U.S. Politics

Even Fox News slams EPA chief’s climate denial: ‘All kinds of studies contradict you’

Screenshot of FoxNews Sunday morning graphic debunking EPA Chief Scott Pruitt’s claim CO2 is not a ‘primary contributor’ to global warming

THINK PROGRESS

Even Fox News can’t believe that the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, doesn’t accept the basic scientific finding that carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to recent global warming.

To promote President Trump’s disastrous plan to gut the EPA and U.S. climate action, Pruitt has been pushing his dangerous beliefs on all the major networks.

Pruitt may have thought the Murdoch-owned network that has led the way on attacking climate science for two decades would be a friendly audience. He was wrong.

Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace thoroughly debunked Pruitt for defending his absurd claim that CO2 is not “a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”

Wallace will have none of it: “Mr. Pruitt, there are all kinds of studies that contradict you.” He quotes the conclusion of the world’s leading climate scientists in the U.N.’s 2013 assessment of the scientific literature that there’s a 95 to 100 percent chance “human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”

Pruitt hems and haws and tries to gloss over his statement. Wallace then blasts him for “sugarcoating what you said,” and reduces the question to its simplest form. “What if you are wrong?” asks Wallace.

“What if, in fact, the earth is warming, what if it is causing dramatic climate change and we as humans through carbon emissions are contributing to it? Simple question, what if you are wrong?”

Pruitt can’t admit that possibility, so he hides behind the tiny mistake Wallace makes in an otherwise outstanding grilling of Pruitt. Wallace only asks what if humans are “contributing” to climate change, rather than hitting Pruitt on his denial that humans are the “primary” contributor.

This allows Pruitt to concede CO2 makes some contribution, assert “the issue is how much we contribute to it,” and sidestep the fact that the overwhelming majority of climate scientists — over 97 percent of them — understand that humans are the primary cause of climate change and thus are the primary solution.

As an important aside, the UN assessment of climate science that Fox News cited states clearly, “The best estimate of the human-induced contribution to warming is similar to the observed warming over this period.” That is, the best estimate by scientists is that humans are responsible for all of the warming we have suffered since 1950! Every major government in the world signed off on this finding.

Still, kudos to Chris Wallace for dismantling Pruitt’s lies. What a topsy-turvy world it is where Fox News takes on the role of defender of climate science. It seems even they draw the line at certain alternative facts.

Joe Romm

U.S. Politics

Your vote in the 2016 election explains almost everything about your climate beliefs

VOX

For “not a partisan issue,” climate change sure looks like a partisan issue.

This week, we finally got President Trump’s long-promised executive order dismantling President Obama’s restrictions on carbon pollution — part of his broader assault on Obama’s environmental legacy. Which makes this a good time to have another look at public opinion on climate change.

As I have written before (see here and here), there is a deep and abiding partisan divide in opinion on global warming. That divide has held steady for decades now, through shifting weather, political administrations, and cultural moods.

It is not strange that this partisan divide on climate should exist. America is deeply dividedalong partisan lines, and that is reflected in public opinion on almost every issue, political or otherwise.

What is strange is how much trouble climate hawks, scientists, and environmentalists have had accepting what is right in front of their faces. Millions of words have been written over the years attempting to plumb the socio-psychological depths of climate denialism — endless polls, studies, surveys, focus groups, A-B tests, and analyses seeking an explanation for the alleged mystery of how millions of people could reject well-established scientific conclusions.

But it is no mystery. Republicans deny climate change because they are Republicans and that’s what Republicans do.

The climate split is the partisan split

The analysts at Rhodium Group have found a nice visual way to illustrate the point. They started with data from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, which runs a big survey on climate change opinion every year (here’s 2016).

Yale surveys more than 18,000 adults and then runs various kinds of statistical regressions (more on methodology here) to derive county-level data on climate opinion. They then generate opinion maps on various climate-related topics. (I covered 2015’s here.)

Anyway, here’s the map of belief that humans are causing climate change:

yale climate opinion data(Rhodium)

Now here is a county-level map of 2016 presidential election voting results:

county-level election data(Rhodium)

Notice any similarities? Yeah. They are very close to identical.

Rhodium puts a number on it: “86% of the variation across counties in respondent’s belief that ‘global warming is mostly caused by human activity’ is explained by voting preference.”

correlation between climate opinion and voting(Rhodium)

Another way of saying this: For practical purposes, most of what you need to know about people’s beliefs on climate change you can glean from their partisan affiliation. To a first approximation, most Democrats accept anthropogenic climate change, and most Republicans don’t.

That’s is a somewhat boring and frustrating conclusion, but it points to the only real path out of this mess.

Research shows that most people do not have particularly firm or coherent opinions on political issues. They don’t really think in terms of “issues” at all, not the way journalists and other politicos do. For the most part, they don’t read or watch political media. They are busy with lives and jobs and families and don’t have time to study policy disputes and form their own independent opinions.

Especially when it comes to something like climate change, which for most people is largely an abstraction, they are content to adopt the beliefs and tropes of their tribes, to go along with what their peers and trusted authorities say. This is true of Republicans and Democrats alike.

Republicans will accept that climate change is an urgent problem that warrants a policy response when leaders in conservative politics and media begin treating it that way. That is the only thing that can or will change the partisan divide on climate.

If you want to know what will bring conservative leaders and politicians around, the right level of analysis is not cognitive or psychological but political — it’s about money and power.

That is the simple and long since obvious truth behind the alleged mystery of climate denial.


Addendum: clean energy and pollution controls are more popular

It’s worth noting that environmental policies and solutions have not been completely caught up in the climate opinion maelstrom.

Yale also surveyed opinion on carbon controls on power plants (like the Clean Power Plan) and renewable portfolio standards (which require utilities to sell a certain amount of clean energy).

The results still distinctly show the effects of partisanship. “Voter preference in the 2016 Presidential election,” Rhodium writes, “explains 83% of the cross-county variation in both instances.”

partisan correlation(Rhodium)

But notice something else about these numbers: They are much higher. Carbon pollution standards are supported by an average of 69 percent of Americans. Renewable energy standards are supported by 66 percent. (This compares with 53 percent who accept human-caused climate change.)

The partisan divide shapes public opinion on solutions — clean air and clean energy — just like it does on climate change. But it has not dragged them down as far. They remain broadly popular, uniting Democrats and splitting Republicans. It is odd that ambitious young Democrats don’t make better use of them.

U.S. Politics

The myth of liberal Ivanka Trump

CREDIT: AP Photo/ Evan Vucci

THINK PROGRESS

A series of anonymously-sourced anecdotes have created an image of a moderate Trump in the White House. But actual policy changes are hard to find.

Standing before the crowd at the Republican National Convention last July, the future first daughter— dressed in an Ivanka Trump-branded muted sheath dress that was later marketed to consumers through her considerable social media presence — opened her speech with a strange line for the most visible child of the new leader of the Republican Party.

“Like many of my fellow millennials, I do not consider myself categorically Republican or Democrat,” Ivanka told a cheering crowd. “More than party affiliation, I vote on based on what I believe is right, for my family and for my country. Sometimes it’s a tough choice.”

It was a speech met with near-universal praise from pundits and delegates. California delegate Shawn Steel told the Guardian that it proved Ivanka was “the greatest asset Donald Trump has.” CNN called it “smart and savvy.” And Vanity Fair called it “remarkable,” noting that it struck a decidedly different tone from the rest of the convention.

“She simply pretended she was speaking at the Democratic Party’s convention, and delivered a speech about the wage gap, maternal leave, and other liberal ideals,” wrote Tina Nyugen.

Ivanka followed that speech with a slew of public appearances and interviews where she advocated for her father’s paid leave plan — a plan that will do little to help low-income Americans who need the most help shouldering the cost of childcare. When Trump won the election in November, a trickle of anonymously-sourced stories suggested Ivanka would use her position in the White House — unofficial, to comply with nepotism laws — to pull her notoriously extreme father towards the center on traditionally liberal issues like women’s rights, family leave, and the environment.

 ivanka

In recent weeks, the trickle of anonymously-sourced stories painting Ivanka as a progressive influence on her father has grown to a deluge, with stories coming out almost daily suggesting Ivanka and her husband, senior White House advisor Jared Kusher, have been working behind the scenes to moderate both Trump’s tone and policy goals.

Among the stories are rumors that, thanks to Ivanka and Kushner, when Trump releases his long-anticipated executive order next week rolling back several crucial Obama-era climate policies, there will be no mention of pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, a pledge that had been a staple in the Trump stump speech. A recent round of anonymously-sourced stories also claim that Ivanka was the primary reason for Trump’s more moderate tone during his Joint Address to Congress on Tuesday night, a perception that won Trump rounds of praise from political pundits.

But just as Trump’s more measured tone benefited Trump more than it benefited Americans — allowing the president to bask in the adoration of the media without actually changing any of his unpopular policies — the liberal myth of Ivanka does more to bolster Ivanka’s personal brand, and insulate the White House from criticism of its most unpopular policies, than protect Americans from Trump’s extreme agenda.

In late January and early February, at the dawn of the Trump presidency, rumors began circulating that the White House was preparing an executive order that would overturn Obama-era protections of LGBTQ workers, something Trump’s Vice President, Mike Pence, has supported throughout his legislative career.

That executive order did not come to fruition; instead, the White House released a statement pledging its support to “protect the rights of all Americans, including the LGBTQ community.” Sources identified only as being “close to Kushner and Ivanka Trump” told Politico that the world had Ivanka and Kusher to thank for that order, who had worked behind the scenes to ensure the Obama-era protections remained in place.

But almost a month after pledging to protect the rights of the LGBTQ community, the White House rolled back federal protections for transgender students. This time, there was no word from Ivanka — not even through anonymous sources. When it came to actual policies enacted by her father’s White House, Ivanka was silent.

That’s far from the only example of an outlet running a story, based on an anonymous source, depicting Ivanka as a moderating influence on her father, followed by a Trump policy that functions to the opposite effect. In December, Politico ran a story, based again on nameless sources, suggesting Ivanka was looking to make climate change her signature issue.

The media seized on the story almost immediately, wondering if Ivanka would be able to convince her father — an infamous climate change denier who called the phenomenon “a hoax” created by the Chinese — that climate change was a crisis worth tackling.

And those stories have continued through the early days of Trump’s presidency: A week ago, the Wall Street Journal published a story based on unnamed sources that credited Ivanka and Kushner with removing mention of the Paris climate agreement from Trump’s forthcoming executive order on climate change. The day after Trump’s speech to Congress, Axios published a story based on an unnamed source that credited Ivanka with the passing mention of “clean air and clean water” that made it into Trump’s remarks — the only reference to the environment in the entire speech.

And yet, Ivanka’s allegedly moderating influence with respect to the environment has done little to stop the Trump administration from enacting a strikingly anti-environment agenda. To lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Trump appointed Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s attorney general who sued the EPA 14 times to block various environmental regulations, from the Clean Power Plan to the Clean Water Rule. On the same day Trump gave his speech to Congress, with its single mention of “clean air and clean water,” he signed an executive order directing the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to begin rolling back the Obama-era Clean Water Rule, which expanded the coverage of the Clean Water Act to protect drinking water for 117 million Americansnot previously protected by the Clean Water Act.

Perhaps most glaring are reports of the omission of the Paris agreement from the forthcoming Trump executive order on climate — one of the most widely re-reported anonymously-sourced anecdotes about Ivanka’s environmental efforts in the Trump White House. Without fail, they all neglect to highlight the fact that the United States’ participation in the Paris agreement, without the domestic policies that Trump is set to undo with that same executive order, amounts to little more than a public relations performance.

The Paris agreement is built on the independent domestic pledges of participating countries — without domestic policies like the Clean Power Plan, or without a leader interested in deepening the country’s commitment to greenhouse gas reductions, it makes little difference if the United States participates in the agreement. It is participation in name only — and coming from the world’s largest historic emitter of greenhouse gases, participation in name only could be enough to sink the agreement altogether.

Unlike issues she has championed publicly, any image of Ivanka as an environmentalist or a champion of LGBTQ rights comes not from her own words, but from pictures painted by anonymous sources and published by media outlets without critical coverage. And even when Ivanka speaks about an issue on the record — as she has with paid leave and women in the workplace —coverage is often uncritical, focusing more on talking points than the details of the policy.

The benefit of these stories to readers, and the American public, is negligible. It offers the quick thrill of an uncorroborated glimpse into an administration that seems, at times, without a unifying purpose, and for those who care about issues like the environment or human rights, it can seem like a life raft of sanity in an otherwise hopeless sea of extremism. But despite Ivanka’s palpable presence in the administration — she appears in administration meetings and events almost daily, despite having no official role — Trump’s presidency has thus far been marked by orders to roll back protections on both human rights and the environment.

If anything, these stories are a net-negative for the American public, distracting from Trump’s more extreme policies by softening them through Ivanka. A story on a forthcoming executive order not criticizing the Paris climate agreement shifts focus away from what the order does mention: likely the dismantling of crucial domestic policies meant to curb carbon pollution and slow global warming. Stories about Trump mentioning clean water once in his speech detract attention from the fact that hours before, he signed an order rolling back clean water protections — protections that are extremely popular with voters.

But, above all, these stories benefit Ivanka. They perpetuate her carefully cultivated image of a young woman who votes with her conscience, not a particular party; a young woman who cares deeply about equality and opportunity and the future of our planet, deeply enough to attach her name to those causes so long as it comes from an unnamed, untraceable source.

Her choice of issues — paid family leave, LGBTQ rights, the environment — are as calculated as the carefully curated reality of her Instagram account, where her inoffensive tone creates what ThinkProgress’ Jessica Goldstein described before the election as a “blank space onto which liberals can project a favorite fantasy.” It’s no coincidence that Ivanka’s preferred causes are those often championed by millennials, and especially millennial women. That is, and always has been, her target audience — the group that, according to a 2015 Vogue profile, Ivanka geared her entire clothing and lifestyle brand toward.

In that same profile, author Jonathan van Meter quotes a friend of Ivanka’s, who tells him that “her father is hated by half of America and loved by the other half. The half that love him love her, and the half that hate him love her — because she’s not him!’”

Anonymously-sourced stories give Ivanka enough cover to perpetuate the idea that she is distinct from her father — that she is of Trump, but not necessarily the Trump. For those who oppose her father’s policies, this myth of a liberal Ivanka acts like an oasis of reason in a landscape seemingly void of such principles; it comforts those who know that without a moderating presence, all the president is left with is an adviser like Steve Bannon. But for those who support her father’s policies, anonymously-sourced stories create a myth nebulous enough that it can be ignored — especially when the concrete policies coming from the White House are consistently more Bannon than Ivanka.

Ancient cultures created myths to explain that which seemed inexplicable; earthquakes, floods, plagues, feast, and famine all came from unseen deities, forces that rippled into reality but remained just outside the field of view. But myths, by definition, are not real — and it’s time to learn the difference.

Natasha Geiling

 

U.S. Politics

A Government Website For Kids Is Scrubbed Of Warnings About Climate Change, Fracking, And Coal.

WISE COUNTY, VA - APRIL 16: An explosive is detonated at an A & G Coal Corporation surface mining operation in the Appalachian Mountains on April 16, 2012 in Wise County, Virginia. Critics refer to this type of mining as

Mountaintop Mining in Virginia

DAILY KOS

If you want your child to understand the harrowing implications of climate change or the impact of coal mining on the environment, don’t look to the U.S. Government to teach them anymore. An article jointly published in Pro-Publica and The Atlantic shows that the incoming Trump Administration has taken its climate-change denier message to a new low by erasing inconvenient facts from a popular, award-winning website designed to inform children about forms of energy.

Twenty years ago, the Energy Information Administration, an arm of the Department of Energy, created Energy Kids, a site to inform kids about energy sources and the science behind them. The current iteration of “Energy Kids” also explicitly bills itself as a “teaching tool” for educators, and encourages teachers to “use our website in your lessons.” Drawing about 410,000 unique visitors last year, the site has won multiple awards for its content and design. But that was during the Obama Administration.

Wary of wholesale changes being made to government websites to accommodate Trump and the anti-science “philosophy” of the fossil fuel industry that supports him, the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, a group of scientists, lawyers and activists, identified numerous glaring alterations to the site made during the past month:

In recent weeks, language on the website describing the environmental impacts of energy sources has been reworked, and two pie charts concerning the link between coal and greenhouse gas emissions have been removed altogether.

In its goal to profit from the continued suffering of the human species wrought by man-made climate change, Trump’s cabal of fossil fuel CEO’s and climate change denialists have already telegraphed their intent to drastically cut back environmental enforcement by the EPA. But that apparently isn’t enough–Trump’s team now appears bent on fostering climate ignorance in our children as well.

On a page dedicated to coal, the following sentences were deleted: “In the United States, most of the coal consumed is used as a fuel to generate electricity. Burning coal produces emissions that adversely affect the environment and human health.”

The two pie charts that were axed showed that although coal generated only 42 percent of total U.S. electricity in 2014, it created 76 percent of total carbon-dioxide emissions linked to electricity generation.

These are the pie charts showing CO2 emissions from coal that were eliminated:

(h/t nomandates)

The new version of the website also pointedly eliminates the word “impact” when referring to environmental pollution caused by fossil fuel extraction and usage:

The sentence “Reuse and recycling can also reduce coal’s environmental impact” was changed to “Reuse and recycling can also reduce the environmental effects of coal production and use.” “Underground mines have less of an impact on the environment compared to surface mines” became “Underground mines generally have a lesser effect on the landscape compared to surface mines.” “Impacts of coal mining” was changed to “Effects of coal mining,” and “Reducing the environmental impacts of coal use” became “Reducing the environmental effects of coal use.”

Other changes involved reducing any mention of methane, one of the strongest and most harmful greenhouse gases to the environment, to a mere footnote, and deleting hyperlinks that led to explanations of the primary sources of man-made greenhouse gases.  And there are obvious alterations in the language stressing the harm of fracking:

In a section on oil, the sentence, “There are environmental concerns associated with hydraulic fracturing” became “Hydraulic fracturing has some effects on the environment.”

The percentage of greenhouse gases emitted by the United States from burning fossil fuels in comparison to other countries has also been deleted.

Most kids do not spend their Internet time reviewing DOE websites, so the obvious intent of this whitewashing of the impact of man-made greenhouse gases to the environment was to filter  down to science classes taught in our public schools, where such language would be dutifully memorized and regurgitated in school assignments:.

“Control of the stream by which we educate the young, that’s how you control the future understanding of generations, of how the world works,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania.

Jamieson said that while it’s hardly surprising that information about energy has been shifted toward the pro-fossil-fuel views of this administration, “You expect that in the explicit messaging of those talking about the policy, rather than in deleting things that we know.”

A spokesman for EIA told Pro-Publica that the changes were simply part of an “ongoing update process.”  That sounds suspiciously like the words of someone desperate to keep his own job. These are not “updates” but wholesale deletion of factual, scientific data. They aren’t being made pursuant to any recent “trend” in science, but a deliberate anti-science ideology.

This know-nothing Administration has already demonstrated its utter contempt for the environment of our country and our planet. The only “climate” it seems to be interested in is a climate of ignorance.

Dartagnan

U.S. Politics

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)

VOX

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

U.S. Politics

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.

THINK PROGRESS

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

U.S. Politics

Four Infographics That Show How Climate Change Is Affecting Your Health

Source: Mina Lee

THINK PROGRESS

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.

U.S. Politics

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

VOX   

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

U.S. Politics

Multiple Western States Are Ablaze With Wildfires

(CREDIT: MARK NUNEZ/LOS PADRES FOREST AVIATION/KEYT-TV VIA AP)

CLIMATE PROGRESS

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:

Utah

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.

Nevada

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.

California

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

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.

BY ALEJANDRO DAVILA FRAGOSO

U.S. Politics

We Just Completed A Full Year Of Record-Hot Months

 

FUSE VIA GETTY IMAGES

THE HUFFINGTON POST

“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