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

 

 

 

Government Accountability

Whether a president is doing a good job, is not for the president or his cabinet to decide.  Unlike a corporation, which runs with a board of directors, and make decisions, it is the American people, through the election process, which keep the government accountable.  Good news pours out of government.  Bad news is hidden under the rug.  Or more correctly, buried within the agencies of government.

Governments like to err on the side of caution.  They have a particular point of view, consistent with their policies.  Their policies and the supporting rationale are rapidly disseminated by the media.   However, as new information comes in, showing inconsistencies or direct conflicts with what has been said, then release of this information may be delayed or withheld from the public, even with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

In doing research for my book (Florida Citrus Canker Epidemic: Pieces of a Puzzle, available on Amazon, yes this is plug to buy the book),  I discovered how frustratingly difficult it is, to obtain public documents as governments have learned all the tricks at avoiding the requirements of FOIA and other state laws, with the intent of making government more open.

The news organizations have  an advantage, because they can hire lawyers and challenge the government agencies in court.   The New York Times filed more FIOA requests than any other organization.  They filed 31 lawsuits when Obama was in office.  Fox News filed a total of 3 lawsuits when Obama was in office, and 2 lawsuits between election  and inauguration days.  So much for their “investigative journalism.”

The Center for Public Integrity (CPI),  takes second place.  So what is the CPI?  According to Wikipedia:

The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) is an American nonprofit investigative journalism organization whose stated mission is “to reveal abuses of power, corruption and dereliction of duty by powerful public and private institutions in order to cause them to operate with honesty, integrity, accountability and to put the public interest first.” With over 50 staff members, CPI is one of the largest nonpartisan, nonprofit investigative centers in America. It won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting.

A link to their website is given in the links below.  They recently won 7 dateline awards, as given by the  Society of Professional Journalists.

Table 1. News Organizations Filing Three or More FOIA Lawsuits
Number of FOIA Suits Filed
News Organization Plaintiff Total Bush Obama
The New York Times Company 36 5 31
Center for Public Integrity 17 9 8
Associated Press 8 5 3
San Francisco Bay Guardian 6 1 5
Tax Analysts 6 4 2
Fox News Network, LLC 5 0 5*
Daily Caller News Foundation 4 0 4
Los Angeles Times Communicatio 4 3 1
Prison Legal News 4 2 2
Bloomberg LP 3 3 0
Detroit Free Press 3 2 1
SAE Productions, Inc. 3 2 1
* two suits were filed after Obama was elected, but just before he assumed office.

The above list does not include hundreds of lawsuits, filed by reporters and other organizations.  Two organization which have partisan missions are:  Judicial Watch (Conservative/ Republican) and Center for the Media and Democracy (CMD, Liberal/ Democrat).   Judicial Watch was extremely active during the Clinton email and Benghazi scandals.   Now it’s CMD turn, to uncover secrets held by the Trump administration.

Republicans better get used to the adage, “what goes around comes around.”  If they can make all sorts of accusations against Hillary Clinton based on her emails, so can Democrats use email conversations.     The February 2017 article in the  New York Times-  “The Pruitt Emails: E.P.A. Chief Was Arm in Arm With Industry” is based on released emails from Oklahoma.   It reveals how Scott Pruitt fought EPA regulations, as Attorney General of Oklahoma and was well connected with oil industry executives and Republican campaign donors.

Please ignore for the next four years, the outlandish attacks on the media by Trump, particularly the printed media such as the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal.  We need dedicated correspondents, reporters, and the journalists that finally piece together a story.  Truth will not roll out of the White House in a neat little package and with the blessings of Trump.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

New York Times:  Think FOIA Is a Paper Tiger? The New York Times Gives It Some Bite

FOIA Project: News Reporters Drive Growth in Media FOIA Litigation

FOIA Project:  News Media Requests    (The more recent FOIA lawsuits are filed in the name of a reporter, but likely  with the backing of their organizations).

Judicial Watch

Center for the Media and Democracy (CMD)

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