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U.S. should merge NOAA, USGS to form national Environmental Agency

U.S. should merge NOAA, USGS to form national Environmental Agency

U.S. should merge NOAA, USGS to form national Environmental Agency
July 3, 2008

The United States should establish a new agency “to meet the unprecedented environmental and economic challenges facing the nation” argue a group of former senior federal officials in an editorial published in the journal Science.

The proposed Earth Systems Science Agency (ESSA) was be formed by merging the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). It would be an independent organization.

“Earth system science focuses on understanding current processes and predicting changes that will take place over the next hundred years,” said Charles Kennel, former Associate Administrator of NASA and Director of Mission to Planet Earth. “It merges earth, atmospheric, and ocean science into a panorama of the earth system as it is today and as it will be tomorrow. We need it to predict climate change and its impacts, and to help us mitigate and adapt to other changes that have the potential to affect our quality of life and economic well-being.”

“Population pressure, development impact, and resource extraction affect land and sea alike. Just as the science of the Earth is seamless, so should the government responsibility be merged for these separate Earth agencies,” added co-author D. James Baker, a former NOAA administrator.

The authors warn that federal agencies are prently not structured to address “such major environmental problems as global climate change, declines in freshwater availability and quality, and loss of biodiversity.”

“It isn’t often that we are offered a real opportunity to make government work better. But the modest, sensible reorganization proposed here brings a new science-rich focus on some of our biggest contemporary challenges,” said Donald Kennedy, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and past president of Stanford University.

“The USGS, in bringing not only its geologic, biologic, hydrologic and geospatial expertise to the understanding of natural systems, but also its research capabilities in energy, mineral, water, and biologic resources, gives the new organization a comprehensive perspective on both environmental and resource systems,” added former USGS director Charles Groat. “If we effectively link these capabilities with those of NOAA, we will have a powerful research institution.”

The authors say ESSA should be linked with the countries universities to take advantage of scientific talenet. The recommend that at least 25 percent of the new agency’s budget be devoted to grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements with academic and nonprofit institutions.

“ESSA’s effectiveness will depend upon the bridges it builds to other federal agencies, from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and National Science Foundation, to the Department of Energy and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” said former presidential science adviser John H. Gibbons.

The paper concludes by linking investment in R&D to economic growth. In other words, it says that funding for research will create jobs and strengthen the economy.

“The quality of life of future generations will be defined by the quality of the environment we hand down to them,” said Mark Schaefer, a former official at the Department of the Interior and the White House science office. “Our nation’s research and development enterprise must be better structured and directed if we are to have any chance of solving the tremendous environmental challenges of our time.”

Mark Schaefer et al (2008). An Earth Systems Science Agency. 4 JULY 2008 VOL 321 SCIENCE

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