Heads in the sand

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had a good idea: given public demand, the agency should create a National Climate Service along the lines of the National Weather Service. It wouldn’t cost taxpayers a dime — NOAA could simply make some bureaucratic moves behind the scenes — and the agency didn’t ask Congress for any additional money.

But that apparently didn’t matter to congressional Republicans.

[I]n a political climate where talk of the earthly kind of climate can be radioactive, the answer in last week’s budget deal was “no.” Congress barred NOAA from launching what the agency bills as a “one-stop shop” for climate information.

Demand for such data is skyrocketing, NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco told Congress earlier this year. Farmers are wondering when to plant. Urban planners want to know whether groundwater will stop flowing under subdivisions. Insurance companies need climate data to help them set rates.

But the climate service, first floated under President George W. Bush, became predictably politicized.

In this case, “politicized” can be roughly translated to mean “Republicans see the idea as conflicting with their ideological goals.”

Bush’s NOAA chief, along with scientific, weather, and insurance industry groups, all endorsed the National Climate Service idea, but that didn’t seem to matter.

“We think it’s very unfortunate,” Chris McEntee, executive director of the American Geophysical Union, which represents 60,000 scientists, told the Washington Post. “Limiting access to this kind of climate information won’t make climate change go away.”