This Mother Jones article discusses why NOAA is in a “Holding Pattern” – climate change denial and Trump.
After spending two years in confirmation purgatory, Barry Myers, the Trump nominee to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), asked the White House last week to rescind his nomination. Myers explained that he needed to step down because of recent cancer surgery and chemotherapy, but his nomination has been stunted by controversy from the start. Now the 11,000-employee agency, which is part of the US Department of Commerce and charged with tracking the weather and collecting scientific data on the nation’s coastlines, will face its third year without a permanent director.
Former NOAA senior official Andrew Rosenberg, who now directs the the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, says this means that the agency could remain paralyzed, its employees made wary by the fact that the interim head, atmospheric scientist Neil Jacobs, could be gone without warning. “NOAA people do their jobs really carefully and with great passion,” Rosenberg says. “But you want to know you have the backing of the agency to really deeply engage in your work. That becomes more difficult when you don’t have someone with the authority.” Especially after two years grappling with the troubling possibility of a Myers confirmation.
The head of NOAA has never been a particularly contentious presidential appointment—the two preceding directors were voted in by unanimous consent in the Senate—but Myers was a notable exception. Before his nomination by President Donald Trump, Myers was CEO of AccuWeather, a company that sells weather forecasting technology—much of which is sourced from NOAA’s raw data. The Washington Post reported that AccuWeather has consistently peddled climate denialism since at least the mid-1990s, when it worked with the fossil fuel–backed Global Climate Coalition. While CEO, Myers heavily lobbied to privatize NOAA’s data, largely to ensure his own venture could remain competitive in the face of NOAA’s free and easily accessible data. His lobbying raised initial concerns about his ability to run the government agency without injecting policies that would benefit the weather forecasting industry.