Chairman Serrano Statement at Hearing on the Changing Climate System and the Role of Climate Research

2019-02-26 12:25

Congressman José E. Serrano (D-NY), Chair of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on "Understanding the Changing Climate and the Role of Climate Research":

Good morning, and welcome to our first CJS hearing of the 116th Congress.

First, I would like to recognize and congratulate my friend and colleague, Mr. Aderholt of Alabama, who will serve as Ranking Member. I look forward to working with you this Congress as we make important decisions on what investments to make and continue our vital role in conducting oversight to ensure the executive branch is spending taxpayer dollars wisely and investing in our nation.

I also want to welcome back returning members of the subcommittee, including our Vice Chairman, Mr. Cartwright of Pennsylvania; Ms. Meng from my home state of New York; Ms. Roby of Alabama; and Mr. Palazzo of Mississippi. Members joining us for the first time are Ms. Lawrence of Michigan; Mr. Crist of Florida; Mr. Case of Hawaii; Ms. Kaptur of Ohio, who in her spare time chairs the Energy and Water Subcommittee; and last but not least, Mr. Graves of Georgia, my colleague and Ranking Member of the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee. Welcome, everyone. It is a privilege and honor to serve with you in this Congress. I hope you find the work we do on this subcommittee as rewarding as I have. We will agree and disagree across many areas, but it remains incumbent upon all of us to get a final product out of subcommittee, full committee, and through both chambers of Congress that will make us proud. I remain committed to meeting that challenge head on together.

Now, I want to welcome Dr. Neil Jacobs, who serves as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction and, as of yesterday, NOAA’s Acting Administrator. Congratulations.

In this new role, Dr. Jacobs will oversee NOAA’s $5.4 billion budget which in addition to including NOAA’s sea, air, land, and space observing platforms and the critical environmental data they provide, he will now also cover the wet side of NOAA and all of its work in fisheries and coastal management.

Prior to joining NOAA, Dr. Jacobs served as Chief Atmospheric Scientist at Panasonic Avionics Corporation, was Chair of the American Meteorological Society’s Forecast Improvement Group, and served on the World Meteorological Organization’s aircraft-based observing systems expert team.

Next, I also want to welcome Dr. Michael Freilich, who has served as the Director of NASA’s Earth Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters since 2006. His creative retooling of the Earth Science Division’s approach to research has been widely credited with protecting and enhancing the agency’s vital work. Prior to his tenure at NASA, he spent most of his career as professor and associate dean at Oregon State University’s College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences and member of the Technical Staff at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

Dr. Freilich, it is my understanding that you will soon be retiring from NASA. The agency has giant shoes to fill, given the many years you have dedicated to this field. Thank you for your service to the American people. We wish you well on this new and exciting chapter of your life.

Both NOAA and NASA have critical missions. What they are observing both above and below us is affecting us in many ways. This hearing will help us learn from two leading experts about how our climate is changing, how that will impact our country and economy in the short and long-term, what research these agencies are conducting to help prepare us for the future, and how strategic investments from our subcommittee will help meet those challenges.

Over the weekend, it was reported that the White House plans to name an ad hoc group of scientists with alleged ties to the fossil fuel industry to refute November’s inter-agency National Climate Assessment Report. This unaccountable working group appears set to deliberately cherry-pick data and science with the sole purpose of pushing back against the widely accepted science around climate change. This only serves to diminish the magnitude of this crisis, and it is dangerous. It also undermines the important climate research being conducted by devoted scientists at federal agencies like NOAA and NASA.    

As I have said many times, it is more than evident that our climate is changing and doing so very rapidly. The people of Puerto Rico saw this firsthand as they experienced the largest natural disaster in their history with Hurricane Maria. From the droughts fueling wildfires out west in California to hurricanes devastating the continental southeast, year after year, our earth is experiencing record temperatures that cause extreme weather, affect food supplies, and devastate local economies. The federal government must have the tools and resources it needs to study these changes, so we can prepare and respond accordingly. The CJS subcommittee leads the way in this effort.

Gentlemen, it is a privilege to have you join us for this important discussion and to learn from your expertise on this subject matter from the perspective of the agencies you represent.

116th Congress