Despite Deniers, Americans Are Asking for More Climate Science: NOAA Will Deliver It

A few sensational stories have dominated recent coverage about climate science, but away for the spotlight, the work of climate scientists is in ever-increasing demand.

Every year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration gets millions of requests for climate data. City officials, business investors, fishermen, farmers, even coastal homeowners who fear their local beach will erode are hungry for information that can help them plan for the future, and they turn to the experts at NOAA for guidance.

That is why NOAA announced this week that it will create a NOAA Climate Service--a one-stop shop dedicated to making the agency’s excellent climate science more broadly available to the public.

I welcome this development. It will make it easier for people to make decisions based on sound science. And it will also reassert the fact that millions of Americans value climate science, despite the efforts of climate deniers to dismiss it.

This month, those deniers are using an error in the IPCC’s 2007 report about how quickly Himalayan glaciers will melt as proof that the entire notion of global warming is false.

That’s like saying the AMA should no longer say that smoking causes cancer, because a handful of doctors misdiagnosed some patients. Mistakes in the particulars of climate science must be corrected, but their existence does not negate the entire phenomenon of global warming.

I was especially troubled when the attacks on the science turned into attacks on the individuals. This week, Dr. R. K.  Pachauri, the head of the United Nation’s IPCC and a Nobel Peace Prize Winner, came under fire, but as the New York Times pointed out, most of the accusations levied against Dr. Pachauri are half-truths at best.

I have met Dr. Pachauri and been inspired by his remarkable efforts to guide the IPCC’s massive, international undertaking. Experts waded through an enormous body of work in a complex, multi-year process. Naysayers won’t undermine the scientific consensus by challenging respected leaders one by one. The evidence behind those scientists is simply too strong.

NOAA’s new Climate Service will make that science more broadly available, and provide information that is far more useful for Americans than the political posturing of deniers.

City planners in Charleston who wonder how much to invest in storm-surge barriers, farmers in Kansas who wonder if their crops will survive changing growing seasons, and fishermen in New England who wonder what ocean acidification will do to their shellfish catch--all these people need answers about what climate change is doing to their world.

With its new Climate Service, NOAA will expand its ability to provide those answers. And despite the clamoring of deniers, climate experts will continue their scientific inquires and people will continue to make future plans based on scientific evidence.