People, Environment

Future of NOAA Uncertain

Future of NOAA UncertainFuture of NOAA Uncertain

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is home to the world’s largest repository of climate data.

It houses data from the United States and from other countries, many of which rely on NOAA’s archives to understand everything from the shifting global climate, to the health of fisheries, to ocean chemistry, to the paleoclimatic record, including million-year-old tree rings, Quartz reported.

Its records serve as the backbone of scientific evidence of human-induced global warming.

“The archive spans data that goes well over a hundred years,” says Scott Stephens, a NOAA meteorologist. “Especially for the US, there’s data that goes back almost to Independence.”

Now, all that is in the hands of Kenneth Haapala, selected by US president Donald Trump to help appoint top administrators at NOAA. Haapala serves on the transition team for the US Department of Commerce, which oversees the agency. He is also an unabashed climate-change denier.

Haapala is a policy expert at the Heartland Institute, a conservative group that has equated belief in climate change with terrorism and mass murder.

The institute has also worked to influence public school curriculums away from teaching about climate change as a manmade reality. The group has been financed in part by donations from foundations tied to Koch Industries, a major oil refiner.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and House Representative Raul Grijalva, both Democrats, wrote a letter to Trump last week, opposing Haapala’s appointment and citing his work downplaying the threat of sea level rise.

“We urge you to remove Mr. Haapala and any others who share his discredited views on climate science from the DOC landing team. He certainly does not understand or appreciate NOAA’s mission and therefore is unfit to serve in any capacity that oversees operations or personnel decisions at the agency,” the congressmen wrote.

Nevertheless, Haapala is expected to choose NOAA’s leadership once the Senate votes on billionaire investor Wilbur Ross, Trump’s choice for secretary of commerce. 

Ross, however, has pledged during his confirmation hearing to support NOAA’s scientific research and advocate that it continues to be accessible to the public.

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