Oklahoma Delegation, OU Professor Speak On Capitol Hill For Climate Data Equity

Wednesday, April 21st 2021, 5:30 pm


The weather teams at News on 6 and News 9 work hard each day to make sure Oklahomans have the most accurate information about the current weather and what to expect in the days ahead. Now Congress is trying to make sure Americans have accurate information about the changing climate -- and they're getting help from Oklahomans.

The House Science Subcommittee on the Environment held a hearing Wednesday on climate equity - the idea that, as the changing climate takes an increasingly greater economic toll on the nation, Americans need equal access to trustworthy climate data.

"We’ve all seen the impacts of severe weather," said Dr. Jeffrey Basara, researcher and Associate Professor of Meteorology at the University of Oklahoma.

Whether it's landfalling hurricanes, excessive rainfall, flooding, drought, heat waves, or extended cold snaps, Basara said the cost of extreme events has been steadily increasing.

"In terms of billion-dollar events in the United States," Basara testified, "In 2020 alone, we saw, as a country, 22 events with a price tag, from these events alone, of nearly $100 billion."

Dr. Basara testified virtually to the subcommittee about the integration of federal, state and local climate data, and how agricultural producers, in particular, could benefit from a more seamless system.

"In Oklahoma, today, agricultural producers are walking their fields, in the process of determining what the impact of a late-season freeze, just this morning, means to their 2021 livelihoods,” Basara said.

Democratic leaders are looking at possibly creating a federal climate service to give end-users a central location for climate data. This move is viewed with skepticism by subcommittee ranking member Rep. Stephanie Bice.

"I'm hopeful today's discussion will focus on what information and data localities need," said Rep. Bice, (R) OK-5, in her opening statement, "not just increasing bureaucracy with another government agency or service."

Rep. Frank Lucas, (R) OK-3, ranking member of the full Science Committee, chimed in, saying while he welcomes enhancing programs and agencies already out there, "I caution against inflating this to establishing a federalized climate service."