Obama Administration Formally Opening Nation’s 'First Climate Science Center'

By Susan Jones | February 24, 2011 | 11:17 AM EST

(CNSNews.com) - The U.S. Interior Department is holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday to officially open the Alaska Climate Science Center -- the first of its kind in the nation, the Interior Department says.

Located at the University of Alaska-Anchorage, the center is the first of eight regional climate science centers the federal government plans to establish across the U.S.

The U.S. Geological Survey is taking the lead in establishing the centers.

According to the Fiscal 2012 U.S. Geological Survey budget proposal, “The Climate Science Centers will provide the scientific base for land and water management decisions related to changing climates.” The budget requests $11 million to complete the planned network of eight Climate Science Centers.

The Interior Department says the centers will work closely with government agencies and universities, using "existing science programs to build new capabilities." The eight regional centers will provide data on the impacts of climate change and help land managers respond.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Alaska as the site of the first regional climate center last March: "With its rapidly melting Arctic sea ice and permafrost, and threats to the survival of Native Alaskan coastal communities, Alaska is ground zero for climate change," he said at the time. “We must put science to work to help us adjust to the impacts of climate change on Alaska’s resources and peoples.” 

Salazar said the climate science centers will "provide science about climate change impacts, help land managers adapt to the impacts, and engage the public through education initiatives.”

Four other climate science centers will be located in at Oregon State University, North Carolina State University, University of Arizona-Tucson, and Colorado State University-Fort Collins. The remaining three centers -- to be located in the South Central, Northeastern U.S. and the Pacific Islands -- have not yet been announced.

According to the Interior Department, "Climate change is driving rapid and broad changes across the United States and the world," and the Interior Department "has an obligation to address the impacts that climate change is having on America’s resources by developing effective adaptation and mitigation strategies."

But when it comes to "climate change science," the government appears to have overlapping -- and duplicative -- efforts.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration -- which falls under the U.S. Commerce Department -- also operates Regional Climate Centers (as opposed to the Interior Department's regional Climate Science Centers).

NOAA's six centers are "engaged in the timely production and delivery of useful climate data, information and knowledge for decision makers and other users at the local, state, regional and national levels," the agency says on its Web site.

NOAA’s Fiscal Year 2012 budget request includes a reorganization that brings together NOAA’s existing climate capabilities under a single office -- a new Climate Service -- which will "more effectively and efficiently respond to America’s increasing demand for climate information."

According to NOAA, its new Climate Service "will provide a reliable and authoritative source for climate data, information, and decision-support services," and it will "advance and transform climate science into useable and relevant services to better meet the needs of the nation."