Trump nominee agrees man is main cause of climate change

A man nominated by President Donald Trump to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said today he agrees that humans are the main cause of climate change – a departure from the administration’s questioning of the extent of mans’ contribution.

Barry Myers, an attorney and CEO of the private forecasting company AccuWeather, made the acknowledgement during a U.S. Senate hearing of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

NOAA oversees the National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center, but is also responsible for fisheries management, coastal restoration, protecting ocean ecosystems, climate science and developing and maintaining satellites.

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Hurricanes Katia, Irma and Jose all spun simultaneously in September 2017.

Myers, who founded the Pennsylvania-based AccuWeather with his brothers, was at first hesitant to answer a question about his stance on climate change when asked by U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass.

Markey asked if Myers agreed that humans are the main cause of climate change, which was the candid conclusion given in studies released as part of this month’s federal Climate Science Report.

“I have read the reports and have no reason to disagree with them,” Myers said.

“So you agree that humans are the main cause of climate change,” Markey pressed.

“That is what I’m saying,” Myers answered.

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In June, Trump withdrew from the Paris climate accord, which is an international agreement to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

“I’m not a big believer in man-made climate change,” Trump told The Miami Herald in August 2016. “There could be some impact, but I don’t believe it’s a devastating impact.”

Myers’ nomination is a concern to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who fears a conflict of interest between a private businessman who built AccuWeather into a powerful weather forecasting company and NOAA.

HOUSTON, TX – AUGUST 29: People make their way out of a flooded neighborhood after it was inundated with rain water following Hurricane Harvey on August 29, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Nelson, who is the ranking member on the committee, said Myers supported a 2005 bill that would have prohibited the National Weather Service from offering a product or service that could be provided by the private sector.

This was a “provision that would have directly benefited AccuWeather,” Nelson said. “If the bill had passed, Americans’ access to free and lifesaving government weather forecasts would have been placed at risk.”

Myers said he would resign his position at AccuWeather and divest all holdings in the company.

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“I have made it clear to my brothers that we may see each other at Thanksgiving and we can talk about football and family, but we cannot talk about NOAA,” Myers said. “I am very principled in these regards.”

Myers sought to convince the committee that he would not allow politics to interfere with scientific research, would not allow scientists to be bullied, and would not undermine climate change studies.

“I fully support the ability of scientists to do their work unfettered,” Myers said in response to questioning from Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.

Heavy seas are causing erosion at Midtown Beach in Palm Beach on Thursday, October 5, 2017.  (Joseph Forzano / The Palm Beach Post)

Still, opponents to his nomination include the National Weather Service Employees Organization, the Ocean Conservancy, Greenpeace USA and the Sierra Club.

“As you know, this position has traditionally been filled by a pre-eminent scientist, and by that standard alone, Mr. Myers is wholly unqualified for the job,” wrote Richard J. Hirn, counsel and legislative director for the weather service employees organization.

Committee member Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, said 40 letters of support were submitted favoring Myers, including from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

A warming planet and sea level rise is of particular concern to Florida, which is already seeing an increase in “sunny day” flooding when high tides inundate streets in the fall.

Between 2015 and 2060, South Florida seas could swell between 11 and 22 inches, based on estimates from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

By 2100, they could rise from 28 inches to 57 inches – between 2.3 feet and 4.7 feet.

If the worst-case scenarios hold true, nearly half of the president’s Mar-a-Lago estate would be underwater in 84 years, with the brackish Intracoastal Waterway invading from the west.

The blush-colored mansion itself, built in 1927 by Marjorie Merriweather Post, doesn’t succumb until 6 feet of sea level rise occurs, according to a NOAA tool that visualizes sea-level rise.

President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate is about 15 feet above sea level, but would begin suffering impacts if the water level rose 3 feet.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ Palm Beach mansion is also threatened by rising seas. It sits about 4.3 feet above sea level on the Intracoastal.

“We need a NOAA administrator who will do what is very best for the American people,” Nelson said. “I want to hear more on how you plan to avoid conflicts and safeguard the critical mission of the agency.”

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