Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

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

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

Air France airplanes parked at the Charles de Gaulle/Roissy airport on March 24, 2020. SAMSON / AFP via Getty Images

France moved one step closer this weekend to banning short-haul flights in an attempt to fight the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
A woman looks at a dead gray whale on the beach in the SF Bay area on May 23, 2019; a new spate of gray whales have been turning up dead near San Francisco. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Four gray whales have washed up dead near San Francisco within nine days, and at least one cause of death has been attributed to a ship strike.

Read More Show Less
Trending
A small tourist town has borne the brunt of a cyclone which swept across the West Australian coast. ABC News (Australia) / YouTube

Tropical Cyclone Seroja slammed into the Western Australian town of Kalbarri Sunday as a Category 3 storm before grinding a more-than 600-mile path across the country's Southwest.

Read More Show Less
A general view shows the remains of a dam along a river in Tapovan, India, on February 10, 2021, following a flash flood caused by a glacier break on February 7. Sajjad Hussain / AFP / Getty Images

By Rishika Pardikar

Search operations are still underway to find those declared missing following the Uttarakhand disaster on 7 February 2021.

Read More Show Less
Indigenous youth, organizers with the Dakota Access and Line 3 pipeline fights and climate activists march to the White House to protest against pipeline projects on April 1, 2021. Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

Indigenous leaders and climate campaigners on Friday blasted President Joe Biden's refusal to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline during a court-ordered environmental review, which critics framed as a betrayal of his campaign promises to improve tribal relations and transition the country to clean energy.

Read More Show Less