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FL Scientists to Commerce Nominee: Defend Coastline, Support Science

Trump has nominated Palm Beach neighbor and fellow billionaire Wilbur Ross to be Secretary of Commerce. If confirmed, Ross is in unique position to protect the coastline - including his own home - from rising seas and lead the transition to a low carbon economy.


Riverview, FL -- (ReleaseWire) -- 01/18/2017 --Florida scientists are sending an open letter to Wilbur Ross, Donald Trump's nominee to lead the Department of Commerce, calling on him to defend Florida's coastline, including his own $22 million, 15,500 square foot Palm Beach mansion located on the Intracoastal Waterway.

In the letter, the scientists implore Ross to recognize the urgency of climate change. The letter states, "You have an incredible opportunity to be a steward who will help restructure America's energy problems, and turn our climate crisis into another American success story. We want to emphasize the magnitude of the problem -- the future of Florida hangs in the balance. The stakes could not be higher."

The scientists call on Ross to protect the coastline, support sound science, and embrace clean technology.

One of the most vital agencies in understanding climate change is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is housed in the Department of Commerce. NOAA's mission is "to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts, to share that knowledge and information with others, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources." NOAA is dedicated to the understanding and stewardship of the environment.

"Sunny day flooding during king tides affects not just Florida, but coastal towns and ports along the Eastern Seaboard. It is crucial that we maintain funding for vital observations and research into phenomena affecting climate change impacts, such as variations in the ocean circulation that can, and already are, increasing sea level rise along our coastline." said David Enfield, a retired NOAA scientist.

If confirmed as Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross will be in a crucial position to continue research and mapping for coastal protection – bringing sound science to meet the threat of sea level rise. As the new "face of American business," Ross can support policies that will help America make the necessary transition to cleaner technologies.

While NOAA undertakes critical research on our atmosphere, oceans, and climate, the agency also analyzes our ability to meet future energy needs with cleaner new technologies. NOAA's Earth System Research Lab found that "a transition to a reliable, low-carbon, electrical generation and transmission system can be accomplished with commercially available technology within 15 years."

The hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee takes place Wednesday, January 18 at 10 AM. The scientists are hoping to emphasize to Mr. Ross how much of Florida's future is in his hands.

"Ross has said that his favorite place is Palm Beach. Naturally he would want his grandchildren to inherit his beloved waterfront home, but will the property still be viable when that time comes?" said Dr. John Parker, an Emeritus Professor at Florida International University.

A mapping tool and smart phone app created by Florida International University, called "Eyes on the Rise", allows users to find the elevation of any property, and visualize what sea level rise might look like on that property. The app shows that Wilbur Ross' property is a little over four feet above sea level, but even with one or two feet of sea level rise, there would be flooding along the the perimeter.

The scientists's letter points out that if action is not taken, seas could rise by as much as two feet by 2060, and up to six feet or more by 2100. Ross has the opportunity to defend the coastlines and guide American businesses into a clean energy economy.

While it may seem odd that NOAA – a scientific outfit – falls under the Department of Commerce, science underpins American business.

The Editor of Scientific American gave the following testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation in a hearing on "The Federal Research Portfolio: Capitalizing on Investments in R&D" in 2014:

"Science is the engine of prosperity. Economists have said that a third to a half of U.S. economic growth has resulted from basic research since World War II. The cars and trains that got us here today, our smart phones, the energy that lights this chamber, the clothes we wear, the food we eat: All of these were developed and improved through research."

The scientists are hopeful that Ross will continue much-needed research into climate impacts and use his business savvy to make America more competitive in the international race for clean technology.

Eckerd College scientist David Hastings concluded, "Ross can be a champion for sound science and clean energy solutions. The future of his home depends on it."

Following is the full text of the open letter from Florida scientists to Mr. Wilbur Ross:

January 17, 2017

Mr. Wilbur Ross
Invesco Global Headquarters
Two Peachtree Pointe
1555 Peachtree Street, N.E., Suite 1800
Atlanta, Georgia 30309

Dear Mr. Wilbur Ross,

Congratulations on your nomination. You have a distinguished career and now you are presented with the opportunity to become the next Secretary of Commerce -- a position with enormous influence on American society.

We are a group of Florida scientists, many of whom work daily with data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); one of the agencies you will be in charge of at the Commerce Department.

Like you, we share an affinity for Florida. As a Florida resident, you know how precious the coastline is, and the fragile beauty of our state.

You are known for your problem solving skills, and your ability to salvage distressed businesses. We were struck by a statement you made in your CNBC interview where you said, "the solutions are always more fun than identifying problems. We're basically optimists even though we're dealing with situations that have a lot of pessimism."

Like you, climate scientists are facing a distressing situation as we study the projected impacts of sea level rise. However, we remain optimistic that our challenges can be solved with American ingenuity, entrepreneurship, strategy and new technologies.

We encourage you to use your exceptional problem solving skills to look closely at the intersection between our changing climate, our economy, agriculture, industry, jobs and human health.

The Commerce Department defines part of its mission as "work[ing] with businesses, universities, communities, and the Nation's workers to promote job creation, economic growth, sustainable development, and improved standards of living for Americans."

In your new role as the Secretary of Commerce, you have a unique ability to influence multiple sectors of our economy. You will direct scientific research both within government, and at universities through NOAA. You can also work with businesses, engineers, and industries to develop solutions to address climate and energy challenges.

We call on you to:

Protect our coastline.
Florida has over 1,100 miles of coastline, a portion of which you are intimately familiar with, and surely appreciate. Current forecasts predict up to six feet of sea level rise in the next century. Under a worst-case scenario we could see two feet of sea level rise by 2060. And while that may seem like a distant threat, right now with king tides there can be "sunny day flooding" in coastal states.

In order to protect our coastlines, it is crucial to continue the monitoring and projection of future environmental changes in the atmosphere and the ocean. None of this research can happen without adequate funding. We must prioritizing research funding in the direction of climate change studies, especially in the context of sea level rise. Vital observations and research into phenomena affecting climate change impacts, such as variations in the ocean circulation that can, and already are, increasing sea level rise along our coastline must be maintained.

Support robust science.
The same way that you evaluate companies before you purchase them, scientists are learning about our climate, our weather, our oceans, and our coast, so that policymakers can make informed decisions. We echo The Union of Concerned Scientists' call for a strong and open culture of science and believe in adhering to high standards of scientific integrity and independence. You know from experience the role of in-depth research in executing a successful strategy, and so you should appreciate the value that scientists bring to the table to understand the impacts that change in our natural world will have on human systems – our ports, our coastal properties, and our weather patterns.

Embrace clean technology.
As the Secretary of Commerce you can help put America at the forefront of scientific research, and position us as leaders in the international competition for clean technology development.

We know many of your investments have been in traditional industries like coal and steel, but we encourage you to learn as much as you can about new energy technologies. Embrace clean energy solutions not only to address our energy needs but to create good paying jobs in our communities.

The Department of Commerce encompasses much more than just NOAA, but we want to make a heart-felt plea to you to understand how incredibly important NOAA's contribution to society is. NOAA states on its website that it "enriches life through science." NOAA's mission is "Science, Service and Stewardship."

You have an incredible opportunity to be a steward who will help restructure America's energy problems, and turn our climate crisis into another American success story.

We want to emphasize the magnitude of the problem -- the future of Florida hangs in the balance. The stakes could not be higher.

You are in a critical position to support sound science and solutions that can help America solve this problem. We implore you to recognize the urgency of climate change, and take your new position with great humility and the same dedication and tenacity you have shown throughout your career.

Thank you, and good luck on your nomination hearing.


Senthold Asseng, Professor
Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering
University of Florida

Keren Bolter, Research Affiliate
Center for Environmental Studies
Florida Atlantic University

Jeff Chanton, Professor
The John Widmer Winchester Professor of Oceanography
Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science
Florida State University

David B. Enfield (ret. 2015)
Dept. of Physical Oceanography
NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory

Pamela Hallock Muller, Ph.D., Professor
College of Marine Science
University of South Florida

David Hastings, Professor
Marine Science and Chemistry
Eckerd College

Barry Heimlich, Vice Chair
Climate Change Task Force
Broward County

Ben Kirtman, Professor
Department of Atmospheric Science
Rosenstiel School for Marine and Atmospheric Sciences
University of Miami

John H. Parker, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry and Environmental Science
Department of Earth and Environment
Florida International University

Randall W. Parkinson, Ph.D., P.G., Research Faculty Affiliate
Institute for Water and Environment
Florida International University

Brad E. Rosenheim, Ph.D., Associate Professor
College of Marine Science
University of South Florida

Philip Stoddard, Professor
Department of Biological Sciences
Florida International University
Mayor of South Miami

Harold R. Wanless, Professor and Chair
Department of Geological Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences
University of Miami

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter are strictly those of the individuals and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of their respective organization.

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