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Bedford state representative seeks independence for climatologist post that’s unfilled

BOSTON, MA – January 13, 2021: The Massachusetts State House in Boston, Massachusetts. (Staff photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)
BOSTON, MA – January 13, 2021: The Massachusetts State House in Boston, Massachusetts. (Staff photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)
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BEDFORD — The position has not been fully funded or filled since it was established, but state Rep. Ken Gordon on Wednesday made a case for moving the office of the state climatologist out of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs secretariat and giving it independence.

The Bedford Democrat pitched the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture on his bill, which would not only make the office independent but would also expand the potential pool of candidates for the job to include the entire University of Massachusetts system rather than just the Amherst flagship campus.

“The independent status of this office is really crucial and significant. It’s important in this day and age, we need look no further than the last administration in Washington where we saw that climate data and climate information was being used in a political way, and people were being influenced in an administration out of a political agenda. I think that our residents and our government officials, including our members of our Legislature, ourselves, are entitled to have independent advice when it comes to the very important issues of climate change.”

Under Gordon’s bill, the office would be charged with conducting climate research, analyzing climate data, coordinating with like-minded federal agencies, and educating the public on climate-related matters.

In 2014, Gov. Deval Patrick announced plans to partner with UMass Amherst’s Northeast Climate Science Center to appoint a state climatologist to help the state and communities understand risks.

Patrick touted the inclusion of $200,000 for the office when he signed the fiscal 2015 budget, but soon thereafter had to cut $125,000 during his own midyear “9C” cuts in November.

When Gov. Charlie Baker took office in early 2015 and had to make his own 9C cuts, he eliminated the remainder of the funding for the office, the News Service reported.

Gordon said securing funding for the state climatologist would be “an independent challenge” and said he plans to request an appropriation for it during the next state budget process.