NOAA 2002-155
Contact: Bob Hopkins
NOAA News Releases 2002
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The Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) today announced that retired U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator, will meet with senior leaders from New Zealand and Australia to discuss enhanced cooperation on ocean and climate-related issues in the Southern hemisphere during a week long trip (Nov. 17-23) to that region. The admiral’s main focus for the trip will be promoting international cooperation and support for expanding the present global climate observation system.

“The Southern Pacific and Indian oceans offer critical environmental and climate data that are important to addressing climate change and climate events in that region and beyond,” Lautenbacher said. “As regional leaders, New Zealand and Australia play a key role in building the science base necessary to make informed decisions on climate in this region. We look forward to working with leaders from these countries toward enhancing cooperation on climate change science and expanding the global climate observing system in the Southern hemisphere.”

The global climate observing system is currently a loose configuration of ocean-based data buoys and space-based environmental satellites that monitor the atmosphere and collect climate predication data. The existing system is used to predict climate events such as El Niño and will allow for greater understanding of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the North Atlantic Oscillation and the Indian Ocean Dipole.

A more comprehensive observation network will improve basic understanding of climate change and generate operational forecasts that will allow the nations of the world to set science-based policies that ensure their future health, safety and economic stability.

“Climate cannot be effectively investigated on a piecemeal basis,” Lautenbacher said. “With the support of our international partners, we will be able for the first time in history to take the pulse of Mother Earth and build the detailed science base necessary to develop sound and cost effective public policy on climate change.”

Admiral Lautenbacher has stressed that climate is an economic as well as an environmental issue.

  • Weather and climate-sensitive industries, both directly and indirectly, account for about 25 percent of U.S. GDP or $2.7 trillion.
  • Economists estimate that improved El Niño forecasts in the U.S. are worth nearly $300 million annually and $450-550 million per year worldwide.
  • Losses in U.S. agricultural output from El Niño events alone range from $1.5 to over $6 billion, impacting international pricing and supplies.
  • In the U.S., the 1997-98 El Niño had economic impacts of $25 billion.

The Southern Oceans (Pacific and Indian) are home to many developing island nations whose cultures, traditions and economies are inextricably linked to marine resources and the ocean environment. Australia and New Zealand are global leaders in ocean and marine resource management. During his visit Lautenbacher will also discuss environmental issues that are of critical importance to the nations of this region including preservation of coral reefs, elimination of destructive fishing practices and management of the ocean environment.

The meetings held between Lautenbacher and New Zealand and Australian officials will build on agreements with both countries to address the challenges of climate change and expand cooperation on climate change science, technology and monitoring. The U.S.-Australia Climate Action Partnership was announced in February of this year, stating Australia and the U.S. share the view that there needs to be global action to address climate change and will continue to work together closely to address this long-term challenge. The partnership calls for a work program that includes 19 projects in climate change science and monitoring; renewable and reduced- emission stationary energy technologies; engagement with business on technology development and policy design and implementation; capacity building in developing countries; and greenhouse accounting in the forestry and agriculture sectors.

The U.S. and New Zealand recently announced a bilateral agreement to pursue enhanced climate change cooperation under which they agreed that climate change is a pressing issue that requires a global solution. Both nations declared their intention to continue to work together in the spirit of cooperation and partnership under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Scientific cooperation is seen as particularly valuable in meeting these joint goals, including cooperation on climate change science and monitoring in the Pacific; assistance to developing countries, particularly Pacific Island states; climate change research in Antarctica; cooperation in the development of emission unit registries; greenhouse gas accounting in forestry and agriculture; and technology development aimed at carbon reduction technologies.

During this trip, Lautenbacher will visit Wellington, New Zealand, and meet with senior officials to discuss cooperation on climate change science, ocean and fisheries policy, meteorology, and cooperation with nations in the region.

In Australia, Lautenbacher will visit Melbourne, Canberra and Townsville and meet with senior officials to discuss scientific cooperation on a global observing system, regional cooperation, ocean, and fisheries policies. The trip will conclude with a visit to Townsville to meet with stakeholders, managers and researchers to discuss coral reef management and community partnerships.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources.

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