Spurious justifications notwithstanding, the decision to axe the Climate Service is a blow to the free flow of information. As Vastag pointed out in his article, it arrived just as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a special report that reaffirmed is growing scientific consensus that climate change is already creating more frequent episodes of extreme weather.
With more droughts, floods, and storms likely on their way, the efficient delivery of accurate, up-to-date information will become increasingly important to the farmers, urban planners, and insurance companies highlighted by NOAA’s Lubchenco. The same goes for journalists.
In late 2010, scientists launched two separate efforts—Climate Science Rapid Response Team and American Geophysical Union’s Climate Q&A Service—designed to improve the flow of climate information to the media, policymakers, and the public. The former is still going strong, but the latter is on hiatus pending an overhaul. Ideally, NOAA’s Climate Service would have complemented these programs, but it seems that prospect is now gone.
On the bright side, Vastag reported Monday that “federal science funding emerged relatively unscathed last week after the House and Senate worked out a deal for fiscal 2012.” NOAA, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology all received small budgetary increases, while NASA took a modest cut that was much less than feared.
Federal research will continue. But, at NOAA at least, there will be no “one stop shop” for information about that work.