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NASA Establishes New Role of Senior Climate Advisor

By Rachel Jewett | February 3, 2021

      Gavin Schmidt, acting senior climate advisor
      Photo: NASA

      NASA has established a new position of senior climate advisor to work with the Biden administration on climate science objectives. The agency said in a Wednesday announcement that the senior climate advisor will advocate for NASA climate investments and work closely with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Office of Management and Budget. 

      Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Science in New York, will serve in an acting capacity until a permanent appointment is made. Schmidt has been GISS director since 2014, and his main research interest is the use of climate modeling to understand past, present, and future climate change.  

      Specifically, the advisor will promote climate-related investments in the Science Mission Directorate’s Earth Science Division and promote technology initiatives to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and climate impacts. 

      New acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk said the position will help NASA meet the new administration’s goal of addressing climate change, which President Joe Biden has made clear is a primary objective. Biden has already rejoined the Paris Agreement, and created two new White House positions for climate: national climate advisor, held by Gina McCarthy, and special presidential envoy for climate, held by former Secretary of State John Kerry. 

      “The appointment of Gavin Schmidt will help ensure that the Biden administration has the crucial data to implement and track its plan toward the path to achieve net-zero emissions economy-wide by 2050, and a healthier, safer, more prosperous planet for our children,” acting NASA Chief of Staff Bhavya Lal said in a release.

      NASA plays a role in observing climate indicators, with more than two dozen satellites and instruments. Space policy experts have expected that the Biden administration will have NASA take on a larger role in addressing climate change. In an interview with Via Satellite in fall 2020, former NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said a Biden administration may accelerate or fully fund NASA’s Decadal survey in the Earth sciences, and seek out new commercial partnerships in remote sensing.