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President Biden nominates Rick Spinrad as head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the government’s leading climate science agency that oversees the National Meteorological Service.
Prior to his current role as Professor of Oceanography at Oregon State University, Spinrad was a NOAA Chief Scientist under President Obama and a U.S. representative on the United Nations Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.
The nomination comes at a difficult time in the history of NOAA. The agency has been left without an official, a leader confirmed by the Senate since former President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, after his two candidates to run the agency failed to garner enough support to win a full vote before the Senate.
If Spinrad succeeds in winning over the Senate, he will have to contend with a challenge beyond the agency’s already rigorous scientific mandate: restoring public confidence in a traditionally apolitical agency marred by a political scandal.
In September 2019, then-President Trump wrongly said that Alabama was in the projected trajectory Hurricane Dorian. He continued to repeat the claim for several days, including during the Oval Office’s briefing on the storm – in which he presented the official map of the National Meteorological Service, on which he extended the projected storm to Alabama with a black mark. .
After the closure of the office of the National Meteorological Service in Birmingham tweet stating exactly that Alabama will not feel the effects of the storm, NOAA reported unsigned defense the president’s claims and the reprimands of her professional staff who issued the message.
Dan Sobien, then president of the National Organization of Weather Service Employees, he said at the time that “diligent NWS employees had nothing to do with the extremely disgusting and obscene tweet sent by the NOAA leadership.”
If confirmed, Spinrad will run an agency of 12,000 people in charge of a diverse portfolio that includes daily weather forecasts, climate monitoring, fisheries management and coastal renewal.
In statement, Eric Schwaab of the Environmental Protection Fund welcomed the Spinrad nomination, saying NOAA workers “cannot look for a better leader who would restore scientific integrity and honor the agency’s mission.”
Biden, whose administration focused the action on climate, proposed the largest budget in the history of NOAA – 6.9 billion dollars, which is an increase of 1.5 billion dollars compared to the budget for 2021 allocated by the Congress. It remains to be seen whether Congress will agree to the increase.