The United States' top weather, climate and ocean science agency – NOAA – will not drop "climate" from its mission statement nor will it de-emphasize research into climate change and resource conservation, the agency said Monday.
This follows a report Sunday from a science advocacy group, the Union of Concerned Scientists, that said the acting head of NOAA, Rear Admiral Timothy Gallaudet, proposed a new mission statement for the agency — one the Union said would "undermine the agency’s vital work on behalf of the American people."
The first line of NOAA's mission statement is "to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts." According to the Union, Gallaudet proposed last week that it be changed to "observe, understand and predict atmospheric and ocean conditions."
He also proposed the agency add a new emphasis "to protect lives and property, empower the economy, and support homeland and national security,” the Union said. This would replace an emphasis on conserving and managing coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.
However, in a statement Monday, Gallaudet said 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 said that along with Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and the Department of Commerce, he supports NOAA's climate and conservation emphasis and also is "fully aware of the congressional mandates and will continue to adhere to them.”
Andrew Rosenberg, director of the center for science and democracy at the Union, said if the proposal were enacted it would be "a shocking change in the mission of one of the nation’s premier scientific agencies.
“Understanding the changing climate is becoming more critical by the day, as the effects of global warming mount, and it’s essential to protecting our economy and security," he added.
Jane Lubchenco, the first head of NOAA under President Obama, tweeted Monday that redefining NOAA’s mission would be "a serious threat to the breadth of science, services and stewardship that NOAA provides."
Gallaudet is still NOAA's acting administrator. He remains in charge because AccuWeather's Barry Myers, President Trump's choice to head NOAA, is still unconfirmed by the Senate.