Airbrushing Science

April 30, 2017

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For more on these photos, see Scientific American.

It’s a hallmark of totalitarian regimes, that inconvenient people and facts are scrupulously removed from public record, media, and textbooks.
It was a famous joke, a few years ago, when the Republican Governor of Florida forbade use of the phrase “Climate Change” for state employees, even those whose jobs involved dealing with the consequences of said change.

After all, that will make it go away, right?
Not a joke anymore.

USAToday:

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency is updating its website and, in the process, has removed a page that explained the causes and effects of climate change.

The agency said Friday the website, epa.gov, is undergoing changes to reflect its new direction under President Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

“As EPA renews its commitment to human health and clean air, land and water, our website needs to reflect the views of the leadership of the agency,” J.P. Freire, the agency’s associate administrator for public affairs, said in a statement.

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“We want to eliminate confusion by removing outdated language first and making room to discuss how we’re protecting the environment and human health by partnering with states and working within the law.”

The overhaul already appears to have impacted at least two of the agency’s websites – the EPA’s main climate change site and another regarding the Clean Power Plan, a rule put in place under former President Obama to reduce carbon pollution from power plants.

Visitors to the EPA’s main climate change website are now directed to a page that explains the site is being updated. The website, which launched in 1997, had included detailed data on the causes and the impact of climate change.

Vice Motherboard:

On April 19, 2017, somebody replaced most of the information on the Interior Department’s main climate change page. The agency made no announcement of this, but a look at the page’s source code reveals the date on which it was last modified.

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What was once a robust overview of the Interior’s climate change priorities is now a pedestrian paragraph about the types of land the agency protects. Gone are the mentions of rising sea levels, worsening wildfires, and threatened wildlife. In fact, the entire page, which is just 101-words-long, only uses the term “climate change” once. Read the rest of this entry »

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Lawrence Torcello in the Guardian:

I’m a climate alarmist because there is no morally responsible way to downplay the dangers that negligent policies – expected to accelerate human-caused climate change – pose to humankind.

There can be no greater crime against humanity than the foreseeable, and methodical, destruction of conditions that make human life possible – hindsight isn’t necessary.

There is no amount of ideological deception capable of altering basic physics, chemistry and biology. It is ethically untenable for intelligent people to look the other way while elected officials deny reality, and our opportunity to avoid catastrophe slips away.

We know that the continued acceleration of climate change will bring more droughts, rising seas, more extreme weather, longer forest fire seasons and destructive storm surges. This in turn would lead to more water stress, crop failures, poverty, starvation, warfare and ever worsening refugee crises.

We know that the warming already achieved is expected to displace millions of people in low lying regions. Indeed, at our current rate of warming segments of the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia, will likely become uninhabitable for future generations.

This is not a problem for the distant future. People reading this right risk dying of impacts related to climate change. Anyone who claims global warming is not catastrophic is ill informed – or playing a disingenuous game of privilege. Such a person is probably white, male, living in an affluent nation, politically conservative, and of a relatively wealthy demographic.

It is a fact that those least responsible for global warming, the global poor living in the global south, are most immediately vulnerable to climate change. This reality carries profound moral implications. Whole island nations in the southern hemisphere, such as the South Pacific’s Kiribati, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands, and the Indian Ocean’s Maldives, are under threat from rising seas.

Citizens of these and other low-lying regions will be, or are already being, forced to assimilate to other lands. When indigenous populations are displaced and subjected to forced assimilation by outsiders exploiting resources for their own profit it constitutes a form of cultural genocide—and history teaches that the large scale displacement of cultural groups can raise the risk of physical genocide.

Consequently, if any nation were to enact policies calculated to systematically destroy cultural lands and displace native people, as climate change will, it would rightly raise international debates over genocide. It makes no difference to populations forced off their homelands whether the resource exploitation responsible is occurring in West Virginia or Papua New Guinea.

The moral, and existential, implications of human-caused climate change should by now have triggered full-scale, World War II style effort to end fossil fuel dependence and associated greenhouse gas emissions.

The global community ought to have engaged in a renewable energy “arms race” years ago. Instead, we burn away time while fossil fuel interests fund negligent campaigns of disinformation and politicians stage fake debates over the science of climate change.

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One-time denier talks about his change of heart.
Says we shouldn’t be mean to deniers.
Hurts their feelings.

Sorry. I’m not here to make you feel like, even though you’ve collaborated with the most brutal, dishonest and evil monsters on the planet – you’re still a good person.

Harsh? Wait till your grandchildren find out what you’ve been up to.

The Intercept:

Sharon Lerner: What did you think when you first encountered the concept of climate change back in the 1990s?

Jerry Taylor: From 1991 through 2000, I was a pretty good warrior on that front. I was absolutely convinced of the case for skepticism with regard to climate science and of the excessive costs of doing much about it even if it were a problem. I used to write skeptic talking points for a living.

SL: What was your turning point?

JT: It started in the early 2000s. I was one of the climate skeptics who do battle on TV and I was doing a show with Joe Romm. On air, I said that, back in 1988, when climate scientist James Hansen testified in front of the Senate, he predicted we’d see a tremendous amount of warming. I argued it’d been more than a decade and we could now see by looking at the temperature record that he wasn’t accurate. After we got done with the program and were back in green room, getting the makeup taken off, Joe said to me, “Did you even read that testimony you’ve just talked about?” And when I told him it had been a while, he said “I’m daring you to go back and double check this.” He told me that some of Hansen’s projections were spot on. So I went back to my office and I re-read Hanson’s testimony. And Joe was correct. So I then I talked to the climate skeptics who had made this argument to me, and it turns out they had done so with full knowledge they were being misleading.

SL: So that was it? You changed your mind?

JT: It was more gradual. After that, I began to do more of that due diligence, and the more I did, the more I found that variations on this story kept arising again and again. Either the explanations for findings were dodgy, sketchy or misleading or the underlying science didn’t hold up. Eventually, I tried to get out of the science narratives that I had been trafficking in and just fell back on the economics. Because you can very well accept that climate change exists and still find arguments against climate action because the costs of doing something are so great.

SL: And the economic case eventually crumbled, too?

JT: The first blow in that argument was offered by my friend Jonathan Adler, who was at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Jon wrote a very interesting paper in which he argued that even if the skeptic narratives are correct, the old narratives I was telling wasn’t an argument against climate action. Just because the costs and the benefits are more or less going to be a wash, he said, that doesn’t mean that the losers in climate change are just going to have to suck it up so Exxon and Koch Industries can make a good chunk of money.

The final blow against my position, which caused me to crumble, was from a fellow named Bob Litterman, who had been the head of risk management at Goldman Sachs. Bob said, “The climate risks aren’t any different from financial risks I had to deal with at Goldman. We don’t know what’s going to happen in any given year in the market. There’s a distribution of possible outcomes. You have to consider the entire distribution of possible outcomes when you make decisions like this.” After he left my office, I said “there’s nothing but rubble here.”

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Twitter can be brutal.
This time deservedly so.

Willful ignorance may be protected speech, but it does not deserve a place in the United State’s most important newspaper of record.
They let us down historically over Iraq.
They apparently felt that Clinton’s emails were more important than Trump’s Russian mafia connections. They covered up FBI investigation of #Russiagate prior to election.
I was giving them a chance to recover – and they had hired some new reporters for for climate issues.
Then this.

Climate Progress:

The very first column the New York Times published by extreme climate science denier Bret Stephens is riddled with errors, misstatements, unfair comparisons, straw men, and logical fallacies.

Leading climatologist Dr. Michael Mann emailed ThinkProgress: “This column confirms my worst fear: That the NY Times management is now willingly abetting climate change denialism.” Prof. Robert Brulle — whom the Times itself has called “an expert on environmental communications” — called the piece “climate misinformation.”

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The first Earth day was started in 1970 as a Teach-in at the University of Michigan.

Here’s a mini-Teach-in for today from 350.org.

Below, part 2.

 

 

Bonus: Below, Elizabeth Warren’s pep talk.

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New York Times hires more reporters for climate issues. And a climate denying columnist.
Oceanographer Stefan Rahmstorf cancels subscription

To the executive editor

The New York Times

27 April 2017, via email

Dear editor,

I am a climate researcher, professor for physics of the oceans and have worked for eight years as advisor to the German government on global change issues. I regret to have to tell you that hereby I cancel my subscription to the New York Times in the wake of you hiring columnist Bret Stephens. Let me explain my reasons.

When Stephens was hired I wrote to you in protest about his spreading of untruths about climate change, saying “I enjoy reading different opinions from my own, but this is not a matter of different opinions.” I did not cancel then but decided to wait and see. However, the subsequent public defense by the New York Times of the hiring of Stephens has convinced me that the problem at the Times goes much deeper than a single error of judgement. It concerns its attitude towards seeking the truth.

The Times argued that “millions agree with Stephens”. It made me wonder what’s next – when are you hiring a columnist claiming that the sun and the stars revolve around the Earth, because millions agree with that? My heroes are Copernicus, Galilei and Kepler, who sought the scientific truth based on observational evidence and defended it against the powerful authority of the church in Rome, at great personal cost. Had the New York Times existed then – would you have seen it as part of your mission to insult and denigrate these scientists, as Stephens has done with climate scientists?

The Times has denounced the critics of its decision as “left-leaning”. This is an insult to me and was the final straw to cancel my subscription. There is no left-leaning or right-leaning climate science, just as there is no republican or democrat theory of gravity. I have several good climate scientist friends who have been lifelong republicans. Their understanding of climate change does not differ from mine, because it is informed by the evidence.

Quite unlike Stephens’ views on climate change, which run counter to all evidence. He is simply repeating falsehoods spread by various “think tanks” funded by the fossil fuel industry.

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If the video above doesn’t explain the dangers of climate change for coastal economies for you, try Bloomberg below.

Bloomberg:

As President Donald Trump proposes dismantling federal programs aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions, officials and residents in South Florida are grappling with the risk that climate change could drag down housing markets. Relative sea levels in South Florida are roughly four inches higher now than in 1992. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts sea levels will rise as much as three feet in Miami by 2060. By the end of the century, according to projections by Zillow, some 934,000 existing Florida properties, worth more than $400 billion, are at risk of being submerged.

The impact is already being felt in South Florida. Tidal flooding now predictably drenches inland streets, even when the sun is out, thanks to the region’s porous limestone bedrock. Saltwater is creeping into the drinking water supply. The area’s drainage canals rely on gravity; as oceans rise, the water utility has had to install giant pumps to push water out to the ocean.

The effects of climate-driven price drops could ripple across the economy, and eventually force the federal government to decide what is owed to people whose home values are ruined by climate change.

Sean Becketti, the chief economist at Freddie Mac, warned in a report last year of a housing crisis for coastal areas more severe than the Great Recession, one that could spread through banks, insurers and other industries. And, unlike the recession, there’s no hope of a bounce back in property values.

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Vice:

Legislation proposed across the country since Donald Trump’s election threatens to bring climate change denial into the classroom under the guise of “academic freedom.”

Currently, six states have legislative measures pending or already on the books that would allow anti-science rhetoric, including the rejection of global warming, to seep its way into schools’ curricula. While these types of proposals have become fairly routine in certain states, some of the most recent crop have advanced farther than in the past.

Senate Bill 393 in Oklahoma, for example, would permit teachers to paint established science on both evolution and climate change as “controversial.” The “controversy,” however, doesn’t really exist — more than 97 percent of actively publishing, accredited climate scientists agree that global warming trends over the past century are directly attributable to human activity. And some teachers might already be misleading students.

Since its initial proposal in early February, the bill passed out of the Senate and into the House, where it circumvented the House Education Committee and now heads for a full House vote.

“It’s important to note that this exact bill in Oklahoma has been proposed in the past seven times, and it’s only this year, at a time when there’s federal policy that’s egregiously anti-science, that the bill made it so far,” said Lisa Hoyos, the director of Climate Parents, a Sierra Club–affiliated organization that supports climate change education. In fact, the bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Josh Brecheen, has introduced similar legislation every year since 2011. He’s said he wants “every publicly funded Oklahoma school to teach the debate of creation vs. evolution.”

A bill similar to Oklahoma’s is currently working its way through the Texas Legislature. And Florida has two bills pending aimed at letting local residents object to the use of certain instructional materials, such as textbooks that teach human-induced climate change, in public schools.

The Heartland Institute, famous for misinforming on the Health effects of cigarettes, and the bogus science of climate denial, is now pushing climate misinformation out to hundreds of thousands of public school teachers across the country.

Today’s New York Times has a piece by Curt Stager describing the most recent well-funded initiative from the Heartland Institute, a mailing to hundreds of thousands of teachers across the country.

NYTimes:

The cover letter inside, however, made the book’s premise clear. “Claims of a ‘scientific consensus’ ” on climate change, it read, “rest on two college student papers, the writings of a wacky Australian blogger, and a non-peer-reviewed essay by a socialist historian.” In fact, multiple surveys of the scientific literature show that well over 90 percent of published climate scientists have concluded that recent global warming is both real and mostly the result of human activity.

For example, a study in 2010 found that 97 percent of the 200 most-published authors of climate-related papers held the consensus position, and a survey in 2013 of 4,014 abstracts of peer-reviewed climate papers found 97 percent agreement. The Heartland-distributed book disputes the methods used in these and similar surveys but provides no definitive counterarguments against the overall weight of evidence. The fact is that survey after survey, involving multiple approaches and authors, finds a strong consensus among scientists who are most knowledgeable about climate change.

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