Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Congress blocks a NOAA Climate Service

Evidently, I've been living in some sort of insulated box lately, because for some reason I was amazed to learn only today -  from a colleague's tip - that Congress acted in November to prevent NOAA from establishing a climate service!  The reasons given for this decision are astonishing!  Almost as astonishing are some of the comments about NOAA's data following the story - one apparently popular comment was that NOAA's data are "science fiction"!  On what possible basis could such a statement be made by some nonscientist?  It must be the result of the colossal misinformation campaign regarding anthropogenic global climate change being conducted by such propaganda machines as the Heartland Institute - advocates of right-wing "business as usual" policies that have been instrumental in delaying any meaningful response to the potential problems associated with human-induced changes to the climate.  The climate change deniers have succeeded in this delaying tactic by using cynical political machinations, instead of providing scientifically-valid research in support of their blatant and unwarranted denial of the scientific consensus on this topic.

Months ago, I was aware that the establishment of a national climate service was being proposed by NOAA management in a rare case where management apparently was acting to provide a new service that would be helpful to the nation at a time when information about climate and climate change is critical for making important national policy decisions.  Apparently, our Congress critters have come under the sway of the influence peddlers seeking to maintain the status quo.  The decision by NOAA management to reprogram agency funds, rather than seeking new funding for this new service meant, of course, that some other NOAA services would have to be cut back or even eliminated.  While I worried about the details of how NOAA management might wish to play this zero-sum game, I still believed strongly that establishing a national climate service in NOAA was a high enough national priority to accept sacrifices in other programs in order to have this new program.

It seems that the Congress critters see it differently - even as their campaign coffers bulge with funds provided by the influence peddlers.  This must be a new low in Congressional behavior - for them to imply that NOAA is some sort of political animal can only be an example of narcissistic projection of their own faults onto this highly-respected agency.  The people who work in NOAA's constituent agencies (like the National Weather Service, the National Climate Data Center, Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, etc.) are human beings and have their own political views but they also have a deep commitment to serve the needs of the nation and have no significant history of letting their political opinions affect the integrity of their work in their agencies.  It's outrageous to question the integrity of this service and, by implication, all of its employees.  Of course, no agency is populated entirely by hard-working, ethical saints, but by far the majority of people I worked with in NOAA are quite far from the widely-accepted stereotype of the bureaucratic civil service parasite.  Impugning their commitment to accurate, truthful data collection and analysis is simply an unacceptable insult to the good people I know (and the numerous good NOAA employees I don't know!)

I believe my stance regarding the administrative management of NOAA is well-known.  If you're unaware of it, you can read about it here.  When I worked for them, and since my retirement from NOAA, I've never hesitated to be critical of their management decisions when I felt those decisions were not supportive of the important work the agency needs to accomplish in order to provide the services mandated for NOAA.  I'm certainly not a NOAA shill!  I stand to gain precisely nothing from any decision by Congress regarding NOAA and its priorities.  But I still know many people in NOAA who work very hard to provide accurate data and scientific analysis of those data to help the nation make decisions regarding the weather and climate.  When NOAA management actually makes what I believe to be a good decision - creating a national climate service within NOAA - it's infuriating to learn that our elected representatives are blocking that decision for reasons that clearly are driven by right-wing political influence peddling!

We so much need to vote these bastards out of office!  Any Congress critter who supported this decision to block the formation of NOAA's climate service has shown compelling evidence of being unfit for representing the public interest and needs to be put back on the street.  They simply don't deserve the privilege of "serving" this nation!


Unknown said...
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James Correia, Jr said...

Even more interesting is that people, including the governors association (or some such name) has been asking for climate services on behalf of their constituencies (cities, counties, etc and probably businesses too). I think Dr. Jane Lubchenco pointed this out many times.
James Correia Jr.

Garrett Fornea said...

What is the date and name of the act or bill that would have included the NOAA climate service? I would like to look up and find out the individuals who voted for and against it, to see if my representatives and senators voted to block the climate service.

Chuck Doswell said...

Garrett ... unfortunately, I don't know those details. I suspect a bit of Google searching would reveal that information, but I'm preoccupied at the moment. If you find out, feel free to post that here.

Mark Alexander said...

Re Garrett Fornea's request:
It wasn't in a bill. Establishment of the climate service, part of a general agency reorg, was included in NOAA's budget request, which means the matter was largely a committee-driven, "smoke filled room" affair--it would neither be debated, nor subject to a vote, on the House or Senate floors. Incidentally, NOAA requested no new funds for the service.

I suppose with some digging in the Congressional Record, you might be able to find out who on what committee(s) approved what.