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Obama sets up new climate change centre -

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Obama sets up new climate change centre

Eleanor Hall reported this story on Monday, February 15, 2010 12:30:00

ELEANOR HALL: The President Barack Obama may not have the support of Congress for his climate
change policy but he is attempting to push for some form of action on global warming regardless.

Prior to the UN conference in Copenhagen he gave the Environmental Protection Authority powers to
regulate greenhouse gases in the US. Now he has set up a central bureau for climate change data.

So is this US body likely to challenge to authority of the UN panel which has recently been hit by
a barrage of criticism?

Thomas Karl is the head of the new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Service
and he spoke to me from Asheville in North Carolina.

Thomas Karl, thanks for joining us. How central to President Obama's climate change strategy is
this new climate service that you are heading?

THOMAS KARL: Well, the climate service is very important from a standpoint of ensuring that any
policy is based on sound science and that we are capable of delivering the information that many of
our policy makers and decision makers need in terms of not only planning for future climate based
on the past but planning for future climate based on possible scenarios of climate into the future.

ELEANOR HALL: Now you mentioned sound science - to what extent is this new service a response to
concerns about falling public confidence in the UN body, the IPCC?

THOMAS KARL: Um, this is actually been in the works here for a number of years prior to the IPCC
issues. It was just coincidence that this was announced shortly after the IPCC.

ELEANOR HALL: How much damage do you think the revelations of flaws in the UN climate change
panel's reports, particularly things like the Himalayan glacier claims, have done to the
credibility of climate change science?

THOMAS KARL: Yeah, I think it is unfortunate. You know, there is no excuse for any errors but to
find, you know, one error from many thousands of pages, we probably shouldn't be too hard on the
authenticity and the veracity of the work but nonetheless, we aim for 100 per cent accuracy and
sure there is going to be stricter guidelines in terms of the next IPCC process.

ELEANOR HALL: There were also, of course, the East Anglia emails. One of your most senior
scientists, Jane Lubchenco stressed that this new climate service will make its data completely
open and accessible. That is an explicit criticism of the East Anglia climate scientists' approach,
isn't it?

THOMAS KARL: Well, we have always had a policy in NOAA to try and make sure that there is
traceability. I think in the end truth is obviously what is going to prevail but I think it has set
us back in terms of the perception that there is some uncertainty about the work that has been done
and quite frankly, there is nothing that I've seen that would suggest that humans are not
responsible for many of the changes that we've seen over the last 50 years and we are likely to see
into the future.

ELEANOR HALL: One IPCC scientist said on this program recently that the climate change deniers have
now won. What is your sense of the situation in the US? Has there been a shift? Are business people
for example now more sceptical about the warnings about global warming?

THOMAS KARL: Well, certainly there is increased scepticism I think on the general public but from
those who are actually involved in developing infrastructure, I don't see that being the case.

In fact if one putting dollars on the line in terms of developing major infrastructure projects,
one certainly wants to make sure that one is taking the best information into account when
developing these major projects and quite frankly the best information we have all indicate that
humans indeed are likely to have a major role in climate into the future.

ELEANOR HALL: Well, the US commerce secretary says that you are the world's largest library of data
on climate change. Some prominent climate scientists are calling for the IPCC to be reformed or
even replaced. To what extent could your new service be that replacement?

THOMAS KARL: Well, in fact we have been in contact with some of the leaders in the IPCC and we are
sponsoring a workshop here in Asheville to talk about how we can ensure the best traceability from
all the data that goes into the IPCC report.

ELEANOR HALL: So do you anticipate that your climate service could be the go-to body instead of the
IPCC in the future?

THOMAS KARL: Well, I wouldn't say the go-to body because I think what we need to do is develop an
international framework. We certainly can provide some leadership to help get things organised.
That, I think, could go a long way to making access to the data that everyone can see quite easily.

ELEANOR HALL: Thomas Karl, thanks very much for joining us.

THOMAS KARL: Okay, thank you.

ELEANOR HALL: Thomas Karl is the head of the new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Climate Service in the US, and he was speaking to me from North Carolina and you can listen to a
longer version of that interview on our website.