People hold signs as they listen to a group of scientists speak during a rally on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in San Francisco. Image: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP


SEATTLE — Climate scientists throughout the federal government are fearing an onslaught of budget cuts and censorship policies from the President Donald Trump administration, with sweeping changes expected governing how climate science is funded and communicated to the public...

Some of this has already begun. On Monday, scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency were told not to talk to the press, and a similar order was reportedly sent out to employees of the Agriculture Department, which includes the U.S. Forest Service.

However, one of the largest agencies involved in weather and climate research may have a slightly brighter outlook when it comes to allowing scientists to conduct their work without political interference or censorship. 

Prior to voting to confirm Wilbur Ross, President Donald Trump's choice to be secretary of Commerce, Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said he had secured a written commitment from him to protect the work of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) climate scientists. 

NOAA is responsible for monitoring and researching everything from the oceans to space weather, and it includes the National Weather Service as well as offices that monitor and communicate climate science findings. 

For example, it was NOAA (along with NASA) that announced last week that 2016 was the hottest year on record for the globe, due in large part to human emissions of greenhouse gases from burning coal, oil and natural gas. 

The head of a glacier at Lutzow-Holm Bay, Antarctica seen on Jan. 22, 2017, where a Japanese observation team is involved in research on global warming.

The head of a glacier at Lutzow-Holm Bay, Antarctica seen on Jan. 22, 2017, where a Japanese observation team is involved in research on global warming. Image: Kyodo

In response to a letter from Nelson, who is the ranking member on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which oversees NOAA, Ross wrote:

"I would say that we are in complete agreement that the Department of Commerce should continue to research, monitor and report weather and climate information because that information is essential to everyday commerce and the safety of our citizens and communities." 

Nelson's letter specifically mentioned the threat Florida faces from climate change-induced sea level rise, which is already causing flooding in Miami Beach throughout the year, for example. 

Importantly, Ross said he would not address human-caused climate change in his letter, saying, "Let me preface the following by suggesting that we put aside for now the question of what is causing these changes, and agree to focus on addressing the impacts of those changes." 

In congressional testimony, none of Trump's cabinet nominees fully agreed with the mainstream scientific consensus that human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases are the dominant cause of global warming, and that acting to reduce such emissions is imperative in order to limit climate change impacts, from sea level rise to deadly heat waves. 

Instead, they each denied that climate change is a hoax and that humans do play a role in causing widespread changes to the climate, which conflicts with President Trump's views on the issue. Trump has maintained that global warming is a hoax.

NOAA visualization showing global temperature changes from 1880 to 2016.

NOAA visualization showing global temperature changes from 1880 to 2016. Image: noaa

Ross offered Senator Nelson assurances that he would not hinder NOAA's science research or its communication of such research. 

"I look forward to learning about NOAA's ongoing efforts to assist coastal communities in coping with changes in sea level rise and storm intensity. As you know from my hearing responses, I believe science should be left to scientists," he said. 

Ross continued:

"If confirmed, I intend to see that the Department provides the public with as much factual and accurate data as we have available. It is public tax dollars that support the Department's scientific research, and barring some national security concern, I see no valid reason to keep peer reviewed research from the public." 

"To be clear, by peer review I mean scientific review and not a political filter. In closing, if confirmed, I want to ensure the Department continues to attract Nobel-prize winning scientists and remains a global leader in all of the research it conducts. The Department's responsibilities are many and the public deserves to see them executed at a world class level."

In response to Ross' assurances, Nelson said he hopes the White House does not overrule the likely new Commerce secretary by stifling science communication from the agency. 

"I received his response last night and I’m pleased to report that, if confirmed, he has committed to me that he intends to leave science to the scientists and to support their ability to disseminate peer reviewed data to the public," Nelson said in a statement. "He also assured me that the Department of Commerce, under his leadership, will continue to research, monitor, and report climate information to the public."

"While I welcome his commitment, it’s my hope that the White House will not hamstring Mr. Ross in carrying out this pledge," Nelson said.

Hundreds of NOAA's scientists are here in Seattle at the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society (AMS), where scientists have told Mashable that the only thing that is certain is that changes are ahead.


Jan 24, 2017


original story HERE


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