Tag Archives: president

There’s new evidence that facts really do make a difference.

On Thursday, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke held a press conference to discuss the Department of the Interior’s intentions for drilling rights in American-controlled waters. In brief: The Arctic, Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and possibly parts of the Pacific are pretty much all fair game now. The new policy would encompass “the largest number of lease sales ever proposed,” Zinke said.

It’s a direct take-back of the plan that the Obama administration finalized in November 2016. Those rules, which protected the Arctic and Atlantic seas from new drilling, were supposed to hold until 2022. But President Trump has long claimed the legal authority, and intention, to reverse it.

Conservation groups will almost certainly challenge this new draft plan in court. And a bipartisan group of local and state officials also oppose new drilling in some of these areas. In June, 14 House Republicans issued a joint letter opposing drilling off the Atlantic. Florida Governor Rick Scott joined the opposition Thursday, saying that his “top priority is to ensure that Florida’s natural resources are protected.”

Overall, more than 100 lawmakers — along with plenty of governors, attorneys general, and the U.S. Defense Department — oppose the plan.

Just last week, the Interior Department’s rollback of drilling safety regulations after the 2009 Deepwater Horizon spill cited their “unnecessary … burden” on industry.

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There’s new evidence that facts really do make a difference.

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Ready or not, winter ‘bomb cyclone’ heads for East Coast

This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Much of the eastern United States has been assaulted by brutally cold temperatures over the last week. New Year’s Eve revelers in New York City rang in 2018 in 9 degree weather — the coldest midnight temperature since 1907.

And the worst is yet to come.

On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that a “bomb cyclone” is expected to batter the East Coast later this week. A weather system only earns that name by dropping in pressure rapidly — at least 24 millibars over 24 hours — in a process called bombogenesis. Winds could kick up to 55 mph just off the coast of New England, a prospect that has prompted local weather stations to warn of hurricane-force winds.

In Boston, which is no stranger to cold weather and has suffered through brutally low temperatures this past week, the National Weather Service forecasts near-blizzard conditions, with just a quarter-mile of visibility.

But the snow won’t be limited to northern states. As far south as Georgia and Florida, forecasters are calling for potentially dangerous winter weather, with several inches of snow in some areas.

In late 2016, Mother Jones reported that climate change may be contributing to such weather events.

The theory — advanced by Rutgers professor Jennifer Francis and other scientists — is that the rapidly warming Arctic is affecting the jet stream in ways that can contribute to bone-chilling weather in other parts of the Northern Hemisphere:

To understand how it works, it first helps to think of the jet stream as a river of air that flows from west to east in the Northern Hemisphere, bringing with it much of our weather. Its motion — sometimes in a relatively straight path, sometimes in a more loopy one — is driven by a difference in temperatures between the equator and the North Pole. Southern temperatures are of course warmer, and because warm air takes up more space than cold air, this leads to taller columns of air in the atmosphere. “If you were sitting on top of a layer of atmosphere and you were in DC, looking northward, it would be like looking down a hill, because it’s warmer where you are,” explains Francis. The jet stream then flows “downhill,” so to speak, in a northward direction. But it’s also bent by the rotation of the Earth, leading to its continual wavy, eastward motion. As the Arctic rapidly heats up, however, there’s less of a temperature difference between the equator and the poles, and the downhill slope in the atmosphere is accordingly less steep.

That shrinking temperature difference is what wreaks havoc on the jet stream. “When the jet stream gets weaker, it meanders more,” explained Francis in an interview this week. “It wanders north and south and when it gets into one of these wandering and wavy patterns, that’s when we see these pools of cold air pulled southward.” Those pools of cold air are what vast parts of the country are experiencing right now.

The bomb cyclone is expected to leave bone-chilling cold in its wake — even colder than the last few weeks. Temperatures will likely drop 20 to 40 degrees below normal, the Washington Post reports. That means sub-zero in nearly all of New England — and lows reaching down into the 20s, if you can believe it, in Florida.

Seasoned experts over at the National Weather Service have tips for avoiding hypothermia. President Donald Trump simply suggests we “bundle up.”

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Ready or not, winter ‘bomb cyclone’ heads for East Coast

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Let’s hold off on praising China’s new carbon-pricing market

This week, China announced it has launched a nationwide carbon-trading market, with the intent of slowing down its growing climate footprint and capping its emissions as soon as possible.

Most news coverage has labeled the move as a major development in the global fight against climate change. Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, who has devoted his post-political career to fighting warming, hailed the announcement as “a tipping point in the climate crisis.”

However, some close observers in China and elsewhere suggest we pump the brakes on celebrating this week’s news. Several critical details of the Chinese plan are still outstanding, they say. Most importantly: We still don’t know what the “cap” on its cap-and-trade plan will be, how emissions permits will be distributed, or what they will set the target carbon price to.

The Guardian reports that the Chinese government has been toying with the idea of nationwide carbon trading for more than a decade, so the revelation doesn’t come out of nowhere. And as the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, any effort to limit the country’s pollution is hugely important.

But Emil Dimantchev, a climate policy researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote earlier this year that it’s premature to call China’s new policy ambitious without the details of the trading scheme being in place. In a series of tweets this week following the announcement, Dimantchev doubled-down on that assessment.

“The policy is still missing the crucial features that will determine whether it will be a success,” he tweeted.

Separate reporting by Beijing-based carbon-market analyst Stian Reklev revealed that for its first two years the new Chinese system will only involve simulated trades. That, obviously, will have no impact on emissions in China or elsewhere.

“It’s clear the market is nowhere near ready to be launched, and they’re only doing this because [Chinese President] Xi Jinping promised the market would start in 2017,” Reklev tweeted this week.

The World Bank currently tracks 47 carbon-pricing initiatives worldwide that are either already in existence or set to open soon. The only one even remotely the size of China’s proposed market is the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme — a hugely complex system with mixed success, which covers about 4 percent of global emissions. Other carbon trading platforms in Washington, California, and in the northeastern U.S. police an additional 1 percent or so of global emissions — but none of them caps pollution across the entire economy of the states involved.

If China’s market eventually covers its whole economy, it would be responsible for about 30 percent of global emissions, more than double all currently existing carbon markets combined. So the higher China sets its carbon price, the more of an impact it will have on emissions elsewhere. A high price on Chinese carbon could motivate other pricing schemes around the world to raise their targets.

The world needs ambitious climate policy from China in order to meet the agreed-upon Paris goals of limiting global warming — especially with the United States’ government in the process of plopping itself on the sidelines.

This step from China is without question in the right direction. But the fact that the scheme is still apparently in the design phase should be a sign that the Asian behemoth may not yet be the planetary savior many are hoping for.

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Let’s hold off on praising China’s new carbon-pricing market

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This major coal company is done with climate denial.

Donald Trump’s White House is using some alarming tactics to keep people quiet about climate change and other scientific matters. Over the past few days, investigations have brought some of them to light:

No more climate tweets: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke summoned Joshua Tree National Park’s superintendent to his office last month to reprimand him for tweeting about climate change, The Hill reported on Friday. Zinke made it clear that it was no longer OK for any national park to share climate change facts on official social media accounts.

Joshua Tree’s Twitter account had sent out a thread devoted to climate change:

“Science-based” gets banned: Over the weekend, the Washington Post reported that the Trump administration has forbidden health officials at the Centers for Disease Control and other federal agencies from using words such as “fetus,” “transgender,” and “science-based” in official documents for next year’s budget.

EPA employees targeted: A lawyer with the Republican campaign group America Rising (which helps find damaging info on political opponents) submitted requests for emails written by EPA staffers who had criticized the agency, the New York Times reported on Sunday. The request calls for emails that mention EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt or President Trump, along with any email correspondence with congressional Democrats who had criticized the EPA.

America Rising is affiliated with Definers Public Affairs, a communications company founded by two influential Republicans that promises to help its clients “influence media narratives” and “move public opinion.” The EPA recently signed a $120,000 contract with Definers for media monitoring.

Things are getting pretty Orwellian in here.

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This major coal company is done with climate denial.

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The Rock From Mars – Kathy Sawyer

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The Rock From Mars

A True Detective Story on Two Planets

Kathy Sawyer

Genre: Astronomy

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: February 14, 2006

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC


In this riveting book, acclaimed journalist Kathy Sawyer reveals the deepest mysteries of space and some of the most disturbing truths on Earth. The Rock from Mars is the story of how two planets and the spheres of politics and science all collided at the end of the twentieth century. It began sixteen million years ago. An asteroid crashing into Mars sent fragments flying into space and, eons later, one was pulled by the Earth’s gravity onto an icy wilderness near the southern pole. There, in 1984, a geologist named Roberta Score spotted it, launching it on a roundabout path to fame and controversy. In its new home at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, the rock languished on a shelf for nine years, a victim of mistaken identity. Then, in 1993, the geochemist Donald “Duck” Mittlefehldt, unmasked the rock as a Martian meteorite. Before long, specialist Chris Romanek detected signs of once-living organisms on the meteorite. And the obscure rock became a rock star. But how did nine respected investigators come to make such startling claims about the rock that they triggered one of the most venomous scientific battles in modern memory? The narrative traces the steps that led to this risky move and follows the rippling impact on the scientists’ lives, the future of space exploration, the search for life on Mars, and the struggle to understand the origins of life on Earth. From the second the story broke in Science magazine in 1996, it spawned waves of excitement, envy, competitive zeal, and calculation. In academia, in government agencies, in laboratories around the world, and even in the Oval Office–where an inquisitive President Clinton had received the news in secret– players of all kinds plotted their next moves. Among them: David McKay, the dynamic geologist associated with the first moon landing, who labored to achieve at long last a second success; Bill Schopf of UCLA, a researcher determined to remain at the top of his field and the first to challenge McKay’s claims; Dan Goldin, the boss of NASA; and Dick Morris, the controversial presidential adviser who wanted to use the story for Clinton’s reelection and unfortunately made sure it ended up in the diary of a $200-an-hour call girl. Impeccably researched and thrillingly involving, Kathy Sawyer’s The Rock from Mars is an exemplary work of modern nonfiction, a vivid account of the all-too-human high-stakes drive to learn our true place in the cosmic scheme. From the Hardcover edition.

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The Rock From Mars – Kathy Sawyer

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Northern Alaska is warming so fast, it’s faking out computers.

A new report by Kaiser Family Foundation and the Episcopal Health Foundation found economic and health disparities among those affected by Harvey.

Sixty-six percent of black residents surveyed said they are not getting the help they need to recover, compared to half of all hurricane survivors. While 34 percent of white residents said their FEMA applications had been approved, just 13 percent of black residents said the same.

And even though they are receiving less assistance, black and Hispanic respondents and those with lower incomes were more likely to have experienced property damage or loss of income as a result of the storm.

Additionally, 1 in 6 people reported that someone in their household has a health condition that is new or made worse because of Harvey. Lower-income adults and people of color who survived the storm were more likely to lack health insurance and to say they don’t know where to go for medical care.

“This survey gives an important voice to hard-hit communities that may have been forgotten, especially those with the greatest needs and fewest resources following the storm,” Elena Marks, president and CEO of the Episcopal Health Foundation, said in a statement.

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Northern Alaska is warming so fast, it’s faking out computers.

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A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee finally got to grill Scott Pruitt on Thursday.

A new report by Kaiser Family Foundation and the Episcopal Health Foundation found economic and health disparities among those affected by Harvey.

Sixty-six percent of black residents surveyed said they are not getting the help they need to recover, compared to half of all hurricane survivors. While 34 percent of white residents said their FEMA applications had been approved, just 13 percent of black residents said the same.

And even though they are receiving less assistance, black and Hispanic respondents and those with lower incomes were more likely to have experienced property damage or loss of income as a result of the storm.

Additionally, 1 in 6 people reported that someone in their household has a health condition that is new or made worse because of Harvey. Lower-income adults and people of color who survived the storm were more likely to lack health insurance and to say they don’t know where to go for medical care.

“This survey gives an important voice to hard-hit communities that may have been forgotten, especially those with the greatest needs and fewest resources following the storm,” Elena Marks, president and CEO of the Episcopal Health Foundation, said in a statement.

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A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee finally got to grill Scott Pruitt on Thursday.

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Energy Transfer Partners has until April to develop an oil-spill response plan for the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Today, the president signed two proclamations drastically cutting land from two federal monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, by 80 percent and 45 percent, respectively.

When President Obama designated Bears Ears a national monument last year, it was a huge victory for five Utah tribes — the Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe, Hopi, and the Pueblo of Zuni — who came together in 2015 to push for the preservation of what they estimate are 100,000 cultural and ancestral sites, some dating back to 1300 AD, in the region.

“More than 150 years ago, the federal government removed our ancestors from Bears Ears at gunpoint and sent them on the Long Walk,” Navajo Nation Council Delegate Davis Filfred said in statement. “But we came back.”

The Antiquities Act of 1906 gives the president authority to establish national monuments, largely to thwart looting of archaeological sites. Trump is the first president to shrink a monument in decades.

The five tribes have said they will bring a legal case against the administration — the outcome could redefine the president’s powers to use the Antiquities Act. “We know how to fight and we will fight to defend Bears Ears,” Filfred said.

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Energy Transfer Partners has until April to develop an oil-spill response plan for the Dakota Access Pipeline.

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4 ways the Republican tax plan could harm the planet.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s strategy to bring the public discussion, which ended Wednesday, “to the heart of coal country to hear from those most impacted” backfired when a few legacy coal miners like Nick Mullins of Kentucky came to testify.

“I don’t want [my son] to be a sixth-generation coal miner,” Mullins said, adding that the plan could lead to diverse job opportunities that won’t endanger his family’s health. When Obama announced the Clean Power Plan in 2015, the EPA estimated it could prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths and 90,000 childhood asthma attacks.

As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt sued the EPA to stop the plan’s implementation. The rules would have forced states to cut emissions by 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. It was a big piece of the United States’ compliance with the Paris climate accord, which President Trump now plans to leave.

“As long as I can draw a breath, I’m going to keep working to fight climate change and protect the land and country I love,” said Stanley Sturgill, a Kentucky resident living with black lung disease after more than 40 years as a coal miner. “For the sake of my grandchildren and yours, I call on you to strengthen, not repeal, the Clean Power Plan.”

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4 ways the Republican tax plan could harm the planet.

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Whitefish Energy won’t finish its work in Puerto Rico until it’s paid $83 million.

In a long-awaited decision, the Nebraska Public Service Commission announced its vote Monday to approve a tweaked route for the controversial tar sands oil pipeline.

The 3-2 decision is a critical victory for pipeline builder TransCanada after a nearly decade-long fight pitting Nebraska landowners, Native communities, and environmentalists activists against a pipeline that would carry tar sands oil from Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

After years of intense pressure, President Obama deemed the project “not in the national interest” in 2015; President Trump quickly reversed that decision earlier this year. But TransCanada couldn’t go forward without an approved route through Nebraska, which was held up by legal and political proceedings.

In the meantime, it’s become unclear whether TransCanada will even try to complete the $8 billion project. The financial viability of tar sands oil — which is expensive to extract and refine — has shifted in the intervening years, and while KXL languished, Canadian oil companies developed other routes to market.

The commission’s decision also opens the door to new litigation and land negotiations. TransCanada will have to secure land rights along the new route; one dissenting commissioner noted that many landowners might not even know the pipeline would potentially cross their property.

Meanwhile, last Thursday, TransCanada’s original Keystone pipeline, which KXL was meant to supplement, spilled 210,000 gallons of oil in South Dakota. Due to a 2011 Nebraska law, the commissioners were unable to consider pipeline safety or the possibility of spills in their decision.

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Whitefish Energy won’t finish its work in Puerto Rico until it’s paid $83 million.

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