Indian American climate adaptation expert Jainey Baivshi gets NOAA post

The White House has picked Jainey Bavishi, a leading expert on responding to the challenges of climate change, to a top leadership position at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Bavishi will serve as one of the two top deputies to NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, an ocean scientist, who was confirmed by the Senate last month after being nominated by Biden in April. 

The Biden administration has made confronting climate change one of its top priorities, and the appointment of Bavishi is fitting at an agency responsible for environmental prediction and monitoring and protecting the nation’s coasts, oceans and fisheries.

Bavishi most recently served as the director of the New York Mayor’s Office of Climate Resiliency, where she led a team that prepares the city for impacts of climate change. The office is working on several initiatives to protect the city’s structures and inhabitants, including installing a 2.4-mile flood protection system consisting of flood walls and floodgates and improving underground interior drainage systems in Manhattan.

“The Biden administration has picked a tremendous climate champion to serve the American people,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said in an emailed statement. “Jainey’s leadership and vision has transformed New York City’s coastline and has helped to protect New Yorkers from destructive flooding and deadly heat waves.”

Her official title within the administration, if confirmed by the Senate, will be assistant secretary for oceans and atmosphere at the Commerce Department. But in practice she will work at NOAA, which is housed in the Commerce Department, and serve as assistant secretary for conservation and management.

Before Bavishi’s post in the New York mayor’s office, she served in the Obama administration as associate director for climate preparedness at the White House Council on Environmental Quality and as director of external affairs and senior policy adviser at NOAA. While at the Council on Environmental Quality, she was responsible for institutionalizing climate resilience considerations across federal programs and policies.

Before that, Bavishi was the executive director of R3ady Asia-Pacific, a Hawaii-based public-private partnership to reduce the risk of natural disasters in the Asia-Pacific region. There she worked with David Lassner, president of the University of Hawaii system.

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