Sunday, March 12, 2017

An information-light editorial from New England

See below:  They have had the brainwave that Trump climate skepticism  is now the GOP climate position.  They are apparently unaware that conservatives generally have for a long time thought global warming is a crock. It didn't need Trump.

They then proceed to do the impossible: Prove a generalization from a few specific instances.  You can "prove" anything that way.  For a global theory you need global evidence and all they offer in that regard is temperature rises -- now gone -- which were associated  with El Nino. Those rises were associated with FLATLINING CO2 levels so we KNOW that the rises were not a CO2 effect.

But they do make some specific assertions.  They say that completing the Dakota oil pipelie "will lead to increases in greenhouse gas emissions and global warming".  How so?  THey do  not say.  Moving oil and gas by pipeline instead of rail actually reduces CO2 emisions.

But I suppose we should give them credit for at least a nodding acquaintance with science.  They say: "Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, from 25 to 84 times worse by one estimate".  It is true that methane does in the laboratory absorb a lot of electromagnetic frequencies but that is a red herring.  Water vapour also absorbs those frequencies and there is a lot more of that in the atmosphere.  So adding methane to the atmosphere adds nothing to what water vapour has already done!

Nice try but no cigar

Republicans are killing the planet. We say that because President Donald Trump was their nominee and they own him – golden locks, who knows what stocks and barrel of childish tweets.

Yesterday brought the news that 52,000 square miles of permafrost – an area about six times as large as New Hampshire – in Canada’s Northwest Territories has melted, choking rivers with sediment and releasing vast volumes of methane.

Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, from 25 to 84 times worse by one estimate.

What did the Trump administration do as the permafrost was melting? It stopped requiring that the oil and gas industry, a powerful emitter of methane on its own, submit comprehensive data on the amount of methane it is releasing.

Last month, some 50 American cities set all-time-high February temperatures. On Feb. 24 it was 72 degrees in Boston; on Feb. 23 it was 65 in Concord, a record for the capital city. In each of the past three years the planet has set a new record average annual temperature.

What did Trump do? Pick career EPA foe and climate change skeptic Scott Pruitt to head the environmental agency and climate change denier Ryan Zinke to head the Interior Department.

Trump and his allies are gnawing away on the Clean Power Plan designed to curb carbon emissions from power plants, lifting or weakening regulations on coal mining and mountain top removal, and rolling back auto industry emission standards.

Trump’s promise to put the nation’s coal miners back to work, the New York Times says, is as likely to happen as the return of Nantucket’s whaling fleet.

Somalia, Kenya and other East African nations are suffering their worst drought in half a century. Millions are threatened by famine and the death toll is growing. Climate change is believed to be a factor.

Trump proposed cutting foreign aid and the State Department’s budget. He wants to reduce the EPA’s workforce by 20 percent and defund the agency’s climate change and clean energy programs.

Last year, the Alaskan village of Newtok voted to relocate. Rising sea levels, raging storms and melting permafrost had made its existence tenuous. Rising sea levels and more intense storms threaten many of the world’s coastlines and coastal cities, including Portsmouth.

What does the Trump administration do? Speed the permitting of the Dakota Access Pipeline to carry oil to Midwestern refineries and order the completion of the Keystone XL pipeline to carry Canadian tar sands oil to refineries in the south.

Both measures will lead to increases in greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.

The horrific condition of the nation’s air and water caused a public clamor that led to the creation of the EPA in 1970. Insidiously, the Trump administration wants to silence critics and prevent public outcry by controlling the information the public can see or not collecting it in the first place.

Trump issued a gag order barring EPA employees from releasing any data or studies to the public prior to their review by political appointees. Similar prohibitions were imposed on other agencies.

Gone from the White House website is any mention of climate change. Nationally, banks of researchers, data experts, computer code writers, librarians and other volunteers are working to archive as much of the agencies’ research and scientific data, paid for with public funds, as they can before it’s hidden or destroyed.

Trump’s war on the environment and information itself is under way. Republicans own that, too.


Scientists alarmed after Great Barrier Reef is hit by a SECOND year of coral bleaching

Note that both the GBRMPA and AIMS below have NOT attributed the event to global warming.  Only ratbag outfits like Greenpeace and WWF have done that.  And there is a reason for that circumspection. Cape Grim tells us that CO2 levels have been plateaued on 401ppm since last July (midwinter)  So anything that has happened in the recent summer is NOT due to a rise in CO2.  And NASA/GISS tell us that the December global temperature anomaly is back to .79 -- exactly where it was in 2014 before the recent El Nino event that covered the second half of 2015 and most of 2016.  So there has been no global warming in the recent Southern summer and there was no CO2 rise to cause anything anywhere anyway.  The claim that this summer's bleaching was an effect of global warming is a complete crock for both reasons.  The data could not be clearer on that

Scientists in Australia have revealed unprecedented damage to the Great Barrier Reef, warning 'we are entering uncharted territory'.

Surveys have shown the coral reef is entering its second year of year bleaching for the first time.

Bleaching happens when algae that lives in the coral is expelled due to stress caused by extreme changes in temperatures, turning the coral white and putting it at risk of dying.

The first aerial survey of 2017 has found shocking levels of bleaching in the central part of the reef, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority said.

Marine Park Authority director of reef recovery Dr David Wachenfeld said: 'Mass bleaching is occurring on the Great Barrier Reef for the second consecutive year.

'How this event unfolds will depend very much on local weather conditions over the next few weeks.'

He said not all bleached coral would die, and last year revealed bleaching and mortality could be highly variable across the vast marine park, a World Heritage Site which covers an area larger than Italy.

The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest collection of coral reefs, with 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 mollusc species, and is the habitat of wildlife such as the dugong – sea cow – and the large green turtle.

Conditions on the reef are part of a global coral bleaching event over the past two years, as a result of unusually warm ocean temperatures due to climate change and a strong El Nino weather phenomenon which pushes temperatures up further.

Dr Neal Cantin, from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), said the recurrence of widespread coral bleaching in back-to-back summers indicated there was not enough time since 2016's extreme heat event for the corals to fully recover.

'We are seeing a decrease in the stress tolerance of these corals,' he said. 'This is the first time the Great Barrier Reef has not had a few years between bleaching events to recover.

'Many coral species appear to be more susceptible to bleaching after more than 12 months of sustained above-average ocean temperatures. 'We are now entering uncharted territory.'

John Tanzer, from WWF International, said: 'What is unfolding before our very eyes is the starkest evidence that climate change is already wreaking havoc on the ocean.

'Coral reefs are a beloved natural wonder but less appreciated is that they also directly support the jobs, livelihoods and food supplies of many millions of people. What will happen to these people as large areas of coral die?'

He called for a major lift in action to bring down carbon emissions, and scaled efforts to reduce local pressures on reefs so they have the best chance of withstanding climate change.

Brett Monroe Garner, a conservation photographer and marine biologist documenting the bleaching with Greenpeace, said: 'I've been photographing this area of the reef for several years now and what we're seeing is unprecedented.

'Just a few months ago, these corals were full of colour and life. Now, everywhere you look is white. The corals aren't getting the chance to bounce back from last year's bleaching event. If this is the new normal, we're in trouble.'


Greenie corruption at EPA under attack

House lawmakers introduced legislation to block the EPA from appointing science advisers who are currently taking money from the agency

The bill stipulates EPA advisers “shall have no current grants or contracts from the [EPA] and shall not apply for a grant or contract for 3 years following the end of that member’s service on the Board.”

“This bill would ensure that scientists advising EPA on regulatory decisions are not the same scientists receiving EPA grants,” said Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

Smith also introduced a bill to prevent EPA from using “secret science” to develop major regulations. Republicans argue EPA and other agencies shouldn’t be able to base regulations on non-public scientific data.

EPA and environmentalists traditionally argued such science should be kept non-public to protect confidential patient data — though it’s not clear why that can’t be redacted.

“Suffice it to say it will not make the EPA great again; it will gut the EPA at the expense of public health and safety,” Andrew Rosenberg, with the Union of Concerned Scientists, told InsideClimate News in February when Smith scheduled a hearing on EPA “secret science.”

Scientists sitting on EPA advisory panels are charged with evaluating the research used to justify regulations, but Republicans have increasingly called into question the true “independence” of advisers benefiting from federal funding.

The Energy & Environment Legal Institute sued EPA last summer to prevent its Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee from meeting based on data showing 24 of the 26 members of a clean air advisory panel had gotten, or are the current recipients of, EPA grants.

In total, panel members received more than $190 million from EPA, according EELI attorney Steve Milloy.

Milloy also found 17 of the 20 scientific advisers sitting on EPA’s ozone panel received a total of $192 million in EPA grants over the years.

Smith has long been a critic of EPA’s scientific process, which he says doesn’t have proper checks against bias. Smith noted in 2014 that EPA science panel advisers often reviewed regulation based on their own research without disclosing this to the public.

Smith’s bill prevents EPA advisers from reviewing rules based on their own research unless they publicly disclose this and their research has already been peer-reviewed.

“As both of these bills move forward, our committee is working hard to preserve EPA’s scientific integrity and to help strengthen EPA’s internal review process,” Smith said.

Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe has also called into question how EPA chooses its scientific advisers.

“I have observed EPA, under the Obama Administration, cherry-picking the same allies to serve on this advisory committee and its subcommittees at the expense of having an open and robust process for selecting external advisers,” Inhofe wrote in a letter sent to the EPA in February 2016.

“The majority of CASAC members have also received considerable financial support from EPA, which calls into question their independence and therefore the integrity of the overall panel,” Inhofe wrote.


Trump cuts EPA office of ‘environmental racism’

Mustafi Ali, head of the EPA’s environmental justice program, has resigned. This is fantastic news, and here’s why:

    Environmental justice, for the unaware, is defined by the EPA as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and polices.”

    That’s the bureaucratic speak. Now, for the layman’s: It’s the government’s way of controlling the people by linking environmental degradations to civil rights — specifically, to the civil rights of minorities and the poor.

    What does water quality have to do with skin color?

If you ask Ali, water has has a lot to do with skin color — in fact, it’s precisely the reason he stepped down. According to Ali’s resignation letter, the EPA’s new leaders have not shown “any indication that they are focused or interested in helping” minority communities, so he feels it would be “best if I take my talents elsewhere.”

Good riddance. Here’s more about how “environmental justice” works:

    The way it works is this: Clean air is a human right. Wealthy people often enjoy clean air because their paychecks allow them to live in homes with decent ventilation, free of roach residue and geographically distant from carbon dioxide-releasing power plants, dirty factories, and areas of high vehicular traffic — meaning, areas of high pollution. Poor people, on the other hand, are forced by their lower incomes to jam into housing that’s roach-infested, nearby trains, transportation hubs and high-pollution buildings and facilities.

    So taxpayers need to cough up money for poorer people to move to wealthier neighborhoods.

So basically it’s the Department of Housing and Urban Development with a fun environmental twist.

Poverty doesn’t discriminate, and neither does clean water. If Trump achieves nothing else during his presidency, getting rid of this race-baiting program is a huge success.

Now to just get rid of the EPA altogether.


Mass. is enforcing its environmental rules less

If super-correct Mass. is losing momentum, it suggests that  less environmental zeal may be coming across the board

Over the past decade, the state Department of Environmental Protection’s enforcement of air and water quality rules has fallen off sharply, as the agency’s workforce shrunk by nearly a third, according to a Globe review of state records.

Enforcement actions for serious violations have dropped by more than half, statistics show, as inspections also declined. Fines collected from violators plummeted during the same period by nearly 75 percent.

“We’ve been working very, very hard to keep a healthy level of inspections,” Martin Suuberg, the agency’s commissioner, said in a telephone interview. “But our numbers reflect that we’ve lost people.”

Reduced oversight at the DEP — historically one of the nation’s best funded and most progressive environmental agencies — comes as the Trump administration is considering major cuts to the federal EPA budget while transferring some responsibilities to the states. Governor Charlie Baker introduced legislation Wednesday to give the state oversight of pollution in Massachusetts’ waterways, now a federal responsibility.

“This should be a wake-up call for Congress and the Trump administration,” said Ken Kimmell, who served as DEP commissioner during Governor Deval Patrick’s administration. “Cutting EPA’s budget will mean less environmental cops on the beat, and states are in no position to pick up the slack.”

During his tenure, staff reductions hindered a number of programs, Kimmell said. For example, the agency had to cut back on the labor-intensive work of testing rivers for the illegal dumping of sewage and fecal matter, he said.

“We just didn’t have the staffing to deal with it,” said Kimmell, now president of the Union of Concerned Scientists in Cambridge.

Matthew Beaton, the state’s energy and environmental affairs secretary, declined to answer questions. His office noted that the administration’s latest budget proposal calls for a 4 percent increase for the DEP, which would boost its budget to $53.7 million. Some of that money is earmarked to hire 15 new compliance officers.

The agency’s budget peaked in 2009 at $62.3 million.

In a statement, Beaton said, “The Baker-Polito administration was pleased to propose increased funding for MassDEP . . . to ensure that safe drinking water, clean air, and land protection remain top priorities.”

But over the past decade, the reductions have been stark.

 *  Between 2006 and 2016, the number of agency employees devoted to enforcement, compliance, and environmental monitoring — everywhere from landfills to gas stations — has fallen by nearly 25 percent. At the same time, the number of annual inspections has fluctuated but generally declined.

 *  Inspections have fallen more steeply since Baker took office in 2015. Since then, the agency has conducted about 5,800 annual inspections, more than 1,000 fewer than the median of the past decade.

 *  In the same time, enforcement actions have also declined more significantly than in previous years. Since 2015, the agency engaged in 2,500 enforcement actions — also about 1,000 fewer than the median over the past decade.

‘The cause of the falloff is the depletion of staff.’

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 *  Fines from cases referred to the state attorney general’s office fell by more than half.

 *  Last year, the agency issued just $1.8 million in penalties, the lowest total of the past decade.

Suuberg said the administration wasn’t purposely reducing its enforcement of environmental regulations, although Baker issued a controversial executive order in 2015 that required state agencies to ensure their regulations don’t exceed federal mandates, as many environmental directives do.

Suuberg said the order hasn’t changed the agency’s work. But environmental advocates have raised concerns, contending it could lead to the dismantling of the state’s strict regulations on water and air quality.

George Bachrach, president of the Environmental League of Massachusetts, said he didn’t think the reduced oversight is intentional, but was the inevitable result of chronic budget cuts.

“The cause of the falloff is the depletion of staff,” he said.

He said the agency’s job has become more challenging since 2008, when the state Legislature passed the Global Warming Solutions and Green Communities acts, which required new efforts to cut carbon emissions, increase energy efficiency, and promote renewable energy.

“DEP staff bravely soldiers on, saying they can do the same with less; but the truth is they can only do less with less,” Bachrach said. “As a result, we are not cleaning contaminated sites that could make way for new development and jobs. We’re not as aggressively monitoring pollution and protecting our rivers and open spaces.”

The reduced staff of compliance officers first emerged as a concern in the late 2000s, when DEP Commissioner Laurie Burt presided over the first round of significant layoffs.

Burt said she began to realize she didn’t have the staff or money to perform tasks such as monitoring storm-water runoff from agricultural areas, which can cause toxic algae blooms in surrounding rivers and lakes, and using helicopters to observe the encroachment of development on wetlands.

“It was very difficult not to have those resources,” she said.

By the time David Cash took over as commissioner in 2014, the agency had lost more than 400 employees from its peak of 1,173 employees in 2000. Today, there are about 655 employees.

Those cuts, he said, made it harder to conduct a range of inspections, particularly for a new, high-profile program to remove food scraps from the trash, an effort designed to lower municipal waste costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“At the time, we already had inadequate staffing to adequately carry out inspections in our waste program, so inspections to assure compliance of the new organics program were not as robust as they should have been,” Cash said.

The agency’s challenges come as the Baker administration looks to expand its responsibilities.

The legislation Baker introduced Wednesday would allow the state to take over the so-called National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.

The administration has already proposed adding $1.4 million to the agency’s budget to pay for a dozen employees to oversee the program, significantly fewer than environmental officials in the Patrick administration had estimated it would take.

Suuberg said the added responsibilities wouldn’t further compromise the agency’s oversight capacity.

“We’ll continue to focus our resources on high priority public health and environmental issues,” he said.



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