A group of former high-ranking officials have called for the federal government to combine two of its largest scientific agencies to better respond to climate change. In an article last week in the journal Science, the group, which includes former heads of both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), is urging combining the two agencies into a single Earth Systems Science Agency.
"The United States faces unprecedented environmental and economic challenges in the decades ahead," says a group statement. "Foremost among them will be climate change, sea-level rise, altered weather patterns, declines in freshwater availability and quality and loss of biodiversity. We strongly believe organizational changes must be made at the federal level to align our public institutional infrastructure to address these challenges."
According to D. James Baker, NOAA administrator from 1993 to 2001 and one of seven signors on the article, the divided responsibilities of the two separate agencies—NOAA for air and water and the USGS for land—make it harder to implement strategies. And combining the agencies would give scientific issues related to climate change a higher profile within the federal government, something that is desperately needed according to climate scientists. "We felt that laying this (idea) on the table would have a lot of positive aspects," Baker told reporters.