NASA's second-highest official talks climate change at Science Museum of Virginia

Posted at 4:53 AM, Aug 01, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-01 04:54:04-04

RICHMOND, Va. — NASA's Deputy Administrator Pamela Melroy was in Richmond on Monday to talk climate change and tour the Science Museum of Virginia’s new exhibit “Tour of Space: An Out-of-Gravity Experience."

Melroy was joined by Virginia Congresswoman Jennifer McClellan and local climate experts and advocacy groups.

McClellan, who is a member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, said the tour comes at a time the world is experiencing extreme weather conditions — including record breaking heat waves that have had negative impacts to public health, including respiratory illnesses, mental health and increased hospitalizations.

The tour was followed by a round table discussion on climate change and strategies to combat the climate emergency at both a global and local level.

“NASA is in a unique position because we know how to study earth as a planet and not just the bits and pieces of it, but as an entire system,” said Melroy.

NASA officials said data gathered from satellites and the International Space Station is helping scientists understand pollution and its impact on air quality and climate change.

Partnerships at the local level are also critical to helping find solutions, Melroy said.

Last summer, CBS 6 featured experts at the University of Richmond using urban heat maps to not only track rising temperatures, but to study why some regions experience much higher temperatures than others.

Urban Heat Map Richmond.jpg

McClellan said national and local data is helping lawmakers form policies at all levels of government.

“We know the 8th district here in Richmond is hotter, so making sure that you have more bus shelters, you have more tree planting is a simple thing you can do at the local level,” McClellan said. “At the national level, we have to make sure NASA has the resources it needs to continue to collect this data and then we are using it to shape the public policy we adopt.”

Local environmental experts and advocates said they hope Monday’s discussion leads to more green spaces and sustainable solutions that make transportation, energy, and housing environmentally friendly and equitable in all communities, including low-income areas.

In June, NASA announced a new Earth Information Center that is available to the public and displays data that is helping scientists understand greenhouse gasses, air quality, wildfires, and ocean levels, among other environmental impacts.

“NASA does its work to benefit humanity and that’s why we study space,” Melroy said. “To understand ourselves and our planet.”

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