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NASA has appointed its first-ever senior climate advisor, the space agency announced on Wednesday. Gavin Schmidt (pictured above), the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Science (GISS), will hold the position until the agency makes a more permanent appointment. Among other duties, Schmidt’s job will involve communicating and coordinating with the wider scientific community, as well as promoting NASA’s climate-related research and technological developments. Naturally, he’ll also work with the current administration.
“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,” NASA said.
Even within NASA, the creation of a dedicated climate advisor is a reflection of the Biden administration’s all-of-government approach to climate change. On his first day in office, the president signed an executive order that put the US on the path toward rejoining the Paris climate accord. Ahead of his inauguration, he also announced former US Secretary of State John Kerry would serve as special climate envoy for his administration.
But it will take more than appointments for the US and the rest of the world to avoid the worst effects of a warming planet. According to the most recent UN Emissions Gap Report, Earth is currently on course for a catastrophic 3.2 degree Celsius increase in global temperatures by 2050. But there’s still an opportunity for a course correction toward a more manageable increase provided the US and other countries invest in zero-emissions technologies, cut back on fossil fuel subsidies and implement other policy green initiatives. And the Biden administration has indicated it will pursue those type of policies through its first term.