Climate Change Report Released!

It sure looked like the EPA administrator Scott Pruitt was doing everything in his power to attack the independence of environmental scientists within his Department, when he refuse to allow 3 scientists to make presentations at the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program in Rhode Island.

Then came a breath of fresh air.  In November 3,  the first part of the National Assessment on  Climate Change Effects, was published.   See links at the end of this blog for the report.    They don’t call it Global Warming anymore,  but that still a big part of the overall problems associated with the 5 billion metric tons of carbon emissions the US sends into the atmosphere.   With 5% of the world’s population, we are responsible for nearly 30% of all carbon emissions.  The weather patterns are changing around the planet causing more severe storms and droughts.  The poorer African nations will suffer the most, as there are more famines.

Why didn’t Scott Pruitt block this one?   It was because it did not come directly from the EPA,  but rather a multi-agency scientific group as described in their report below.  Second, the National Assessment had to be done, as a matter of law, and the report provided to Congress and the President.   Trump couldn’t really block it, without creating more publicity for the report.

The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) was established by Presidential initiative in 1989 and mandated by Congress in the Global Change Research Act (GCRA) of 1990. Its mandate is to develop and coordinate “a comprehensive and integrated United States research program which will assist the Nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.”

USGCRP comprises 13 Federal agencies that conduct or use research on global change and its impacts on society. It functions under the direction of the Subcommittee on Global Change Research of the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Sustainability.

USGCRP has three major sets of responsibilities: (a) coordinating global change research across the Federal government, (b) developing and distributing mandated products, and (c) helping to inform decisions.

One of the products mandated by the GCRA is a quadrennial assessment that USGCRP is to prepare and submit to the President and the Congress. This assessment, referred to as the National Climate Assessment (NCA), is directed by the GCRA to:

-Integrate, evaluate, and interpret the findings of the Program and discuss the scientific uncertainties associated with such findings

– Analyze the effects of global change on the natural environment, agriculture, energy production and use, land and water resources, transportation, human health and welfare, human social systems, and biological diversity

– Analyze current trends in global change, both human-induced and natural, and project major trends for the subsequent 25 to 100 years

Environmental scientists from the EPA participated in the study.  The report is limited to the effects of climate change within the US.  The United Nations studies climate change on a worldwide basis.

This lead agency in preparation of this report is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA),  operating under the Department of Commerce.  Hopefully,  it stays there as if it is moved to the DOE or EPA,   it would be immediately filled with political appointees.  Particularly bad if the EPA someday  takes over NOAA.

The last assessment was done in 2014.  The opening lines from this report were very powerful:

Climate change is happening now. The United States and the world are warming, global sea level is rising, and some types of extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and more severe. These changes have already resulted in a wide range of impacts across every region of the country and many sectors of the economy.

The new assessment is similar to the 2014 report in reporting the consequences of climate change.  It wasn’t blocked by the Trump administration because really they couldn’t block a report that was the result of 13 governmental agencies.   This is where our country excels, in collaborative efforts of experts in the complex area of climate change.  The warming of our seas is a likely contributing factor in causing more intense hurricanes, on the 4 to 5 level scale.  A little bit of information that Scott Pruitt felt was inappropriate to discuss two months ago.  Maybe now is the time.

Links:

Climate Science Special Report – Nov 2017

A Climate Science Report That Changes Minds? Don’t Bet on It 

Washington Post- No alternative explanation

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

 

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EPA Worst Adminstrator Ever: Scott Pruitt

The EPA has existed for 47 years.   It was created by Richard Nixon in 1970, by Executive Order.    Richard Nixon also signed into law, the Clean Air (1970) and Clean Water Acts (as amended 1972).   The first line of the  Clean Water Act states:

The objective of this Act is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.

This first sentence is powerful, as the act directs the federal government in conjunction with state agencies to RESTORE  the quality of the  nation’s waters.   Thus, there was an acknowledgement of a problem.   Thus, the creation of the agency was direct the government to take a leadership role in the restoration of  our water and air resources.  Nixon being from California,  likely understood this, as the Colorado watershed encompasses 7 states in the US and 2 states in Mexico.   California is downstream to all pollutants discharged into the Colorado River in the US.

Scott Pruitt may like to see environmental policy run from the state and local level,  mainly for political reasons, but it is the geographical reality which makes so many of our environmental problems, a national problem, requiring federal action.   The pollutants  from the coal burning plants goes to the upper atmosphere,  where there are no signs saying “You are entering Massachusetts” or even, “You are entering Canada.”

Scott Pruitt is an attorney of law.   He has done nothing to restore or improve air or water quality in his home state of Oklahoma, as Attorney General.   Instead, he accepted contributions from Tyson foods, who were being sued for polluting the Illinois River that flows through Oklahoma.

Oklahoma AG and EPA Pick Pruitt Stalled Pollution Lawsuit After Contributions From Poultry Industry

His track record as AG was to attack EPA actions, initiating 13 lawsuits against the EPA.

Now as administrator of the EPA, his actions run counter the core mission of the EPA, to preserve the water, land and air natural resources of the US for future generations to enjoy.   His perspective is one of an advocate for individuals to pollute as much as they want, so long as they don’t endanger the health and safety of general population.   Individual liberties may sound good, but in result can be extremely harmful.

I have posted numerous blogs on the actions of the EPA under the Trump administration, including the most recent one on banning EPA scientists from making presentations at a scientific meeting on the Narraganset Bay estuary.   I was please to see Steven Colbert, the late night show host,   really tearing into Scott Pruitt’s policies, noting that until he pulled the 3 scientists from the meeting, it is likely few people knew about this estuary, or even what an estuary was.

Scott Pruitt latest attack on the agency he runs is to remove as many of the independent and dedicated environmental scientists in the advisory groups in the EPA and replace them with people of his own choosing.   This tactic in this case is to bar anyone who is receiving funding from the EPA from participating in the advisory groups.

Citing The Bible, The EPA Just ChangedAdvisers Its Rules For Science 

In support of his drastic actions,  Scott Pruitt relies on the pretext that scientists receiving funds from the EPA might have a conflict of interest.  However, this was quickly countered by numerous organizations,  noting there was already strict disclosure rules in place, the prevent conflict of interest.    Dr. Tiech from George Washington University stated the following:

” Disqualifying the very people who know the most about a subject from serving as advisors makes no sense.”

More succinctly, he wrote, “Frankly,  this directive is nuts.”   Others voiced similar opinions, as follows:

The change calls into question EPA’s ability to protect the country, according to Rush Holt, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “We question whether the EPA can continue to pursue its core mission to protect human health and the environment,” Holt said in a statement issued Tuesday.

Scott Pruitt battled the EPA through lawsuits as Attorney General of Oklahoma.  Now,  he must battle the organization he heads.

Stay tuned,

Dave

PS.  I’ve posted numerous blogs on the EPA and the Trump administration’s indifference to environmental issues.   See the various categories such as Environment, Global Warming. Coal, or Chloropyrisfos.  Also you can search under EPA  or Scott Pruitt.

Ignorance is bliss

“So long as I know it not, it hurteth mee not.”

I like the original proverb, by G. Pettie in 1576 than today’s  version, “What I don’t know can’t hurt me.”   Unfortunately, what we don’t know, does hurt us.   From our ignorance we just don’t know the best way to respond to problems.

The Environmental Protection Agency cancelled the participation of three of their scientists in the Narragansett  Bay Estuary Program’s workshop.  One scientist was prohibited from giving a keynote address at the workshop.  The other two scientists removed from the program were to speak about “The Present and Future Biological Implications of Climate Change.”

See Links:

The EPA Stopped Three Agency Scientists From Talking About Climate Change at a Conference

Even Fox Business News reported the story:

EPA cancels appearance by scientists at climate change conference

An  estuary is   where fresh outflows come in contact with the salt water from bays or oceans. They are particular sensitive ecosystems.  Fresh water inflows may contain contaminants harmful to the more saline water in the estuary and depend on plants and other material  to act as to keep the ecosystem in balance.   See link:

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/kits/estuaries/estuaries03_ecosystem.html

EPA Director Scott Pruitt clearly put politics ahead of science.  Climate change is harmful to estuaries.  See link below:

NOAA report highlights climate change threats to nation’s estuaries

Fortunately,  NOAA is under the US Department of Commerce, out of the reach of Pruitt.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

Hurricanes and Global Warming

I try to avoid certain topics which the media has covered in excruciating detail such as the current series of  hurricanes.   The Russian probe and chaos in the White House would also be included in this group.

However,  I wanted to add a bit more on the topic of  the recent series of hurricanes and global warming which deserves repeating.  There is a connection as there is ocean warming as well as average air temperature warming.   It was an early conclusion of scientists that global warming would result in more extreme weather events.   Certainly, the images of the immense hurricane Irma followed by Jose in the Atlantic ocean and Katia in the Gulf of Mexico would suggest that something way out of the ordinary is going on.

Saying that global warming caused Hurricane Harvey or Irma is way too simplistic.  The severity of a hurricane depends on where it lands.   If Harvey had dumped tons of water in the Gulf of Mexico instead of Houston or Irma had taken just a slightly less turn to the north and missed Florida,  nobody would have cared.  Warm Caribbean waters are an essential element for the formation of catastrophic hurricanes, and is a trend associated with global warming.  Perhaps scientists are a bit reluctant to make  more definitive statements on this relationship because there are so many other impacts of global warming such as increasing sea levels which are directly linked to global warming.

See link:

Hurricanes and Global Warming

The denial of global warming by the White House is truly a sad situation.  My heart goes out for the residents in the Caribbean islands.   I suggest everyone consider making a donation to charity organizations helping them to rebuild.

Stay tuned,

Dave

How much of Trump’s speech on exiting the Paris Accords was true?

It was an amazing concoction of false statements and misleading or invalid statistics.   Of course, this is Trump’s style.  The transcript of the speech is shown below:

Transcript of the speech

In fact, it is hard to find anything remotely honest in the entire speech.  All the dire economic consequences of the Accords were from an outside consulting study (NERA)  based on  highly unrealistic set of assumptions. The NERA study had other scenarios with more realistic assumptions.  It was produced in March 2017 and paid for by a conservative political organization.    None of the economic projections were  based on EPA studies.  Other studies  have repeatedly shown many positives to our economy, including  investments in clean energy will  create many high paying jobs.

It would have been a simple  2 minute speech if it were a honest one, as it would read, “Steve Bannon and the extreme conservatives don’t like the accord, because like the UN itself, we spend money to help solve the world’s problem.  Plus, global warming isn’t like crime in the streets; it doesn’t make big headlines in the news.”

Trump began his speech by mentioning the  casino attack in the Philippines as  a terrorist attack.  It was a botched robbery according to police.  But, at the time of the speech, ISIS had claimed responsibility, as they are prone to do with almost  any mass killings.  So, Trump has as supporting evidence, only ISIS.

Trump mentioned a long list of achievements, which really overlap with the Obama administration.    The job increase was really inline with gains in employment seen from about October 2016 until now.  Nothing remarkable.

The word “Global Warming” was not in Trump’s speech, nor is there any admission of a problem of our carbon emission.  His line, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh not Paris” received applause from those gathered in the Rose Garden.   The Paris Accord is a world agreement of 193 counties which could have been agreed upon in Pittsburgh.

It is a voluntary agreement, where each country makes pledges or commitments to reduce their own emissions.  Some environmentalists were disappointed at how low the targets were, but at least there were these basic elements (1) Admission that a global problem exists (2) Carbon emissions by the 193 countries can be monitored and reported to the United Nations (3) Each country is free to determine how they will reduce their emissions and (4) Developed countries will each set up a “Green Fund” to assist undeveloped countries in developing technology and programs to produce clean energy.

The citizens of Pittsburgh will pay more for food,  along with the rest of the US, as flooding and violent storms increases due to global warming. To keep our farms functioning,  taxpayers will continue to subsidize crop insurance, right now about 26 billion dollars.  It’s going to get a whole lot worse.  Sea levels will rise and places like Florida will have a difficult time with their fresh water supply.

With the dismantling of the Clean Power Act, solar energy investments will slow and jobs will be lost.  Coal employment (~60,000 employees) is not going to recover because power plants will use natural gas.   A good example is Cloud Peak Energy, which had a market cap of 500 million on November 7, 2016, now is reduced in half to 250 million.   Peabody Coal came out of bankruptcy on April 10, 2017 and so far has lost about 10% in market value  (market cap losses = 235 million dollars).

I saw on the news last night, a wonderful woman from West Virginia saying, “I’m not a climate change denier.”

Now the fact checking:

Factcheck.org

Politifact.com

The  economic statistics were generated in March 2017 by a consulting firm, which Trump pulled some statistics based on some extreme assumptions.

The Paris Accords were terribly miss  characterized by Trump.  Each country has pledged targets for carbon emissions and it is up to each country to develop programs or technologies to achieve these goals. Some countries are doing well in achieving their target goals.

I like how Politifact.com described the economic statistics:

Trump cited a number of negative statistics about the predicted economic impact from the climate deal, including a $3 trillion drop in gross domestic product, 6.5 million industrial sector jobs lost and 86 percent reduction in coal production, all by 2040.

Take these statistics with a grain of salt.

It’s just more BS, to be honest.

Politifact.com  and factcheck.org  websites found very similar dishonest statements.

Economic statistics:  Based on a flawed study

The statement, “China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants. But, we can’t build the plants, but they can, according to this agreement.”  is not in the agreement.

Statement, “At 3-4% growth, as I expect, we will need all forms of American energy, or our country will be at grave risk of brownouts and blackouts.”

A growth rate of 3 to 4% hasn’t happened in the last 12 years.  The red hot economy of 2005 ended with the collapse of housing market in 2007, and the recession lasting through 2009.  What seems immensely absent in the speech, is that fossil fuels are non-renewable fuels. Their extraction is becoming more expensive not because of regulation, but because we have used up so much of the easy to extract fossil fuels.

Global warming needs carbon emissions monitoring and goal setting.  Obama set this in motion.  Trump just denies the problem exists.  Trump is not making the country great.  He is making China great by sacrificing our technological leadership in clean energy.   June 1, 2017 was a disgraceful day, as we exited the world accord on global warming with a speech with a rapid fire series of flawed statistics and dishonest conclusions.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paris Climate Agreement

This international agreement was signed in April 2016, by President Obama.   A short summary of the agreement is given in Wikipedia as follows:

Paris Climate Agreement

Critics immediately charged that the agreement is really a treaty and requires 2/3 vote from the Senate to become binding.   IF what  the conservative Heartland Institute said was true, then Obama should have been impeached:

“It is an absolute disgrace that President Obama would assume powers found nowhere in our Constitution to sign a treaty that has never been considered by our Congress — which would reject it if given the opportunity,” said Jay Lehr, science director with the outspoken free-market group Heartland Institute. “To take such a hollow and illegal step as he ends his presidency should tarnish his legacy forever as a man who thought himself king, not president.”

So, President Trump can declare this Agreement to be a Treaty,  and send it to the Senate for approval.   But, he would be opting for a quiet burial in the Senate and that would be pretty obvious.

But,  Trump likes Executive Orders and the agreement seems really to fall into this category because the agreement does not legally compel the US to cut back carbon emissions.

The real zinger is that three of the major coal companies (Arch, Cloud Peak, and Peabody)  want the US to stay in the agreement, as they see the advantage of having  a major pro-coal power  “at the table.”  Otherwise, European leaders will lead the show, not good for the international interests of US companies.

Pulling out of the accord will not go over well with Chinese leaders, who are aggressively cutting their own emissions.  The smoke from coal burning has created a real health concern in many Chinese cities.  We need Chinese cooperation desperately to reign in North Korea’s nuclear program.

Right now, our new Secretary of Energy seems most content with cleaning house, removing any global warming believers as possible.  With the new, ineffective DOE, a policy change to do nothing, seems likely.  I believe Trump has said he is studying the options on climate change and our commitment to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and Paris Agreement.

The smaller countries who have signed the agreement, are likely looking to the US to help them with alternative energy sources.  This doesn’t mesh well with Trump’s hyper nationalistic themes.

A meeting is scheduled for May 18, 2017 in Bonn.   Four top polluters, China, India, US Japan and the EU have ratified the accord.    Russia looks like the major climate change denier as it has not ratified the agreement,

   List of carbon emissions by country 

Does Trump really want to join Russia and be the world’s second climate change denier?

Stay tuned,

Dave

A Seat at the Table for the Devil

The Paris Climate Agreement was considered a major breakthrough by most environmentalists.  The US was e in a leadership role recognizing  carbon emissions reductions requires international agreements, particularly from Brazil, India and China.

Trump vigorously campaigned against the Paris  Climate Agreement.   He said repeatedly the Agreement  was against our national interest, and was a job killing/ coal industry destruction plan.  The Democrats were trying to put the coal industry out of business.

Now, two of the largest coal companies,  Peabody and Cloud Peak are urging Trump to break his promises and stay in the Paris Climate Agreement.     Murray Energy,  a private company which bills itself as America’s largest coal company, wants Trump to pull out.  Robert Murray was at the signing of the Executive Orders to rescind the Clean Power regulations.

The reasons to stay in, is to keep EU leaders from taking control and setting tight international  environmental standards on the burning of coal.    This would hurt US export of coal, which declined by 23% in 2015.  The 2016 figures have not yet been released, but I don’t expect any better numbers. Our exports are around 74 million short tons.  Major declines in exports were from UK, Italy and South Korea in 2015.

It is also quoted in the article below that pulling out of the Accords might affect World Bank funding for international coal projects, which would hurt only the very large coal companies. Most of the coal companies operate only in the US.   Peabody coal owns coal  mines in Australia.  It may be there is concern with World Bank financing new coal generating plants.  Being part of the Accords can give the major platform to promote “clean coal technology.”

US Coal Companies ask Trump to stick with Paris Climate Deal

Trump’s campaign rode on Republican rhetoric and the highly simplistic theme of  America First.   The most pro-coal industry president we ever had, may end up doing more harm than good to his supporters.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

 

 

Coal Companies and Jobs

For those who watch Jim Cramer’s Mad Money show, one might thing the coal producers would be the perfect “Trump stock” as the EPA is set to reverse course on air pollution standard regulations, enacted during the Obama era.

But coal stocks are not doing well at least in the last 3 months.  Since the beginning of 2017, Arch Coal (ARCH) is down 16% and Cloud Peak Energy (CLD) is down 27%.

We have plenty of coal resources, but declining demand.  See prior post, “Coal Craziness” for more details with links.   The decline in employment over the last 70 years or so, is due to a high level of mechanization in the mines as well as less demand for coal.  The electric producers will use the lowest cost fuel, and natural gas is a very competitive alternative to coal.

I suggested in my last post, that coal miners might be able to retrain for the more lucrative area of the manufacturing of  solar energy photo-voltaic panels.  A recent university study suggests this is possible, and the benefits would be enormous:

Coal to solar transition

The coal industry is not disappearing (sorry Al Gore) but the solar energy industry is likely to be booming in the next 5 to 10 years.

Investing in solar energy has been a bumpy ride.   I would never think “green energy” and Trump policies go together.  But based on  year to date, investing in a solar power fund  (KWT)  would have made about 10%, better than the market average of 6%.    Pulling out the international agreements to reduce fossil fuel emissions, and subsidies for the solar industry are among the worst plans of the Trump administration.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

Clean Power Plan

I’m afraid under Gov Rick Perry as head of Department of Energy and Scott Pruitt as head of EPA, the Clean Power Plan will soon to become history.    It is a real shame.  The Clean water and Air Acts were signed into law by Richard Nixon, and stood strong through Reagan, Bush (H.W.),  Bush (W), and 16 years of democratic party  presidents.

Scott Pruitt is a horrible choice.   The mantra of Republicans is regulation is bad for business and business will make America great again.  However, it is  a giant step backwards for international cooperation for environmental needs.

We can not expect other countries around the world to work with us in curbing carbon emissions, if we are not doing our part.

China and the US produce the most CO2, accounting for 45% of emissions:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_carbon_dioxide_emissions

The top ten producers, include India and the EU, and account for 68% of carbon emissions.

Carbon emissions cause global warming, and serious breathing problems, particularly with those suffering from asthma.

The Republicans don’t have a plan- except if you consider downplaying the problem and delaying any real solutions as a plan.  Energy generated by coal typically generates twice the carbon emissions than natural gas.  Cleaning  up of CO2 emissions from coal fired plants increases costs.  The decline in coal usage has occurred as more operators prefer natural gas (also a polluter).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clean_Power_Plan

The Clean Power Plan isn’t perfect.  Critics abound who can tell you the flaws in the program in an instant.  However,  the alternative (see Republican Plan) is horrible, so going from a horrible situation to a flawed one, is a step in the right direction.

Without a real US plan,  we likely lose support from China, India, EU countries, Japan and Russia.

Stay tuned,

Dave