A school of baitfish swims off the coast of Biddeford, Maine, in this Sept. 3, 2018 file photo. Research shows that growth rates of phytoplankton, the primary food source of small fish and crustaceans, is slowing down in the Gulf of Maine, posing challenges for the rest of the ecosystem. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, files)

USA - We would be sailing blind without the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, climate research

In the case of NOAA, the House wants to slash funding by more than $920 million from current levels, an unwarranted 14 percent cut.

This summer, land temperatures reached record highs, putting a brutal heat dome over 116 million Americans, fueling massive wildfires and prompting warnings to stay indoors. Likewise, at sea, marine heat wave conditions are now encompassing 44 percent of our ocean globally, bleaching our coral reefs and propelling the migration of fish populations.

So much of our understanding of these weather events and how to respond, are possible because of our nation’s deep investment in long-term scientific monitoring and analysis of the land and ocean. And while the brutal temperatures feel like a wake up call, we’ve known these conditions were coming, projected through decades of research by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Day in and day out, NOAA works to understand and predict changes in our climate, weather, ocean and coasts, to share that information with others, and lead our country’s response to these forces. They are both our intelligence and ground troops against the threats of our climate.

Yet this knowledge gathering and sharing—that helps communities, ecosystems, and industries prepare and adapt —continues to be threatened by House Republicans in Congress.

Their latest ploy, the House of Representatives appropriations bills for fiscal year 2024, is littered with funding cuts and policy riders that put into question whether some policymakers are experiencing the same extreme weather conditions as other Americans. In the case of NOAA, the House wants to slash funding by more than $920 million from current levels, an unwarranted 14 percent cut.

Even more troubling, the bill includes language that would ban NOAA from conducting any climate change-related fisheries research and blocks funds for broader climate change research for the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

A ban on studying climate change does not make the issue disappear. It only makes us less prepared to protect our communities, to steward our ecosystems and resources, and ensure our ocean economy thrives long-term.

The reality is, the effects of climate change have become interwoven into every aspect of our natural world and ocean. We have to understand what is happening, if we are to protect our ocean and help our marine resources adapt.

Consider fisheries alone. Some of the biggest concerns to our fish populations are being driven by the rise in ocean temperatures, as our ocean absorbs the excessive amount of greenhouse gasses we have emitted into the atmosphere. Over the past 45 years, species like black sea bass and American lobster have shifted their ranges over a hundred miles north in search of cooler, more agreeable water temperatures to feed and spawn. Other stocks, like winter flounder in the northeast, have become less productive as waters have warmed.  And yet, there is so much more we need to understand about the nearly 500 species managed in U.S. federal waters. Taking climate out of the research for NOAA fisheries, would maim even its ability to do basic research.

This too will have a ripple effect on our nation’s fishing industry, an industry that supports 1.7 million good-paying jobs and $117 billion in GDP. Consider the snow crab fishery in Alaska that collapsed in 2022, devastating an industry worth $200 million and coastal communities such as St. Paul Island.

Research helps us understand and often predict changes so that we can get ahead of the extremes through smart policies and management decisions, and implementing effective resiliency projects that will lead to adaptive coastlines and ecosystems. Ultimately this can help us stave off any irreversible consequences.

It cannot be understated that this same research is what keeps our communities resilient as well. The USGCRP is our country’s premier scientific body that leads the analysis and synthesis of climate change research, providing decision makers, industries, and everyday people with modeling and predictions about what we can expect from a changing climate and opportunities to mitigate or adapt to these changes. Cutting funding to the USGCRP will only harm our national security, food security and put jobs and lives at risk.

I hope Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Reps. Kay Granger (R-Texas) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) consider the climate realities we are sailing into over the next few years and decades—we cannot help communities and our fisheries prepare and adapt without the knowledge to understand and predict what’s next. Ultimately, this is unsafe, ineffective and will put people and our economy at risk.


Katherine Tsantiris is the director of government relations at the Ocean Conservancy, a conservation organization dedicated to creating evidence-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it.

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