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Friday, April 12, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Climate Change in| Our Own Backyard

WASHINGTON (CN) - Focusing on the commercial effect of a changing global climate, the U.S. Commerce Department announced a new office Monday to help Americans already dealing with more intense storms, longer growing seasons and changing river flows. "Our scientific observations of the climate tell us that climate change is real, and we are already seeing its impacts in our own backyards," said a department statement.

"People are searching for relevant and timely information about these changes to inform decision-making about virtually all aspects of their lives," read the announcement.

The step emphasizes the continued focus on climate change by the Obama administration - which has already increased fuel efficiency standards on cars and has called for the doubling of renewable energy sources within five years.

The Office of Science and Technology Policy - which sits under the executive branch, separate from the Commerce Department - has already stated that it will coordinate climate services across federal government agencies, and President Obama has already created the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change.

The Climate Service would be under the direction of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - which is under the Commerce Department,

The NOAA manages the nation's coastal and marine resources and defended its uncoordinated move, saying that agencies have different responsibilities and that each has services to offer.

It also noted that it is the home of the National Weather Service, which has provided information and warnings for 140 years and that it already responds to millions of requests each year for information on climate change.

The NOAA said that rising sea-level, longer growing seasons, changes in river flows, increases in heavy downpours, and earlier snowmelt resulting from climate change would affect nearly every American.

The announcement comes just a month after the Commerce Department said a Chinook salmon fishery in Alaska had failed.

Obama's budget for the 2011 fiscal year would grant $47 million for the office.

The reorganization could come as soon as the end of the year, but progress could be slowed in getting approval from Congress.

A broad climate change bill in Congress already directs the NOAA to establish a climate service office, but this bill has since been stalled in the Senate.

The House has passed a similar bill requiring that U.S. emissions fall 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 and would require an 83 percent drop from 2005 levels by 2050.

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