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NOAA proposes new climate agency

Agency would be based on the National Weather Service.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Monday proposed a new climate change service intended to consolidate and improve long-range data and predictions, including rises in sea levels, droughts and other adverse effects.

The plan is modeled on the 140-year-old National Weather Service, which provides short-term information.

"Now we need a climate service ... to really focus on the long-range impacts of climate change," said Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. "This will provide a single point of contact, a one-stop shop for businesses and government that need NOAA's high-quality forecasting for making predictions."

House and Senate appropriators would need to approve the restructuring, Locke said. He wants the new climate service to start in fiscal 2011. Thomas Karl, director of the National Climatic Data Center, would be the transitional director of the service, which would also have six regional directors.

The service would rely on existing resources but will eventually need additional funds, said NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco.

The Obama administration's proposal comes amid controversy surrounding some climate data released in a much-heralded report by the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which the United States and others have used as justification to try to curb global greenhouse gas emissions.

A 2007 IPCC report contained unsubstantiated figures to conclude the melting of Himalayan glaciers, which officials at the panel said was an accident.

Climate skeptics have pounced on the flub, with Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., last week calling for IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri to resign.

"Every day, new scandals emerge about the so called 'facts' in the UN reports," Barrasso said in a statement. "The integrity of the data and the integrity of the science have been compromised."

Lubchenco Monday defended the IPCC.

"The IPCC has recognized that that particular conclusion was in error," she said. "That said, the vast majority of the conclusions ... are credible, have been through a very rigorous process and are absolutely state of the science, state of the art."

Lubchenco said the inclusion of the glacier data "was unfortunate but quite atypical of the rest of the IPCC," noting the panel "has thousands and thousands of conclusions about specific changes in the climate system, and that most of them have been shown to be quite reliable."