Western Governors agree: climate change is real, and we need info

The Western Governors’ Association is hoping to take some common sense steps to prepare for the disruptions that come with climate change. The WGA has announced that it needs help from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an agency that is under attack from some Republicans in Congress.

The WGA – represented predominantly by Republicans – signed a Memorandum of Understanding supporting the climate research that NOAA conducts – research that is vital for states to plan for the impacts of climate change.  While this might not be a big deal in the grand scheme of things, the shift in the tone reflects attention to addressing problems rather than politicizing them.  In spite of continuous attacks on NOAA’s climate science, including slashing funding for the program, these governors are telling Congress that they need the information that NOAA provides to keep their communities, lands, and waters safe from the effects of climate-driven drought, fire, and pest outbreaks.

With floods devastating towns and farms in North Dakota, and wildfires burning across vast swaths of Arizona and New Mexico, the need for clear, actionable science on climate change is obvious.  The attacks on NOAA’s climate science come in tandem with other attacks on programs within the Departments of Agriculture and Homeland Security specifically designed to deal with climate preparedness.  Even as millions of acres turn from green to red from beetle kills, climate deniers in Congress are actively eliminating programs to keep our watersheds healthy, our food supply sustainable and our national security safe in the face of climate change.

The Western Governors are right – good decisions begin with good information.  Extreme climate-driven disasters are no longer surprises – they are foreseeable, and their impacts can be lessened by smart planning.  “Be prepared” is as good a guide to the behavior of government officials as it is to the Boy Scouts, and it’s the approach of the WGA going forward.