Quantcast

Could Proposed Mission Statement Changes Shake NOAA’s Climate Focus?

Politics
A cyclone over the U.S. captured by a NOAA satellite. NOAA

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is the foremost U.S. agency focusing on weather, climate and oceans, reassured reporters Monday that it would not shift its focus away from climate change and conservation after a presentation last week suggested it might do exactly that, USA Today reported.


Last week, acting NOAA head Rear Admiral Timothy Gallaudet spoke at a Department of Commerce summit and proposed removing "climate" from NOAA's current mission statement and replacing its directive "to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources" with one "To protect lives and property, empower the economy, and support homeland and national security," the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) reported Sunday.

"This is a shocking change in the mission of one of the nation's premier scientific agencies," director of the Center for Science and Democracy at UCS and former NOAA scientist Andrew Rosenberg said.

But in a statement reported Monday by USA Today, Gallaudet said the proposal did not signal a shift in the work NOAA would do, saying the proposal "was not intended to exclude NOAA's important climate and conservation efforts, which are essential for protecting lives and the environment. Nor should this presentation be considered a final, vetted proposal."

The first bullet point in NOAA's mission statement currently reads,"To understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts." The proposal would have changed it to, "To observe, understand and predict atmospheric and ocean conditions."

The New York Times pointed out that NOAA, which is part of the Department of Commerce, has its mission and budget defined by Congress, and making any major changes might require congressional approval.

Gallaudet told USA Today he was "fully aware of the congressional mandates and will continue to adhere to them."

NOAA uses satellites to track weather and climate, and its work has made it one of the most important U.S. agencies for understanding climate change, according to The New York Times. It also helps tracks extreme weather like hurricanes and El Niño events and manages the nation's fisheries.

National Center for Atmospheric Research scientist Kevin Trenberth expressed concern about the proposed shift in language away from conservation. "Instead of protecting and preserving ecosystems, it is one of exploitation," he told The New York Times. "The latter is especially offensive and shortsighted."

The proposed language change echoes President Donald Trump's recent executive order setting a new national oceans policy. That order also removed the climate language from former President Barack Obama's executive order on oceans and replaced references to conservation and stewardship with an emphasis on national security and economic growth.

"This is another unconscionable action taken by the administration under the guise of national security," Rosenberg said of the proposed language change to NOAA's mission.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Stuart Braun

A year after activist Greta Thunberg first stood in the rain outside the Swedish parliament with her now iconic "Skolstrejk för klimatet" — school strike for the climate — placard, the movement she spawned has set the tone for environmental protest action around the world.

Read More Show Less
Bruno Vincent / Staff / Getty Images

Toy maker Hasbro wants to play in the eco-packaging game. The board game giant will ditch its plastic packaging by 2022. The move means that games like Monopoly, Scrabble and Operation will no longer have shrink wrap, window sheets, plastic bags or elastic bands, as the Associated Press reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Vaping impaired the circulatory systems of people in a new study. bulentumut / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Vaping one time — even without nicotine — can damage blood vessels, reduce blood flow and create dangerous toxins, according to a new study published in the journal Radiology.

Read More Show Less
A man spreads pesticides on a plantation of vegetables in Rio de Janeiro Brazil. Ze Martinusso / Moment Open / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

Pointing to the deaths of more than half a billion bees in Brazil over a period of just four months, beekeepers, experts and activists are raising concerns about the soaring number of new pesticides greenlighted for use by the Brazilian government since far-right President Jair Bolsonaro took office in January — and the threat that it poses to pollinators, people and the planet.

Read More Show Less
SHEALAH CRAIGHEAD

By Elliott Negin

On July 19, President Trump hosted Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins and their families, along with the family of their deceased colleague Neil Armstrong, at a White House event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first manned landing on the moon.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
The study looked at three groups of diverse lizards from South America. Daniel Pincheira-Donoso
  1. Cold-climate lizards that give live birth to their offspring are more likely to be driven to extinction than their egg-laying cousins as global temperatures continue to rise, new research suggests.
Read More Show Less
Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Denmark isn't interested in selling Greenland to the U.S., so now President Trump doesn't want to visit.

Read More Show Less
A stock photo of fire in the Amazon; a record number of fires have burned there this year. Brasil2 / E+ / Getty Images

There are a record number of wildfires burning in the Amazon rainforest, Brazil's space agency has said. Their smoke is visible from space and shrouded the city of São Paulo in darkness for about an hour Monday afternoon, CBS news reported.

Read More Show Less