Whether you voted red or blue, we can all agree that our current Presidential administration likes big business and big money. Not even decades of science can stand in the way of that. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), our top agency on climate research and climate change, appears to be on the verge of changing course to drive a political agenda.
As snow sports enthusiasts we all look to NOAA for that next big powder day, but their true mission has been “to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts.” A report released on Sunday from the Union of Concerned Scientists revealed some drastic changes are being considered. Rear Admiral Timothy Gallaudet, NOAA’s acting director, has proposed the agency now work to “observe, understand and predict atmospheric and ocean conditions” and “to protect lives and property, empower the economy, and support homeland and national security.” Federal agencies shift focus all the time from one president to another but rarely this drastically.
How is an agency that studies climate suddenly going to become an economic and national security department? Are we going to wake up tomorrow, check the weather, and see a stock ticker instead? Probably not. It’s not clear if this proposed shift can or will happen at all. Congress drives much of the agencies focus and their budget, so this could all be another case of the Trump administration not understanding how our government works. The Republican party has often criticized the climate change research done under the Obama administration, so a drastic policy change from congress wouldn’t seem out of the question.
After much backlash to the report from inside and outside the agency, NOAA released a statement Monday confirming they are still focused on conservation and climate change research. Admiral Gallaudet clarified that his 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.” He and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross confirmed they were aware of the 127 congressional mandates governing NOAA and had no intention to break them. It smells like damage control but hopefully these are true statements.
I hope this is just another Trump storm that will quickly blow over. If they’re are dramatic changes to NOAA, it’s unlikely they’ll happen overnight and even more unlikely the research will stop in the face of a little red tape. Maybe Trump will finally listen up to the facts when one of his oceanfront golf courses is under water.