New climate service aims to help business adapt

WASHINGTON Mon Feb 8, 2010 3:41pm EST

Snow falls on the grounds of the US Capitol as snow blankets Washington, February 6, 2010. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Snow falls on the grounds of the US Capitol as snow blankets Washington, February 6, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A proposed new U.S. NOAA Climate Service is meant to help businesses adapt to the impact of climate change, and to spur development of new technologies to cope with it, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke on Monday.

"Even with our best efforts, we know that some degree of climate change is inevitable and American citizens and businesses, and American governments ... must be able to rise to environmental and economic challenges that lie ahead," Locke told reporters in announcing the move.

He said new private second industries could develop from information generated by the new service, just as industries based on data from the National Weather Service and U.S. Census Bureau have done.

In addition to dealing with climate change, Locke said, "In the process, we'll discover new technologies, build new businesses and create new jobs."

The new service -- its Web site is www.climate.gov -- means a reorganization at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is part of the Commerce Department and includes the National Weather Service.

NOAA already offers data to businesses ranging from agriculture and energy to fisheries and transportation, as well as to the billion-dollar weather-forecasting industry, Locke said. But information about climate change is scattered across the agency.

Locke said concentrating NOAA's expertise and information on climate change in one place would help these industries and others including renewable energy like wind power, infrastructure and architecture planning and disease prevention and control.

NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco said the new service would offer information to help plan for sea level rise, coastal erosion, longer growing seasons, increases in heavy downpours and other severe weather events -- all predicted consequences of climate change.

The Commerce Department is working with Congress, which must approve the transfer of existing funds to the new service; Locke said he hoped it would be operating by the start of the 2011 fiscal year.

U.S. legislation aimed at curbing the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change was narrowly approved by the House of Representatives last year; Senators John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, and Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, are working on a Senate measure.

The NOAA announcement brought quick praise from Sierra Club President Carl Pope: "As polluters and their allies continue to try and muddy the waters around climate science, the Climate Service will provide easy, direct access to the valuable scientific research undertaken by government scientists and others."

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