March 29, 2017
Exxon urges Trump to stay in Paris Agreement.
Peter Trelenberg, Exxon’s manager for environmental policy and planning, writes in the letter: “It is prudent that the United States remain a party to the Paris agreement to ensure a level playing field, so that global energy markets remain as free and competitive as possible.” He also argues the US is well-placed to be internationally competitive within the framework of Paris, thanks to its abundant natural gas reserves and its “innovative private industries, including the oil, gas and petrochemical sectors”.
Mr Trump on the campaign trail promised to “cancel” the Paris agreement within 100 days of taking office and has described the science indicating a threat of global warming as “created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive”. Scott Pruitt, the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, on ABC News over the weekend criticised Paris as “just a bad deal”. However other members of the administration, including James Mattis, the defence secretary, and Rex Tillerson, the former Exxon chief executive who is now secretary of state, have been reported to favour remaining in the accord.
Kevin Cramer, a Republican member of the House of Representatives from North Dakota who has advised Mr Trump on energy, has written to the president urging him to keep the US in Paris while scaling back its commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Exxon has been widely criticised by environmental groups for its position on climate change, and faces inquiries for the attorneys-general of New York state and Massachusetts over its past statements on the issue, but it has repeatedly stated its support for the Paris agreement.
China happy to lead new industrial revolution:
China is still committed to the Paris climate change accord agreed in 2015, the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday, after U.S. President Donald Trump signed an order to dismantle Obama-era climate change regulations.
Trump’s main target is former president Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which required states to slash carbon emissions from power plants – a key factor in the United States’ ability to meet its commitments under the climate change accord reached by nearly 200 countries in Paris.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said climate change was a common challenge for everyone and the Paris agreement was a landmark that came about with the hard work of the international community, including China and the United States.
China is keen to be seen leading the way in reducing climate change which Trump has in the past dismissed as a “hoax”.
“We still uphold that all sides should move with the times, grasp the opportunities, fulfill their promises and earnestly take proactive steps to jointly push the enforcement of this agreement,” Lu told a daily news briefing.
“No matter how other countries’ policies on climate change change, as a responsible large developing country, China’s resolve, aims and policy moves in dealing with climate change will not change,” he added.
In many Republican-led states — ranging from Texas to Illinois — solar, wind and energy efficiency have thrived as a way to cut electricity costs and boost jobs, not as a way to protect the planet. In other Republican states, lawmakers are pressing to roll back existing incentives for renewable energy, saying they want to protect coal and natural gas. Read the rest of this entry »
March 29, 2017
A year earlier, I traveled to her village in the Ecuadorian Amazon to research the improbable story of a rainforest community of 1,200 Kichwa people that has successfully fended off oil companies and a government intent on exploiting their land for profit. How, I wondered, has Sarayaku been winning?
This is not the story most people know from Ecuador. Headlines have focused on northern Ecuador, where Chevron is fighting a landmark $9.5 billion judgment for dumping millions of gallons of toxic wastewater into rivers and leaving unlined pits of contaminated sludge that poisoned thousands of people.
Sarayaku lies in southern Ecuador, where the government is selling drilling rights to a vast swath of indigenous lands—except for Sarayaku. The community has become a beacon of hope to other indigenous groups and to global climate change activists as it mobilizes to stop a new round of oil exploration.
What I found in Sarayaku was not just a community defending its territory. I encountered a people who believe that their lifestyle, deeply connected to nature, holds promise for humans to save themselves from global warming and extinction. They are fighting back by advancing a counter-capitalist vision called sumak kawsay—Kichwa for “living well”—living in harmony with the natural world and insisting that nature has rights deserving of protection.
In the early 2000s, “The government let oil businesses exploit and explore for oil in this territory. There was no consultation. Many communities sold out to the oil companies. Sarayaku was the only pueblo that didn’t sell the right for oil companies to explore.”
Ecuador’s government ignored the community’s refusal to sell oil-drilling rights and signed a contract in 1996 with the Argentinian oil company C.G.C. to explore for oil in Sarayaku. In 2003, C.G.C. petroleros—oil workers and private security guards—and Ecuadorian soldiers came by helicopter to lay explosives and dig test wells.
Sarayaku mobilized. “We stopped the schools and our own work and dedicated ourselves to the struggle for six months,” says Santi. As the oil workers cleared a large area of forest—which was community farmland—the citizens of Sarayaku retreated deep into the jungle, where they established emergency camps and plotted their resistance.
“In the six months of struggle, there was torture, rape, and strong suffering of our people, especially our mothers and children,” Santi recounts. “We returned with psychological illness. All the military who came …” He pauses to compose himself. “This was a very, very bad time.”
In their jungle camps, the Sarayaku leaders hatched a plan. The women of the community prepared a strong batch of chicha, the traditional Ecuadorian homebrew made from fermented cassava. One night, a group of them traveled stealthily through the jungle, shadowed by men of the village. The women emerged at the main encampment of the petroleros. They offered their chicha and watched as the oil workers happily partied. Read the rest of this entry »
March 28, 2017
Above, Ben Santer: “If the program is to advance ignorance, then I’m not with the Program.”
Important point here:
Any minute now: “Nobody knew how complicated this climate thing is.”
Given the fact that Donald Trump, as a presidential candidate, described climate change as a “hoax,” cooked up by the Chinese as part of an elaborate conspiracy, it doesn’t come as too big of a surprise that Trump, as a president, would go after his predecessor’s Clean Power Plan. It did, however, come as a surprise to see Trump deliberately mislead some of his supporters about his approach.
NBC News summarized today’s developments, noting the president’s latest executive order.The order asks the Environmental Protection Agency to review Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which sought to reduce carbon pollution from power plants and is considered one of the past administration’s signature pieces of climate policy. The plan’s implementation was already put on hold by the Supreme Court in February of 2016.This is clearly a major development, but it kicks off a larger conflict. As Vox’s report explained, “Trump’s administration will now spend years trying to rewrite rules and fend off legal challenges from environmentalists. And it’s not clear they’ll always prevail: Some of President Obama’s climate policies may prove harder to uproot than thought.”That’s certainly true, though it’s still an international embarrassment for the United States to abandoned its leadership role; it risks exacerbating the existing crisis; and it makes it very unlikely we’ll meet our own goals and targets as part of the Paris Accord.
But as this process unfolds, it’s worth remembering that much of today’s regressive shift is built on falsehoods – and not just about science.
USA Todaynoted, for example, “The order makes good on Trump’s promise to end what he called a ‘war on coal,’ and to bring back coal jobs. ‘I made them this promise. We will put our miners back to work,’ Trump said Tuesday.”
No, actually he won’t.[T]he US coal industry is dying regardless of anything Trump does, said industry experts, with fewer than 100,000 jobs now largely concentrated in Appalachian states.
“It won’t add any coal jobs, but it will set back the country as a leader on the environment,” finance director Tom Sanzillo of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis based in Cleveland told BuzzFeed News. Coal is a declining industry that serves up a product, energy, that costs more than wind, solar, and natural gas.
“That isn’t going to change and the fundamentals are inescapable,” Sanzillo said. “Nobody in the industry has a serious plan to reverse that.”
Robert Murray, head of the largest private US coal firm, Murray Coal, for example, told The Guardian on Monday that Trump should “temper his expectations” on reviving coal industry jobs, adding: “He can’t bring them back.”A New York Timesreport added, “[C]oal miners also should not assume their jobs will return if Trump’s regulations take effect.” The article an energy economist added that “we could see a decrease in coal jobs,” even with Trump’s regressive agenda.
Above, Pollster Ed Maibach: “The average American, while concerned about climate change, rarely, if ever, talks about it.
And the reason they don’t talk about it, is because they think they’re in the minority.”
Below: polling shows otherwise.
But First: New Trump budget proposal makes draconian cuts in Environmental and climate related programs.
His party holds seemingly unchecked power.
It’s not like they haven’t eff’d up something like this before.
But a skinny budget proposal is still just a proposal—and a funny one at that. While this proposal hints at President Trump’s governance priorities, and serves as an initial negotiating position, it mostly markets his ideological bonafides to other Republicans. It’s fiduciary fan fiction for conservatives, basically, with little chance of becoming law. Not only will a tiny EPA be politically difficult to enact, but there are also sticky legal limits on the extent to which the non-military side of the government can be defunded.
It can hint at other negotiations, though: how much Cabinet secretaries are able to wrangle for their agencies. And on that front, there was a curious anecdote in Coral Davenport and Glenn Thrush’s New York Times story about how the Trump skinny budget came together. As you read it, remember that Obama left the EPA with a budget of $8.2 billion:
The E.P.A. administrator, Scott Pruitt, who has himself spoken out against some of the core missions of the agency he leads, went to the White House to request a smaller cut after the White House budget office first presented him its preferred spending level. He pressed for about $7 billion, according to the person. Instead, the White House slashed his budget down even further, to about $5.7 billion.
The Times is right: Scott Pruitt does seem to be “against some of the core missions of the agency.” He’s no environmentalist, either: He recently told CNBC that he doubted some of the most basic premises of climate science.
So if he hates the EPA so much, why is he fighting for more funding for it?
– Read the rest of this entry »
March 27, 2017
The world’s costliest flood disaster of 2017 is still unfolding across parts of coastal Peru, where extreme rainfall atop normally dry terrain has led to episodes of major flooding over the last few weeks. More than 110,000 people have been displaced by flooding since December, according to Reuters, and more than 80 deaths have been reported.
The death toll makes the floods of 2017 Peru’s deadliest floods since 2009 – 2010, when 158 people died in flooding between December and March. Preliminary damages from the 2017 rains and flooding in Peru are estimated at $1.4 billion (0.7% of Peru’s GDP), according to insurance broker Aon Benfield. Significant damage has been done to Peru’s infrastructure, with 2,188 kilometers (1,360 miles) of main roads and 928 kilometers (577 miles) of rural roads destroyed, along with 194 bridges. Approximately 671 kilometers (417 miles) of irrigation canals have been destroyed and as many as 23,000 hectares (56,000 acres) of crops damaged or destroyed, including grapes, mangoes, and bananas.
In the video above, scientists connect extreme events to first order physics, i.e., warmer air holds more moisture.
Recent research dives deeper, making stronger connections between climate caused changes in the jet stream, and more extreme events.
Unprecedented summer warmth and flooding, forest fires, drought and torrential rain—extreme weather events are occurring more and more often, but now an international team of climate scientists has found a connection between many extreme weather events and the impact climate change is having on the jet stream.
“We came as close as one can to demonstrating a direct link between climate change and a large family of extreme recent weather events,” said Michael Mann, distinguished professor of atmospheric science and director, Earth System Science Center, Penn State. “Short of actually identifying the events in the climate models.”
The unusual weather events that piqued the researchers’ interest are things such as the 2003 European heat wave, the 2010 Pakistan flood and Russian heatwave, the 2011 Texas and Oklahoma heat wave and drought and the 2015 California wildfires.
The researchers looked at a combination of roughly 50 climate models from around the world that are part of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5), which is part of the World Climate Research Programme. These models are run using specific scenarios and producing simulated data that can be evaluated across the different models. However, while the models are useful for examining large-scale climate patterns and how they are likely to evolve over time, they cannot be relied on for an accurate depiction of extreme weather events. That is where actual observations prove critical.
The researchers looked at the historical atmospheric observations to document the conditions under which extreme weather patterns form and persist. These conditions occur when the jet stream, a global atmospheric wave of air that encompasses the Earth, becomes stationary and the peaks and troughs remain locked in place.
“Most stationary jet stream disturbances, however, will dissipate over time,” said Mann. “Under certain circumstances the wave disturbance is effectively constrained by an atmospheric wave guide, something similar to the way a coaxial cable guides a television signal. Disturbances then cannot easily dissipate, and very large amplitude swings in the jet stream north and south can remain in place as it rounds the globe.”
Scientists have been kicking these ideas around for years. More evidence now.
The new work analysed a type of extreme weather event known to be caused by changes in “planetary waves” – such as California’s ongoing record drought, and recent heatwaves in the US and Russia, as well as severe floods in Pakistan in 2010.
Planetary waves are a pattern of winds, of which the jet stream is a part, that encircle the northern hemisphere in lines that undulate from the tropics to the poles. Normally, the whole wave moves eastwards but, under certain temperature conditions, the wave can halt its movement. This leaves whole regions under the same weather for extended periods, which can turn hot spells into heatwaves and wet weather into floods.
This type of extreme weather event is known to have increased in recent decades. But the new research used observations and climate models to show that the chances of the conditions needed to halt the planetary waves occurring are significantly more likely as a result of global warming.
“Human activity has been suspected of contributing to this pattern before, but now we uncover a clear fingerprint of human activity,” said Prof Michael Mann, at Pennsylvania State University in the US and who led the study published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Kai Kornhuber, at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany and another member of the research team, said: “We looked into dozens of different climate models, as well as into observational data, and it turns out that the temperature distribution favouring planetary wave stalling increased in almost 70% of the simulations.”
Large scale wind patterns are largely driven by the temperature difference between the poles and the tropics. But global warming is altering this difference because the Arctic is heating up faster than lower latitudes and because land areas are heating up faster than the oceans.