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Jane Lubchenco: National Climate Service Would Aid Business, Local Governments

SAN DIEGO--Wind farmers and Western state governors planning for the future of climate change may soon get help from a new national Climate Service,  said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration head Jane Lubchenco at the AAAS Annual Meeting.

Modeled on the National Weather Service, the Climate Service would combine NOAA's extensive research and its decision-support programs into one "easy-to-find doorbell" for Americans seeking practical advice on climate issues, she told a group of international reporters on 20 February.

Lubchenco said state leaders, small business owners, and city planners are increasingly turning to NOAA to learn how to cope with long-term changes from drought to coastal flooding. She sees the service as a way to "communicate what's known and listen to what people are asking" about climate change.


Jane Lubchenco

She also hopes the service will also convince more Americans that climate management could spur economic growth. The National Weather Service "has spawned a whole suite of industries" delivering select weather data to a wide clientele, she said, "and we fully accept that there will be lots of new business opportunities" that deliver climate data in a similar way.

Lubchenco and U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced the Climate Service proposal on 8 February, at the launch of the NOAA Climate Portal, a comprehensive Web site of NOAA's climate-related research, products, and services.

Lubchenco is NOAA's ninth administrator and undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere. An marine ecologist and environmental scientist with a strong interest in science communication, she served as AAAS president in 1997 and board chair in 1998.

She answered a wide range of questions from the journalists at the AAAS meeting, covering topics from hurricane prediction to the controversy over errors in a major report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The controversy was a "wake-up call" for the IPCC, Lubchenco said, noting that its leaders "are absolutely committed to examining their make it as error-free as humanly possible."

But the IPCC's "conclusion that the Earth is warming and that humans are largely responsible for most of the warming...remains robust," she said, "and that conclusion does not rest on a single analysis."

Although many American communities are taking climate change seriously, said Lubchenco, "there is still a significant mismatch between climate change and the urgency with which society has addressed it."