For a number of years, NOAA has been working toward the development of a Climate Service. The premise of the Climate Service is that it would make climate information and data available in “accessible and timely” formats to assist people in making decisions. But in their Continuing Resolution for Fiscal Year 2011, Congress and the White House have blocked any funding for the effort.

To be exact, the Spending Bill (on page 218) prevents the use of funds “to implement, establish, or create a NOAA Climate Service.” As NOAA’s proposal is to establish the Climate Service in FY 2012, the lack of funding for the Climate Service in FY 2011 does not appear to have material impact on its plans unless this prohibition is carried over into the 2012 spending bill. As a Greenwire story (subscription required) states:

“If lawmakers include similar language in fiscal 2012 spending bill, it could halt the effort to create the new agency, which would be akin to the National Weather Service.”

NOAA has developed a comprehensive website which lays out the rationale, functions and proposed structure for the Climate Service. In addition to providing data, the Climate Service would develop products, assessments and “decision support tools” to help its stakeholders prepare for and respond to climate change. It would also provide the umbrella for NOAA’s climate science activities.

NOAA says the planned development of the Climate Service will be accomplished “through a zero sum” realignment of funds within the current budget. In other words, it does not involve increasing staff, building new facilities, or increasing NOAA’s overhead.

In testimony today before the Senate Committe on Commerce, Science and Transportation, NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco described the motivation for the Service:

“The FY 2012 budget request includes a proposed budget-neutral reorganization that brings together NOAA’s existing but widely dispersed climate capabilities under a single line office”

“The climate services we currently provide demonstrate the utility of continually improving our scientific and technological capacity. Advances in science make it possible for us to provide useful information about the months-to-years time-frame – something that has potential to be of immense utility to businesses, communities, and military operations.”

Since news arose yesterday of the lack of FY11 funding for the effort, a number of analyses and reactions have flared up in the blogosphere.

At Climate Progress, Michael Conathan - director of ocean programs for the Center for American Progress - wrote:

“So, in other words, an initiative that would add no net cost to the budget and would streamline the operations of a Federal agency—something lawmakers from both parties have hammered home as a primary goal of their fiscal reform efforts—was torpedoed when 227 Republicans and 6 Democrats voted in favor of an Amendment by Rep. Ralph Hall (R, TX-4) prohibiting any funding from being used to establish a NOAA Climate Service.”

Atmospheric Scientist Judy Curry at Climate Etc. writes:

“I’m ok with NOAA’s Climate Service not being funded in its currently planned incarnation. However, there is a growing need for climate information (particularly data) to support decision making. NOAA should focus on the climate data records, and hire a group to put together an actual information system that is useful to users. NOAA should get out of the decision support business, and let the private sector take this on for needs in the private sector and federal government, with universities working with their state and local governments.”

And I spoke with Rick Piltz who runs the website Climate Science Watch who said:

“NOAA creating a climate service to integrate observations, monitoring, forecasting and decision support is a major step in the right direction. NOAA is really taking the lead in the Federal government for this type of activity. It needs to be connected with other agencies and adaptation efforts.”

“It’s dead wrong to say NOAA climate services politicizes climate science. It’s taking a very large tax payer investment in scientific research and finding a way to make it more useful for people who have responsibility for making important societal decisions.”

“This attempt to prevent NOAA from creating a climate service is a political attack on climate science. It’s terrible to see the White House and Democrats going along with this.”

What do you think about the concept of a NOAA Climate Service?