Scientist: Chopping Climate Science not Easy

November 23, 2016


Business Insider:

Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist and director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which studies the changing atmosphere, says that it won’t be simple for Trump to purge federal agencies of climate researchers during his presidency.

“Chopping off science just to prevent people from talking about climate change won’t work,” Schmidt told Business Insider. “You need science for hazards, for weather forecasting, and climate comes along for the ride.”

President-elect Donald Trump’s stated views on climate change have ranged from the absurd — that it’s a Chinese hoax — to the doubtful — “There is still much that needs to be investigated.” His statements, including his pledge to roll back programs designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the US and his selection of someone who says he does not believe in climate change to lead the Environmental Protection Agency’s transition, suggest he could reject policies designed to control pollution and curb global warming.

nasalogo“I’d be lying if I said that there wasn’t some level of concern,” Schmidt said. “But the federal government is a very, very large place. And the number of appointees is very small.”

“I don’t think one should be complacent,” he added. “I think people are going around going ‘Oh yeah it’s just the same as the last time and it will be fine, it will be fine, it will be fine.’ I’m finding it hard to muster that kind of optimism.”

But still, the sheer scale of science at the federal level makes it hard for a new presidential administration to radically alter its course.

“When I first started working for the federal government I got frustrated,” Schmidt said, “like why are we stuck in this pattern? Why are decisions that are made so difficult to reverse? Why is it so hard to shift anything? And it’s hard because there’s a lot of people and there’s a lot of moving parts and there’s a huge amount of money. But now I’m thinking, ‘Oh, you know what, it’s a good thing that that things can’t be changed on a dime.'”

Schmidt added that the work he and his fellow researchers are doing has faced considerable challenges under previous administrations as well. But that didn’t stop them from continuing to do the research.

“During the [George W.] Bush administration we had climate skeptics rewriting reports and trying to control what’s said to the media,” he said. “But the planet kept warning. We kept reporting on it. We kept improving the science that underlies our understanding of why it’s changing. And we will work to continue to do so.”

If there was a campaign to censor or publish bad climate science under Trump, Schmidt said that outside researchers would notice.

“All of these things are peer reviewed up the wazoo,” he said.

And to the degree that there’s been information about Trump’s plans for NASA, Schmidt said it doesn’t worry him too much.

“The NASA appointee from what I can tell is going to be somebody who’s going to be very focused on Mars or human spaceflight, and I don’t think that’s terrible,” he said.

Inside Climate News:

While it is impossible to know exactly what Trump will do when he takes office, a week after the election the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) gave a window into his possible thinking, when it laid out a hit list of three climate policy-related executive orders that it wants immediately eliminated. The leader of Trump’s EPA transition team is Myron Ebell, CEI’s director for its Center for Energy and Environment.

The executive orders identified by CEI  all involve changing the way the federal government operates to deal with climate change:

Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade

This order, issued on March 19, 2015, calls for the reduction of each federal agency’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent over the next decade from 2008 levels and increases the share of electricity the federal government uses from renewables to 30 percent. The order achieves these gains by setting interim targets limiting energy use and sources in federal buildings, and lowering emissions from the federal fleet of vehicles.

Climate Resilient International Development

Issued on Sept. 23, 2014, this order mandates that international development work must factor in climate resilience. In its blog post, CEI wrote that this should be targeted because “elevating ‘climate-resilience considerations’ too easily becomes an excuse to deny poor countries access to affordable energy, ignore the real causes of poverty (corruption, lack of strong property rights), and legitimize phony grievances against the fossil energy-rich United States.”

Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change

This order lays out a series of steps that federal agencies must take to help American communities strengthen their resilience to climate change. It was issued on Nov. 1, 2013. CEI took issue with this because it argued that “the order directs agencies to recruit, indoctrinate, bankroll, and coordinate climate activists at all levels.”

Those aren’t the only orders that could be on the chopping block. Others appear to be implementing Obama’s climate agenda through executive order and have resulted in backlash from Republicans.

Stewardship of the Ocean, Our Coasts and the Great Lakes

This June 2010 order adopted the findings of the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force and implemented a new National Ocean Policy and created a task force with the goal of protecting and restoring ocean habitats and ecosystems in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill.

The House Committee on Natural Resources’ website had this to say about the order: “The policy sets up a new level of federal bureaucracy with control over the way inland, ocean and coastal activities are managed. This has the potential to inflict damage across a spectrum of sectors including agriculture, fishing, construction, manufacturing, mining, oil and natural gas, renewable energy, and marine commerce, among others.”

Enhancing Coordination of National Efforts in the Arctic

This order from January 2015 established a steering committee to coordinate activities in the Arctic among federal, state, local, Alaska Native and all other stakeholders. It was issued as the United States was poised to take the leadership of the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental panel that coordinates the Arctic states.

Though it was lauded by many as a way to streamline work in the Arctic and make sure Alaska Natives were given a voice, not everyone was happy with it. In a statement issued at the time, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said, “Science-based decision making is essential as we move forward, but we cannot ‘study’ ourselves into inaction. Investment and vision are needed—in infrastructure, ice breakers, and a predictable federal oil and gas permitting process—to craft an Arctic economy.”

Establishing a Federal Flood Risk Management Standard and a Process for Further Soliciting and Considering Stakeholder Input

This January 2015 order would have seemed like a natural target. It mandates that federal buildings meet higher flood risk management standards with decisions based on “a climate-informed science approach.”

When it was released, the order sparked a backlash from conservatives. Eight Republican senators from among the most flood-prone states in the country sent a letter to Obama calling the order illegal and saying it would lead to unaffordable flood insurance rates. But when the 2016 omnibus budget was passed, it had much of the executive order’s language tucked inside it. With Congress’s stamp of approval behind it, the order is no longer so vulnerable.

There are also a number of executive orders that Trump and his allies are unlikely to reverse. They include:

Improving Performance of Federal Permitting and Review of Infrastructure Projects

This 2012 order was issued by Obama from the campaign trail that year, in front of a stack of pipelines in the oil hub of Cushing, Okla. It called for expedited permitting and review of infrastructure projects, including pipelines. It was designed to deflect Republican criticism for the president’s first rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Supporting Safe and Responsible Development of Unconventional Domestic Natural Gas Resources

Also issued in 2012, this order sought to expedite the regulatory process around developing natural gas. When the order was issued, the Natural Gas Supply Association sent out a glowing statement, saying “NGSA welcomes today’s executive order, which should create an improved regulatory environment for natural gas development.”



5 Responses to “Scientist: Chopping Climate Science not Easy”

  1. Fire the entire pack of imbeciles.

    Larsen C ripped open in the dead of winter while 8000 glacial lakes appeared in Antarctica and those lunatics talk about 2C?

    CO2… CH4… SLR… conferences, charts and pontificate on what topic?

    … while they stick their hands in our pockets to pay for their booze –

    because the future is frightening, don’t you know.

    We are way beyond 2C

    Abrupt climate collapse is irrelevant.

    Cataclysms are more frequent than the public has been led to believe – and another one is coming. Those who want to survive have already packed and left.

    Those who failed to do the research have allowed themselves to be programmed with lunacy and lies – which makes them sitting ducks.

    A small percentage of those sitting ducks dance the CO2 goose-step, the CH4 goose-step, the Arctic ice goose-step, the SLR goose-step…

    the birdbrains prefer insanity over admitting their ignorance and stupidity.

    The public should not be forced to pay for lunacy or insanity.

    Fat bald alcoholic men wearing pink fairy wings and purple tutu’s –

    pontificating on the future they know nothing about –

    they dive into a realm of fantasy and fiction because they are clueless about the truth of our world.

    Those idiots are so out of touch with the reality, they’d rather cling to delusional unsubstantiated theories that contradict hundreds and hundreds of historic documents which are corroborated by bathymetric charts, topographic maps, tectonic plates, oral history of indigenous people, etc.

    Bow down to the fake science gods all you want.

    Bow down to the experts-on-parade.

    The public should not pay one cent to them –

    not one word of their insanity should be published anywhere.

  2. indy222 Says:

    This complacency is dangerous. To the extent Trump is successful in dismantling the climate science edifice at NASA, is the extent to which it will be long and expensive and difficult to try to reconstruct it when or if, we decide to pull our heads out of our backside orifice. Long and slow and ponderous works in both directions.

  3. dumboldguy Says:

    “The NASA appointee from what I can tell is going to be somebody who’s going to be very focused on Mars or human spaceflight, and I don’t think that’s terrible,” Gavin said.

    Not Terrible? Really? Even though though they’re talking about greatly reducing NASA’s role in studying the Earth, saying that it should be the job of “other agencies” to do that? Want to bet that they will cut NASA’s earth study programs and NOT move them over to “other agencies”?

    Yes, being “very focused” on MARS and MANNED SPACEFLIGHT is one way to lose focus on the fact that there is NO Planet B, and we are fast running out of time to deal with the disasters fast overtaking the ONLY home mankind will ever have.

    (And I agree with JeffyZ for once—-“Long and slow and ponderous” does NOT work equally in both directions).

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