Ask the Administrator: A student-led Q&A on climate change

On Earth Day, NOAA Administrator Dr. Rick Spinrad answered questions from students about climate change on Twitter. Submissions came from high school students who volunteer at aquariums that are part of the Coastal Ecosystem Learning Centers network and from graduate and undergraduate fellows supported by the Educational Partnership Program with Minority Serving Institutions (EPP/MSI). In case you missed it, here's a recap of the conversation. 

Graphic with an image of Dr. Rick Spinrad and text that says, "Ask the Administrator, @RickSpinradNOAA, #EarthDay2022."
Ask the Administrator: On Earth Day 2022, Dr. Rick Spinrad answered students' questions about climate change on Twitter. (NOAA)

Q:

Many scientists agree that the next ten years will be crucial in reversing climate change. What are the most important legislative and scientific steps you believe we need to take in this decade to conserve our planet?

High school student, Coastal Ecosystem Learning Centers

A:

The Biden-Harris administration and NOAA specifically are working with communities to understand, prepare for, respond to, and adapt to climate change. We’ve helped create climate resilience plans that serve as a model for regional climate action, and we continue to help local planners, emergency managers, and policymakers apply these latest findings.

NOAA supports climate policies by providing data and information about climate, including how it has changed and is likely to change in the future depending on different actions society may or may not take. 

Q:

How can NOAA reach out to local environment-focused community groups to amplify their outreach to reach more people?

Christal Catherine Jean-Soverall, NOAA EPP/MSI CESSRST Undergraduate Fellow, City University of New York: New York City College of Technology

A:

NOAA is working to expand and sustain engagement with communities most vulnerable to climate change to ensure they have access to the tools they need to build resilience. We’ve hosted a series of Climate & Equity Roundtables across the country aimed at strengthening engagement between underserved communities facing climate hazards and NOAA. Participants included local community groups, faith leaders, local government officials, community planners, emergency managers, and others. 

To follow up on what we heard at these roundtables, NOAA is funding pilot projects in these communities that will enable them to build capacity and resilience to the hazards they face. 

 

Q:

What career advice would you give a young future scientist like me looking to enter a field that will allow me to make a significant difference in reducing humanity’s negative impact?

High school student, Coastal Ecosystem Learning Centers

A:

My advice would be to get to know your passion. Is it science, public policy, community engagement? There are many avenues you can take. Find a mentor. And never underestimate the value of studying and knowing the basics. 

 

Q:

Does NOAA have the capacity or intention of mobilizing some form of social climate movement?

Julio E. Ceniceros, NOAA EPP/MSI CESSRST Doctoral Fellow, University of Texas at El Paso

A:

As an agency, NOAA’s role is to inform the public about climate data and science and help them understand the risks they might face. 

We’re a policy-relevant but not policy-prescriptive agency, meaning that our scientists and experts work hard to deliver the facts that allow people and government leaders to make informed decisions about the future. 

We are, however, a partner of the CLEAN Network offsite link, a diverse and growing community of over 800 members committed to improving climate and energy literacy locally, regionally, nationally, and globally, to enable responsible decisions and actions.

 

Q:

What can communities do to adapt quickly to severe weather events caused by climate change such as worse wildfire seasons in much of the West Coast?

High school student, Coastal Ecosystem Learning Centers

A:

One thing's for sure: besides drastically reducing our emissions, we also need to increase our efforts to adapt to the impacts we can no longer avoid, many of which involve worsening weather and climate extremes. 

The good news is that NOAA is already working to build a Climate Ready Nation by 2030 through expanded access to climate data and services that help communities prepare for climate change.

You can also check out our Weather Ready Nation program, which is actively helping to ready people for extreme weather and climate events by supporting emergency managers, first responders, government officials, businesses and the public to make fast and smart decisions.

 

Q:

How important do you think individual actions to lower a person’s carbon footprint compare to large scale/global actions to reduce emissions?

High school student, Coastal Ecosystem Learning Centers

A:

All actions are important.  There is no one-size-fits-all approach to stopping or slowing global warming. We’ll likely need multiple solutions simultaneously.

In order to stabilize global temperature near its current level, we must drastically slash our greenhouse gas emissions and find ways to sequester CO– like through restoration of mangroves and seagrass. While we’ll need government action to move us to a low-carbon economy, we also can’t discount that we have a role to play in this as well! This month’s IPCC report offsite link revealed that individual actions could help reduce emissions by 40-70 percent. Individuals and communities hold a lot of power to make a difference. 

 

Q:

How can we at NOAA better communicate science of climate change to its disbelievers?

Fariha Khalid, NOAA EPP/MSI CESSRST Doctoral Fellow, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

A:

The good news is that according to the Yale Program on Climate Communication, 72 percent of Americans acknowledge that climate change is happening.

The challenge is conveying to people that climate impacts are a direct result of greenhouse gas emissions released by humans. This is where activist groups, and youth groups especially, can be really impactful in spreading the message about climate change. The media is really important too; the more climate change is incorporated into broader reporting, the more public awareness can grow.