Back in October, Barry Myers, the CEO of AccuWeather, was nominated to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Considering that this is the government agency tasked with monitoring weather patterns and climatic extremes, we thought it was a shame that he wasn’t a scientist, but a businessman and lawyer.
Still, it had to be said that he had never once denied climate change’s anthropogenic link, unlike a slew of other key nominations. Now, during a recent confirmation hearing at the Senate, Myers was asked about that very issue, and remarkably, he agreed that humans are the primary drivers of the phenomenon.
Admittedly, it took him some time to confirm that he agreed, but he got there in the end during a somewhat laborious back-and-forth with Democratic Senator Ed Markey.
Senator Markey noted that NOAA scientists are “very fearful that they’re going to be punished” for doing their jobs in the light of the Trump administration. He brought up the recent federal report that conclusively linked humans to the changing climate, and asked Myers if he accepted them.
“I’ve read the reports and I have no reason to disagree with them,” he responded.
“So you agree that humans are the main cause of climate change?” Markey said. After an awkwardly long pause, he added: “Is that what you’re saying?”
“That is what I’m saying, yes,” Myers responded. He even added that NOAA scientists should be allowed to continue their climate work “unfettered” in response to questioning from Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth.
The fact that this is a surprise, and the fact that this is the strongest endorsement of climate science from a key federal nominee to date, is incredibly depressing.
When it comes to President Trump’s nominations to the federal government, you can almost certainly guarantee one of several things: They are incredibly unqualified for the post, they’re proponents of climate change denial, or they’ve spent their lives working in controversial industries that scream conflict of interest.
From the likely future head of NASA to the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), climate change is seen as a bit of a dirty phrase. Sometimes, they go further than just muddying the waters – the underlying science of carbon dioxide is brought into question.
Myers has never taken a position either way on climate change, and AccuWeather is seen as a danger by the state-owned National Weather Service. People were, and will remain, skeptical of this appointment, particularly over his company's views on the privatization of meteorological data.
Yes, his confirmation hearing was atypical, but we'd argue that the appointment of a scientist, particularly at a time when science is under attack, would have been a far better choice.