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Seventeen Republican members of Congress from diverse districts — including representatives from coastal Southeastern states, Nevada, Utah, upstate New York, and Pennsylvania — submitted a resolution in the House Wednesday acknowledging that “human activities” have had an impact on the global climate and resolving to create and support “economically viable” mitigation efforts.
The resolution, sponsored by Reps. Carlos Curbelo of Florida, Elise Stefanik of New York, and Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania, is being submitted in the midst of an unprecedented effort by the most anti-science administration in recent American history to remove climate science studies and data from federal agencies.
On Tuesday, Bloomberg reported that President Donald Trump is about to sign an executive order repealing President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and to order a reconsideration of the government’s use of the “social cost of carbon” metric, which measures potential economic damage related to climate change.
Last week, meanwhile, Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency administator, Scott Pruitt, suggested that carbon emissions have nothing to do with climate change.
Curbelo, whose Miami-area district is already experiencing dramatic effects of rising sea levels, has been spearheading the effort to gather pro-science members on his side of the aisle since last year, when he coaxed 10 Republicans to join a bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, which now has 30 members from 13 states, half of whom are Republican.
The resolution being submitted Wednesday states, “That the House of Representatives commits to working constructively, using our tradition of American ingenuity, innovation, and exceptionalism, to create and support economically viable and broadly supported private and public solutions to study and address the causes and effects of measured changes to our global and regional climates, including mitigation efforts and efforts to balance human activities that have been found to have an impact.”
During a call with reporters Tuesday, Curbelo said there are “many, many more” Republicans in the House who are interested in the issue and “want to learn more, and who are considering joining this effort officially by putting their name on it.” He said his goal is to “move on to solutions that we can all rally around and that we can work on with our Republican and Democratic colleagues.” This would include, he said, pressing the administration to add projects to mitigate the effects of climate change, such as seawalls, in its expected infrastructure plan.
While prospects for a swell of GOP political support seem dim, given the president’s stated position that climate change might be “a Chinese hoax” and his EPA administrator’s open animosity toward the issue, Curbelo said he sees a possible wedge via members of Trump’s inner circle — presumably including his daughter Ivanka, who has reportedly lobbied her father on the issue.
“We know there are people very close to the president who understand this issue,” Curbelo said, without naming anyone. “These are people who have already been a very good influence on items such as the Paris Agreement, and we are looking forward to engaging those individuals so that we can take this conversation to a good place.”
Curbelo called Pruitt’s comments on carbon “disconcerting” and added, “What he said was akin to saying the Earth is flat in the year 2017. We must insist on evidence-based and science-based policies.” He also chastised Pruitt last week in a statement, saying,“Rising carbon emissions have been a contributing factor to climate change for decades. That is a scientific fact and the reality facing communities like my district. The EPA is tasked with the very responsibility of helping to lower the impact of carbon emissions, and for Mr. Pruitt to assert otherwise without scientific evidence is reckless and unacceptable.”
One of the resolution’s signatories is Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, who represents a section of his state known as the Low Country. Sanford, who grew up on a farm in the area, says he has seen firsthand the effects of rising sea levels, in acreage lost to salt water.
“The Low Country makes Miami Beach look like high ground,” Sanford said. “I just think there is inherent danger in the three-monkey routine — see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil — related to climate change. To deny its existence is to deny what our country was founded on. The Founding Fathers designed a reason-based political system, and without reason the system doesn’t work.”
Curbelo’s climate caucus co-chairman, Florida Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch, released a statement Wednesday morning welcoming the GOP effort. “Americans don’t see climate change as a partisan issue, and neither should Congress,” he said. “As the Democratic co-chair of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, I applaud my Republican colleagues for introducing this important resolution on climate change. We’re going to need lawmakers from both sides of the aisle working together, engaging in robust debate, following the science and finding bipartisan legislative responses to the growing threats of climate change.”
Polls have shown that a majority of Americans are concerned about climate change, and those fears among constituents, plus the fact that Republicans now control all branches of government and are thus a last line of defense, might be prompting more Republicans to reject the administration’s anti-science position. “The polling is very clear,” Curbelo said. “A clear majority understand this is a challenge we are facing, and among younger voters the numbers are staggering. Over 80 percent of millennials consider this a major issue. The House is the most representative institution in our government. This issue was regrettably politicized 20 years or so ago, and we are trying to take some of the politics out and reducing the noise.”
Others who signed the resolution are Reps. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), Don Bacon (R-Neb.), John Faso (R-N.Y.), John Katko (R-N.Y.), Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), Mark Amodei (R-Nev.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Mia Love (R-Utah), Pat Meehan (R-Pa.), Brian Mast (R-Fla.), and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla).
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The state’s Republican governor, Larry Hogan, had vetoed a bill that would require utilities to buy 25 percent of their electricity from wind, hydroelectric dams, and other renewable sources by 2020, but legislators voted to override his veto.
Now this new, stronger renewable energy standard replaces the previous one, which had called for utilities to be getting 20 percent of their power from clean sources by 2020.
Democrats argued the bill would create jobs, mitigate climate change, and clean up air pollution. Republicans said it would cost too much. According to the Baltimore Sun, “Nonpartisan legislative analysts estimated it might raise residential electricity bills by 48 cents to $1.45 per month.”
It’s easy to focus on the U.S. presidency — that’s the center of the national reality show. But much of the substantive policy in this country is made on the state and local levels, where people are often more practical than ideological — or, you could say, more likely to be tailored for reality, rather than for reality TV.
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What does the CIA director have to do with climate change? A lot more than Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump’s pick for the agency’s top job, seems to appreciate.
During his Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing Thursday, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) examined the sitting Kansas congressman’s views on climate science. Quoting CIA Director John Brennan, who had a 25-year career at the agency, Harris noted that he cited climate change as one of the “deeper causes of rising instability.”
“Do you have any reason to doubt the assessment of these CIA analysts?” Harris asked.
“I haven’t had a chance to read those materials with respect to climate change,” Pompeo answered. “I do know the agency’s role there. Its role is to collect foreign intelligence, to understand threats to the world. That would certainly include threats from poor governance, regional instability, threats from all sources and to deliver that information to policymakers. To the extent that changes in climatic activity are part of that foreign intelligence collection task, we will deliver that information to you all and to the president.”
Harris pressed Pompeo on his past comments in which he questioned the scientific consensus on climate change.
He replied that most of his commentary “has been directed to ensuring that the policies that America puts in place actually achieve the objective of ensuring we don’t have catastrophic harm that result from a changing climate.” He then added that he didn’t see any reason why climate change should be his concern at the CIA.
“Frankly, as the director of CIA, I would prefer today not to get into the details of the climate debate and science,” he said. “My role is going to be so different and unique from that. It is going to be to work alongside warriors keeping Americans safe. And so, I stand by the things that I’ve said previously with respect to that issue.”
Since the George W. Bush administration, officials in intelligence and at the Pentagon have warned that climate change poses a real security threat. The Department of Defense has described climate change as a “threat multiplier” that exacerbates disease, hunger, and terrorism. The State Department under John Kerry readily acknowledged that “climate change is a threat to the security of the United States” and countries around the globe.
Pompeo promised Harris he’d take a closer look at NASA’s climate research but couldn’t comment on Thursday. “I haven’t spent enough time to look at NASA’s findings in particular. I can’t give you any judgment on that today,” he said.
But Pompeo has vowed to take a closer look at the science for at least five years. Asked by CSPAN in 2013 whether he believed global warming was a problem, Pompeo, who was then serving his second term in Congress, was equivocal, repeating the debunked claims that there’s a pause in global warming and that the climate is cooling:
“I think the science needs to continue to develop. I’m happy to continue to look at it. There are scientists who think lots of different things about climate change. There’s some who think we’re warming, there’s some who think we’re cooling, there’s some who think that the last 16 years have shown a pretty stable climate environment.”
At another hearing on Wednesday, Trump’s pick for secretary of state, former CEO of Exxon Mobil Rex Tillerson, admitted, “I don’t see climate change as an imminent national security threat, but perhaps others do.” Tillerson, like Pompeo, might want to check in with the department he could soon lead.
For Harris’ part, the freshman senator is not sold on the next CIA director unless he is “willing to accept the overwhelming weight of evidence when presented, even if it turns out to be politically inconvenient or require you to change a previously held position.” Pompeo pledged he would look again at the facts, just as he’s been promising for years.
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Miami Beach gets all the attention for its increased chronic flooding due to rising sea levels. But Miami’s poorer, inland neighborhoods on the other side of Biscayne Bay are also experiencing flooding from high tides.
CityLab reports on Shorecrest, an economically diverse neighborhood in northeast Miami that flooded during last week’s King Tide.
That’s just a sign of more frequent things to come. The Union of Concerned Scientists projects that by 2045, these sunny-day flooding events will increase from six to 380 times per year.
Miami has many neighborhoods across the bay from Miami Beach that are just as flood-prone but, being less wealthy, have fewer resources to deal with the impacts. Since all of Miami-Dade County lies barely above sea level, and sits atop porous limestone, even poorer neighborhoods farther inland are vulnerable.
Shorecrest residents complained to CityLab that they get less adaptation help from local government than richer neighborhoods. (Miami Beach is a separate, richer city from the city of Miami.) On Miami’s west side, predominantly low-income, Latino neighborhoods face flooding that could pollute their freshwater supply.
Florida and Miami need to get serious not just about climate adaptation, but climate justice.
If Donald Trump is trying to run away from his well-known position as a climate change denier, he’s doing a terrible job at it.
Less than 12 hours after a debate against Hillary Clinton in which he personally denied calling climate change a hoax, Trump’s campaign manager and running mate offered different versions of what the candidate supposedly believes: He thinks it exists but isn’t human-made, or he thinks it is human-made but doesn’t want to do anything about it.
Regardless of what his surrogates are saying on TV this morning, there’s a long Twitter record of Trump’s unscientific statements about climate to fall back on. His position is clear: It’s a hoax. What’s less clear is what he hopes to gain by changing that position now. Could it be that even the Trump campaign recognizes that climate denial in the face of clear evidence is a losing position in a general election?
Certainly Clinton seems to think it’s a strong avenue of attack: Unprompted by moderator Lester Holt during the debate last night on Long Island, Clinton said: “Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese.”
Because he couldn’t help himself, Trump only managed to emphasize her point by interjecting, “I did not,” sending all the fact checkers to Twitter, where his four-year-old tweet saying exactly that became the top retweeted tweet during the debate:
The lying doesn’t stop there, though. Tuesday morning, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway was asked on CNN if her candidate thinks global warming is a hoax. Conway insisted, no, he doesn’t believe it’s a hoax, but he does believe “that climate change is naturally occurring, that there are shifts naturally occurring.”
Then, on the very same show, Trump’s vice presidential pick took an abruptly different tone on climate change. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who himself once called global warming “a myth,” suggested that greenhouse gases have “some impact” on the climate.
“There’s no question that — that — that the activities that take place in this country and in countries around the world have some impact on the environment and some impact on climate,” Pence said. “But Donald Trump and I say: Let’s follow the science, but for heaven’s sakes, let’s not go rushing into the kind of restrictions on our economy that are putting Americans out of work.”
When it isn’t Trump himself talking, his campaign has sometimes tried to soften his position on the climate issue. “Perhaps we should be focused on developing energy sources and power production that alleviates the need for dependence on fossil fuels,” Trump (or his campaign) wrote to ScienceDebate earlier this month.
It’s clear why Clinton wants to emphasize Trump’s inconsistent and unscientific climate positions. In light of recent polls, her campaign has zeroed in on more millennial-friendly messaging, in hopes of winning over young voters looking to third-party candidates like Green Jill Stein or Libertarian Gary Johnson.
Clinton largely sidelined climate change in her speeches after Bernie Sanders conceded in the primary contest, but she’s now turning to the issue again as part of a strong messaging strategy. The differences between her and Trump are more stark on climate change than on nearly any other issue — one accepts scientific consensus, the other doesn’t.
So while Clinton’s plan was clear, what the hell was Trump doing?
Clearly, calling a respected field of science a “hoax” on the national stage is not the image his campaign wants to put forward. Trump’s position on climate and energy isn’t that different from the rest of the GOP, but in a normal presidential year, he might have at this point recast his climate denial as mere reluctance to act, to make the position more palatable to the general election voter.
Yet Trump’s not running a normal campaign in any sense, so climate change gets the same brash treatment as every other issue the candidate touches on.
There were plenty of other positions that the candidates skirmished over last night, and Clinton implored the “factcheckers, get to work” a few times. Trump once again said he never supported the Iraq war, which was a lie; he did.
Conway, Trump’s spokesperson, in fact tried to pivot to the Iraq war this morning on CNN when asked about Trump’s climate answer. The Trump campaign clearly isn’t eager to answer questions on the subject.
But in denying his denial, what’s the logic? He’s been fine with it for years. His 2012 China tweet wasn’t just a poorly considered slip, but one of many:
As recently as late 2015, Trump still was fine saying: “a lot of it’s a hoax. It’s a hoax. I mean, it’s a money-making industry, okay?”
Then in January, as Politifact points out, Trump tried to play off the tweet about China as a joke: “I often joke that this is done for the benefit of China. Obviously, I joke. But this is done for the benefit of China, because China does not do anything to help climate change.”
Was Trump joking all those times he called it a hoax?
Hard to believe. And his voters sure don’t.
Other than Trump’s unexpected backtrack (or not) on climate, we didn’t learn anything new about either candidate’s energy positions in this debate. The themes of “prosperity” and “securing America” might have lended themselves to discussing both climate, which the military calls a significant threat, and clean energy, which has overtaken the fossil fuel industry as a job creator. But as is usual in presidential debates, the moderator didn’t see fit to steer the candidates in those directions.
Clinton, however, did cite two of her climate and energy proposals: deploying a half-billion solar panels and rebuilding the electric grid. Trump never once mentioned his energy proposals, even forgetting his promises to wave a wand and restore coal country, despite the debate’s focus on American industry in the first 15 minutes.
In the end, though, Clinton didn’t need to go on at length about her climate solutions, because it’s enough for her to draw out the contrast with Trump. He has no position on climate, except for his plan to appoint a climate change denier to lead the Environmental Protection Agency transition.
Clinton for now is content to use Trump’s words against him and let his position speak for itself. Their little exchange on Trump’s tweet did more to help put climate change on the map for future debates than any of Clinton’s policy positions.
Snakes on a plane
People don’t trust hypocritical climate scientists, study finds
Climate scientists face a conundrum: To get their message out and conduct research, they often have to hop on a plane — but flying is exactly the sort of carbon-intensive behavior they discourage others from doing. And according to a new study from Indiana University, climate researchers lose credibility with their audience when they don’t follow their own advice.
That inconsistency is one that the general public is starting to notice. Shahzeen Attari, an author of the study, told Grist she was presenting on energy consumption a couple of years ago when an audience member asked her, “Hey, how did you come to the conference? Did you fly here?”
She was inspired to look into hypocrisy and how it changes the dynamic between climate experts and their audiences. Through two online surveys taken by almost 5,000 Americans, participants read a narrative about a researcher who offers advice on reducing personal energy use by flying less, conserving energy at home, and taking public transportation. The survey included one of several of statements about the researcher’s personal energy consumption. For example:
You later find out that the researcher flew across the country to the talk that you attended and that he/she regularly flies to lectures and conferences all over the world. Flying like this leads to increased negative climate impacts.
Then, the survey had participants rate the researcher’s credibility. When participants stated their own intentions to reduce energy use, their answers varied based on the researcher’s behavior. To put it simply: It turned out they were much more likely to take advice from someone who, well, takes their own advice.
But the effect wasn’t equally strong for all energy-consuming activities. According to the research, people are more forgiving of a climate scientist who flies often than one who lives in an enormous mansion. “If I live in a huge, gargantuan house … my credibility completely plummets,” Attari says. She suspects this is because people are more likely to understand that climate researchers are required to fly for work, while they have more choice over what they do at home.
Some climate researchers have started to limit their flights, but it’s really hard, Attari says. (Read the account of one climate scientist who decided not to fly.) During our interview, she admitted that she couldn’t talk very long since she had to catch a plane. “I know it’s ironic,” she said.
In a time where climate advocates like Leonardo DiCaprio and Al Gore have been lambasted for private-jet lifestyles, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that communicating with the public about climate change is a tricky business. Attari’s advice for climate experts: “Talk to your audience about your own carbon footprint and the ways you’ve been able to actually change it.”
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