Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Trump Administration Removes Scientist in Charge of Assessing Climate Change

The White House has removed the scientist responsible for the National Climate Assessment, the federal government’s premier contribution to climate knowledge and the foundation for regulations to combat global warming, in what critics interpreted as the latest sign that the Trump administration intends to use its remaining months in office to continue impeding climate science and policy.

Michael Kuperberg, executive director of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which produces the climate assessment, was told Friday that he would no longer lead that organization, people with knowledge of the situation said.

According to two people close to the administration, he is expected to be replaced by David Legates, an academic who was worked closely for years with climate-change denial groups.

Dr. Kuperberg’s departure comes amid a broader effort, in the aftermath of Mr. Trump’s defeat last week by President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., to remove officials who have fallen afoul of the White House. Also on Friday, Neil Chatterjee, head of the agency that regulates the nation’s utility markets, was demoted by the White House, after he publicly supported the use of renewable power.

In a message to colleagues, Dr. Kuperberg said he was returning to his previous job at the Department of Energy. He was removed from the list of staff on the research program’s website on Monday.

Dr. Kuperberg did not respond to requests for comment. The Global Change Research Program reports to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Asked why Dr. Kuperberg had been removed from the role, Kristina Baum, a spokeswoman for that office, said on Monday that “we do not comment on personnel matters.”

Dr. Kuperberg’s dismissal appears to be the latest setback in the Trump administration for the National Climate Assessment, a report from 13 federal agencies and outside scientists that the government is required by law to produce every four years. The most recent report, in 2018, found that climate change poses an imminent and dire threat to the United States and its economy.

A biased or diminished climate assessment would have wide-ranging implications.

It could be used in court to bolster the positions of fossil fuel companies being sued for climate damages. It could counter congressional efforts to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, where it contributes to global warming.

And, ultimately, it could weaken what is known as the “endangerment finding,” a 2009 scientific finding by the Environmental Protection Agency that said carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions pose a threat to human health and therefore are subject to government regulation. Undercutting that finding could make it more difficult to fight climate change under the terms of the Clean Air Act.

The agency most involved in that report is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the country’s premier climate science agency. In September, the White House installed at NOAA new political staff who have questioned the science of climate change. People familiar with the administration’s strategy said the aim was to use NOAA’s influence to undercut the National Climate Assessment.

“They’re trying to just do a takeover of all this stuff so they can control the National Climate Assessment thinking,” said Judith Curry, a former chairwoman of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, in an interview Monday.

One of the new political hires was Dr. Legates, a professor at the University of Delaware’s geography department and now a deputy administrator at NOAA who has worked closely for years with climate denial groups and has argued that carbon dioxide “is plant food and not a pollutant.” Dr. Legates is now being considered to take Dr. Kuperberg’s position as head of the Global Change Research Program, according to two people including Myron Ebell, a director at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and a former member of Mr. Trump’s transition team.

Mr. Ebell, whose organization has championed the appointment of Dr. Legates and others who question the established science of climate change, said the intention is for him to lead the program while continuing to hold his position at NOAA. “It might be a short-term appointment,” Mr. Ebell said, given the election of President-elect Biden, who has said he will embrace aggressive efforts to tackle climate change.

“If he only directs it for two months and a week, then he may not get very far, but let’s see what can get done in two months. Maybe the next administration will throw it all away, but maybe some changes will be adopted, who knows,” Mr. Ebell said.

Marc Morano, a prominent denier of established climate change science, cheered the departure of Mr. Kuperberg and said he expects Mr. Legates to be named. “The Trump administration is ‘listening to the science’ by clearing out the anti-science promoters of extreme climate scenarios. These moves are long, long overdue,” he said.

Dr. Legates did not respond to a request for comment.
Federal employees, who asked not be identified because they were concerned about retaliation from the White House, said they worried that the administration’s goal in removing Dr. Kuperberg was to make it easier to pick authors for the report who also question the severity of climate change. Those who have publicly attacked climate science, like Mr. Ebell and Mr. Morano, said that is the goal.

While the incoming Biden administration could reverse those decisions, doing so would slow down the production of the climate assessment. The next edition, which was supposed to be released by 2022, has already been pushed back to 2023.

Energy and Race: The Media’s New Intersectionality*

Energy divides the Left and Right, but not in the most obvious way. The Left sees energy as a means of controlling society and the “commanding heights” of the economy, to use a Leninist phrase. The Right tends to see energy as an important sector of the economy, but not an economic control knob – with one important exception.

The exception, of course, is Donald Trump. As he sees it, cheap energy powers blue-collar prosperity. It’s not surprising, then, that until the Trump presidency, the opponents of cheap energy had the upper hand. It’s why Trump’s zinger in the second presidential debate caught Joe Biden off guard. “Would you close down the oil industry?” Trump interjected. Biden allowed that he would “transition” out of oil usage. “Saying you want to phase out oil and gas hits differently on a debate stage than in a whitepaper,” progressive site Grist commented. “And it was the first time a major candidate for U.S. president has said anything of the sort on a national debate stage.”

Before Trump, Republicans were losing the energy war by not fighting it. “Our security, our prosperity, and our environment all require reducing our dependence on oil,” President George W. Bush declared in January 2008. The transition from the Bush to the Obama presidency was well-nigh seamless in this regard. “We have known for decades that our survival depends on finding new sources of energy,” President Obama said in his first address to Congress.

In waging this war, progressives have been aided by an overwhelmingly partisan and one-sided media. Examples of bias abound, including “soft” documentaries. Netflix’s 2019 “Our Planet” documentary, narrated by climate icon Sir David Attenborough, carried a subtext of banning fossil fuels to save the natural world. One segment shows walruses falling off cliffs as they are pursued by polar bears, hungry allegedly because of a lack of sea ice due to global warming. Much of what the film asserted turned out to be fabrication or outright falsehood.

Then there’s Rolling Stone’s campaign against fracking. Fracking causes gas pipelines to explode, the magazine claimed last year, though pipelines are far and away the safest way to transport oil and gas. Five years ago, fracking – “a form of extraction dating back to the Civil War” – was supposedly killing babies and afflicting children with “cancers – leukemia, lymphoma – in places with no known clusters,” the magazine asserted in another story, claims that could have come straight out of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Childhood deaths from cancers were soaring and people were swimming in “a sea of carcinogens,” Carson wrote in her 1962 classic, although there was no scientific basis for either of these assertions.

The energy debate takes place in a sea of bias and misinformation. At various times, the nation’s two leading newspapers have reported that fracking causes low birth weights (Washington Post); more out-of-wedlock babies (WaPo); mouth ulcers (New York Times); and – inevitably – more cancers (WaPo again). In 2011, the Times ran a story based on anonymously sourced, redacted emails from the independent Energy Information Administration. It turned out that much of the material derived from emails between an intern and the anti-fracking Natural Resources Defense Council, earning a rebuke from the Times’s public editor.

One virtue of Twitter is seeing journalists’ unfiltered venting. “Every oil and gas call I’m on, I’m reminded how almost completely white and male this industry is,” the Times’s climate and energy reporter Hiroko Tabuchi tweeted in June. “Speaking on a just-ended call: three white men called Rob, Rob, and Ed.” (She later deleted the tweet.) Tabuchi’s Twitter followers comprise a rolodex of the sharp end of the climate-industrial complex. They include Josh Fox, director of the tendentious anti-fracking movie “Gasland;” hockey-stick climate scientist Michael Mann, a co-founder of; the executive directors of Greenpeace USA and the Sunrise Movement; and a former EPA regional administrator fired over comments about how he could “crucify” the oil and gas industry.

The alleged prejudice at play here: climate change is racist, and the industry responsible for it is run by white supremacists.

A far different viewpoint, however, rarely makes the news: that draconian climate policies disadvantage minority communities. Two weeks ago, The Two Hundred, a coalition of Latino civil rights leaders in California, wrote a blistering letter that begins, “We write again to object to the continued racist conduct of the California Air Resources Board.”

Indeed, if one really wants to pursue the institutional racism theme, he can find much more of it in the pages of the Times and other papers that resolutely toe the official environmental line – while ignoring how regressive climate policies advocated by white billionaires in Silicon Valley and Wall Street disproportionately hurt Latinos, African-Americans, and those on low incomes. Perhaps Twitter should add a mirror function to help journalists like Hiroko Tabuchi.

Idaho mine could bring back salmon and jobs

Who could possibly object to a project that will boost local employment, clean up waste left over from a bygone era of mining, and reduce America’s dangerous dependence on China for critical minerals?

The proposed Stibnite Gold Project in Idaho is unique in that it not only promises to supply the U.S. with lots of gold and antimony, a critical mineral with numerous applications in defense, aerospace, and consumer electronics. As part of its effort to reduce U.S. dependence on imports of materials crucial to national security, the Trump administration has included antimony on its list of “critical minerals” that should be supplied, when possible, by domestic sources.

After the gold and antimony have been extracted, the project would also restore a long-abandoned mining site, eliminating today’s unsightly mining pits and cleaning up befouled nearby streams.

A mixed mining legacy

Located in Central Idaho’s Valley County, the Stibnite Gold Project would be developed by Canadian company Midas Gold Corp. Mining in the mineral-rich area, known as the Stibnite Mining District, got underway in 1899. By far the most successful operation produced materials used in bullets and batteries during World War II. Other, smaller-scale operations followed until the last project shut down in 1996.

These largely unregulated operations did not distinguish themselves when it came to environmental stewardship. They left behind a mess. There is, for instance, a less-than-pristine lake known as the “Glory Hole” that now covers the old mining pit. To create the Glory Hole, water was diverted from a local tributary of the Salmon River in 1938. But the pipe used for the diversion was too narrow for the fish to pass through. The mine was shuttered at the end of the Korean War, allowing the river to flow back into the Glory Hole. This could have opened a passage for salmon to continue their migration, but a man-made waterfall proved too steep for the fish, leading to the loss of local salmon.

Looking to the Future

As part of its ambitious reclamation plan, Midas Gold has pledged to bring back salmon to the site by routing the river into another tunnel, one which will be wide enough and tall enough to allow salmon and other fish a clear passage.

This and other reclamation projects would be part of Midas Gold’s plan for a large open-pit mine on the 2,000-acre site, the chief goal of which would be to get at what is considered one of the largest gold deposits in the country. The mine would employ over 500 workers, representing a substantial economic boost to the sparsely populated rural area where jobs are scarce.

Groups such as the Idaho Conservancy and Idaho Rivers United oppose the project, which is no surprise, since environmental groups object to practically all mining projects. Yet Midas Gold has pledged it will reverse the environmental degradation left behind by its predecessors and, once their work is done, restore the area far beyond what is required by U.S. environmental statutes. This would be restoration that, in the absence of the mining project, would not take place.

Also raising concerns about the mine is the Nez Perce Tribe. The tribe is a prominent fixture in Central and Northern Idaho and has spent several million dollars trying to restore salmon to the region. It recently adopted a resolution opposing the Stibnite Gold Project, citing waste left behind by previous mining operations. The Nez Perce have a good case to make when it comes to the misdeeds of past mining operations, but their laudable salmon-restoration efforts have fallen short of what the fish require to recover. Their best bet is to work with Midas Gold and local communities such as Cascade and Yellow Pine that have agreed to take seats on a company-sponsored advisory panel overseeing the project. That would give them a say in bringing back the salmon and getting much-needed mining jobs for members of the tribe.

Number Of Hot Days In Tokyo Falls Modestly Over Past 24 Years

As urban expansion continues worldwide, it wouldn’t surprise anyone that cities would see a growing number of hot days as asphalt, concrete, steel, and automobiles act as heat sinks that absorb the summer sun’s energy, a phenomenon known as the urban heat island effect (UHI).

Indeed this has been the case for many German cities over the past decades. Though the climate in Europe has changed over the past 30 years, that change is likely due to natural cyclic pattern changes.

Tokyo not seeing hotter summer highs

But even with a stronger UHI and supposed climate warming, Japan’s sprawling megalopolis of Tokyo has not seen an increase in the number of hot days (days where the thermometer climb to 30°C or higher)

Clearly, the number of hot days has little to do with CO2 emissions.

Tokyo October not warming

Also, we’ve got the mean temperature data for October 2020 for Tokyo:

The chart shows that the mean October temperature in the city of Tokyo has not risen in almost 3 decades. In fact, it has trended downward a bit, though statistically insignificant.

So if anyone is claiming Tokyo is getting hotter days and hotter in general, then they either don’t know what they are talking about or they are misleading us.




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