Salazar announces Alaska climate center
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced March 4 that the Department of the Interior has selected the University of Alaska to host an Alaska regional climate science center. The University of Alaska center is the first of eight regional centers that Interior is setting up across the United States, to provide scientific information, tools and techniques that people can apply to anticipate, monitor and adapt to climate change at a regional level.
Interior hopes to formally establish the new center within six to eight weeks, Salazar said.
“With rapidly melting Arctic sea ice and permafrost, and threats to the survival of Native Alaska coastal communities, Alaska is ground zero for climate change,” Salazar said in announcing the new center. “We must put science to work to help us adjust to the impacts of climate change on Alaska’s resources and peoples. … Climate science centers will better connect our scientists with land managers and the public.”
Interior also plans to seek grant proposals within the next few weeks for four more of the regional centers, in the northwest, southeast, southwest and north central regions, Salazar said.
The new regional climate science centers, to be staffed by scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, partner organizations and from elsewhere, represent an expansion of the reach and scope of the existing National Climate Change and Wildlife Center, housed in USGS headquarters, Interior said.
2009 orderThe establishment of the eight regional centers results from an order that Salazar issued on Sept. 14, 2009, to address climate change in the United States by establishing a Climate Change Response Council for the coordination of climate-change related activities in the various bureaus of the Department of the Interior. That order spelled out the formation of both climate science centers and landscape conservation cooperatives, with the cooperatives acting as self-directed partnerships between a variety of government and non-government organizations, to craft “practical, landscape-level strategies for managing climate change impacts within the eight regions,” Interior said.
The climate science centers will prioritize fundamental science, data and decision-support activities, primarily in support of the landscape conservation cooperatives, Interior said. The new organizations will support climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts throughout their regions, and not just on public lands.
“I’m glad to see Secretary Salazar and the Department of Interior recognize climate change is a serious problem and put federal resources in place to understand how it impacts Alaska now and into the future,” said Sen. Mark Begich March 4. “The effects of climate change are already far greater in Alaska than any other part of the country and this center will allow cooperation and consultation between federal experts and the world-class expertise of the UA system’s climate researchers.”
Begich said that the new center will be established in Anchorage.