I asked Lauren Kurtz, Attorney for the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund, to give us an update on the latest embarrassment for the crank legal team currently known as E&E Legal, aka American Traditions Institute – the group that was soundly spanked by the Virginia Supreme Court last year, after its attempt to tie up the University of Virginia in pointless wrangling. Turns out judges in Arizona were no more sympathetic to science-denier attacks on academic freedom.
On March 24, after years of litigation, the Arizona Superior Court, Pima County, ruled in favor of the University of Arizona and its efforts to protect climate scientists’ correspondence and prepublication work. In particular, in Energy & Environment Legal Institute v. Arizona Board of Regents, et al., the court upheld the University’s decision to deny large portions of open records requests by Energy & Environment Legal (known as E&E, and formerly named the American Tradition Institute or ATI), a group that has repeatedly sought to use open records laws to access troves of researchers’ private files. E&E has been described as having “a core mission of discrediting climate science and dismantling environmental regulations” in part through “filing nuisance suits to disrupt important academic research,” and the group has been linked to the fossil fuel industry, “major conservative players,” and “organizations opposing action on climate change.”
State and federal open records laws promote government transparency by allowing citizens to request administrative records, with exemptions for national security, trade secrets, and similar issues. But open records laws have also become common tools of those seeking to harass scientists, and open records requests for large swaths of documents (including private emails) have been made on scientists employed by the government or public universities, or who otherwise receive public funding. The scientists must then review and produce potentially thousands of documents – sometimes in a matter of days, depending on the applicable laws – or marshal a legal response explaining why the requests are invalid.
In the Arizona case, E&E filed multiple requests under Arizona’s open records laws for the files of University of Arizona climate scientists Dr. Malcolm Hughes and Dr. Jonathan Overpeck, seeking thirteen years of documents – including emails dating back to the 90s. (E&E has also unsuccessfully gone after Dr. Michael Mann’s emails in Virginia, as well as many others.) The University of Arizona produced some documents but denied release of several thousand others. The University stated the withheld documents contained protected intellectual property, including trade secrets and prepublication data and drafts; it also applied Arizona’s general records exemption that it was “in the best interests of the state” to withhold the documents. The University argued that releasing the scientists’ files would undermine academic collaboration and chill researcher correspondence – particularly between publicly funded scientists and privately funded ones, who are not at risk of such disclosure. This in turn would harm the scientific process and reduce the competitiveness of Arizona’s public universities, as researchers would become more reluctant to work at Arizona public universities or with public university scientists.
“Drinking a cup of tea, I stop the war.”
– Paul Reps
Nice media campaign from Morningstar Farms.
What you do does matter.
May 2, 2015
Ever notice how stupid people always try to pull you down to their level?
“Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”
― Mark Twain
One of the most powerful weapons for bludgeoning stupid people who desperately wish to cling to the notion that climate change is all a conspiracy to make them look, well, stupid – is the steady flow of good, well presented and richly visual information from NASA. Polling shows that professional scientists at our government research agencies are consistently rated as the most credible sources of good information on climate science.
Hence the move by Congress to destroy NASA’s Earth Observing capability.
Above: Jane Lubchenco, former NOAA administrator, discusses using satellites to monitor weather patterns. If rushed, go to 2:16 for the punchline.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, one of the few people that has actually seen our home planet from the vantage point of space, issued a statement noting that proposed cuts, “gut our Earth science program and threatens to set back generations worth of progress in better understanding our changing climate, and our ability to prepare for and respond to earthquakes, droughts, and storm events…” This statement is measured and appropriate, but I am writing to amplify this statement.
I’ve watched a lot of handsomely paid CEOs get on stages for keynote presentations over the past decade, and none were as good as the one I saw Elon Musk give Thursday night in California as he introduced Tesla’s new battery system. I’m sure many people will disagree — I mean, how can you compete with Steve Jobs introducing the iPhone in 2007 — but ultimately Jobs was selling a better smartphone. Musk is selling a better future.
Here’s what I loved about Musk’s presentation. First of all, it was short, clocking in at about 20 minutes. Musk didn’t waste anybody’s time. He used that time to present a problem of critical importance (eliminating humanity’s use of fossil fuels), explained how it can be addressed, and offered a plausible solution in the form of a new product — one that’s priced within reach of a lot of people and available to order. Amazingly, all of those things are actually pretty rare to see in one show. Tesla’s presentation was inspiring, and Musk wasn’t selling some fancy sci-fi trinket that has the benefit of Star Trek nostalgia. Dude was selling a battery.
April 30, 2015
Tesla is making a not-so-secret move into home and grid electric storage. Look for an announcement in the news late thursday/early friday.
Storage batteries could become a huge business because they solve a big problem related to renewable energy. Sure, rooftop solar cells generate juice during the sunny afternoon, but what about the evening?
The extra energy can be stored in batteries to power homes and businesses after the sun goes down. Demand will be helped along by a California Public Utilities Commission mandate that generators of electric power have stationary storage units.
“What Tesla is doing is an all-in strategy to bring the clean-air revolution to the state. And as California goes, so goes the nation,” says Roland Hwang, energy and transportation program director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk is also chairman of Solar City, a solar energy provider, which now also offers stationary battery units. Solar City says it has sold 300 units already this year.
Tesla hasn’t been trying hard to keep its big battery plans a secret. In a job posting for a development operations engineer, Tesla says it “has developed a business unit to address the increasing need for stationary storage battery systems, which allows for even higher levels of renewable generation.”
For US Utilities, this ratchets up the pressure for any company that still clings to the past, and their pre-eminent position as electric providers. Not only are businesses, households, farms and municipalities getting more choices for generating and storing power, they are generally using less of it to do more. Household usage, despite the expanding number of gizmos and gadgets, has been near flat now for several years, and is projected to stay that way.
U.S. energy consumption has slowed recently and is not anticipated to return to growth levels seen in the second half of the 20th century. EIA’s Reference case projections in the Annual Energy Outlook 2015 (AEO2015) show that domestic consumption is expected to grow at a modest 0.3% per year through 2040, less than half the rate of population growth. Energy used in homes is essentially flat, and transportation consumption will decline slightly, meaning that energy consumption growth will be concentrated in U.S. businesses and industries.
Near-zero growth in energy consumption is a recent phenomenon, and there is substantial uncertainty about the main drivers of consumption as the United States continues to recover from the latest economic recession and resumes more normal economic growth. EIA’s analysis in the AEO2015 includes several cases with various assumptions about macroeconomic growth, world oil prices, and domestic energy resource availability.
Increases in energy consumption are mostly related to economic activity, and U.S. industrial and commercial enterprises are projected to increase output more rapidly than countervailing influences from improved technologies. Existing policies also can moderate energy use. Energy intensity, measured as the amount of energy per unit of output, does continue to decline during the projection period. Nonetheless, industrial energy consumption still rises by 0.7% per year through 2040, while commercial consumption rises 0.5% per year in the AEO2015 Reference case. Read the rest of this entry »
April 30, 2015
As the Catholic Church accepts guidance from Science and moves into the 21st Century, the US Congress heads for the Dark Ages.
A Senate committee has advanced legislation that would change how the Environmental Protection Agency uses science to craft regulations intended to protect the environment and public health, the Hill reported Tuesday.
On party line votes, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted 11-9 to approve the “Secret Science Reform Act,” a bill to prohibit the EPA from using science that includes private data, or data that can’t be easily reproduced. The bill has been pushed strongly by House Republicans for the last two years, but this is the first time it has been advanced by the Senate. It is sponsored by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY).
The purpose of the Secret Science bill, according to its House sponsor Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), is to stop “hidden and flawed” science from being the basis of EPA regulations. However, many scientific organizations have disagreed with this characterization.
For example, approximately 50 scientific societies and universities said the bill would prohibit the EPA from using many large-scale public health studies, because their data “could not realistically be reproduced.” In addition, many studies use private medical data, trade secrets, and industry data that cannot legally be made public.
“The legislation may sound reasonable, but it’s actually a cynical attack on the EPA’s ability to do its job,” said Andrew Rosenberg, the director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, in a statement. “This bill would make it impossible for the EPA to use many health studies, since they often contain private patient information that can’t and shouldn’t be revealed.”
Republicans in support of the bill have countered that the EPA could still use data within the studies without disclosing personal information or trade secrets. But it wouldn’t be cheap for those studies to meet the bill’s requirements, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The CBO reported last year that the EPA relies on approximately 50,000 scientific studies to craft its regulations per year, and that meeting the goals of the “Secret Science” bill would cost between $10,000 and $30,000 per study.
April 29, 2015
Above, a CBS report from several months ago that I really can’t find anything wrong with. It is straight up, reporting, no false balance BS, the kind of reporting that might have made a difference, had it been initiated and consistent from, oh, 25 years ago.
But, for now, we’ll take it. More please.
I posted an outdated piece from Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting suggesting that a new head of National Public Radio might have been compromised in his views of climate science.
That individual has already been replaced. See Here.