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Do We Really Need a National Climate Service? 358

coondoggie writes "I suppose it's 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-led group, especially when it comes to the climate and all the sometimes controversial information that entails. But that's what is 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."
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Do We Really Need a National Climate Service?

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  • by BlackPignouf ( 1017012 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @07:59AM (#27857907)

    Obviously it's a good thing.
    At least always better than letting Halliburton, Enron and Total decide what our future looks like.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jellomizer ( 103300 )

      Or the University System. Who has really lost their way. In a more perfect world the University's who are doing a lot of this research should be communicating with each other and as well with open, non-confrontational dialogs with other companies R&D. As well getting proper funding from these companies and the governments to work on/get better understanding of the problem.

      However real life sets in and Universities need to focus on being grades 13,14,15 and 16 to meet the educational demands for jobs ou

    • insightful? Or are there just certain buzzwords that people are compelled to rate higher?

      The future of our climate isn't being decided by corporations, it is being decided by an overly politicized system. Contrary laws and NIMBY laws are what are screwing us. I won't even try to list what is beyond our control outside our borders that may just undo anything we can try.

      Look, they have pushed this line of thought for so long that they are locked in. They have to create a new office, which in turn can issu

      • Re:How is hyperbole (Score:4, Informative)

        by LordKazan ( 558383 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @09:13AM (#27858551) Homepage Journal

        1) actually food planet based biofuels (esp soy diesel) just got canned by Obama's EPA - failed some tests that disqualify it from the running for those new green biofuel subsidies. I live in Iowa, our farmers were howling - I told them to go rent space to wind farms ($2k-$5k/year per turbine)

        2) I doubt the administration hates it.. find me cites [Yucca doesn't count, the site was actually found upon further analysis to be unsuitable for long term waste storage - has a semi-active fault line running right under it]

        The problem with Nuclear energy in this country is that it has been demonized - Look at the media reaction to TMI

        3) Prove it. If you mean "the companies will just pass on the cost" you MIGHT have an argument.
        PS I'm hardly some rich elitist
        My parents, combined, made less than $45k/year when I grew up... so I'm not exactly what you'd call "rich" (though I now make that singlehandedly.. 1 year out of college w/ a computer science degree)
        Between my wife and I we have a house worth of college loans to pay back

        4) As for Al Gore and MTBE, he never claimed to be infallible.

        5) No. Shit. A Tank gets .5 MPG Diesel.

        • Re: 1) Iowa's farmers need to quit concentrating on corn and go back to diversified farms anyway. Iowa is now has the lowest level of wild or natural acrage in the nation and in the end, all those flat, plowed fields is costing them big time.
          • most of the farmers do simply rotate soy and corn back and forth - so yeah, not very diversified. we also have soil that is prime for that type of farming.

            The flatness of Iowa is greatly exaggerated. We're a gently rolling hills glacial terrain in most of the state except the Driftless Zone in NE corner of the state (NW IL, SW WI as well) which can have significant relief (600' vertical in just a mile or so) when compared to the rest of the Midwest.

            and there has been a lot of work in the past decade to d

      • 3. Cap and Trade . Backdoor tax on the poor and middle class without calling it that.

        Wait, are you saying that because a certain carbon restriction policy hurts the poor, carbon shouldn't be restricted? Because it is possible for carbon policies to encourage everyone people to cut back on carbon without punishing the poor.

        All you have to do is rebate to everyone (not just the poor) the revenues from auctioning permits, an amount equal to the additional cost of fuel due to C/T that you would pay if you earned 100+x% of the poverty level income.

        So, if C/T imposes an additional cost of, say,

  • by marco.antonio.costa ( 937534 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @08:03AM (#27857927)
    The US gov't already swallows 36% of GDP. What is feeding another couple hundred parasites?
    • Meanwhile (Score:2, Interesting)

      by vivaoporto ( 1064484 )
      Meanwhile [], in Louisiana, Governor Bobby Jindal mutters something about all this wasteful government spending.

      "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. - George Santayana"
      • Shouldn't the people living near the volcano be the ones to pay for monitoring the volcano? This is somewhat similar to the fact that New Orleans should probably be the one the pay for any measures they take to protect themselves from hurricanes.

        Jindal's an idiot, but it doesn't change the fact that people need to assume some responsibility for themselves and their local community instead of always expecting the Federal government to take care of all of their problems. If they can't bother to pay for some d

        • I fail to see how yet another department is needed to fill in the gaps that NOAA and the National Weather Service doesn't provide. Seems easier and much cheaper to simply steer our existing resources into this increased scope and give them additional funding if needed.

        • If the people of New Orleans were going to take responsibility for their problems, they'd all leave New Orleans for higher ground and let it sink into the bayou. We know that's going to happen.

          People are going to live where they can get cheap land (for instance, near volcanos and mudslide zones). Then they are going to clamor for goverment assistance to protect themselves from the dangers they should have known about when they built their houses. That is human nature.
    • 36% of the GDP? rotfl.

      citation, right now.

      • []

        That was actually easier than I thought
        • Try a reliable source.

          You know why I say that? your number is off by a magnitude of 10 when compared to all other numbers I've seen.

      • by RiotingPacifist ( 1228016 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @09:38AM (#27858889)

        You cant expect numbers to agree with him. That's just unfair, everybody knows reality has a liberal bias!

      • Actually 36% might be misleading, since I meant Federal spending, but I had already slapped submit when I realized that. :-/

        36% is a correct figure, but it takes into consideration the overall government burden: Federal, State and local levels.

        The Federal government alone spent 21% of GDP in 2008. Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities []

        • Oh.. forgot to compensate for the

          A) huge war spending
          B) huge try-to-keep-our-economy-from-imploding spending.


          We mostly need to work on getting a better return per tax dollar. If we had anything near the return rates of some of our european friends we're really be high on the hog.

          unfortunately a lot of that is wasted on two CRAPPY money sinks:
          1) Military spending [which is massively wasteful... i'm not against military spending.. just wasteful military spending]
          2) Social Security. I'm a democrat, but

          • I'm a crackpot libertarian, but I certainly agree with both of your suggestions.

    • by OctaviusIII ( 969957 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @01:43PM (#27863297) Homepage
      Dude, I think you missed a couple economics classes. Any GDP measure you have of the footprint of government is what proportion of GDP is government-created. That is to say - assuming your numbers are correct - 36% of our GDP is government produced not "swallowed". Our federal tax burden is around 28% of GDP []. That means that the government takes in 28% of GDP while providing 36% of GDP, indicating that it actually adds a significant amount of value (28.3%, to be precise). I don't think that counts as parasitic.
  • by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @08:12AM (#27857973)

    I mean, the real question is whether or not there's even any climate change going on in the first place! But if we concede the point that it might be happening, is it man-made? Because if it's natural instead of man-made, that changes everything, right? A 10 degree change in average temp may see the polar caps melt and seas rise by 200 feet but if this was going to happen anyway it's no longer a problem, right? But I still say the jury's out on this one. Just like with the addictiveness of nicotine. There's been no conclusive scientific evidence from scientists paid by the tobacco industry to show that there's any addictiveness with nicotine. Oh, and that prison torture in Iraq? Did you not listen to the press conference? Bad apples in the lowest ranks of the military, nothing more.

    I really wish people would pay more attention to the official story. A lot of time and money has been put into getting it down pat and it's incredibly disrespectful to then go and listen to other sources.

    • by richie2000 ( 159732 ) <> on Thursday May 07, 2009 @08:18AM (#27858017) Homepage Journal

      I mean, the real question is whether or not there's even any climate change going on in the first place! But if we concede the point that it might be happening, is it man-made? Because if it's natural instead of man-made, that changes everything, right?

      No, it doesn't. It would still flood a lot of major cities in the world, disrupt crops and change weather patterns. I know you were being satirical, but this point seems to be missing a lot on the debates. Earth doesn't care if we're heating her skin or not, she'll just be hot for a while, shed the parasites and try again. If we as a race want to survive, we'd better do something about that shedding. If anything, if it turns out we're NOT doing it, we're in for a much harder job of fixing it than if it's us...

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I think we can award an official 'whoosh' here.
    • you forgot to close your tag. I'll do it for you : </sarcasm> or </cynical>. Do I hear whooshing sounds ?

      • This isn't digg, We assume people have the brains to see out /s tags around here, and if they don't we often get modded insightful

    • Since the start of the industrial revolution the steady state carbon dioxide load in the atmosphere has gone up 50% in ppm and total tonnage.

      fastest growth rate in the last half a million years on this planet, maybe longer. [last graph I saw only went to .5 Ma]

  • by DrJay ( 102053 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @08:14AM (#27857987) Homepage

    This will undoubtedly induce all sorts of railing about both the government and climate, but this step was actually recommended by the National Academies of Science, and I'm happy that it's being seriously considered. The NAS issued in a report [] that, distilled down, says that we're already paying for climate science, but the info generated by that work isn't reaching the people who need it most, like the ones that have to manage water supplies in the desert southwest. When those people do find the research, it's typically not structured in a way that's especially useful to them. (For a more elaborate summary of the report, see here [] - full disclosure, i wrote that).

    So, this is largely an attempt to take information we're already producing (the government has paid for climate research for a long time through NOAA and the NSF) and make it useful.

  • What about NOAA? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by schwit1 ( 797399 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @08:16AM (#27857999)
    I guess they are not political enough.
    • by Shag ( 3737 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @08:36AM (#27858159)

      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.

      Which part of this is unclear? This is NOAA (who are good at what they do) getting access to even more "expertise and resources." Sounds cool.

    • In typical slashdot fashion I have yet to RTFA before I comment, but I would assume that they want something where the local weather conditions are not collected by volunteers (although I totally dig their dedication to what they are doing).
  • by Davemania ( 580154 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @08:18AM (#27858019) Journal
    What is with the paranoid underlying tone of the article ? "nefarious", could be "large government entity" ? When you have people that doesn't want the government to work (i.e last 8 year), we saw positions filled by political criteria rather than individual merits. It's time that the federal government have a organized response and start basing their decision based on scientific merits. All this sounds like is an information dissemination service ? Depending on the mandate of this new organization, what is wrong with organizing and have a focused approach on a large global issue ?
    • "Depending on the mandate of this new organization, what is wrong with organizing and have a focused approach on a large global issue ?"

      You just answered your own question by prefacing that with "depending on the organization's mandate".

      When an individual or organization needs to employ it's own resources to undertake any kind of productive endeavor (whether it's research or producing a product) it's success is measured by the contributions that it makes to individuals. When an organization uses other peopl

      • Yeah, like Sweden is a "Socialist" state right. You never know when they'll come and take our freedom away.
  • Weather is global (Score:4, Insightful)

    by slashqwerty ( 1099091 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @08:25AM (#27858075)
    The weather impacts crops, military operations, flight plans, hurricane preparedness, and countless other things. Weather forecasts require data gathered from all around the world. State, local, and tribal governments don't have the reach to collect this data on their own. That leaves only private industry. Do you really want to pay a private company to know what the forecast is, particularly when the data would most likely be collected at taxpayer expense anyway? If weather services were privatized, would it be legal to share the forecast with your colleagues?
    • If weather services were privatized, would it be legal to share the forecast with your colleagues?

      We have private news services, yet the news seems to be available to everybody.

    • Re:Weather is global (Score:5, Informative)

      by LordKazan ( 558383 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @08:58AM (#27858385) Homepage Journal

      If AccuWeather and Rick Santorum had their way not only would we be paying for the NOAA/NWS to make those forcasts, but then we wouldn't be able to get that data from them without going through a pay-company like AccuWeather.

      AccuWeather wants us to pay for it twice, just so we can pay them for work they didn't do.

      [see [] ]

      • Someone got undeserved mod points. This is not a flamebait post. There was a proposal from Ricky to restrict NWS data and leave the rest of us to suffer from (In)AccuWeather. Anyone want to guess if AccuWeather is from Ricky's state? Not that it is much of a guess.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by LordKazan ( 558383 )

        Whoever -1 flamebaited me needs to read the wiki article. I was talking about something that is ON THE PUBLIC RECORD. Things ON THE PUBLIC RECORD are hardly flamebait.

        Then they need to post an apology in this thread to undo their moderation.

  • We already have one (Score:2, Interesting)

    by R80_JR ( 1094843 )
    National Climatic Data Center, Asheville NC The only problem is that the charge $$$$ for the data that has already been collected at taxpayer expense.
  • by TechForensics ( 944258 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @08:39AM (#27858191) Homepage Journal

    What's wrong with the National Weather Service? Part of NOAA.

    • by bsane ( 148894 )

      If we just use that we wouldn't be expanding government, and remember Article 1 Section 8 of the constitution : 'To have the power and responsibility to grow government at any opportunity'

      • by Bigby ( 659157 )

        I think the Article I Section 8 bullet point this comes from is: "To create politically-driven departments alongside existing scientific-driven departments"

    • Because weather is not at all the same thing as climate.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by khallow ( 566160 )
        The difference is merely in time scale. They use most of the same data for starters and the same knowledge and skills. If there is a National Climate Service that is distinct from the National Weather Service, it should be under the NOAA.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      What's wrong with the National Weather Service? Part of NOAA.

      Let's be more practical- the NWS is analyzing a lot of radar data and such and running short range models while climate analysts run models of a very different nature that use hundreds of years of data. Since this is all in the same basket, suppose the same people who were looking for data just ran a 10,000 year everything model each time they needed a weather forecast (so we've got our oceanic currents, precipitation, nitrogen cycle, etc.)... it's not the same thing. You need a collection of people who are

  • Kind of like the War Department that morphed into the Defense Department when there wasn't a war anymore. But look how much we've benefited from a pervasive and powerful military industrial complex!

    At least the military threat to our country was OCCASIONALLY not contrived...

  • Even with the sun's output/sunspots being at record lows, and even in spite of this past winter, we're still well above 1990's temps. Burning fossil fuels, clean or not, still consumes oxygen as it produces co2, and yet we clear-cut a football field of forest every second. The question is... is a drop in the bucket in terms of expense and manpower really too much to ask for when the odds that we're facing a very difficult future are as good as or better than the odds that everything is a-ok. I'd rather e
  • There's got to be an agency for climate change so that it can be put on display for the benefit of politicians, get wrapped up in bureaucratic bullshit, and never get anything done. This is no different than a company performing a hostile takeover of a competitor except that the government doesn't have to answer to any antitrust laws.
  • Is it necessary to defend the united states? No?

    Then why is it the federal government's job?

    Weather forecasting has its roots in military strategy. To the extent that climate forecasting might keep the country safe -- safe from real threats -- I'd support it being a job of the federal government.

    I wish people would give up the idea that there is some dispassionate public interest that should be accorded to "scientists", while people holding the same education doing the same work that _dont_ milk from the

  • Why not just convert the National Weather Service or the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration?

  • by brennz ( 715237 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @12:19PM (#27861709)
    Disclaimer: I work for the satellite branch of NOAA, NESDIS []

    NOAA's current structure is not optimal for executing the climate mission. [] [] []
    Although many have suggested that the NWS would be the ideal home for this function, NWS is overly focused on operational meteorology in my opinion, and execution of the climate mission is divided between NESDIS, NWS, NOS and OAR.

    NESDIS operates three environmental data centers which are effectively the archive for the climate mission, along with the large array data system.
    NCDC []
    NGDC []
    NODC []
    CLASS [] ).
    Other line offices in NOAA operate systems that are likewise focused on the climate mission, primarily in the NWS, NOS, and OAR.
    Some have suggested it would be ideal to take a small part of the NWS, NOS, OAR, the data centers and CLASS, to stand up a new line office, The National Climate Service. This could be performed more as a reorganization of NOAA internally, without the bureaucratic trappings of another new line office, along with dual-hatting of a CIO and CFO from other line offices in NOAA

    As an alternative, NOAA could use the matrix goal team structure in order to create the climate service. I believe such an approach would be ineffective, due to the lack of decision-making ability at those levels. NOAA, at the top, has an Executive Committee and an Executive Panel, that are crucial for determining budget priorities from NOAA's small budget. A National Climate Service, to be successful, must have representation at that level.

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