies, research, and observations relating to the effects of weather and climate on the public; carrying out observations, data collection, and monitoring of weather and climate; providing information and technical support for Federal agencies, regional State, tribal and local government efforts to produce adaptation and response plans; developing systems for management and dissemination of data, information, and assessments; and conducting research to improve understanding of climate and to improve climate services.

Section 5. Climate Service Advisory Committee:  Directs the Administrator to establish a Climate Service Advisory Committee to operate in accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires balance, public notice of meetings, and publicly available documentation of the Committee’s work. This section also requires the establishment of at least two Subcommittees of the full Committee; one to focus on the science and technical issues associated with developing and improving climate information and products; and the other to advise on the types of products needed and the best ways to deliver them to ensure their relevance to decision makers and the user community.

Section 6. Repeal:  Repeals the National Climate Program Act of 1978.

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