NOAA's Climate Office: Precursor to Cap and Trade?

Cap and trade remains a key element in President Obama's vow of a "fundamental transformation of America," despite legislative branch setbacks.  Now he may have found a way around the Constitution's checks and balances.

Obama knows the consequences of cap and trade; he promised skyrocketing electricity costs when he was elected in 2008.  To date, however, we have lucked out: Obama tried and tried and tried again to get his cap-and-trade bill through Congress, but so far, he has failed. 

Obama has failed in large measure because the credibility and thus the hysteria of his science have eroded.  Obama has been stymied by a public made skeptical because of the shenanigans of the U.N.'s IPCC and the self-promoting climate experts in East Anglia and the United States.  Can Obama recover?  Not before the next election, but if he is reelected (bite your tongue), and if he can resuscitate the hysteria by co-opting NOAA, the cream of American governmental science, he has a good shot at it.  Bear in mind that Obama has a predilection for using regulatory agencies (e.g., the EPA) as weapons.

Dr. Jane Lubchenco, the environmentalist rock star and former vice chairperson of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), was appointed as the administrator of NOAA by President Obama.  She has installed a team of eco-zealots, and they have a Climate Service Office ready and waiting to proceed -- with only congressional approval standing in their way.

Dr. Lubchenco first proposed the Climate Service Office on 8 February 2010.  She presented it as a budget-neutral consolidation of existing capabilities.  Any such reorganization requires approval of Congress.  The recent FY2011 Continuing Resolution prohibits NOAA from expending any funds on a Climate Service Office in FY2011.  President Obama included the NOAA reorganization in his FY2012 budget issued in February 2011 and so ingloriously voted down (97-0) this spring.

Now, there is nothing wrong with a Climate Service per se.  Small-government advocates recognize government involvement as acceptable in certain activities; the NOAA National Weather Service is one of these and has a fine reputation.  A Climate Service seems appropriate in this day and age with the concerns about climate, climate change, and climate control.  NOAA would appear to be the logical organization to oversee such an effort.  In the author's opinion, before embarking on a Climate Service, NOAA must show that they satisfy three criteria:

  • The Climate Service must be transparent and fully open to congressional oversight.
  • The Climate Service must have proven competent, apolitical management.
  • The Climate Service must be scientifically objective with no preconceived agenda.

On 21 June, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a particularly contentious hearing on the proposed NOAA Climate Service Proposal.  The tone was set with the chairman's opening remarks, which relate to the first of my three criteria.  The gavel reverberations had hardly died down before Mr. Hall (R-TX) chastised NOAA on their non-responsiveness and delinquencies.  This was the first but not the only volley on NOAA's willingness to obey Congress.

A little history: at an 8 February 2010 press conference, Dr. Lubchenco said:

In summary, we are announcing the intent to create a new (mila) [sic] climate service to be led initially by Dr. Tom Karl, the creation of six regional climate services directors and a new Web portal at

Dr. Thomas R. Karl, the interim director of the NOAA Climate Service, briefed the new service in March 2010.

The six regional directors were appointed on 10 September 2010.  They are Ellen Mecray (Eastern Region), Doug Kluck (Central Region), David Brown (Southern Region), DeWayne Cecil (Western Region), John Marra (Pacific Region), and James Partain (Alaska Region).  The web portal, active since the 8 February 2010 announcement, can be found here.  All the elements promised by Dr. Lubchenco are in place.

Mr. Rohrabacher (R-CA) questioned Dr. Lubchenco extensively on the above (video here), suggesting that having these people in place is strongly indicative of a de facto up-and-running service, in contravention of the expressed desires of the Congress.  Dr. Lubchenco demurred, replying that planning ahead is simply good management.  Mr. Rohrabacher then quoted a December 2010 interview of Dr. Karl in ClimateWire where Dr. Karl said, "[W]e've moved in[.] ... [W]e're waiting for the marriage certificate, but we're acting like we have a climate service."  Mr. Rohrabacher suggested a "living in climate sin" metaphor.

It is not surprising that Congress does not trust NOAA.  The FY2011 Continuing Resolution also prohibits expending funds on specific fisheries management techniques.  NOAA's response: issuing a legalistic lollapalooza of an interpretation based on parsing and hairsplitting.

Opaqueness, stonewalling, Machiavellian legal constructs -- all of the onerous techniques a bureaucracy can use -- are routine management with NOAA as currently constituted.  The following is from a previous American Thinker essay of mine:

Dr. Lubchenco did not introduce appalling mismanagement to NOAA, but she has made America acutely aware of it.  NOAA was ineffective on the Gulf oil spill, and NOAA fisheries has been an outright disgrace, given incompetent management (that word again), corrupt disposition of funds generated by fines and property seizures from fishermen, and vindictive enforcement of regulations

NOAA as currently constituted flunks my first two criteria.  Let us move on to the "no preconceived agenda" criterion.

At the hearing, Dr. Harris (R-MD) chided Dr. Lubchenco in some depth on an article about sea level rise along the Maryland shore.  The article appeared in the Climate Watch Magazine, which is a feature of the NOAA Climate Service web portal (linked above).  Dr. Harris said the article was in a popular format, rather than a scientific format, in that it lacked the depth of citations normally found in peer-reviewed scientific papers.  The article's conclusions were significantly alarming.  Dr. Harris asked if it was in NOAA's interest to publish what could be called sensational articles without in-depth scientific foundation.  Dr. Lubchenco ducked the question.

Dr. Harris's description of the article is accurate.  I examined other articles from the Climate Watch Magazine and they were similar: extreme, perhaps worst-case consequences, with limited citations to allow a reader to follow up on his own.  I found no articles by Richard Linzden, Lord Christopher Monckton, or Roy W. Spencer.  I didn't really expect to, nor do I expect NOAA to use authors of their ilk in the future.

What I do expect is that Dr. Lubchenco will be true to her EDF roots.  She followed the EDF party line with the fisheries and can be anticipated to follow it on cap and trade.  In both cases, the EDF stances are the extreme environmentalist positions.

EDF's fisheries position: "Fisheries are depleted and fishermen are losing their jobs.  Catch shares are the way forward."  Once given the power of NOAA, Dr. Lubchenco wasted little time in implementing the EDF tool of choice for fisheries, Catch Shares Management, sometimes derisively termed cap and trade of the fisheries.  It has been suggested that her implementation was reckless, too fast with too little study and training.  It has also been suggested that her implementation violated the intent and perhaps the letter of the governing Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA).  In any case, her actions were in lockstep with the goals of her EDF alma mater.

EDF's global warming position: the science is settled, global warming is "accelerating at an alarming rate," and the answer is cap and trade.  I have little doubt that Dr. Lubchenco and her henchmen will adopt and endorse the EDF posture, with all the sociological and economic disruptions it entails.

The current upper echelons of NOAA are remorseless eco-zealots.  They are not public servants in that they feel no need to answer to the American people.  They have their truth, and it shall be the truth for all, or else.  Congress must stick to their guns and not allow this callous cabal to reorganize before the 2012 election.

We, the American voters, must defeat Barack Obama in 2012.  We must take over the Senate and increase the margin in the House.  The new president and the new administration can then appoint a business-oriented secretary of commerce and a person with an open mind as administrator of NOAA.  The current arrangement clearly will not serve.

Mike Johnson is a concerned citizen, a small-government conservative, and a live-free-or-die resident of New Hampshire.  E-mail

If you experience technical problems, please write to