Blog Archive

Thursday, March 30, 2017

DOE climate office bans use of phrase 'climate change'

The Department of Energy is pictured. | John Shinkle / POLITICO
The ICCE office has regular contact with officials from foreign countries, whichmay have led to the more aggressive action on language than in other offices, a source said. | John Shinkle / POLITICO

by Eric Wolff, Politico Pro, March 29, 2017

The Office of International Climate and Clean Energy is the only office at DOE with the words ‘climate’ in its name, and it may be endangered as Trump looks to reorganize government agencies.

A supervisor at the Energy Department's international climate office told staff this week not to use the phrases "climate change," "emissions reduction," or "Paris Agreement" in written memos, briefings or other written communications, sources have told POLITICO.

Employees of DOE’s Office of International Climate and Clean Energy learned of the ban at a meeting Tuesday, the same day President Donald Trump signed an executive order at EPA headquarters to reverse most of former President Barack Obama's climate regulatory initiatives. Officials at the State Department and in other DOE offices said they had not been given a banned words list, but they had started avoiding climate-related terms in their memos and briefings given the new administration's direction on climate change.

ICCE is the only office at DOE with the words "climate" in its name, and it may be endangered as Trump looks to reorganize government agencies. It plays a key role in U.S. participation in the Clean Energy Ministerial and Mission Innovation, two international efforts launched under Obama that were designed to advance clean energy technology.

The ICCE office has regular contact with officials from foreign countries, which may have led to the more aggressive action on language than in other offices, a source said. At the meeting, senior officials told staff the words would cause a "visceral reaction" with Energy Secretary Rick Perry, his immediate staff, and the cadre of White House advisers at the top of the department.

The Office of International Climate and Clean Energy is the only office at DOE with the words ‘climate’ in its name, and it may be endangered as Trump looks to reorganize government agencies.
A DOE spokeswoman denied there had been a new directive. "No words or phrases have been banned for this office or anyone in the Department,” said DOE spokeswoman Lindsey Geisler.

Another DOE source in a different office said that although there had been no formal instructions about climate-related language in their office there was a general sense that it's better to avoid certain hot-button terms in favor of words like "jobs" and "infrastructure."

A State Department official reported a similar mood.

"We have definitively not received anything on banned words, not even orally," the State official said. "But people are doing a lot of reading into tea leaves. People are taking their own initiatives to not use certain words based on hints from transition people. Everyone is encouraged to finding different ways of talking about things. There's a sense that you'd better find a way to delink" from the previous administration's talking points.

News of the DOE office's word ban drew criticism from one green group.

“What exactly is this office supposed to call itself now? The international C****** office? Ignoring the climate crisis will not make it go away, will not create jobs in the booming clean energy economy, and will not make our country great," Liz Perera, climate policy director at Sierra Club, said in a statement.

Darius Dixon and Ben Lefebvre contributed to this report.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Jeff Masters: Trump’s Executive Order Threatens to Wreck Earth as a Livable Planet for Humans

by Dr. Jeff Masters, wunderground, March 29, 2017

Decades of progress on cleaning up our dirty air took a significant hit on Tuesday, along with hopes for a livable future climate, when President Trump issued his Energy Independence Executive Order. Most seriously, the order attacks the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Clean Power Plan, which requires a 32% reduction in CO2 emissions from existing power plants by 2030 (compared to 2005 emission rates). 

Tuesday’s blow was just the latest in a series of attacks that threaten our health and the planet’s health. On March 15, Trump also ordered the EPA to review tough air pollution rules for cars and light trucks that were set to kick in between 2022 and 2025. Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018, released earlier this month, slashed funding for the EPA by 31%, and eliminated money for renewable energy programs and energy efficiency efforts such as the Energy Star program. 

Trump’s war on clean air will potentially kill tens of thousands of people annually and have health costs in the ten of billions of dollars each year. Separate studies done in 2016 by the World Bank and by the Health Effects Institute (a U.S. non-profit corporation funded by the EPA and the auto industry) estimated that air pollution kills between 91,000 and 100,000 Americans each year—nearly double the number of U.S. combat deaths (58,000) in Vietnam, or over 30 times the death toll of the 9/11 terror attacks. The EPA estimated that tough air pollution regulations under the Clean Air Act that began in 1990 saved over 164,000 lives in the year 2010 alone. 

Damages from U.S. air pollution are extreme. The World Bank study estimated that, in the year 2013 alone, the U.S. suffered $473 billion in health-related damages from air pollution
about 2.9% of the GDP. Health care consumes one-quarter of the $3.7 trillion federal budget, and air pollution is a significant contributor to that bill.

Figure 1. Polling in 2016 by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication revealed widespread support among Americans for the key provision of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan: setting strict CO2 limits on existing coal-fired power plants. Such limits were supported by 69% of Americans, including majorities in all 50 states and all 435 Congressional Districts; 75% of Americans supported regulating CO2 as a pollutant. Image credit: Yale Climate Opinion Maps.

Power plants are the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.—about 31% of the total, and are also a significant source of deadly air pollution—about 26% of all air pollution deaths in the U.S. according to a 2013 MIT study. The authority for the Clean Power Plan comes from the EPA’s Clean Air Act, along with the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision requiring the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. The Clean Power Plan is a key component of America’s commitment to reduce global warming under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, and there is broad public support for reducing emissions of CO2 from existing coal-fired power plants (69% of Americans, including majorities in all 50 states and all 435 Congressional Districts, see Figure 1). 

Figure 2. Weakening of U.S. air pollution regulations goes against widespread public support for clean air. A January 2017 poll by Reuters found that 39% of Americans would like to see the EPA "strengthened or expanded," 22% wanted it to "remain the same," and just 19% said they would like to see the agency "weakened or eliminated.” The rest said they "don't know." Image credit: John Mashey,

Benefits of the Clean Power Plan far exceed the costs

The EPA estimates that annual costs to industry of the Clean Power Plan will be $1.4-$2.5 billion in 2020, increasing to $5.1-$8.4 billion per year in 2030. These estimates factor in the costs of investments in transitioning to lower-carbon electricity options and the savings that result from investments in energy efficiency. Electricity bills are predicted to rise modestly by 2.4%-2.7% in 2020, but then decline by 2.7%-3.8% in 2025, and 7.0%-7.7% in 2030 as investments in energy efficiency pay off.

The public health and climate benefits of the Clean Power Plan are worth an estimated $34 billion to $54 billion per year in 2030, far outweighing the costs, the EPA estimates. Burning fewer fossil fuels will create less air pollution, and air pollution from the power generation industry will fall about 25% by 2030 if the Clean Power Plan is adopted. The EPA projects that the reduction in pollution will prevent up to 3,600 deaths, 1,700 heart attacks, 90,000 asthma attacks, and 300,000 missed work and school days per year by 2030 (note that a person who dies from air pollution-related causes typically dies about 12 years earlier than they otherwise might have, according to Caiazzo et al., 2013). For every dollar Americans spend on the Clean Power Plan, $4 worth of health benefits will result, says the EPA. The greatest benefits would come in the upper Ohio Valley and farther downwind, where pollution from power plants is highest: southeast Ohio, northwest West Virginia, and western Pennsylvania—areas Trump carried in the 2016 election, including two swing states that pushed him over the top.  

Figure 3. Levels of the deadliest pollutant, fine particles less than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM 2.5), have fallen by 37% and prevented tens of thousands of premature deaths since 2000, thanks to EPA Clean Air Act regulations. A peer-reviewed 1997 EPA Report to Congress reviewed the benefits of the Act from 1970 to 1990, and concluded that, in 1990 alone, pollution reductions under the Act prevented 205,000 early deaths—more than three times the number of U.S. combat deaths in Vietnam. However, this progress is now threatened by the pollution-friendly Trump administration. Image credit: U.S. EPA. 

Opposition to the Clean Power Plan
As one should expect, lobbying groups who receive money from the fossil fuel industry are unhappy with the Clean Power Plan, and criticize the plan’s complexity and large number of regulations. They have a point—it would have been far simpler and more effective to achieve the plan’s goals through a cap-and-trade system, or through a cap-and-dividend approach, or by having Congress adopt a simple carbon tax of $40 per ton (a version of which was proposed in February by a group of Reagan and Bush-era Republicans called the Climate Leadership Council). However, Congress failed to pass a cap-and-trade bill during Obama’s first term, and he was forced to use the regulatory power of the EPA to bring about the reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions needed for the Paris Climate Agreement. 

Critics also dispute EPA’s cost estimates, saying the costs will be much higher. Several of these criticisms state only the costs, not the benefits, and also ignore the huge death toll of air pollution. And at least one study has found that the EPA underestimated the benefits and lives saved by the Clean Power Plan—an independent analysis by Energy Innovation: Policy and Technology LLC,  an energy and environmental policy firm. In a 2017 study, they estimated that the cumulative savings to the U.S. economy (in reduced capital, fuel, and operations and maintenance expenditures) of adopting the Clean Power Plan would exceed $100 billion by 2030, and reach almost $600 billion by 2050, assuming that pollution reductions continue to stay strong after 2030. Failure to adopt the Clean Power Plan would cause more than 40,000 premature deaths annually in 2030, and more than 120,000 per year by 2050. Energy Innovation came up with their estimates using the Energy Policy Simulator (EPS) open-source computer model.

Figure 4. Costs and benefits of the Clean Power Plan as estimated by the U.S. EPA. Image credit: U.S. EPA.

Repealing the Clean Power Plan won’t happen quickly
The Clean Power Plan will be difficult to undo quickly. The plan was finalized by EPA in 2015, and is currently being reviewed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Under the new executive order, the Department of Justice will ask the court to suspend the case until the EPA can review and write a new version of the rule. (Before that happens, the court may still rule on the Plan as written, which will influence how the EPA can rewrite the rule.) Once the case is removed from the court, the EPA will have to legally withdraw the existing rule and propose a new rule to take its place, a process that could take years, as the new rule will have to be justified in court, and would likely be challenged in court by environmental groups, according to an in-depth analysis by Brad Plumer at In the meantime, nothing prevents states from continuing to reduce emissions by implementing renewable energy standards, efficiency programs, or cap-and-trade programs like those that exist in California and the Northeast. Thus, some of the benefits of the Clean Power Plan will happen regardless of Trump’s orders, and 31 states are on track to be more than halfway toward their near-term Clean Power Plan emission reduction requirements (Figure 5). 

Figure 5. A 2015 Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) analysis showed that existing clean energy commitments already place 31 states on track to be more than halfway toward their near-term Clean Power Plan emission reduction requirements, with 21 states set to surpass them. These commitments include carbon caps, mandatory renewable electricity and energy efficiency standards, announced coal plant retirements, and bringing on line nuclear power plants currently under construction.

New executive order attacks the “social cost of carbon”  
The “social cost of carbon” is an estimate of how much human emissions of carbon dioxide cost society via damage to the climate. In 2015, this number was set at $36 per ton of carbon dioxide pollution, and the social cost of carbon underpins at least 150 federal regulations. The “social cost of carbon” tries to answers the question, “how much should we be willing to pay to avert future climate damages?” This number is highly uncertain, but is definitely not zero. Trump’s executive order calls for a reassessment of the social cost of carbon, with the aim of reducing it or entirely circumventing it. has an excellent explainer on the “social cost of carbon.”

Automobile fuel efficiency standards to be reviewed  
President Trump, speaking in Detroit on March 15 to a group of autoworkers, said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will take action to potentially relax tough air pollution rules for cars and light trucks that were set to kick in between 2022 and 2025. A review of the rules was completed in 2016, ahead of a deadline in 2018. “It was necessary (to resume the review) because the standards were set far into the future," Trump said. "If the standards threaten auto jobs, then common sense changes could have — and should have — been made." The review opens up the possibility that the strict fuel economy regulations for 2022-2025 will be significantly weakened; it is relatively easy for the EPA to undo the regulations, according to a New York Times analysis. Once the 2017 review is finished, the EPA can withdraw the current rule for post-2021 emissions and put forth an alternative set of standards within a year. The EPA may also withdraw a waiver that allows California (and other states that have joined it) to enforce stricter auto emissions standards than the federal government imposes. Air pollution from vehicles in the U.S. is responsible for about 26% of all U.S. air pollution deaths, so weakening of these regulations will likely result in thousands of premature deaths that would not have occurred otherwise—in addition to the thousands of deaths we can expect from a weakening of the Clean Power Plan.

U.S. Paris Climate Agreement commitments unlikely to be met  
Trump’s executive order and proposed budget make it clear that we can expect most of the efforts to reduce U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases under the Paris Climate Agreement to come under attack, and it is unlikely the U.S. pledge will be met. In that landmark agreement, the U.S. promised a 26%-28% reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, as its fair share of the effort to keep global warming no more than 2 °C above preindustrial levels (the generally accepted goal for avoiding dangerous impacts). According to an excellent analysis by, the Clean Power Plan accounts for roughly one quarter of all the emission reductions promised by the U.S. as part of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. The other three-quarters of the reductions were to come primarily from stricter fuel economy stands for vehicles, tighter emission standards for new coal- and gas-fired power plants, new regulations to curtail methane leaks and limit methane from agriculture, energy efficiency measures, and initiatives to curtail hydrofluorocarbons (another potent greenhouse gas). 

Taken altogether, the numbers from these efforts don’t quite add up to the promised 26%-28% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2025, said a 2015 World Resources Institute analysis—and thus additional actions beyond what Obama proposed would be needed. According to a 2016 paper, ”Assessment of the climate commitments and additional mitigation policies of the United States,” and the web site, current U.S. policies, including the Clean Power Plan, would only reduce emissions by 9% below 2005 levels by 2025. A much more aggressive Clean Power Plan was being counted on, plus a whole host of "TBD" actions needed from President Obama’s successor. An excellent new analysis by the Rhodium Group predicts that Trump’s current executive orders and proposed budget will most likely result in a 14% reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2025—far below the promised 26%-28% reduction of the Paris Climate Accord. The Rhodium Group’s worst-case scenario—if further efforts to weaken greenhouse gas regulations occur, such as a rollback of automobile emission standards for the 2022-2025 period—was a 9% reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2025; their best-case scenario was a 17% reduction. 

Figure 6. U.S. greenhouse gas emissions as projected in 2008 for a "business as usual" scenario (gray dotted line) and under the pledge made as part of the Paris Agreement (orange and green dotted lines). Image credit: Earth Institute/Columbia University.

Assault on methane emission rules  
Methane is also a major greenhouse gas, and Trump’s executive order directs efforts to reconsider and rewrite rules on methane emissions. This follows on the March 2, 2017, directive from the EPA to withdraw a 2016 Information Collection Request which directed existing oil and gas facilities to provide data needed to best reduce methane and other harmful emissions from the oil and natural gas industry. However, new methane rules will take years to rewrite and will have to suffer court challenges, and one state—California—voted on March 23 to approve new methane regulations that are the strictest ever adopted in the U.S.

More serious attacks on clean air and clean water likely coming  
Wunderground’s climate change blogger, Dr. Ricky Rood, in a 2017 editorial in EOS, warns that, “Following Trump’s rhetoric, we must be prepared to face efforts aimed at weakening the Clean Air Act itself. Also in the crosshairs are many other environmental statutes passed in the 1970s, such as the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act. In terms of enduring impacts, weakening of these underlying statutes will be more consequential than scuttling the Clean Power Plan.” In an email to me, Dr. Rood said he believes that a rollback of auto-emission standards will ultimately end up being more consequential to air pollution and the climate than a rollback of the Clean Power Plan. This will be because market forces are making it likely that the power-generation industry will head towards renewable-energy sources, but market forces are not acting that way on the auto industry—external regulation is needed to force emission reductions. 

The latest assault on climate science by House Republicans happens at 10 a.m. EDT, Wednesday, March 29, when the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology holds a 2-hour hearing titled, “Climate Science: Assumptions, Policy Implications, and the Scientific Method.” The Republicans have called three witnesses: Dr. Judith Curry, Dr. John Christy, and Dr. Roger Pielke, Jr., all of whom are unfriendly to climate science. The Democrats got to call one witness, Dr. Michael Mann of climate “hockeystick” fame. The hearing is being livestreamed here: The Democratic press team will be using the hashtags #defendscience and #ActonClimate during the hearing.

Brad Plumer of has an excellent explainer on Trump’s executive order.

Follow the Climate Deregulation Tracker website to monitor efforts undertaken by the Trump administration to scale back or wholly eliminate federal climate mitigation and adaptation measures. 

March Madness: Trump Proposes 31% Cut to EPA and Big Cuts to Climate Change Programs, my March 16 post

EPA Chief Denies Basic Climate Science
, my March 10 post

"Together we are going to start a new energy revolution," Trump said, upon signing Tuesday’s executive order. However, his order promotes dirty and deadly 19th Century coal technology, instead of clean 21st Century renewable energy solutions like wind and solar power, making his remarks sadly preposterous. The name of his order, the “Energy Independence Executive Order” is also preposterous, since the U.S. doesn’t import coal, and the stated primary aim of the new order is to revive the coal industry (coal miners were on hand for the signing ceremony). 

In his first speech to Congress, Trump promised that his administration would work to “promote clean air and clean water.” This promise has been exposed as a blatant falsehood by his executive orders and proposed budget, which move us sharply in the opposite direction. By itself, a U.S. failure to make its emission reduction targets of the Paris Climate Agreement will not doom the world to a dangerous rise in temperature above the 2  °C threshold. However, we’ll be lucky to hold global warming to an extremely dangerous 3°C above pre-industrial levels, even if all of the promises made by the 195 nations that signed the Paris Agreement are met. That agreement counted on strong additional actions and leadership by the biggest emitting nations to force additional cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Lack of inspirational American leadership, as glaringly evident in Mr. Trump’s latest executive order, will hurt global efforts to meet even the grossly inadequate goal of keeping global warming below 3 °C, increasing the odds that humanity will have to resort to desperate geoengineering efforts to keep climate mayhem from wrecking Earth as a livable planet for humans. We must resist and protest Trump’s assault on clean air and a livable climate as if our lives depend upon it—because they do.

Contact your House Representative
Contact your Senator

Jeff Masters

Saturday, March 11, 2017

EPA head Scott Pruitt’s office deluged with angry callers after he questions the science of global warming

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, does a television interview in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol in late February. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

by Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis, The Washington Post, March 11, 2017

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s phones have been ringing off the hook — literally — since he questioned the link between human activity and climate change.
The calls to Pruitt’s main line, 202-564-4700, reached such a high volume by Friday that agency officials created an impromptu call center, according to three agency employees. The officials asked for anonymity out of fear of retaliation.
By Saturday morning calls went straight to voice mail, which was full and did not accept messages. At least two calls received the message that the line was disconnected, but that appeared to be in error.
EPA spokeswoman Nancy Grantham said in an email that the agency “has logged about 300 calls and emails.”
While constituents sometimes call lawmakers in large numbers to express outrage over contentious policy issues, it is unusual for Americans to target a Cabinet official.
Pruitt’s comments on the CNBC program “Squawk Box” — that “we need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis” over climate change — prompted an immediate pushback from many scientists and environment groups. It also drew a rebuke from at least two of his predecessors at the EPA.
“I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do, and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see,” Pruitt said on CNBC.
Pruitt’s comments put him at odds with the overwhelming majority of scientists, most world leaders and even his predecessors at the agency.
““The world of science is about empirical evidence, not beliefs,” Gina McCarthy, the EPA’s most recent administrator, said in the wake of Pruitt’s comments. “When it comes to climate change, the evidence is robust and overwhelmingly clear that the cost of inaction is unacceptably high.”
The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has concluded that it is “extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century” — a position reiterated on EPA’s own website.
On Friday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rose at a record pace for the second straight year, reaching 401.5 parts per million. The two-year surge in carbon concentrations that took place in 2015 and 2016 has no precedent in the 59 years in which the agency has been tracking the level of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Despite the quick and fierce backlash to Pruitt’s comments, which put him at odds with his own agency and most governments around the globe, not everyone was so quick to criticize his views.
“If I am interpreting Pruitt’s statements correctly, I do not find anything to disagree with in what he said: we don’t know how much of recent warming can be attributed to humans,” recently retired Georgia Tech climate scientist Judith Curry, who herself has questioned the extent of the role humans play in global warming, wrote on her blog. “In my opinion, this is correct and is a healthy position for both the science and policy debates.”
There is no immediate evidence that any environmental organizations organized the deluge of calls to the new EPA administrator, but a single comment on Reddit may have helped spur the outpouring of criticism. The post outlined how Pruitt’s opponents could contact his office, writing:
“Here’s the number to call his office (EPA Office of the Administrator) to offer your feelings about Pruitt’s comments: (202) 564-4700. Script: Hi, my name is _________. I’m calling because I’m seriously concerned about Scott Pruitt’s claim that CO2 is not a major driver of climate change. The role of CO2 and humans as drivers of climate change is widely accepted among the scientific community, and I’m deeply concerned that Mr. Pruitt, as the head of the EPA, rejects scientific evidence.”
In December, the League of Conservation Voters launched a petition drive on climate change aimed at President Trump and his children. David Willett, its senior vice president for communications, said Friday that the league had not organized any sort of phone-call campaign related to Pruitt’s comments but had seen an uptick in support in the past day and a half. The organization launched an appeal Thursday focused on threats to EPA funding and had its second-biggest online fundraising day ever, Willett said, but he declined to disclose how much money was raised.
“It’s not surprising to hear people are calling after Pruitt contradicted his own agency’s science,” Willett said. “We’re seeing record-setting response rates to mobile alerts, petitions and funding appeals.”

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Business, Military, Faith Leaders & Electeds Slam Scott Pruitt’s Climate Denial on CNBC

from Climate Nexus:

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in an interview with CNBC this morning that he doesn’t believe carbon dioxide is a major contributor to climate change.
“I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there's tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact,” Pruitt told host Joe Kernen. “So no, I would not agree that it's a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”
Pruitt called to “continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis” of the science behind climate change.
While Pruitt has expressed doubt around climate science in the past, this morning’s statements take his stance one step farther to full-on climate denial. It also marks his first comments on the issue as chief of the agency responsible for US policy around carbon emissions.
97 percent of scientists agree that human activity overwhelmingly contributes to the warming we see.

Brigadier General Stephen A. Cheney, USMC (ret), CEO of the American Security Project:
“Countries are going to pay for climate change one way or another. The best way to pay for it is by tackling the root causes of climate change and cutting greenhouse gas emissions. If we do not, the national security impacts around the world will be increasingly costly, and borne by our men and women in the armed forces.”
Andrew Holland, Director of Studies, American Security Project:
“It is astonishing that EPA Director Pruitt said that he does not believe that carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to climate change. However, it does not actually matter what he “believes” – by law (as decided by the Supreme Court), he is required under the Clean Air Act to promulgate policies that reduce carbon pollution. It is important that the EPA continues to regulate carbon pollution in order to reduce the risk of serious national security consequences of climate change.”
Mayor James Brainard of Carmel, Indiana:
“I am not a scientist but I believe we need to pay attention to what people who have dedicated their lives to a field of study have to say. I am disappointed by the risky and extremely liberal approach taken by Administrator Pruitt when he challenges the scientists conclusions that humans contribute to global warming.  A true conservative would cautiously take the position carefully researched by the scientific community as correct. A true conservative would hesitate to risk our future on non-scientific opinions.”  
Mayor Dawn Zimmer of Hoboken, New Jersey:
“The EPA is supposed to protect Americans from pollution and the impacts of climate change. Hoboken is a coastal community on the front lines of climate change that was devastated by Superstorm Sandy, which left our city underwater for days. EPA Administrator Pruitt’s denial of the basic cause of climate change is dangerous and will put communities across the country at greater risk."
NASA Chief Major General Charles Frank Bolden, Jr., (USMC-Ret.):
“…2015’s record temperatures are the result of the gradual, yet accelerating, build up of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere. Scientists have been warning about it for decades and now we are experiencing it.”
Dr. Georges Benjamin, MD, Executive Director, American Public Health Association:
“Pruitt is just wrong. Carbon dioxide emissions pose an enormous risk to human health. Carbon pollution is the leading contributor to greenhouse gases that cause climate change. Climate change is causing more heatwaves and drought, more intense extreme weather events, expanded range of disease-carrying ticks and mosquitoes and a host of other threats to health. In addition, carbon emissions contribute to increased smog which triggers asthma attacks and aggravates existing lung disease. The science is clear. We need immediate action to reduce carbon emissions to protect public health.”
Aron Cramer, President and CEO, Business for Social Responsibility:
“EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s statement today questioning climate science is deeply troubling. Businesses in the United States and elsewhere are keenly aware that human activity is remaking the climate in ways that create disruption and business risk. In addition to the obvious and substantial human and environmental damage that will result, his approach will undermine the conditions that businesspeople need to innovate, create jobs, and compete in the global marketplace.”
Pastor Leo Woodbury, Kingdom Living Temple, Peoples Climate March Steering Committee Member:
“People can choose to believe anything including that the earth is flat, however for the people who suffer the impact of carbon emissions, weather-related disasters and illness, climate change is real.
Aura Vasquez, Director of Climate Justice, Center for Popular Democracy:
“It’s an atrocity to hear EPA Chief Scott Pruitt say that CO2 is not the primary driver of global warming. Disregarding the science is going to impact millions of people that are affected and struggling with the impacts of climate change, especially those in the most vulnerable communities. There is a real issue with the current administration - they don't respect the sizable amount of research on climate change attribution and that’s an insult to the personal experience of millions of Americans already feeling the effects of greenhouse gas pollution. More than ever, we need to take to the streets on April 29th for the People's Climate March in Washington, D.C. to show that human-caused climate change is real and poses a serious threat to our health, our families and our planet.”
Leah Seligmann, director of The B Team’s Net Zero by 2050 Initiative:
“The statements by EPA administrator Scott Pruitt questioning whether CO2 is a pollutant are deeply troubling, and contrary to globally accepted, empirical, scientific evidence. Furthermore, the business case for transitioning to clean, renewable energy is clear and compelling.  Enlightened companies are already moving from an economy powered principally by CO2-spewing fossil fuels to one driven by clean energy.  We encourage the US administration to stay the course with policies which promote and accelerate this transition."
Nigel Topping, CEO, We Mean Business:
“This morning Scott Pruitt, the new EPA Administrator spoke to CNBC and claimed that Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is not “a primary contributor to global warming”. With this statement the Administrator finds himself at odds with science. The scientific community is clear. Global warming is real, accelerating and caused by human activity with CO2 responsible for between 75% and 80% of the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming. This finding is backed by 97% of climate scientists and is the consistent result of peer reviewed scientific investigations going back three decades. The Administrator is also at odds with political leaders around the world. 196 countries have signed the Paris Agreement on climate change, including the world’s largest producers of fossil fuels, because they understand that CO2 is the primary cause of global warming and needs to be reduced. And the administrator is at odds with the business community, who are making record commitments to reduce their CO2 emissions. More than five hundred companies have made commitments to address CO2 emissions through the We Mean Business platform because they see reducing CO2 through clean energy as the new market opportunity of the 21st century. We urge Administrator Pruitt to recognize the scientific, political, and business consensus, and lead the EPA in its vital mission to safeguard people, planet and prosperity.”
Rear Admiral David W. Titley, United States Navy (Ret.):
“Within the science community, the link between CO2 and climate change is as well known as the consequences of stepping out of an airplane and the effect of gravity.  In both cases, if you ignore the science, someone is going to get hurt.”
Patrick Carolan, Executive Director of the Franciscan Action Network:
"Scott Pruitt's denial that CO2 is a contributor of climate change confirms his disbelief of a century of fact based science, which even Pope Francis supports. There should be no discussion; protecting the climate is a matter of faith and morality. We should be protecting God's creation, not destroying it. Denying climate science goes against the teachings of Jesus and St. Francis of Assisi."
Nathaniel Smith, Founder and Chief Equity Officer, Partnership for Southern Equity:
“It’s disturbing to hear the person appointed as our chief environmental steward has chosen to turn away from years of scientific evidence. In vulnerable communities where the byproducts of climate change are felt the hardest the “inconvenient truth” has become a truth measured by life or death.”

Precipitation extremes to worsen as the climate continues to warm

by Floodlist, March 8, 2017

A University of Connecticut climate scientist confirms that more intense and more frequent severe rainstorms will likely continue as temperatures rise due to global warming, despite some observations that seem to suggest otherwise.
In a research paper appearing this week in Nature Climate Change, UConn civil and environmental engineering professor Guiling Wang explains that data showing the intensity of severe rainstorms declining after temperatures reach a certain threshold are merely a reflection of climate variability. It is not proof that there is a fixed upper temperature limit for future increases in severe rains, after which they would begin to drop off.
“We hope this information puts things in better perspective and clarifies the confusion around this issue,” says Wang, who led an international team of climate experts in conducting the study. “We also hope this will lead to a more accurate way of analyzing and describing climate change.”
Climate scientists and policymakers closely monitor severe and prolonged rainstorms as they can have a devastating impact on local environments and economies. These damaging storms can cause catastrophic flooding, overwhelm sewage treatment plants, increase the risk of waterborne disease, and wipe out valuable crops.
Current climate models show most of the world will experience more intense and more frequent severe rainstorms for the remainder of the 21st century, due to hotter temperatures caused by global warming.
But whether this increase in extreme precipitation will continue beyond the end of the century, and how it will be sustained, is less clear.
Meteorological observations from weather stations around the globe show the intensity of severe rainstorms relative to temperature is like a curve — steadily going up as low to medium surface temperatures increase, peaking when temperatures hit a certain high point, then dropping off as temperatures continue rising.
Those observations raise the prospect that damaging rainstorms could eventually ease once surface temperatures reach a certain threshold.
However, Wang says the peaks seen in the observational data and climate models simply reflect the natural variability of the climate. As the Earth warms, her team found, the entire curve representing the relationship between extreme precipitation and rising temperatures is moving to the right. This is because the threshold temperature at which rain intensity peaks also goes up as temperature rises. Therefore, extreme rainfall will continue to increase, she says.
The relationship between precipitation and temperature is founded in science. Simply put, warmer air holds more moisture. Scientists can even tell you how much. A widely used theorem in climate science called the Clausius-Clapeyron equation dictates that for every degree the temperature goes up, there is an approximately 7 percent increase in the amount of moisture the atmosphere can hold. The intensity of extreme precipitation, which is proportional to atmospheric moisture, also increases at a scaling rate of approximately 7 percent, in the absence of moisture limitations.
The problem is that when scientists ran computer models predicting the likelihood of extreme precipitation in the future, and compared those results with both present day observations and the temperature scaling dictated by the so-called “C-C equation,” the numbers were off. In many cases, the increase in extreme precipitation relative to surface temperature over land was closer to 2 to 5 percent, rather than 7 percent. In their analysis, Wang’s team discovered that average local surface temperatures increase much faster than the threshold temperatures for extreme precipitation, and attributed the lower scaling rate to the fact that earlier studies compared extreme precipitation with average local temperatures rather than the temperature at the time the rainstorms occurred.
“There are a lot of studies where people are trying to determine why the scaling rate is lower than 7 percent,” says Wang. “Our study suggests that this is a wrong question to ask. If you want to relate rain intensity to temperature using the C-C relationship as a reference, you have to relate to the temperature at which the rain event occurs, not the mean temperature, which is the long term average.”
Kevin Trenberth, an expert on global warming and the lead author of several reports prepared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, joined Wang in the current study. Trenberth is currently a Distinguished Senior Scientist in the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. He shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore as a member of the IPCC. Trenberth explains the findings this way:
“In general, extreme precipitation increases with higher temperatures because the air can hold more moisture — although that depends on moisture availability. But beyond a certain point, it is the other way round: the temperature responds to the precipitation, or more strictly speaking, the conditions leading to the precipitation [such as extensive cloud cover or surface moisture]. The most obvious example of this is in a drought where there is no precipitation. Another example is in cloudy, stormy conditions, when it is wet and cool. By relating the changes in precipitation to the temperature where the relationship reverses – instead of the mean temperature as in previous studies — we can make sense of the differences and the changes. Moreover, it means there is no limit to the changes that can occur, as otherwise might be suspected if there were a fixed relationship.”
Source: University of Connecticut
Featured image: Storm system, US Pacific Coast from NOAA’s GOES-West satellite on Jan. 9, 2017. Credits: NASA/NOAA GOES Project

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Climate Change very likely to reduce crops yields and affect productivity in the US

by Amy Mayer, Iowa Public Radio, March 6, 2017

Farming in the Midwest could suffer under future climatic conditions. A new study says if the threats aren't addressed, future US food production could be lower than necessary to meet global demand.
Farming in the Midwest likely to suffer under future climatic conditions. A new study says if the threats aren't addressed, future US food production may well be lower than necessary to meet global demand. HARVEST PUBLIC MEDIA FILE PHOTO
The agriculture sector needs to ramp up its response to climate change, especially in the Midwest, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Researchers at the University of Maryland used climate projections and historical trends in agricultural productivity to predict how changes in temperature and rainfall will impact food production.
They found that without changes to farm policy and improvements to agricultural technology, the nation’s productivity in 2050 could look like it did in 1980. That’s because at the present rates of innovation, new technologies won’t be able to keep up with the damage caused by the changes in climate in our major growing regions.
Lead author Xin-Zhong Liang, a professor at the University of Maryland, says both policymakers and those who work directly in agriculture should consider changes that might prevent this drop. On the policy side, Liang said, changes to  water management could help. On the technology side, the development of seeds that can withstand more extremes of heat and rain would likely help mitigate the climate’s impact on overall productivity.
But, he adds, such advances will need to come at a faster pace than they have in the past.
The new research identifies the Corn Belt as the region where the changes could have the biggest impact on overall productivity, with California and the Southwest region second in line. The transition area from the Corn Belt into the southern cotton and pasture region is also vulnerable. Losses in U.S. production could impact the global food supply.
This research, Liang says, enhances existing studies to offer a more robust picture of how total agricultural output of the country could change under different climate change scenarios.