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.

A dugong, also called a sea cow, swims with golden pilot jacks near Marsa Alam, Egypt, Red Sea. Alexis Rosenfeld / Getty Images

In 2010, world leaders agreed to 20 targets to protect Earth's biodiversity over the next decade. By 2020, none of them had been met. Now, the question is whether the world can do any better once new targets are set during the meeting of the UN Convention on Biodiversity in Kunming, China later this year.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

President Joe Biden signs executive orders in the State Dining Room at the White House on Jan. 22, 2021 in Washington, DC. Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images

By Andrew Rosenberg

The first 24 hours of the administration of President Joe Biden were filled not only with ceremony, but also with real action. Executive orders and other directives were quickly signed. More actions have followed. All consequential. Many provide a basis for not just undoing actions of the previous administration, but also making real advances in public policy to protect public health, safety, and the environment.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Melting ice forms a lake on free-floating ice jammed into the Ilulissat Icefjord during unseasonably warm weather on July 30, 2019 near Ilulissat, Greenland. Sean Gallup / Getty Images

A first-of-its-kind study has examined the satellite record to see how the climate crisis is impacting all of the planet's ice.

Read More Show Less
Probiotic rich foods. bit245 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Ana Maldonado-Contreras

Takeaways

  • Your gut is home to trillions of bacteria that are vital for keeping you healthy.
  • Some of these microbes help to regulate the immune system.
  • New research, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, shows the presence of certain bacteria in the gut may reveal which people are more vulnerable to a more severe case of COVID-19.

You may not know it, but you have an army of microbes living inside of you that are essential for fighting off threats, including the virus that causes COVID-19.

Read More Show Less
Michael Mann photo inset by Joshua Yospyn.

By Jeff Masters, Ph.D.

The New Climate War: the fight to take back our planet is the latest must-read book by leading climate change scientist and communicator Michael Mann of Penn State University.

Read More Show Less