What the hell is going on at the EPA right now?

Image result for environmental protection agency building

Panic! (Loop Images/UIG via Getty Images)


It’s safe to say there’s an enormous amount of panic — and confusion — about what’s going on with the Trump administration and the Environmental Protection Agency right now.

Over the past few days, we’ve seen reports that Trump’s team ordered EPA employees not to speak to the press or use social media for a period of time. They’ve imposed a (temporary) freeze on new grants and contracts. Trump’s political appointees even reportedly asked the EPA to remove parts of the agency’s climate change website — before receiving pushback from career staffers and then clarifying publicly that they merely planned on “scrubbing [the website] up a bit, putting a little freshener on it.” Within the agency, morale among career staff is low.

Now, on one level, the initial media furor around these stories has been a bit overblown. It’s really not that unusual for a new president to come in and put agency actions on hold temporarily while political appointees get a feel for their departments — and figure out how to align agency actions and messaging with the administration’s policy priorities. There’s a totally benign interpretation of many of these moves.

Indeed, Trump’s spokespeople have clarified that many of these EPA “blackouts” are likely to be short-lived — both the freeze on grants and the political review of outgoing scientific press releases are expected to be lifted by Friday, January 27.

Some of the disarray here may stem from the fact that Trump’s transition team got a later start and moved more slowly than Bush’s or Obama’s did. In previous transitions, for instance, an incoming administration would’ve reviewed EPA grants and contracts before the inauguration — so there wasn’t a need to suddenly freeze new grants on week one, explains Scott Fulton, who was the EPA’s general counsel during the Obama administration and is now president of the Environmental Law Institute.

But on another level, even if some of the early outrage has been overheated, it’s hardly a mystery why there’s a lot of dread and uncertainty about the EPA right now. You just have to look at what happened at the agency during the George W. Bush years — and also at what Trump’s team have explicitly said they want to do. The widespread fear that we might soon see a Trump “war on science” at the agency is hardly unfounded.

If the Bush years are any indication, there’s a lot to worry about with Trump’s EPA

Bush Establishes Marianas Trench Marine National Monument

Remember this guy?

Photo Joshua Roberts-Pool/Getty Images

The EPA is required, by law, to enforce and continually update air, water, and climate pollution regulations in accordance with the best available science. To that end, the agency employs a variety of scientists who sort through and synthesize the relevant research in order to inform this process.

Different administrations obviously have different ideas about what those regulations should look like — and the law gives the EPA a certain amount of leeway there. But what made the George W. Bush administration so striking is that it often attacked the underlying science itself, either by muzzling scientists or by ignoring or suppressing the relevant research.

The Union of Concerned Scientists has a long, long list of examples here. In 2003, the administration suppressed an EPA analysis showing that a Senate air pollution bill would save more lives than a bill that Bush favored. In 2005, an EPA report showing the fuel efficiency of US cars had declined was also suppressed until after Congress voted on an energy bill. In 2006, an EPA scientist was barred from participating in a conference on soil science, because the talk might have touched on climate change. The list goes on and on — and the pattern was repeated across other federal agencies.

Perhaps the most consequential example came in 2008, as the EPA was crafting new regulations for ground-level ozone pollution, or smog, as required by the Clean Air Act. Scientists at the EPA had reviewed some 1,700 papers on the effects of ozone and recommended that the standards be tightened — only to have the White House overrule their findings and set a weaker standard. (That rule was eventually redone by the Obama administration, which set stricter ozone standards.)

The Obama administration came in vowing to protect EPA’s scientists and improve transparency, and it hasn’t exactly been perfect on this score — it has, for instance, still been difficult for reporters to speak to EPA scientists over the past eight years. But the Bush era was in another category altogether.

That sort of thing is what EPA scientists and career staff are concerned about as the Trump administration gets underway. Sure, it may be normal and mostly harmless that Trump’s political appointees are reviewing all outgoing press scientific releases this week. But there’s a larger context to consider too. And Trump has given agency employees every reason to worry — if they want to quell those fears, his political appointees have a lot of work to do.

Trump’s advisers have already hinted they’ll go after EPA’s scientists

Donald Trump Addresses Republican Retreat In Philadelphia

Not a fan of this climate change stuff.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Trump administration has made its plan for the EPA perfectly clear — it wants to roll back a wide variety of Obama-era climate rules and cut the agency’s budget considerably. Trump has been very explicit about easing the regulatory burden on coal-fired power plants and oil and gas producers. That’s a top priority.

Now, if that were all there was to it, you might say, okay, those are mainly policy issues. You can agree or disagree, but Trump is president, and he has some latitude to reorient the agency (as long as the EPA follows the laws that underpin the agency, like the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act).

But Trump’s team hasn’t just talked about making regulatory changes through the usual federal rulemaking channels. They’ve also talked about going after EPA’s scientists and scientific process. Jonathan Swan and Mike Allen of Axios got a look at an “agency action plan” for the EPA written by Trump’s transition team. It has a section called “Addendum on the problems with EPA science” that includes this striking paragraph:

EPA does not use science to guide regulatory policy as much as it uses regulatory policy to steer the science. This is an old problem at EPA. In 1992, a blue-ribbon panel of EPA science advisers that [sic] ‘science should not be adjusted to fit policy.’ But rather than heed this advice, EPA has greatly increased its science manipulation.

The document follows up with recommendations that the EPA stop funding science altogether and that “EPA’s science advisory process needs to be overhauled to eliminate conflicts of interest and inherent bias.”

Now combine that with the Trump team’s well-known (and scientifically unfounded) hostility toward climate change research. You have the president himself saying global warming is “bullshit.” You have Trump’s pick to head the EPA, Scott Pruitt, refusing to say that human activity is the main cause of global warming (the evidence is overwhelming that it is). You have a Trump transition team official like Chris Horner, who has spent years hounding climate scientists and accusing them of manipulating data. When you put this together, it’s not hard to see why people are fearful that Trump’s team might come in and distort the scientific process.

In theory, the EPA should have new safeguards to protect its scientists from undue Bush-style political interference. The agency’s “scientific integrity policy,” enacted in 2012, notes that it is “essential that political or other officials not suppress or alter scientific findings.” The agency now has a “Scientific Integrity Official,” a career position, to enforce this policy, working with the EPA’s inspector general. Still, these integrity guidelines weren’t written into law by Congress — and outsiders fear that they may not be robust enough to withstand a White House intent on heavy interference.

It’s hard to know exactly how the Trump era at the EPA will play out, although Michael Halpern, the deputy director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, suggests watching what happens at EPA’s scientific advisory boards. These advisory boards are supposed to independently synthesize scientific research that is then used by policymakers to inform the shape of regulations. What happens to them under Trump?

Those sorts of decisions will be quieter and garner far less press attention than a website edit or a temporary grant freeze (unless career employees decide to leak what’s happening to the press). But they could end up being far, far more important. So pace yourself, everyone. It’s week one, there are still four years to go, and we haven’t even begun to see what will happen to the EPA under Trump.

Further reading:

Trump is preparing to make massive policy changes at the EPA. Here are many of the obstacles he’ll face.

Watch: A history of US inaction on climate change

Did Putin help elect Trump to restore $500 billion Exxon oil deal killed by sanctions

Russia’s $500 billion oil deal with Exxon was killed by U.S. sanctions. No doubt coincidentally, drilling In the Russian Arctic would be easier if warming-driven sea ice melt continued. CREDIT: Wall Street Journal, 9/11/2014.


Follow the money: Will Trump repay Putin by ending Russian sanctions and killing the Paris climate deal?

The “Russian hack news … is delegitimizing,” explained former George W. Bush speech writer David Frum in a recent article. The conservative Frum was famous for authoring Bush’s controversial “axis of evil” speech about the danger posed by Iran, Iraq, and North Korea.

But it appears our democracy and our children have a new axis to worry about: Putin, Trump, and ExxonMobil, whose CEO Rex Tillerson — an extreme Russophile and long-time director of a US-Russian oil company — is Trump’s puzzling choice for Secretary of State.

I say “puzzling” because the long-serving Exxon employee (from age 23!) has no qualifications to be secretary of state — other than a history negotiating major oil deals with countries like Putin’s Russia, which in any sane world would actually disqualify him or at least force a recusal from all State Department dealings with Russia.

But that puzzle disappears if we follow the famous dictum from the Watergate era for uncovering a tangled web of covert campaign acts: “Follow the money.” And perhaps another puzzle is also solved: Why did Putin take such a “fearful risk,” as Frum put it, to “mount a clandestine espionage and disinformation campaign on behalf” of Trump and against Clinton, “when Putin had every reason to expect that he probably would end up facing a President Clinton,” and a tremendous backlash.

You can certainly make a plausible case, as U.S. intelligence agencies do in their bombshell new report, that Putin had plenty of motivation to interfere. He wanted to undermine the legitimacy of U.S. elections and a Clinton Presidency, he blamed Secretary Clinton for “inciting mass protests against his regime,” and he was angry with the U.S. for the Panama Papers leaks. Those leaks showed a $2 billion trail of offshore accounts and deals that traced back to Putin and his cabal of kleptocrats, who, among other things, were getting rich “trading shares in Rosneft,” Russia’s state-owned (i.e. Putin run) oil monopoly.

But a half trillion dollars to line their pockets and prop up the Russian economy offers a much more tangible motivation for team Putin to get Trump elected. And it was Tillerson who had made the $500 billion oil deal with Putin that got blocked by sanctions.

Blocking the deal did not just “put Exxon at risk,” as the Wall Street Journal reported in 2014. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow explained last month the biggest oil deal in history was “expected to change the historical trajectory of Russia.”

Joe Romm

Four Infographics That Show How Climate Change Is Affecting Your Health

Source: Mina Lee


The dog days of summer were particularly dogged this year. July clocked in as the hottest month on record, marking the midpoint of what is likely to be thehottest year on record. With sweltering temperatures came a litany of crummy climate news — floods in Louisiana, Zika in Miami, searing heat waves across the Northeast — with dire implications for human health.

Source: NASA

Last year’s Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change warned that the carbon crisis could undo the last half-century of progress in public health. And yet, for many, it remains unclear how climate change could land them in the hospital. Just one in four Americans can identify the ways that rising temperatures threaten their health.

To clarify that link, Climate Nexus and the American Public Health Association developed a series of infographics that illustrate the connection between climate change and all manner of life-threatening illness. [Disclosure: Climate Nexus and Nexus Media are both sponsored projects ofRockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.]

Let’s begin with air quality. Climate change is producing shorter winters and longer summers, extending allergy season. Warmer weather is also worsening pollution by fueling the formation of ozone. Heat and drought are setting the stage for wildfires, like the blaze recently seen in California, which produce smoke, threatening respiratory health.

Source: Mina Lee

Rising temperatures are also producing longer and more severe heat waves, like the scorcher that just descended on the East Coast. Extreme heat can lead to dehydration and stroke. Children and the elderly are most vulnerable.

Source: Mina Lee

With extreme heat, expect to see more mosquitos. According to an analysisfrom Climate Central, climate change is extending mosquito season across the United States, expanding the range of vector-borne diseases, like Zika, which just made landfall in Florida.

Source: Mina Lee

Finally, severe storms, like the torrent that just hit Louisiana, are damaging infrastructure, leaving those many of those affected without food, shelter or access to clean water.

Source: Mina Lee

The good news is that slashing planet-warming carbon pollution would be a boon for public health. The Lancet Commission said that tackling climate change “could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century.” Drastically reducing emissions from cars, planes, and power plants wouldn’t just curb the rise in temperatures. It would also prevent millions of deaths from air pollution.

As the country shifts to clean energy, we can expect big measurable gains in public health. For Americans currently sweating it out in the summer heat, that might offer a little consolation.

Jeremy Deaton and Mina Lee write and produce original artwork for Nexus Media, a syndicated newswire covering climate, energy, politics, art and culture. You can follow them at @deaton_jeremy and @minalee89.

Watch the climate debate devolve into nonsense in the 10 years since An Inconvenient Truth


The Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, says climate change is a “scam.” He plans to roll back Environmental Protection Agency regulations on fossil fuels and pull the US out of the international Paris agreement on emissions reductions. The 2016 Republican party platform mentions climate change only to dismiss it.

So it’s become really easy to forget that the Republican Party wasn’t always compelled to reject scientific evidence on climate change.

In 2008, the Republican presidential candidate actually campaigned on a promise to fight global climate change. The party platform that year said:

The same human economic activity that has brought freedom and opportunity to billions has also increased the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. While the scope and long-term consequences of this are the subject of ongoing scientific research, common sense dictates that the United States should take measured and reasonable steps today to reduce any impact on the environment. Those steps, if consistent with our global competitiveness will also be good for our national security, our energy independence, and our economy.

In addition to John McCain, Republicans like Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, and even Sarah Palin agreed that taking action to mitigate climate change was a conservative thing to do. When business leaders published a letter in 2009 explicitly calling for climate legislation, guess who signed it.

So what happened? How did it become politically risky for Republicans to talk about the challenges climate change will pose to global health and security? How did they go from listening to experts to accusing them of conspiracies? And how can they now paint themselves (and the whole country) out of this corner?

Watch the video above to see how the climate debate in the US devolved into fully polarized gridlock.

by Joss Fong and Joe Posner

Multiple Western States Are Ablaze With Wildfires



One injury has been reported and evacuations are underway in multiple western states Thursday as wildfires have grown in size, burning thousands of acres. Massive firefighting efforts are happening in California, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah, according to multiple reports. Here are the details on the states’ fires:


In Utah, one firefighter was injured while battling a fire near Cedar City, where several homes north of where the 400-acre Aspen Fire is spreading are under threat. The firefighter tripped on rocky terrain and suffered a head injury, according to Fox News. The Aspen Fire is one of three wildfires happening in Utah as of Thursday afternoon, according to the State of Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.


Wildfires in most western states are still growing, though in Nevada, officials reported that 180 firefighters were mopping up the remnants of a 300-acre fire near the California border early Thursday. What was the largest of three fires in Nevada died overnight thanks to cold temperatures, but not before causing outages for some 4,100 residents. The other two fires caused some structural damage but no injuries have been reported.


A fire in a national forest in Santa Barbara — a county just north of Los Angeles — grew Thursday to cover more than 1,200 acres, or 2 square miles, as strong winds continue in the drought-ravaged state. Hundreds of campers and homeowners have been evacuated as the fire that started Wednesday grew overnight. At one point an ExxonMobil refinery located near the so-called Sherpa Fire was a concern, but that facility is now considered safe. Still, mandatory evacuations were in place for multiple California communities near the Los Padres National Forest.


Arizona has been battling its second wildfire in a week. The Cedar Creek Fire grew to more than 3,000 acres by Wednesday evening, the Arizona Republic reports, sending plumes of smoke through the scenic White Mountains east of the state. The fire prompted Navajo County to evacuate one community and issue pre-evacuation orders for summertime havens of Show Low, Pinetop-Lakeside, McNary, Fort Apache and Hon-Dah.

New Mexico

For its part, New Mexico is under a state of emergency following a blaze just south of Albuquerque that reportedly covers more than 3 square miles. Dubbed the Dog Head Fire, the fire prompted Gov. Susana Martinez to declare an emergency so state funds can be used for firefighting and other assistance efforts. The Dog Head Fire and the Cedar Creek Fire in Arizona are so far the largest burning the west, but the situation seems fluid as wind advisories are in effect in some of these states. Smoke could be the next problem, however. New Mexico agencies issued an advisory Wednesday, the Weather Channel reports, warning that smoke could migrate to the state capital, Albuquerque, as well as other northern parts of New Mexico, including Santa Fe.

Cool and generally moist conditions in May across much of the interior west region of the U.S. kept fire activity low, according to a National Interagency Fire Center report issued Wednesday.However, hot weather late in the month allowed fires to develop in grass and brush in the Southwest and parts of the Northwest. According to the report, this trend will continue as summer heat sets in and more fuels become receptive to fire. Alaska can also see significant fires this month, the agency reported, but recent mild conditions and periodic precipitation have kept fire activity low so far.

Studies have linked global warming to longer wildfire seasons. And as climate change exacerbates wildfires, one study estimates that fighting wildfires could cost as much as $62.5 billion annually by 2050.


We Just Completed A Full Year Of Record-Hot Months




“I’m just in shock,” says one climate scientist. “I wish it weren’t so.”

For the 12th month in a row, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has announced record-high global temperatures — marking a yearlong heat streak that scientists say is grim sign of climate change in action.

April 2016 was the hottest April ever recorded by NOAA since it started tracking global temperatures in 1880, the agency announced Wednesday. This is the 12th consecutive month the agency has identified a monthly global temperature record. That’s the longest such streak NOAA has ever recorded.

“The April temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.98°F above the 20th century average of 56.7°F,” NOAA announced. “This was the highest for April in the 1880-2016 record, surpassing the previous record set in 2010 by 0.50°F.”

Those temperatures are staggering, climatologists say.

“It’s pretty striking,” said Astrid Caldas, a climate scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists and a Huffington Post contributor. “I’m just in shock. I wish it weren’t so.”

Caldas noted that she didn’t expect the planet would arrive at this point so quickly.

“I think most climate scientists are surprised at the speed that it’s happening,” she said. “But at the same time, with emissions peaking again last year… everything was pointing to an increased temperature. It’s the amount by which the records are being broken, not the fact that the record’s being broken, that’s really striking.”

While this year’s powerful El Niño contributed to the yearlong streak, it’s definitely not the root cause, climate scientists emphasized.

“The overall rise in [temperature] is clearly global warming, but punctuated by added spikes from El Niño,” Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, explained in an email.

“We are breaking records by 3 to 4 tenths of degree C, whereas even the largest El Niños… only boost global temperatures by 1 to 2 tenths of a degree C,” Michael Mann, a climate scientist and director of Pennsylvania State University’s Earth System Science Center, told The Huffington Post in an email. “Even neglecting the possibility that climate change itself is leading to more monster El Niños… El Niño cannot explain the majority of this record warmth. Climate change is clearly playing a key role in the record warmth.”

NASA also recently announced that April 2016 was the hottest April on record, although it considers it to have been the 7th consecutive monthly record, not the 12th. NASA uses slightly different dates than NOAA to determine the long-term average temperatures, and it says that September 2014 was warmer than September 2015 — a finding that Mann says might be more accurate than NOAA’s.

Regardless, neither agency is denying that the past 12 months have been marked by disastrous heat-related climate events.

“I think it is quite clear that climate change has played a key role in several record weather events during the past year, including record strength hurricanes (both the Northern and Southern hemisphere saw their most intense hurricanes on record during the past year), an unprecedented, still ongoing California drought, and raging Canadian wildfires unlike anything we’ve seen so early in the fire season,” Mann wrote. “And that’s just a few examples.”

Caldas pointed to the floods in Texas and Oklahoma last May.

“They have the signature of climate change,” she said, noting that warmer weather allows the atmosphere to hold more moisture. “The heavy downpours are getting heavier.”

The recent widespread coral bleaching, she added, has been linked to water temperatures being so high that coral is losing the ability to cope.

International negotiations will be key to mitigating even greater temperature rise in the next 12 months, climatologists say.

“The Paris Agreement needs to be implemented, country by country,” Trenberth said. He added that he’d like to see a universal price on carbon implemented globally — “but politically that will be tough.”

Given the United States’ critical role in the Paris agreement, it’s crucial that the next presidential administration continue taking the lead on climate issues, Mann said.

“We will need to decide in this next presidential election whether we want to continue the progress that the current administration has made, or throw it all away by electing a climate change denier president,” he wrote. “The fate of the Earth does quite literally lie in the balance.”

Lydia O’Connor

Climate Change Is Driving Ocean Oxygen Levels Down, And That’s a Big Problem For Marine Ecosystems

Credit: Shutterstock


Scientists know that climate change is slowly robbing the oceans of their oxygen, but historically, it’s been hard to differentiate oxygen loss that’s due to natural ocean cycles and warming-driven loss. Now, a new study predicts that within the next 15 to 25 years, warming-caused oxygen loss will be detectable across the worlds’ oceans.
The study, published in Global Biogeochemical Cycles, used modelling to determine that, between 2030 and 2040, warming-caused oxygen loss will be severe enough — and data will be comprehensive enough — for scientists to see what parts of the ocean are being affected by human-caused deoxygenation.

“Oxygen varies naturally in the ocean quite substantially,” Matthew Long, lead author of the study and scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “Without any human-driven climate change we could expect oxygen levels at a particular location to go up and down in such a way that low levels may be persistent for a number of years, followed by a period of high levels.”

That means that, if scientists today measure oxygen levels in part of the ocean for a short period of time and observe a decreasing trend, they can’t say for sure if that trend is caused by climate change, Long said. But that should change by 2030.

“While there’s some ambiguity now, in the not too distant future, that ambiguity will be eliminated in places where we have long records,” he said.

Deoxgenation due to climate change is already detectable in some parts of the ocean. New research from NCAR finds that it will likely become widespread between 2030 and 2040. Other parts of the ocean, shown in gray, will not have detectable loss of oxygen due to climate change even by 2100.

Deoxgenation due to climate change is already detectable in some parts of the ocean. New research from NCAR finds that it will likely become widespread between 2030 and 2040. Other parts of the ocean, shown in gray, will not have detectable loss of oxygen due to climate change even by 2100. CREDIT: IMAGE COURTESY MATTHEW LONG, NCAR

As the planet warms, the oceans are absorbing a lot of heat — so much so that ocean heat sinkswere responsible for the slowdown in atmospheric temperature increase earlier this century. But warmer waters, as the study explains, don’t absorb as much oxygen as cooler waters do. Higher surface water temperature also “stratifies the ocean,” the study states: As the surface water warms, it becomes more buoyant and less dense, meaning that it mixes less and oxygen at the surface doesn’t make it to the middle of the ocean.

“It’s that mixing that’s responsible for sustaining oxygen levels at depth,” Long said.

Lack of oxygen is a serious problem for ocean ecosystems. Just like animals on land, marine creatures like fish and crabs depend on oxygen for survival. In the last 50 years alone, National Geographic reports, areas of the ocean with low oxygen have increased by 1.7 million square miles. Many species can’t survive in these regions, so they hover towards the top of the ocean, avoiding the low-oxygen regions closer to the middle.

“What is very clear is that if the trend of human warming continues — which it seems likely to do given the relative inactivity on curtaining CO2 emissions — oxygen levels in the ocean at depth will continue to decline and there will be significant impacts on marine ecosystems,” Long said. “As oxygen levels decline, more and more of the ocean is going to be uninhabitable by certain organisms. Habitat will become more fragmented, and the ecosystem will become more vulnerable to other stressors.”

And the oceans are facing a multitude of other stressors. Take coral bleaching: When ocean temperatures get too high, corals become stressed and expel the photosynthetic algae living symbiotically in their tissues. Without this algae, the coral turns white and is at a much higher risk of death if temperatures don’t fall quickly enough. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is seeing the worst coral bleaching in 15 years due to high ocean temperatures, and reefs at Kiritimati Atoll, located about 1,300 miles south of Hawaii, have seen such severe bleaching in recent months that 80 percent of their coral has died.

Reefs are hugely important to the ocean ecosystem: according to NOAA, they provide habitat to “more species per unit area than any other marine environment, including about 4,000 species of fish, 800 species of hard corals and hundreds of other species.” There could also be as many as 8 million other yet-to-be-discovered species living in and near coral reefs. And reefs are key to the livelihoods of 500 million people around the world.

And though ocean oxygen levels are being driven down, carbon dioxide levels in the ocean are going up. Ocean acidification, which is driven by increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the oceans, is a major problem for marine ecosystems. It’s causing coral reefs to grow more slowly, and it can make it difficult for shellfish larvae to grow shells.

We need to address the cause of oxygen loss — and warming and acidification — if we want to slow it, Long said. That means decreasing CO2 emissions. But more investment in our monitoring abilities is also key if we want to understand where and how low oxygen levels are impacting the ocean.

“Being able to really quantify what’s going on is really important,” he said.


This March Was Hottest on Record by a Large Margin

Spring weather Mar 25th 2016. People enjoying the sun sitting in deckchairs on Bournemouth beach. Picture date: Friday March 25, 2016. See PA story WEATHER Easter. Photo credit should read: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire URN:25916481


It was the 11th month in row to be the hottest such month on record

Last month was the hottest March since record keeping began, the eleventh such consecutive record, according to reports released this week.

Average global temperatures last month were 1.07 °C (1.9°F) above the average in March since 1891, according to data from the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA). Separate data released by NASAshows that March was 1.65°C (3.0°F) warmer than the average between 1951 and 1980. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the primary keeper of such data in the U.S., will release its numbers next week.

March may have also been the most above-average temperature month of all time, but preliminary agency data is inconsistent on that record. February of this year broke that record by a dramatic margin.

The temperature record was likely driven by the ongoing, but now fading,El Niño climate phenomenon that raises global temperatures and wrecks havoc on global weather patterns as well as ongoing climate change. Scientists widely expect 2016 to be the hottest year on record.

The string of records, and the scale at which they are being broken, are raising fears that the world is approaching the 2°C (3.6°F) level of warming above preindustrial levels that scientists say could bring about catastrophic and irreversible consequences.

Keeping temperature rise below that threshold has been enshrined in the language of climate scientists and international agreements on climate change, including the Paris Agreement reached last year. Recent temperature spikes underscore how difficult meeting that target may be.

“If we continue to burn fossil fuels and increase the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, we will assume that this level of warmth will be perpetual,” said Michael Mann, professor of atmospheric science at Pennsylvania State University, after last month’s record. “This is a reminder that we need to need to decarbonize.”

Palin: Bill Nye ‘as much a scientist as I am’

Getty Images


Sarah Palin tore into Bill Nye’s scientific qualifications on Thursday, saying he has no authority to say climate skeptics are wrong.

Palin, the former governor of Alaska and the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate, said the man known for his show “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” is using his position of authority to harm children by teaching them that climate change is real and man-made.

“Bill Nye is as much a scientist as I am,” Palin said at a Capitol Hill event held to roll out a film that aims to discredit climate scientists. “He’s a kids’ show actor, he’s not a scientist.”

Palin said behind the “alarmism” that the climate is changing is a “predetermined” and political agenda “of those, I think, who are controlling the narrative right now on changes in the weather.”

She repeatedly dismissed climate change as changes in weather, and said scientists who believe the consensus that humans are the main cause of global warming are trying to shut down human progress.

Palin encouraged parents to teach their children to doubt climate change and to “ask those questions and not just believe what Bill Nye the Science Guy is trying to tell them.”

Palin, largely unknown on the national stage before the 2008 election, made a name for herself as an outspoken advocate of fossil fuels, repeatedly exclaiming, “Drill, baby, drill!” during the campaign to encourage more oil and natural gas drilling.

She has endorsed Donald Trump in the 2016 election, though she largely shied away from talking about presidential politics Thursday, except to suggest that candidates talk more about the climate change controversy.

“It’s something that our candidates should be talking about, and giving us their view on and hopefully acknowledging that it needs to become, in the science community, less political,” she said. “Otherwise, it leads us to believe that so many things coming from perhaps the scientists could be bogus. If this is bogus, you know, what else are they trying to tell us and trying to control us around if they can’t get this one right?”

Nye is a one of the main targets of the film shown Thursday, known as “Climate Hustle.” It stars Marc Morano, head of skeptic blog Climate Depot, and is presented largely as a response to “Merchants of Doubt,” a documentary attacking skeptics and comparing them to the tobacco industry.

In an interview with Morano in the film that he highlighted, Nye advocates for investigating people and companies who make a name for themselves doubting climate science.

“The introduction of this extreme doubt … about climate change is affecting my quality of life as a public citizen,” he said. “So I can see where people are very concerned about this and are pursuing criminal investigations as well engaging in discussions like this … they’re keeping us from getting to work, they’re holding us back.”

Palin shot back at the event.

“I’m all about mankind. I want life to be better for mankind and that takes development of our natural resources. That’s what allowed America to become exceptional,” she said.

“If anything, some people would say I’m pushing progress and development too aggressively, certainly not holding anybody back, I want people to work, I want people to produce.”

Infamous Climate Denier Falls Apart After Bill Nye Makes Him A $20,000 Bet He Knows He’ll Lose (VIDEO)


Bill Nye was this close to participating in a debate on climate change with Sarah Palin, only to find out that he wasn’t invited to the panel… But in a recently aired teaser for an interview with Marc Morano, the organizer of the climate denial panel, it’s obvious to see why the group was terrified to let Nye on the stage with an intellectual lightweight like Sarah Palin – Nye mopped the floor with Morano’s tired arguments and didn’t even break a sweat.

In a two-and-a-half minute clip of a lengthier interview, Nye gets Morano, a man whom Media Matters named the “Climate Change Misinformer of the Year” in 2012, to admit that the world is warming. Then he asks the outspoken denier to put his money where his mouth and winds up demonstrating just how little confidence Morano has in his own radical position.

Nye: Would you take the bet? 2016 will be among the hottest of the last 10 years and that [between] 2010 and 2020 will be the hottest decade on record?

Morano: No. I would agree with both of those, but I would say it’s a meaningless stat because it’s tenths of a degree.

Nye points out that even tenths of a degree each year means major changes in climate over the next few decades. Morano, who comes from the school of “Let future generations worry about it” is again stumped when Nye flips the narrative by focusing on his children and the future he is building for them.

“Bear in mind, your reputation in the mainstream is a guy who will do almost anything to win. Your children go to school, they have access to the internet, they see your history, what you’ve said about people. Your publishing of emails. You’ve even encouraged harassment. I agreed to do this interview because I think it will expose your point of view as very much in the minority, and very much not in our national interest and not in the world’s interest. And as I say again, I’m very concerned about your kids.”

Morano is known as the guy who most vehemently pushed the bogus story that climate scientists were faking data to promote the climate change agenda. He operates almost exclusively outside of reality. Last year he threw an epic temper tantrum on Fox News after learning that Google planned to tweak their search algorithm to account for “factual validity” because he assumed (correctly, let’s be fair) that his work would be pushed to the very bottom.

The full-time propagandist recently produced and hosted a new documentary called “Climate Hustle” which he and friend Sarah Palin have billed the right-wing’s response to Al Gore’s Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth. Morano said the film “delivers a powerful presentation of dissenting science, best of all, in a humorous way.” Adding: “This film may change the way you think about ‘global warming.’”

According to an exclusive by Variety , Palin will be participating in an event that features a screening of the film and then a panel discussion afterwards. It will be hosted by Republican Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas (another denier) and Palin – who once described oil, gas, and minerals as “those things that God has dumped on this part of the earth [Alaska] for mankind’s use instead of us relying on unfriendly foreign nations.” They’re not exactly playing with a full deck.

Nye has a reputation for tearing ignorant opponents to shreds during debates. He recently put on a master class during a much-publicized debate with creationist theme park owner Ken Ham, in which he not only emerged the victor, but probably even changed a few minds in a crowd of deeply religious Ham fans.

Nye already seems pretty confident that despite not being invited to appear in person, his interview with Morano says it all. On Twitter, he trolled Morano after the teaser for the contentious interview between the two aired showing that Morano would not accept Nye’s bet of $20,000.

It was originally reported that Nye would be in attendance at the event to square off against Palin, this unfortunately isn’t true. Instead, audiences will get to listen to Palin ramble on about polar bears and drill, baby, drill with nobody there to call her on her misinformation. It is, without a doubt, a major missed opportunity.