Bill Maher and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy discuss the Pope’s recent encyclical on the environment.

McCarthy made news, well, Fox News, this week, with her comments that climate deniers are “not normal’.

Below, More Bill on Congress, science, and regulations. Read the rest of this entry »


Circle of Blue:

Sao Paulo is a paradox of water scarcity and abundance. Brazil’s largest city, located in a region that averages 25 more inches of rain each year than Seattle, is gripped by the worst drought in 80 years. Since the drought began last year, Sao Paulo has struggled to provide water to its 20 million residents.

The severity of the drought is apparent in Sao Paulo’s reservoir levels. Collectively, the city’s six primary reservoir systems are 27.1 percent full, compared to 40 percent full at this time last year—a difference that amounts to 274 billion liters, according to data compiled by the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper.

Water levels in the Cantareira reservoir system, the city’s most important water storage facility is at 20 percent of capacity as the region enters its annual dry season. Cantareira served nearly half of the city’s population before the drought, but now supplies water to 5 million people as water managers turn to smaller reservoirs to relieve pressure on the system.

The Alto Tiete reservoir system, less than half the size of Cantareira, currently is at 22.4 percent of its capacity, and supplies 4.5 million people.

The city’s drained reservoirs, though, represent only a portion of the challenge facing Sao Paulo’s water managers. Another is how residents view the drought. Though reservoir water levels are disturbingly low, Sao Paulo still lacks the visual evidence of a drought as seen in places like California, Australia, and Mexico. That’s because a lot of the city is still very green and heavy rains still occur.

saopaologirl“They are in a drought, but the meaning of a drought is really different depending on where you are,” Newsha Ajami, director of urban water policy for Stanford University’s Water in the West program, told Circle of Blue. Ajami was invited to Sao Paulo in December 2014 to discuss water issues with state officials. Ajami added that the city flooded while she was there. “If you live in an area where drains are overflowing every time it rains, you’re not going to say it is a drought. Perception definitely matters.”

Situated on a plateau 700 meters above the sea, the city is at the headwaters of the Alto Tiete river basin and averages about 1,600 millimeters (63 inches) of rain each year—25 inches more than Seattle. Reservoirs like Guarapiranga, Rio Grande, and Billings hold large amounts of water, but they are either too small or too polluted to bolster Sao Paulo’s water security. In addition, the city is still flooding during the rainy season. Floods made headlines earlier this month, as well as in November, December, and February.

“We are definitely seeing that it has been raining less, but there have been some dramatic events,” Pedro Jacobi, a professor of education and environmental science at the University of Sao Paulo who studies water governance, told Circle of Blue . “We have a situation where the reservoirs are empty, but if it rains in the city, it has so much asphalt that if you have 50 to 60 millimeters [of rain] you are under water in many parts.”

The result is a landscape that belies the severity of the water crisis and a skewed perception that complicates voluntary conservation efforts—Sao Paulo’s primary tool for ensuring adequate water supplies in the short-term.Further clouding the public’s view of the drought is the government’s response, which has been characterized by disorder, distrust, and a general lack of urgency. For example, residents began complaining of dropping water pressure in their homes as early as May 2014, but officials did not admit to water rationing until March 2015. Instead, the government persistently held that rain would refill the reservoirs, negating the need for more drastic measures.

The Conversation:

The climatic factors influencing the drought in California and in Sao Paulo are likely interconnected. Cycles in the Pacific sea surface temperature that occur on decadal timescales are coupled to changes in atmospheric circulation that affect weather patterns worldwide. In some regions, atmospheric conditions are such that they block the passage of cold fronts that cause the storms to bring precipitation, changing the path of these rain events.

As long as these blocking conditions persist, there will be regions undergoing dry conditions, whereas others will be extremely wet. The North Pacific has been entering a phase that will likely increase the probability of these blocking mechanisms that favor dry conditions in California and other regions of the planet, including Sao Paulo.

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National Center for Science Education:

Prompted by the release of the movie Jurassic World, a new poll from YouGov indicates that Americans are about evenly split on the question of whether dinosaurs and humans lived on the planet at the same time.

Asked “Do you believe that dinosaurs and humans once lived on the planet at the same time,” 14% of respondents said definitely, 27% said probably, 18% said probably not, and 25% said definitely not; 16% were unsure.

Demographically, YouGov noted, “While most Americans who describe themselves as ‘born again’ (56%) believe that humans and dinosaurs once shared the planet, most Americans who do not describe themselves as born again (51%) think that they did not.”

In seeming confirmation of the roughly even split in opinion, a poll of registered voters in Texas in 2010 found that 30% agreed and 41% disagreed with “The earliest humans lived at the same time as the dinosaurs,” with 30% saying that they didn’t know.

Similarly, in Reports of the NCSE in 2010, George Bishop and his colleagues described a 2008 survey in which 40% of respondents agreed, and 48% of respondents disagreed, with “Dinosaurs lived at the same time as people.”

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Any associations you might have with Alaska being a generally chilly place, actually, were belied by last month’s heat wave: with average temperatures 7.1 degrees above normal, the state had its hottest May in 91 years of record-keeping. Here, via NASA’s Earth Observatory, is what that deviation looked like:

alaska0615 North American land surface temperatures from May 17–24, 2015, compared to the 2001–2010 average for the same eight-day period. Shades of red depict areas that were hotter than the long-term average; areas in blue were below average for the week. White pixels were normal, and gray pixels did not have enough data, most likely due to excessive cloud cover.

Meteorologists attributed the unusual heat to a “kinked jet stream that is sending air masses in a more north-south flow than the more typical east-west direction” — a pattern that may be connected to two typhoons in the Pacific.

In the long-term, the problem gets much scarier. Thanks to climate change, the state, with the rest of the Arctic, is currently heating up at twice the rate of lower latitudes, and its weather, as one state meteorologist, who was only sort of joking, put it, is “broken.” Earlier this year, Slate’s Eric Holthaus did a deep-dive on why that’s happening:

Alaska’s recent surge of back-to-back warm winters comes after a record-snowy 2012, in which the National Guard was employed to help dig out buried towns. Then, about two years ago, something in the climate system switched. The state’s recent brush with extreme weather is more than just year-to-year weather variability. Alaska is at the point where the long-term trend of warming has begun to trump seasonal weather fluctuations. A recent shift toward warmer offshore ocean temperatures is essentially adding more fuel to the fire, moving the state toward more profound tipping points like the irreversible loss of permafrost and increasingly violent weather. If the current warm ocean phase (which began in 2014) holds for a decade or so, as is typical, Alaska will quickly become a different place.


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I feel a summer weekend coming on.


Climate Deniers processing that climate is changing, both globally, and politically.
This will be a sadly fascinating document for future historians.

Marc Morano’s Climate Depot:

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told an audience Tuesday gathered at a White House conference “normal people,” not “climate deniers” will win the debate on global warming.

McCarthy’s remarks came as she was talking about the reasons why the EPA put out a report on the negative health impacts global warming will have on public health. She said the agency puts out such reports to educate the public, not answer critiques from global warming skeptics.

“I am doing that not to push back on climate deniers,” McCarthy told doctors, health professionals and others gathered at a White House summit. “You can have fun doing that if you want, but I’ve batted my head against the wall too many times and if the science already hasn’t changed their mind it never will.”

McCarthy then remarked how “normal people,” and not skeptics would eventually win the global warming debate. Implicit in her remarks is the contention that skeptics are somehow not “normal people.”

Rush Limbaugh radio transcript:

McCarthy then remarked how ‘normal people,’ and not skeptics would eventually win the global warming debate. Implicit in her remarks is the contention that skeptics are somehow not ‘normal people.'” Deniers, skeptics are not normal people. But the people that believe in man-made global warming are normal because of the science. You know, that, folks, is the single biggest reason to not believe global warming because the science isn’t science. The science is made up, it’s filled of hoaxes and so forth, but the bottom line is science is not up to a vote.

You always hear things like the consensus of scientists agrees. There is no consensus in science. You don’t take a proposition, put it up to a vote, and if a majority of scientists agrees, then, voila, we have just made a scientific discovery. Sorry, it doesn’t happen that way. And that’s all global warming is. There are all kinds of really smart and really credible scientists, you know, men and women that wear white coats, too, that have every bit of scientific data they need to debunk and blow holes through every bit of manmade global warming theory, which is all it is. It isn’t science.

Below – Jon Stewart bonus:

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New study out from Stanford on the increased frequency of weather patterns associated with extreme heat.  I interviewed one of the authors, Dr. Noah Diffenbaugh in April, and we touched on this in a broader discussion of the California drought – above.

Associated Press:

A team of climate scientists at Stanford University looked at weather patterns since 1979 and found changes in frequency and strength in parts of the world, according to a study published in the journal Nature on Wednesday. These are the types of weather patterns with stationary high and low pressure systems that you see on weather forecasts, which is different than gradual warming from man-made climate change.

The team studied the kind of upper air patterns that “sort of amplifies the warming trend,” said study lead author Daniel Horton.

The study doesn’t attempt to explain why these changes are happening. But in general they fit a theory that has gained momentum in climate science that says melting sea ice in the Arctic has sometimes altered the way the jet stream flows, contributing to extreme weather like Superstorm Sandy, outside experts said.

In many cases, including the eastern U.S. and western Asia in summer, some of these changes have become even more noticeable since 1990, the same period in which Arctic sea ice has gone through a rapid decline, the study found.

For example, the type of summer weather pattern with a northeastern North American high pressure system that keeps it hotter than normal in the eastern U.S. used to happen about 18 days a summer in the early 1980s. It now occurs about 26 days a summer, the study found.

“There are more of them each summer and on average they are lasting longer and the longest are lasting longer,” Horton said.

That pattern shift is even stronger in the summer in Europe and western Asia, Horton and co-author Noah Diffenbaugh found.

The patterns Horton and Diffenbaugh studied are different from the one responsible for the current southeastern U.S. heatwave, Horton said. But the weather patterns were the type responsible for heatwaves that killed more than 50,000 people in western Russia in 2010 and more than 70,000 people Europe in 2003, the study said.

Christian Science Monitor:

Long-awaited rains can’t come soon enough for the 20 million residents of Karachi, where a scorching four-day heat wave has killed at least 800 people.

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Renewable energy is set to blow past fossil fuels in the next 25 years, attracting nearly two-thirds of the spending on new power plants, according to a new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). With rapidly decreasing costs, solar will be the top choice for consumers, particularly in developing nations, the report New Energy Outlook 2015 (NEO) projects. Worldwide, it expects solar to draw $3.7 trillion of the $8 trillion invested in clean energy, with only $4.1 billion spent on coal, natural gas and nuclear.

The report outlined what it referred to as “5 seismic shifts” that will transform electricity generation in the next quarter century.

It found:

1. Solar, solar everywhere. The continuing decline in the cost of photovoltaic technology will fuel that $3.7 billion investment surge in both large- and small-scale solar. That growth will be pushed by a 47 percent decrease in the cost of solar thanks to conversion efficiencies, new materials and streamlined production.

2. Power to the people. Of that amount, $2.2 billion will be invested in rooftop solar and other small-scale solar systems, allowing businesses and other users to generate and store their own electricity and giving parts of the developing world access to electricity for the first time.

bloomberg_energy23. Demand undershoots. Energy-efficient technologies in uses such as air conditioning and lighting will help decrease growth in global power demand from 3 percent to 1.8 percent a year.

Underscoring this point, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy points out in a new report:

A recent ACEEE report found that if states fully incorporate several energy efficiency policies into their CPP plans (e.g., energy saving targets for utilities, building codes and CHP), energy efficiency could reduce electricity consumption by about 25% relative to 2012 electricity sales, or about 22% relative to projected 2030 sales. That’s more than ten times what EIA found. Read the rest of this entry »

Once again, the parallels between climate denial and racism in the US right wing are prominent in the news. This week, the uncanny similarity between right wing responses to the racially motivated massacre in Charleston, and the overwhelming evidence for human caused climate change,  are unavoidable.

Though a mass shooter in Charleston wore Confederate flags and other racist symbols, announced he was in a church to “kill black people”, and accused blacks of “raping women and taking over the country..” – high profile right wing politicians and media kept declaring that there was just no way anyone could possibly know whether race was on his mind or not. After all, they’re not psychologists, right?

When I started the “Climate Denial Crock of the Week” series in january, 2009, I had just come off a debate with Competitive Enterprise Shill Chris Horner, and followed the conventional wisdom, then, of not using the “D” word in referring to Deniers, but rather softer terms like “skeptic” and “contrarian”.

Let the record show that I gave Horner an epic ass-kicking that I’m sure he’s not forgotten, and I’d be happy to repeat anytime.  But in observing Homo climatus denialus in its native habitat, I realized that any pretense of courtesy to charlatans and sociopaths was, in itself, dishonest, and part of the distortion field that we have to work through. Hence the provocative series title.

Years later, “Denier” is the preferred term of art, used by the President, and, more and more, even by the most passive and gutless of mainstream media.  The recent spate of “I’m not a scientist so how could I possibly know” dodges has been massively ridiculed and ineffective – yet the reality of the overwhelming scientific consensus continues to be an invisible 900 pound gorilla in conservative political dialogue.

Who could possibly guess his motivations? I'm not a psychologist... Dylann Storm Roof wearing a jacket with the flags of apartheid-era South Africa, top, and Rhodesia, as modern-day Zimbabwe was called during a period of white rule. Below, with the Confederate flag.

Who could possibly guess his motivations? I’m not a psychologist…but –
Charleston shooter Dylann Storm Roof is shown here, top, wearing a jacket with the flags of apartheid-era South Africa, top, and Rhodesia, as modern-day Zimbabwe was called during a period of white rule. Below, with the Confederate flag.

Media Matters:

New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan believes the paper is making progress when it comes to using the more accurate term “denier” — rather than “skeptic” — to refer to those who reject the scientific consensus on climate change.

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I dealt with this one 3 years ago, but don’t be afraid to send it to your Uncle Dittohead or Aunt Teabag.

The Crock is that some kind of dip in the Sun’s energy is imminent, and that’s going to cool the planet.  3 years ago the story was wrapped around a distortion of published research, amplified and hyped by Fox News and a reliable Denial shill.

But physics has a way of asserting itself….

The Independent:

There is about a one-in-five chance of the Sun entering the same kind of cooling phase that allowed “frost fairs” to be held on the frozen River Thames 300 years ago – but scientists warned that the next solar transition will not be enough to save the world from global warming.

A rapid decline in the Sun’s activity is making it increasingly likely that within the next half century the world will experience a “grand solar minimum”, which is thought to have contributed to the so-called Little Ice Age in Europe and parts of North America in the 17th and 18th Centuries.

However, a study has found that the expected fall in global average temperature resulting from the natural, long-term fluctuations in solar activity will be dwarfed by the projected rise in temperatures due to man-made emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

Financial Times:

Overall, however, winters are likely to become milder, the researchers say. “What this study shows is that the sun isn’t going to save us from global warming,” said Met Office scientist, Sarah Ineson, lead author of the study.

“But it could have impacts at a regional level that should be factored into decisions about adapting to climate change for the decades to come.”As for the idea that Londoners can look forward to ice-skating on the Thames any time soon, Ms Ineson has sobering news.

“Frost fairs on the Thames during the Maunder Minimum owed much to the weir-like design of the old London Bridge,” she said.

“Also, the building of the Thames embankments has greatly increased the flow. It’s these developments of the river that primarily ended large-scale freezing of the Thames.”

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