Tag Archives: climate change

And The Hits Keep Coming…

Every day, it seems, the Trump Administration sheds an advisor who is–whether or not one agrees with that person’s policy preferences–seemingly sane, and announces yet another appointee who is either deeply corrupt or factually-challenged or both.

The war being waged on public schools, the blithe disregard for the consequences of a trade war, the evisceration of HUD’s mission to help the poor, the reinstatement of a failed and flawed drug war–all of this is depressing. But the assault on the environment, the rollback of regulations that protect American air and water, is arguably the most sustained assault on science and sanity.

This morning’s media reported on a speech made by Interior Secretary Zinke, in which he asserted (without evidence) that wind power was largely responsible for global warming.

Last week, we learned that Trump and Pruitt had nominated a Dow Chemical executive to run the Superfund program.

Today’s report of rampant corruption comes, not surprisingly, from the EPA. Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt have nominated an attorney from Dow Chemical, one of the nation’s worst polluters, to run the Superfund program that cleans up after that company and many others.
In addition to his blog, Ed Brayton writes for a newspaper in Michigan, and his reaction to that nomination was based upon his reporting.

Dow is based here in Michigan and I’ve been reporting on them for many years. To call them environmental criminals is an insult to criminals. They are responsible for the enormous damage done by dioxins and furans, particularly in the Saginaw Bay area where their plants are located. The Tittabawassee River is massively contaminated, as are the soils around it. They have dragged their feet on cleaning it up for decades. Even the Bush-era EPA got so frustrated with them that they ended negotiations on just studying the problem in 2008. That contamination has spread from the Saginaw and Tittabawassee rivers into Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron, helping spoil one of the world’s most important freshwater reserves.

The Hill reports that the entire administration is being stacked with climate change deniers.

Even as leading scientists, environmentalists and most Democrats accept research that shows climate change accelerating — and as some see it contributing to the two mammoth hurricanes that have threatened the United States this year — some in Trump’s administration have openly raised doubts.

Administrator Scott Pruitt has questioned carbon dioxide’s role as a “primary contributor” to a warming climate, something accepted by most researchers. He’s also called for a public debate over climate change science, a proposal that has caused scientists, environmentalists and former regulators to bristle.

“I think it’s going to have a chilling effect on science overall because it’s going to elevate those scientists who are in the vast minority and give them a stage that, frankly, they don’t deserve,” said Christine Whitman, President George W. Bush’s first EPA administrator, who called the proposal “shameful” in a Friday New York Times op-ed.

“It’s wasting taxpayer money and making it an even more difficult issue for the average person to wade through, which I think is part of the political agenda, to make the case that we don’t need to do anything about this issue.”

The EPA has removed its climate science website. Pruitt has put a political appointee in charge of reviewing grants, and that official is reportedly targeting grants that focus on climate change. The EPA keeps rolling back regulations that protect our air and water. The list goes on.

What is it that Neil DeGrasse Tyson says? Reality doesn’t care whether you believe in it or not.

There’s another saying: Reality bites.  And that doesn’t bode well for our children or grandchildren–or for the planet.

Rejecting The Enlightenment

And here I thought Scott Pruitt was just a bought-and-paid-for member of the “mafia” wing of today’s GOP. His long history of combatting environmental regulations while representing fossil fuel industries seemed adequate to explain his (toxic) presence in the Trump Administration.

Now, however, we discover that he is also a True Believer in the Pence mold. According to Politico, Pruitt has a history of statements that would do Pence and the rest of the “cult” wing of the party proud.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt dismissed evolution as an unproven theory, lamented that “minority religions” were pushing Christianity out of “the public square” and advocated amending the Constitution to ban abortion, prohibit same-sex marriage and protect the Pledge of Allegiance and the Ten Commandments, according to a newly unearthed series of Oklahoma talk radio shows from 2005.

Pruitt, who at the time was a state senator, also described the Second Amendment as divinely granted and condemned federal judges as a “judicial monarchy” that is “the most grievous threat that we have today.” And he did not object when the program’s host described Islam as “not so much a religion as it is a terrorist organization in many instances.”

The six hours of civics class-style conversations on Tulsa-based KFAQ-AM were recently rediscovered by a firm researching Pruitt’s past remarks, which provided them to POLITICO on condition of anonymity so as not to identify its client. They reveal Pruitt’s unfiltered views on a variety of political and social issues, more than a decade before the ambitious Oklahoman would lead President Donald Trump’s EPA.

This is the man who is charged with safeguarding the nation’s air and water, the man whose agency is our first line of defense against climate change. Never before has the EPA been headed by a person who actively dismisses and ridicules science and scientific evidence.

When the taped conversations emerged, an EPA spokesman was asked whether Pruitt’s skepticism about evolution– one of the major foundations of modern science– could conflict with the agency’s mandate to make science-based decisions.

Spokesman Jahan Wilcox told POLITICO that “if you’re insinuating that a Christian should not serve in capacity as EPA administrator, that is offensive and a question that does not warrant any further attention.”

Obviously, that was not the “insinuation,” although I for one would agree that a person espousing Pruitt’s particular version of Christianity and its mandates should be kept as far away from the EPA as possible.

Some polls show that less than 30 percent of white evangelical Protestants believe that human activity is the driving factor behind climate change.

And Pruitt has echoed that sentiment, telling CNBC last year that he did not believe carbon dioxide was a primary contributor to climate change. Last week, he told the Christian broadcaster CBN News that he supports developing the nation’s energy resources, a stance that he believes aligns with Scripture’s teachings.

“The biblical worldview with respect to these issues is that we have a responsibility to manage and cultivate, harvest the natural resources that we’ve been blessed with to truly bless our fellow mankind,” he said.

To suggest that criticism of Pruitt is tantamount to saying that religion disqualifies people from heading the EPA is not only appallingly dishonest, it flies in the face of the agency’s history.

Pruitt isn’t the first EPA administrator to openly express his or her religious faith, of course. His immediate predecessor, Gina McCarthy, was a Roman Catholic who visited top officials at the Vatican in 2015 as church officials worked to write Pope Francis’ climate change encyclical. She oversaw the creation of the major climate change and water regulations that Pruitt’s EPA has started to unwind.

Can We Trade Trump For France’s Macron?

Remember “Freedom Fries”? Remember those sneering comments about the French? Because after all, we’re Amuricans, so we are clearly superior.

Right.

I watched the French election with interest. It was right after “Amurica” accidentally elected the Orange Ignoramus, and thoughtful observers were worried whether our disastrous election–coming on the heels of the equally disastrous Brexit vote in England–heralded a global spread of white nationalist extremism.

Trump, if you’ll recall, endorsed Marine Le Pen.

Fortunately, Trump’s Le Pen endorsement was every bit as effective as his lukewarm endorsement of Luther Strange and his full-throated advocacy for Roy Moore. The French election was won overwhelmingly by Emmanuel Macron. I’d been rooting for Macron–my middle son’s partner is Parisian and they split their time between Manhattan and Paris, so I had more insight into the French candidates than I would otherwise have had.

My preference for Macron has now been validated. As Reuters recently reported,

PARIS (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron plans to award multi-year grants for several U.S.-based scientists to relocate to France, his office said on Monday on the eve of a climate summit hosted by the president to raise finances to counter global warming.

Macron unveiled the “Make our Planet Great Again” grants after President Donald Trump in June said he was pulling the United States out of an international accord to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that was brokered in Paris in 2015.

Macron repeatedly tried to persuade the U.S. leader to reverse his decision. In a statement, the Elysee Palace said 13 of the initial 18 grants will be awarded to scientists based in the United States.

Meanwhile, our dumb and delusional President just dropped climate change from America’s National Security Strategy, in favor of “economic competitiveness.” (I assume we’ll be exceedingly competitive when we’re underfed and underwater..).

Lest you dismiss Macron’s offer to the scientific community as simply a (richly-deserved) middle-finger gesture to Trump, Science Magazine informs us that Macron’s invitation has already borne fruit:

French President Emmanuel Macron’s effort to lure disgruntled foreign climate scientists to France—especially from the United States—has produced its first harvest. France today announced that Macron’s Make Our Planet Great Again initiative has recruited its first class of 18 scientists. Of the new recruits, 13, including a few French nationals, now work in the United States, whereas others are based in Canada, India, and elsewhere in Europe.

It’s hard to disagree with the reaction of the liberal website Daily Kos:

Macron is appealing to shunned U.S. scientists with a simple message: Come do your work in France and we will give you grant money and respect you. What France gets out of the deal is a front-row seat for all of the environmental, energy, and other technical innovation that those scientists will now be producing in their new laboratories. Being on the forefront of new technology has been one of the surest ways to ensure your own workforce is highly skilled and earns high wages. You know, that thing that the United States was once famous for.

You have to wonder just how Donald Trump justifies his daily presidential existence when, at this point, even allies like France are openly mocking him. Donald said he’d be staffing our government with “the best people.” It turns out we got people like Kellyanne Conway while our “best people” take job offers in countries willing to respect their work.

Of course, Donald Trump doesn’t see any reason to “justify” his Presidential existence. He wouldn’t even understand the question.

America has elected an intellectually-challenged and severely mentally ill Chief Executive (casting serious doubt on the mental/intellectual capacities of American voters, but that’s a subject for a different day). Other countries–not just France, which will at least continue to be our ally during this depressing interlude– but China and of course Russia will take advantage of our diminished capacities and our dramatically declining global status.

But hey– Trump voters are happy. They got rid of that black President, brown people aren’t coming here anymore (even as tourists!), and as a bonus, they’re offloading those fancy-shmantsy elitists who do “science” and “facts.”

Happy (White Christian) days are here again….

 

Give Them Credit For Consistency….

Apparently, GOP lawmakers don’t have grandchildren.

It’s hard to say it more succinctly and accurately than a recent article in the Guardian:

The parallels between the Republican Party positions on taxes and climate change are striking. Both are morally appalling and reject the available evidence and expert opinion.

According to the article, 96% of economic experts who were asked about the GOP tax plan opined that it would not generate nearly enough economic growth to cover the shortfall in revenue it will cause. This same economic consensus has been reported by a number of other outlets, and the economists surveyed have included conservatives, moderates and liberals. There is 100% consensus that the tax package will grow the national debt.

Those numbers are quite similar to the 97% consensus among climate scientists that humans are driving global warming and the 95% consensus among economists that the US should cut its carbon pollution.

Oh, but what do “experts” know? (I wonder whether our intrepid Congress-critters take their chest pains to faith healers; they certainly substitute faith for knowledge in the policy arena.)

The author of the Guardian article– in an effort to figure out why Republicans passed the tax bill, and why they are unwilling to move environmental legislation–comes to the same conclusion: faith over fact.

The tax cut plan, which by design will increase the US national debt by $1.5tn, is also incompatible with Republican opposition to increased deficits. Just last year the Republican National Committee was warning of “an unsustainable path toward crippling debt.”

Again, the consistency with climate change denial is striking.

These Republican economic contradictions make no sense, but they’re familiar to those of us who follow climate change news. The only consistency in climate denial is in its contradictions – deniers claim global warming isn’t happening, but it’s a natural ocean cycle, and caused by the sun, and galactic cosmic rays, and Jupiter’s orbital cycles, and it’s really just a Chinese hoax, and in any case it’s not bad.

The author attributes the GOP’s faith-based approach to “intellectual rot,” and references an August 2017 Gallup poll, in which just 33% of Republicans expressed confidence in higher education, and the fact that the tax bill penalizes American graduate students. (Of course, it also wages war on public education overall. How it does that is a subject for yet another blog rant…Obviously, this tax bill will provide fodder for blog posts for the foreseeable future…)

Explanations of the intellectual vacuum that characterizes today’s GOP inevitably include  the influence of right-wing media.

A 2012 survey found that Americans who only watch Fox News are less informed than Americans who watch no news at all. At the time, 55% of Americans including 75% of Republicans reported watching Fox News. The network is powerful – a recent study found that Fox News might have enough influence to tip American elections – and on the whole it prioritizes ideological messaging over factual accuracy.

Trump’s attacks on the so-called “fake news” media have further eroded Republicans’ trust of news sources that lack a conservative bias. As David Roberts wrote for Vox:

The US is experiencing a deep epistemic breach, a split not just in what we value or want, but in who we trust, how we come to know things, and what we believe we know — what we believe exists, is true, has happened and is happening … the right has created its own parallel set of institutions, most notably its own media ecosystem … “conservative media is more partisan and more insular than the left.”

All true. All interesting to consider and discuss from a sociological perspective.

But I do have grandchildren, so my question is more urgent: what can rational people do? Voting these Neanderthals out is obvious, but we’ll still have to deal with that “epistemic breach,” if my grandchildren are going to inherit breathable air and a viable economy.

 

Row, Row, Row Your Boat–And Raise That Airport…

I try to read pretty broadly–both to inform myself and to come up with fodder for this blog. But I’ll admit that my reading materials of choice ordinarily would be unlikely to include Engineering News Record, which bills itself as “The Construction Resource.”

However, my husband, a retired architect, subscribes and reads it religiously, and I have to admit the publication quite often has fascinating information that you just don’t see elsewhere. Case in point: the August 7/14 issue’s special report on rising sea levels and what a sampling of threatened communities are doing about them.

I learned a lot.

  • Tangier Island, Virginia, has lost more than 66% of its land mass since 1850, and is eroding by some 25 additional feet each year.  Its Mayor wants to build a seawall, but the Army Corp of Engineers says the island will have to be abandoned sometime within the next 50 years.
  • In Cape Cod, the shrinking of the salt marsh is being met with construction of $4.8 million dollar bridge intended to restore natural tidal flow and–hopefully–sustain the wetlands. The article says the bridge is an example of a number of small, but high-impact projects that are their “best hope for fighting climate change.”
  • Boston is projected to experience between 2 and 6 feet of sea-level rise by 2200, and among other projects is building and reinforcing seawalls.
  • In New York City, Superstorm Sandy lent urgency to a “Big U” planned flood-protection system and an East Side Coastal Resiliency Project.
  • Atlantic City is building a 1,740 foot long seawall.
  • The Hampton Roads region of Norfolk, Virginia–facing one of the “worst combinations of erosion, subsidence and sea level rise in the nation”–explored the building of seawalls and sea gates, and concluded such measures would be too costly; according to the article, they are “looking for ways to live with increasing flooding.”

The article also reports on measures being studied or taken in Charleston,  Hattaras Island, Dare County, N.C., Houston, Miami Beach (which faces a sea level rise of 1.4 feet by 2040), Sacramento, Seattle and Louisiana (where measures to keep the state’s coastlines from falling apart have thus far been inadequate.)

Perhaps the most challenging situations are found at twelve of the nation’s airports. San Francisco is raising levees, and Miami International (facing 2 feet of sea level rise by 2060) is currently elevating its baggage handling area. But as one engineer notes, “You can’t just raise one runway–you have to raise the entire airport.”

I know you will be shocked–shocked–to learn that Trump’s proposed budget eliminates several of the climate-resilience programs that are helping these and other coastal communities with the enormous costs involved in these efforts.

Trump and Scott Pruitt–who is systematically dismantling the EPA–are both proponents of continued and even increased use of the fossil fuels that accelerate the pace of climate change. They dismiss–or choose to ignore– the scientific consensus. Trump reportedly told the mayor of a town located on an island that is sinking into the ocean “not to worry.” See, if we don’t worry about it, everything will be hunky-dory…

Just last week, Trump dissolved the science panel advising the EPA on climate change and rising sea levels. 

Too bad we can’t send Trump, Pruitt and other “alternate facts” assholes to an alternate universe where reality doesn’t bite.