Perhaps the White House wasn’t paying close attention when they picked Barry Myers to run the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). During Myers’ confirmation hearing on Wednesday, he repeatedly expressed support for climate science research, and admitted that a recent federal assessment clearly indicated that the vast majority of global warming is due to human activities.
This puts Myers, the former CEO of AccuWeather, out of step with other high-profile President Donald Trump nominees, including Jim Bridenstine, Trump’s pick to lead NASA.
NOAA, nestled within the Commerce Department, forecasts the nation’s weather, governs marine fisheries, and researches the global climate. Along with NASA and the Energy Department, NOAA is one of the largest funders of climate research in the government, and operates a slew of laboratories studying the subject.
At the hearing, Democratic senators questioned Myers’ commitment to climate science research and recognition of the scientific consensus on this issue.
Unlike Bridenstine, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, among others, Myers aligned himself with the scientists whose work he likely will soon oversee.
In an exchange with Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Myers admitted that a recent federal climate assessment was right in pinning the blame for recent global warming on human emissions of greenhouse gases. However, he did so reluctantly.
“I’ve read the reports and I have no reason to disagree with them,” Myers said.
“So does that mean you agree with them?” Markey asked.
“I agree with the reports that they’re based on quality peer reviewed research which is something I strongly support,” Myers said, still dancing around the question a bit.
But Markey wouldn’t let it go. “So then you agree that humans are the main cause of climate change?”
This was followed by a five-second-long period of awkward silence.
“Is that what you’re saying?” Markey asked.
“That is what I’m saying,” Myers finally stated.
Later in the hearing, Myers further discussed his climate science views while endorsing the dissemination of NOAA climate science findings to the public.
“I fully support the ability, as I said, of scientists to do their work unfettered,” Myers said.
At some federal agencies under Trump appointees, including the Interior Department, climate researchers have been reassigned to unrelated work without cause, leading to low morale and resignations.
“That this information needs to then be made available, the science should take us wherever it takes us,” Myers said. “We can’t dispute the facts once they’re in front of us and we need to act upon them.”