Join the Climate Services Dialogue Now

June 18, 2010 · 0 comments

At the behest of Congress, the National Academy of Public Administration is formally studying of “organizational options for a Climate Service within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).” Until the end of Sunday, 27 June, you can participate in the open discussion at the NAPA Climate Dialogue web site.

The input NAPA is seeking focuses on the following questions:

What climate information and services do you find most useful currently and why? Who provides them?

How could your access to climate information and services be improved?

What mechanisms would you recommend to enable ongoing communication of your climate information and service needs to NOAA?

How should the NOAA Climate Service engage with other providers of climate information and services to meet your information needs?

What is driving your need for climate information or services?

The range of input is already impressive and thought-provoking, discussing the future of specific NOAA offices, educational aims, data archiving, the role of prediction and research in the future Service, and more. For instance, while some comments address the possible savings by reducing overlapping climate responsibilities across Federal agencies, others criticize reorganization for reorganization’s sake:

There are already excellent programs in the federal government for calculating [hydro-climatic statistics], updating them, and delivering them to users.  The issue is that these programs are seriously underfunded and thus the information is seriously out of date.

It frequently seems that agencies respond to problems by reorganizing rather than by supporting the good programs that already exist.  In my experience this is usually a mistake.  A climate service should point people to these kinds of information and support keeping them up to date, but should not try to take this role.

Here’s another along a similar vein:

As a long time NOAA partner working in the field, I am very concerned about adding infrastructure in the Beltway, especially at a time when so much more is required of NOAA in the field. As an extramural partner funded by OAR that is ocean ecosystem goal-related, versus climate, I am concerned about what will happen to the rest of OAR when the NCS takes away more than half the program and budget.

Others have a more hopeful take on this type of question:

Currently, there is much discussion/concern regarding how the climate service will interact with and/or overlap with the weather service. Many discussions are ongoing about what is climate and what is weather. So much effort might likely go in to making this distinction that we will lose sight of how powerful a collaboration there could be between the two.

Other comments suggest ways the proposed NCS can increase its effectiveness, reduce politicization, etc., including this criticism of top-down efforts in educating the public about climate change:

Traditional communication from government includes brochures, pamplets, press releases, and public notices.  Contemporary knowledge about how people learn and change behaviors shows a need for a more grass-roots / community-based approach to educating everyday citizens.

If a true public response to climate change is to occur, then time and funding needs to be invested in a strong corps of educators who can share climate literacy information and organize communities to learn about climate change and better prepare for a changing world.

But another commenter warns of diffuse climate messages, pointing out that

Too often the media presents data and interviews from several agencies on climate change and subtle differences from each agency lead to questions on behalf of the viewing audience as to the accuracy of the big issue of actual climate change.

Clearly this dialogue is worthy of your participation. A report will be issued in September after consideration the comments as well as the analysis by organizational experts on the NAPA Study panel.