NOAA chief backs away from comments about climate change

Published on
July 2, 2018

The acting head of the U.S. agency that oversees the country’s oceans policy is downplaying remarks he recently made about climate change.

Last week, The Hill reported that Tim Gallaudet, the acting administrator for NOAA, gave a presentation at a conference put together by the U.S. Commerce Department where he floated a new mission statement for the agency. Gallaudet, a retired Navy rear admiral who also serves as the assistant commerce secretary for oceans and atmosphere, reports to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. 

Currently, NOAA’s mission statement begins with “To understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts.” In his presentation, Gallaudet offered an amended mission statement that read: “to observe, understand and predict atmospheric and ocean conditions.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists released the presentation to the public. After its release, Gallaudet issued a statement saying he intended his remarks to show how NOAA could find new ways to work with in the Commerce Department’s strategic plan. He said his presentation was not to be considered as a finished product, according to The Hill.

“Secretary Ross, the Department, and I support NOAA’s mission to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts; to share that knowledge and information with others; and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources,” Gallaudet said. “We are also fully aware of the congressional mandates and will continue to adhere to them.”

Gallaudet’s remarks come at a time when the Trump administration is either implementing or considering several changes to the country’s fishery management and related policies. The Hill noted Gallaudet also mentioned reducing the seafood trade deficit, which has been a major focus for Ross since he was confirmed as commerce secretary in February 2017.

Last month, President Trump issued an executive order that rescinded a national oceans policy established under President Obama. In addition, Trump is considering making revisions to several national marine monuments, and those revisions could open up opportunities for commercial fishing. The administration also has floated the possibility of merging NOAA Fisheries with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is an agency under the Interior Department.

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