National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
NOAA's mission is to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, the ocean, and coasts; share that knowledge and information with federal agencies, states, and the public; and conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources. As a source of timely and authoritative scientific data and information about climate, and with its ancillary website, Climate.gov, NOAA promotes the public understanding of climate science and climate-related events and is the lead agency for the National Climate Assessment.
Because of its roles as a collector and provider of scientific information and data and as a resource manager and regulator, NOAA plays a critical part in furthering climate mitigation as well as climate adaptation and resilience efforts in the United States. Housed within the Department of Commerce, NOAA had a $5.3 billion discretionary budget and 11,000 FTEs in 2020, representing 60% of the Department’s budget. However, since NOAA was established 50 years ago, more than one Secretary of Commerce has been appointed with little or no knowledge of the NOAA portfolio. Given its essential role as a climate information agency, it will be very important for the new Secretary to be a champion for NOAA and its climate data and services.
NOAA’s goal in a new administration should be to expand and make climate data, products, and services even more easy to access and use, provide climate-related support to state and local governments as well as to the private sector, and connect people making specific adaptation and planning decisions with the tools and resources they need. At the same time, NOAA should expand both mitigation and adaptation opportunities to coastal communities and fisheries by expanding coastal resiliency and blue carbon habitat restoration efforts, and by establishing a mandate for climate-ready fisheries.
Although public trust in NOAA was somewhat eroded during the current administration and will need to be restored under new leadership, the agency is generally trusted by the public and should build on this to expand the services they provide.