Kentucky GOP representative Thomas Massie is in the news, but sharp eyed readers of this blog probably remember him from this exchange above with Secretary of State John Kerry, about climate change.

He’s now one of the most hated members of congress, neck and neck with his Kentucky colleague Rand Paul, for using a procedural lever to force members of the House to return to Washington DC for a vote on Corona Virus relief.

Politico:

Thomas Massie might be the least popular man in Washington.

The Kentucky congressman attempted unsuccessfully on Friday to require House members to take a recorded vote in order to pass a $2 trillion coronavirus relief package. And although Massie’s colleagues were able to foil his parliamentary procedure in a matter of seconds, his efforts nonetheless forced scores of lawmakers to travel to Washington amid a pandemic to stop him.

Led by President Donald Trump, both Republicans and Democrats lined up to whack the GOP lawmaker who tried to derail the bipartisan stimulus bill. 

“Looks like a third rate Grandstander named @RepThomasMassie, a Congressman from, unfortunately, a truly GREAT State, Kentucky, wants to vote against the new Save Our Workers Bill in Congress,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

House Republican leadership had been concerned that Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) would move to demand a recorded tally as opposed to a voice vote on the historic measure, throwing a last-minute hurdle in the legislation’s path to the president’s desk. 

Two hours after Trump’s initial post, Massie confirmed that he would do just that, tweeting: “I swore an oath to uphold the constitution, and I take that oath seriously. In a few moments I will request a vote on the CARES Act which means members of Congress will vote on it by pushing ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or ‘present.’”

Massie ultimately failed on Friday afternoon when the House approved the package. But his threat compelled dozens, if not hundreds, of lawmakers to return to Capitol Hill from their home districts, navigating across interstates and through airports at a time when public health officials have urged Americans to avoid nonessential travel and gathering in large groups.

“He just wants the publicity. He can’t stop it, only delay, which is both dangerous … & costly,” Trump tweeted of Massie. “Workers & small businesses need money now in order to survive. Virus wasn’t their fault. It is ‘HELL’ dealing with the Dems, had to give up some stupid things in order to get the ‘big picture’ done. 90% GREAT! WIN BACK HOUSE, but throw Massie out of Republican Party!”

UPDATE:

No-so-clean coal strikes again.

NBC 12 – Richmond:

Coal mining continues in Southwest Virginia even as workplace constraints prevent miners from following many of the social distancing practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As of Monday, all of Virginia’s coal and mineral mines that had been open before the appearance of COVID-19, the disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus, were still operating, said Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy spokesperson Tarah Kesterson.

“We are very concerned that the appearance of coronavirus in a coal mine will rapidly spread,” said Phil Smith, the director of communications and government affairs for the United Mine Workers of America. But, he added, “it’s the nature of the work and the nature of how you get to the work that you’re going to be closer than six feet apart.”

As Gov. Ralph Northam tightens orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which has led to six deaths and 38 hospitalizations so far in Virginia, businesses are increasingly being required to shut down or allow employees to telework.

But while other industries that remain open are implementing social distancing practices, the terrain of a coal mine often leaves little room for separation.

Workers at underground mines must take an elevator and then special vehicles such as mantrips to reach their worksites, all of which are confined and generally enclosed, said Smith. Once at their site, “they usually spread out a bit, but “then at the end of the shift they repeat that process,” he said.

“To a certain degree there’s only so much you can do in a coal mining atmosphere,” he said.

Kesterson said that many mining companies are doing extra cleaning and encouraging workers to follow social distancing whenever possible, while “some of the larger mines are staggering shifts to avoid having too many people together at once — especially upon entering the mine.”

Because COVID-19 impairs respiratory function, coal miners may be at elevated risk from the disease, especially in the Central Appalachian region, where the most severe form of black lung has been on the riseover the past decade.

I’ve been following research on the North Atlantic Current (Scientists call it the Atlantic Overturning Meriodonal Circulation – AMOC) for some years.
New research underlining the climate connection to a slowing of that current has now been published.

Nature Communications:

North Atlantic sea surface temperatures have large climate impacts affecting the weather of the Northern Hemisphere. In addition to a substantial warming over much of the North Atlantic, caused by increasing greenhouse gases over the 21st century, climate projections show a surprising region of considerable future cooling at midlatitudes, referred to as the North Atlantic warming hole. A similar pattern of surface temperature trends has been observed in recent decades, but it remains unclear whether this pattern is of anthropogenic origin or a simple manifestation of internal climate variability. Here, analyzing state-of-the-art climate models and observations, we show that the recent North Atlantic warming hole is of anthropogenic origin. Our analysis reveals that the anthropogenic signal has only recently emerged from the internal climate variability, and can be attributed to greenhouse gas emissions. We further show that a declining northward oceanic heat flux in recent decades, which is linked to this surface temperature pattern, is also of anthropogenic origin.

EurekAlert:

Severe winters combined with heat waves and droughts during summer in Europe. Those were the consequences as the Atlantic Ocean heat transport nearly collapsed 12,000 years ago. The same situation might occur today, according to a new study published in Nature Communications.

Record-breaking cold ocean temperatures across the central North Atlantic in recent years suggest that the northward oceanic heat transport through the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) has reached a long-term minimum and might be the weakest for at least 1,600 years. Most climate models project that the already observed slowdown will continue under global warming scenarios although a complete collapse appears unlikely – at least based on current models.

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East Antarctica, until a decade or so ago, was considered so cold and remote that the effects of warming would not be seen for some time, perhaps centuries in the future.
That was then.

Bloomberg:

An Antarctic glacier that contains enough water to eventually raise global sea levels by 5 feet has been melting dramatically in the last two decades, according to NASA-led research published today in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The finding brings new attention to the eastern coast of the coldest continent. Scientists previously thought ice melt there was slower than on the disintegrating western peninsula. 

“These observations challenge the view of glacier stability in East Antarctica,” the authors write

Denman Glacier receded almost three miles during the period of study, 1996 to 2018. What makes the glacier particularly worrisome, the scientists say, is its massive size and the unusual shape of the land beneath it, which is divided into two flanks. Where Denman meets the sea, its eastern side is protected from warming water by a tall, rocky ridge. Its western flank is a sitting duck for higher-temperature currents washing in and melting ice. The land under many glaciers slopes downward from the interior of the continent to the sea. With Denman’s western flank, it’s the reverse. Its land falls as far as two miles below sea-level, which makes it both the planet’s deepest canyon on land—and much more susceptible to ice loss. The unusual slope extends almost 30 miles into the continent.

The new paper builds on a transformative discoveryfrom December that “redefines the high- and lower-risk sectors for rapid sea level rise from Antarctica.” Both the paper published today and the work from December are expected to influence projections of sea-level rise for the coming centuries. The current highest emission scenarios project global seas rising by a cataclysmic 8 feet by the year 2100. 

Bloomberg:

With every passing week, the pandemic-led economic crisis gets deeper and the interventions to cushion the blow get bigger.

Such upheavals in world economies are rare. With governments announcing hundreds of billions of dollars in stimulus packages, many see this as an opportunity to shape the economic interventions to be as green as possible—but don’t always agree on when to push for it.

“With this massive bailout and stimulus, which is needed right away, we could put in very strict conditions to make sure we build solid, resilient, inclusive and sustainable economies,” Mariana Mazzucato, economics professor at University College London, told the BBC. Those conditions, she said, could be for improving the treatment of workers and cutting emissions.

The sums involved are huge. The U.S. Congress is considering a package worth $1.8 trillion—a little less than 10% of the country’s GDP. It includes loans to small businesses, cash payments to individuals, and a rescue program for airlines. There’s also provision to give $425 billion to ailing firms, but without any details on what types of companies or industries qualify for it. Stimulus packages of European countries are of similar size, when adjusted for their economies.

Some see it as an historic opportunity to steer the world in a more sustainable direction. Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, wants clean energy to be at the “heart of the stimulus plans to counter the coronavirus crisis.” “This situation is a test of governments and companies’ commitment,” he wrote on LinkedIn. “Observers will quickly notice if their emphasis on clean energy transitions fades when market conditions become more challenging.”

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I don’t think I have to explain the carbon bubble to any readers here.

There is more carbon in the ground than we can burn.
At some point the world wakes up to climate change, and we stop burning it.
Or, something else happens that shines a light on the inherent contradiction.

Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis:

Nearly $72 billion worth of U.S. oil and gas speculative-grade debt is distressed, an amount that has doubled since the year began, and is now at an all-time high as oil prices have collapsed, signaling a coming wave of defaults by oil and gas borrowers, S&P Global Ratings said March 19.

The distress ratio – the proportion of speculative-grade bonds paying 1,000 basis points, or 10%, above U.S. Treasury bills, compared to the total number of speculative issues – soared to more than 94% for the oil and gas sector this year after Russia and OPEC failed to reign in crude oil production at the same time the COVID-19 virus emerged, cutting into worldwide demand, Ratings said.

The distress ratio indicates the level of risk the market has priced into bonds. A rising distress ratio reflects an increased need for capital and often precedes increased defaults when accompanied by a severe and sustained market disruption, the rating agency explained. The U.S. oil and gas distress ratio is higher now than its previous peaks during the 2016 oil price crash and the Great Recession of 2008, the credit rating agency noted.

S&P also noted that nearly 40% of the U.S. oil and gas companies with less than investment grade credit ratings were on CreditWatch with negative implications or a negative outlook, more than twice its normal average of 19%. It expects defaults to rise when these oil and gas firms find no way to refinance that debt in today’s market, skittish with worry about the coronavirus.

“As financing conditions quickly become much less accommodative due to risk aversion from investors uncertain about the global impact of COVID-19, we may continue to see an increase in distressed debt instruments, followed by an increase in defaults,” Ratings said.

New York Times:

The energy sector has buckled in recent weeks as the global demand for oil suddenly shriveled and oil prices plunged, setting off a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia. Oil prices are now one-third their most recent high, trading as low as $24 a barrel, and could fall further.

The crisis has been a body blow to the American oil and gas industry. Already heavily indebted, many companies are now struggling to make interest payments on the debt they carry and are finding it challenging to raise new financing, which has gotten more expensive as traditional buyers of debt have vanished and risks to the oil industry have grown. Companies are increasingly turning to restructuring advisers to work through their finances, and the weaker businesses could end up filing for bankruptcy.

Collectively, the energy companies in the S&P 500 stock index are down roughly 60 percent this year. Prices of bonds issued by U.S. energy companies — both the safer investment-grade kind and riskier junk bonds — have plummeted, while their yields have skyrocketed.

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Jennifer Rubin in the Washingon Post:

A worldwide crisis that scientists warned was coming threatens the lives of people in every economic, social, racial and partisan segment of the population. The economic impact alone will devastate families for years to come; the demands placed on our health system put us all at risk. That is the climate-change crisis, but these days we find a parallel in the global covid-19 pandemic. The climate crisis’s timeline is longer (although not much longer) and the solutions are more complicated than the coronavirus crisis, but both the pandemic and climate change are inescapable facts with deadly outcomes unless our behavior radically changes.

Right-wing populists obsessed with fanning xenophobia and distrust of intellectuals have been denying climate change for years, painting it as a “hoax” cooked up by China to undermine America’s way of life. It is scarily familiar to the coronavirus, huh? Authoritarian leaders bent on concealing reality and discrediting objective truth see every event as a contest between “them” (foreigners) and “us” (“real” countrymen who support the leader). Having attacked government as the “deep state” and the “swamp,” they are uniquely unprepared to harness the powers and resources of government when it cannot be directed at a foreign, largely invented threat.

President Trump’s use of “Chinese virus” (not even “China virus”) serves not only to cast blame elsewhere but to convert a science and math problem (stopping community spread, flattening the curve) into a political issue. Trump knows how to address the latter — by demonizing critics, enticing the mainstream media to cover his circus, presenting himself as the sole depository of truth, substituting spin and lies for results — because it mirrors his career.

At bottom, Trump has always been a huckster, a failed operator of everything from airlines to football who cons people (bankers, Trump University students) out of their money. He promises a coronavirus cure and millions of tests just like he promised customers delicious steaks and a university degree. It’s all showmanship; there is no real accomplishment. He has suffered from overselling and underperforming his entire life.

When the problem is concrete, factual, unspinnable, Trump is at a loss of what to do. He has no superior understanding of complex issues. He chases away bad news so the problem cannot be quantified and addressed properly. He has not even learned how the federal government operates. Trump is worse than useless; he stymies others from acting (as he did despite months of warnings about the pandemic from national security personnel) and misleads the public, undermining the cooperation we need to effectuate social distancing.

The question raised by the coronavirus is whether it will recalibrate the thinking of Republicans in any material way. Decades of demonizing government and the degree to which Trump’s anti-truth, anti-reality mentality (enabled by a right-wing echo chamber) have seeped into the Republican bloodstream are hard to ignore. They have placed us in grave peril. And now even Republicans must turn to science and to government.

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Climate change is a threat multiplier.

Buzzfeed:

As an upsurge in coronavirus infections stretches thin the capacity of health care workers and emergency managers nationwide, the Midwest is bracing for another battle: a potentially devastating flood season.

“The current situation with COVID-19 presents us a fight on two fronts: one front, we have the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and on the other, what promises to be a very active spring 2020 flood season,” Sharon Broome, mayor of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, said on a press call Thursday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this week released its spring flood projections, predicting moderate to severe flooding in 23 states. The greatest risk for “major and moderate flood conditions,” federal experts say, is along parts of the Mississippi River basin.

For local leaders in the Midwest, this situation is offering a crash course in how to plan and respond to multiple types of disasters simultaneously. And in a warming world, overlapping and compounding disasters will likely be the new normal. Human-caused climate change is already increasing the intensity and likelihood of certain extreme weather events, including heavy rain and related flooding in the middle of the country.

“We’re good at responding when a disaster stares us in the face,” Kris Johnson, deputy director at the Nature Conservancy, told BuzzFeed News. “But we’re really not good at thinking about what can we do now to mitigate and dampen the potential impacts and increase our ability to be resilient to future impacts, whether they are public health–related or whether they are flooding.”

According to Broome, a network of regional mayors has been preparing for possible flooding for weeks, coordinating with each other, the Red Cross, Congress, and federal agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But the pandemic is complicating matters, requiring more virtual coordination and forcing planners to update response and recovery protocols to take into account the specific threats of the pandemic.

“I think we can anticipate that as we move forward, we will see more burnout for our first responders, greater depletions of our supplies, and greater demand for more recovery money,” said Alice Hill, a climate fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who has also studied pandemics.

So far, local officials have been tallying and growing reserves of personal protective equipment (PPE) for first responders, volunteers, and others involved in the anticipated flood response, including head coverings, masks, gloves, and goggles. In some areas, the distribution of premade sandbags to vulnerable communities has already started to avoid a last-minute rush if and when catastrophe strikes.

I’m keeping a file of examples – climate denial and corona denial are basically coming from the same place. Let me know if you see anything along these lines.

Media Matters:

Some of right-wing media’s most prolific climate deniers are using the disastrous effects of the coronavirus to promote their anti-climate agenda across multiple platforms.

These figures have reframed their usual climate attacks around the pandemic. Some have compared the (alleged) outcomes of the Green New Deal to the (real) impacts of the coronavirus, while others have claimed that both the coronavirus and climate change are being used by leftists to push a radical agenda.

Green New Deal

Perhaps the most shameful connection made between coronavirus and the Green New Deal came from Daniel Turner, a fossil fuel industry shill whose recent career has been bankrolled by Koch Industries. Making his debut in The Federalist on March 13, with an article titled “How The Wuhan Virus Is Accomplishing The Green New Deal’s Goals,” Turner concluded that “coronavirus is a glimpse of the long-term pain a Green New Deal and environmental radicalism would inflict on America.”

Turner attempted to support this conclusion with false claims about the Green New Deal, claiming that, like the coronavirus, it would crush capitalism, put the “oil and gas industry into panic,” end travel, and control the population.

To add insult to blatant misinformation, he also stated that supporters of the Green New Deal should be “pleased” at what the coronavirus is accomplishing because “green activists don’t fret these casualties” and that “greens will rejoice” over the coronavirus’s disastrous effects.

Turner had previously pushed this narrative on March 11, again connecting the coronavirus and the Green New Deal to “more government control.”

Washington Post:

WELLSVILLE, Kan. — Here in northeast Kansas, in a small town set amid tidy farms and ranches, a Walmart worker named Brandon Crist was growing frustrated with the panic terrorizing the American public. He didn’t understand the need for lockdowns, closing schools, limiting public gatherings and shuttering bars and restaurants. Altering almost all facets of life.

As he often does, Crist found a meme online that amplified his feelings and posted it to his Facebook page.

“Does anyone know anyone who has the coronavirus? Not just heard about them but actually know them,” the meme said in bold white letters on a blue background. “Statistically none of us are sick . . . yet concerts are canceled, tournaments are canceled and entire school districts shut down. Out of total irrational fear. If you have not previously feared the power of the media you should be terrified of them now. They are exerting their power to shut down America.”

The post struck a chord with Crist’s friends here in Wellsville and beyond, many of whom are similarly frustrated with the pandemic-induced havoc in their daily lives. “Amen!” said one commenter. “I’m not changing anything I do. This is BS,” said another. A captain from a nearby fire department, Dustin Donovan, liked the message, then added a hoax meme of his own.

Even as President Trump has asked Americans to stay at home and has called on the nation to come together to fight the “invisible enemy” known as the illness covid-19, virus doubters like Donovan and Crist persist. They call reports of more than 200,000 sickened and 9,000 dead worldwide a sham. Republican legislators have continued to brag about their dinners out, some beaches remain packed with spring breakers and Hollywood starlet Vanessa Hudgens was forced to apologize for complaining on Instagram that “people are going to die, which is terrible, but like, inevitable?”

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