There is something unusual about the Trump administration’s appointment of NOAA’s new deputy administrator: He believes climate change is real. Tim Gallaudet was nominated to be deputy administrator at NOAA last week. He will take the No. 2 slot at the agency if confirmed by the Senate.
(From Climatewire / by Scott Waldman) — What’s notable about Gallaudet’s appointment as assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere is that it breaks a pattern by the administration of picking critics of climate science.
Unlike other appointees, Gallaudet is a scientist with expertise in his field. He’s was an oceanographer in the Navy, and he holds a doctorate in marine acoustics from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. And he has extensive experience tracking the risks posed by climate change to the Department of Defense. Gallaudet retired from the Navy as a rear admiral on Aug. 31 after serving for 32 years.
Gallaudet’s scientific background and proficiency in oceanography and meteorology make him well-qualified to serve as deputy administrator, said retired Rear Adm. Jon White, the former chief oceanographer of the Navy and president of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership.
Despite the political fights in Washington, the Navy’s oceanographer is tasked with looking at the threat of sea-level rise on military installations and the impacts of catastrophic weather events around the globe, White said. Gallaudet won’t discount the importance of considering climate change, he said.
“He brings in a balanced perspective of understanding that climate science and looking at climate change is very important, but there are other very important parts of NOAA’s mission, whether it’s hazardous weather warnings, something that’s very near and dear to all of our hearts right now, to looking at the oversight of fisheries,” White said.
White has been mentioned as a potential candidate to be the next NOAA administrator, a position the administration has yet to announce. White said he has not heard anything recently but would accept the role if it were offered.
The Trump administration has stacked agencies with political leaders who often question mainstream climate science. The heads of U.S. EPA, the Interior Department and the Energy Department have all expressed doubt about the findings of scientists housed in their own agencies, related to human-caused warming.
Gallaudet’s appointment doesn’t signal a sea change at the White House. At the same time he was appointed, the White House selected Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R) to head NASA. Bridenstine, the first politician nominated as a permanent head of the nation’s premier science agency, has blamed the sun for global warming and once asked President Obama to apologize for spending so much money on climate science.
In about a week, Trump will match the George W. Bush administration for waiting the longest to appoint an NOAA administrator. By contrast, Obama nominated an NOAA head before his inauguration. The absence occurs as NOAA has warned of an unusually active hurricane season. Those forecasts have gained credibility after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas and as Hurricane Irma barrels through the Caribbean toward Florida.
Despite the Trump administration’s questions about climate science, Gallaudet has recently spoken about the need for the federal government to prepare for the dangers of climate change. In an April interview with the “Defense and Aerospace Report,” he pointed to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ statements that such work would not be interrupted even though some in the administration reject basic climate science.
“I’m not really concerned, I don’t think the administration is going to try to counter us on that,” Gallaudet said at the time. “They know and appreciate, I’m sure from the economic standpoint, that we need to understand long-term variability, climate and weather variability, for economic aspects as well as national security aspects.”
A NOAA spokeswoman declined comment on Gallaudet’s appointment, but it was praised by those in the climate and weather prediction field. The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, a nonprofit consortium of more than 100 colleges and universities, said Gallaudet’s expertise made him an ideal choice.
“His understanding of the vital collaborations between NOAA, private forecasting companies, and the academic community can help foster the movement of research to operational forecasting and advance the nation’s weather prediction capabilities,” UCAR President Antonio Busalacchi said in a statement. “Furthermore, his knowledge of Earth system science and his ability to align that science with budget and programs will be essential to moving NOAA forward in the next few years.”
Scott Rayder, a senior adviser to the president at UCAR and a former NOAA chief of staff under Bush, has been mentioned as a possible NOAA administrator, in addition to White, the retired Navy oceanographer. So has Barry Myers, the CEO at AccuWeather Inc.
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