Dana Nuccitelli writes: Wikipedia editors recently voted to ban the Daily Mail tabloid as a source for their website after deeming it “generally unreliable.” To put the severity of this decision in context, Wikipedia still allows references to Russia Today and Fox News, both of which display a clear bias toward the ruling parties of their respective countries.
It thus may seem like a remarkable decision for Wikipedia to ban the Daily Mail, but fake news stories by David Rose in two consecutive editions of the Mail on Sunday – which echoed throughout the international conservative media – provide perfect examples of why the decision was justified and wise.
On February 5th, Rose ran a story alleging scandalous behavior by NOAA scientists in a 2015 paper. The story was based on an interview with retired NOAA scientist John Bates, who was not involved in the study. However, in follow-up interviews with real science journalists, Bates clarified that he was in no way disputing the quality or accuracy of the data, even going as far as to make this damning comment:
I knew people would misuse this. But you can’t control other people.
Most importantly, the scientific integrity of the NOAA data is indisputable. The organization’s global temperature data is nearly identical to that of other scientific groups like NASA, the Hadley Centre, and Berkeley Earth. [Continue reading…]
Climate Central reports: The lawns of homes purchased this year in vast swaths of coastal America could regularly be underwater before the mortgage has even been paid off, with new research showing high tide flooding could become nearly incessant in places within 30 years.
Such floods could occur several times a week on average by 2045 along the mid-Atlantic coastline, where seas have been rising faster than nearly anywhere else, and where lands are sagging under the weight of geological changes.
Washington and Annapolis, Md. could see more than 120 high tide floods every year by 2045, or one flood every three days, according to the study, published last week in the journal PLOS ONE. That’s up from once-a-month flooding in mid-Atlantic regions now, which blocks roads and damages homes.
“The flooding would generally cluster around the new and full moons,” said Erika Spanger-Siegfried, a Union of Concerned Scientists analysts who helped produce the new study. “Many tide cycles in a row would bring flooding, this would peter out, and would then be followed by a string of tides without flooding.”
The analysis echoed findings from previous studies, though it stood out in part because of its focus on impacts that are expected within a generation — instead of, say, by the end of the century.
It showed high tide floods along southeastern shorelines are expected to strike nearly as often as they will in the mid-Atlantic, portending a fast-looming crisis for more than 1,000 miles of coastal America. [Continue reading…]
Climate Central reports: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is cancelling an environmental review of the Dakota Access Pipeline and will grant approval of an easement that allows the final link in the pipeline to be constructed.
The decision on Tuesday makes good on President Trump’s executive order advancing the controversial project, which has been the subject of months of protests at the construction site in North Dakota.
Though they will tap different oil fields, both pipelines will have a measureable effect on the climate because they will make it cheaper and easier to send crude oil to refineries — fuel that will reach consumers’ gasoline tanks in the U.S. and abroad.
In the U.S., the use of crude oil for transportation is now a larger source of the carbon dioxide emissions driving climate change than electric power generation, which has long been the country’s largest source of climate pollution.
Building oil pipelines may help companies tap more oil, but to prevent global warming from exceeding levels that scientists consider dangerous — 2°C (3.6°F) over pre-industrial levels — at least one-third of the world’s oil deposits need to remain untapped, said Jonathan Koomey, an earth systems scientist at Stanford University.
“Anything that makes extraction and transportation of oil easier and cheaper like building more pipelines to landlocked high-emissions oil sands, makes it harder to achieve that goal,” he said. [Continue reading…]
Bill McKibben writes: The Trump Administration is breaking with tradition on so many fronts — renting out the family hotel to foreign diplomats, say, or imposing travel restrictions on the adherents of disfavored religions — that it seems noteworthy when it exhibits some continuity with American custom. And so let us focus for a moment, before the President’s next disorienting tweet, on yesterday’s news that construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline will be restarted, a development that fits in perfectly with one of this country’s oldest cultural practices, going back to the days of Plymouth Rock: repressing Native Americans.
Just to rehash the story briefly, this pipeline had originally been set to carry its freight of crude oil under the Missouri River, north of Bismarck. But the predominantly white citizens of that town objected, pointing out that a spill could foul their drinking water. So the pipeline’s parent company, Energy Transfer Partners, remapped the crossing for just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. This piece of blatant environmental racism elicited a remarkable reaction, eventually drawing representatives of more than two hundred Indian nations from around the continent to a great encampment at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri Rivers, near where the pipeline was set to go. They were joined, last summer and into the fall, by clergy groups, veterans groups, environmental groups — including 350.org, the climate-advocacy organization I co-founded — and private citizens, who felt that this was a chance to begin reversing four centuries of literally and figuratively dumping on Native Americans. And the protesters succeeded. Despite the German shepherds and pepper spray let loose by E.T.P.’s security guards, despite the fire hoses and rubber bullets employed by the various paramilitary police forces that assembled, they kept a nonviolent discipline that eventually persuaded the Obama Administration to agree to further study of the plan. [Continue reading…]
Larry Buhl writes: Earlier this month China halted more than 100 coal-fired power projects. Scrapping these projects, with combined installed capacity of more than 100 gigawatts, may have more to do with China’s current overcapacity in coal production than its commitment to mitigating climate change. Nevertheless, Chinese leaders are likely happy that the move is framing their nation as a green energy leader, according to experts in Chinese and environmental policy.
That’s because, they say, the Chinese government is now eager to fill the vacuum in climate change leadership that is being left by the U.S. And, they say, China is poised to eat America’s lunch in the renewable energy sector.
Saying that China is doing nothing on climate change has long been a right wing talking point used to stop U.S. regulations such as carbon taxes. While that may have been true a decade ago, it certainly isn’t true now.
Already, China is both the world’s leading producer of renewable energy technologies and its biggest consumer. [Continue reading…]
Formally known as the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the science advisor is responsible for consulting with scientists inside and outside of government to ensure the President has the best available information on any policy issue related to science.
OSTP and the science advisor role have not been a priority for the Trump White House with the position still open and no indications that a nomination is coming soon. The transition team only held one meeting with the office before Trump became president, according to John Holdren, Obama’s OSTP director. That meeting—attended by a single transition staffer—lasted one hour and took place a week prior to inauguration, Holdren said.
“He seemed positive and enthusiastic about the mission of OSTP as we explained it,” Holdren said of the meeting with the transition team. “But I have not had any further contact.” The White House did not reply to a request for comment Monday, and the presidential transition team did not reply to a request on the same topic in December.
Several controversial names have appeared as potential science advisors including Yale University computer scientist David Gelernter and Princeton University physicist William Happer. Both are respected in their fields, but deny the science of climate change. [Continue reading…]
The Guardian reports: The election of Donald Trump and wider geopolitical turbulence are so dangerous that the scientists behind the Doomsday Clock have pushed it forward to 2 minutes and 30 seconds before midnight.
The new “time” means experts at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists believe the earth is closer to imminent peril than at any point in the last 64 years.
The clock, an indicator of the world’s vulnerability to nuclear, environmental and political threats, was set at 3 minutes to midnight – with midnight being the apocalypse – in 2016.
“The current political situation in the US is a particular concern,” said theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss at a press conference in Washington DC on Thursday.
“The Trump administration needs to state clearly and unequivocally that it accepts that climate change is caused by human activity,” added Krauss, explaining that although some global progress such as the Paris accord was made last year, 2016 was the hottest year on record.
Several of Trump’s cabinet nominees are climate sceptics, such as Mick Mulvaney as head of the Office of Management and Budget, which Krauss notes “foreshadows the possibility they will be openly hostile to even modest efforts to combat climate change.”
But climate change isn’t the only issue. Nuclear weapons, particularly those held by the United States and Russia and the testing of weapons by North Korea, and tensions in Syria, Ukraine and Kashmir all making the world a more dangerous place than it was last year. [Continue reading…]
Reuters reports: U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to remove the climate change page from its website, two agency employees told Reuters, the latest move by the newly minted leadership to erase ex-President Barack Obama’s climate change initiatives.
The employees were notified by EPA officials on Tuesday that the administration had instructed EPA’s communications team to remove the website’s climate change page, which contains links to scientific global warming research, as well as detailed data on emissions. The page could go down as early as Wednesday, the sources said.
“If the website goes dark, years of work we have done on climate change will disappear,” one of the EPA staffers told Reuters, who added some employees were scrambling to save some of the information housed on the website, or convince the Trump administration to preserve parts of it. [Continue reading…]
Vox reports: Because China is such a behemoth, its energy decisions absolutely dwarf anything any other country is doing right now. Case in point: Over the weekend, the Chinese government ordered 13 provinces to cancel 104 coal-fired projects in development, amounting to a whopping 120 gigawatts of capacity in all.
To put that in perspective, the United States has about 305 gigawatts of coal capacity total. The projects that China just ordered halted are equal in size to one-third of the US coal fleet. If the provinces follow through, it’s a very, very big deal for efforts to fight climate change.
This move also shouldn’t come as a big surprise. In recent years, China, the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide, has been making major efforts to restrain its coal use and shift to cleaner sources of energy. When Donald Trump and other conservatives in the United States complain that China isn’t doing anything about climate change, they simply haven’t been paying attention. [Continue reading…]
George Monbiot writes: Make America Wait Again. That is what Donald Trump’s energy policy amounts to. Stop all the clocks, put the technological revolution on hold, ensure that the transition from fossil fuels to clean power is delayed for as long as possible.
Trump is the president that corporate luddites have dreamed of: the man who will let them squeeze every last cent from their oil and coal reserves before they become worthless. They need him because science, technology and people’s demands for a safe and stable world have left them stranded. There is no fair fight that they can win, so their last hope lies with a government that will rig the competition.
To this end, Trump has appointed to his cabinet some of those responsible for a universal crime: inflicted not on particular nations or groups, but on everyone. [Continue reading…]
Alex Kirby reports: Harvests in the United States are liable to shrink by between a fifth and a half of their present size because of rising temperatures, an international scientific team has found.
They say wheat, maize (known also as corn) and soya are all likely to suffer substantial damage by the end of the century. And while increased irrigation could help to protect them against the growing heat, that will be an option only in regions with enough water.
Their report, published in the journal Nature Communications, says the effects of a warming atmosphere will extend far beyond the US. But as it is one of the largest crop exporters, world market crop prices may increase, causing problems for poor countries. [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: Marking another milestone for a changing planet, scientists reported on Wednesday that the Earth reached its highest temperature on record in 2016 — trouncing a record set only a year earlier, which beat one set in 2014. It is the first time in the modern era of global warming data that temperatures have blown past the previous record three years in a row.
The findings come two days before the inauguration of an American president who has called global warming a Chinese plot and vowed to roll back his predecessor’s efforts to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases.
The data show that politicians cannot wish the problem away. The Earth is heating up, a point long beyond serious scientific dispute, but one becoming more evident as the records keep falling. Temperatures are heading toward levels that many experts believe will pose a profound threat to both the natural world and to human civilization. [Continue reading…]
The Guardian reports: Global warming obviously refers to temperature increases across the entire globe. We know the Earth is warming, we know it is human-caused, we have a pretty good idea about how much the warming will be in the future and what some of the consequences are. In fact, when it comes to the Earth’s average climate, scientists have a pretty good understanding.
On the other hand, no one lives in the average climate. We live spread out north, west, east, and south. On islands, large continents, inland or in coastal regions. Many of us want to know what’s going to happen to the climate where we live. How will my life be affected in the future?
This type of question is answered in a very recent study published by scientists from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. The team, which includes Dr. Raymond Bradley and researcher Dr. Ambarish Karmalkar looked specifically at the Northeastern United States. They found that this area will warm much more rapidly than the globe as a whole. In fact, it will warm faster than any other United States region. The authors expect the Northeast US will warm 50% faster than the planet as a whole. They also find that the United States will reach a 2 degree Celsius warming 10–20 years before the globe as a whole. [Continue reading…]
Jimmy Tobias writes: In recent weeks, archivists, academics, and other ardent information activists have frantically sought to preserve and protect federal climate science before Donald Trump takes power in Washington. Leading the way is the University of Pennsylvania’s DataRefuge project, which is conducting a nationwide campaign to save and copy massive government data sets that contain critical information about our changing climate. Leaders of this effort fear that such data could disappear from federal websites when the president-elect’s administration gains control of government agencies.
But climate science isn’t the only potential victim. DataRefuge organizers, along with allies like the Union of Concerned Scientists, are equally worried about other forms of federal environmental research.
“There is no reason to think its efforts would be restricted to climate data alone,” says Gretchen Goldman, the research director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Center for Science and Democracy.
Goldman stresses the vulnerability of wildlife science, particularly research by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service that pertains to endangered, threatened, or otherwise imperiled species. [Continue reading…]
The Associated Press reports: President Barack Obama cast the adoption of clean energy in the U.S. as “irreversible,” putting pressure Monday on President-elect Donald Trump not to back away from a core strategy to fight climate change.
Obama, penning an opinion article in the journal Science, sought to frame the argument in a way that might appeal to the president-elect: in economic terms. He said the fact that the cost and polluting power of energy have dropped at the same time proves that fighting climate change and spurring economic growth aren’t mutually exclusive.
“Despite the policy uncertainty that we face, I remain convinced that no country is better suited to confront the climate challenge and reap the economic benefits of a low-carbon future than the United States,” Obama wrote.
He peppered his article with subtle references to Trump, noting that the debate about future climate policy was “very much on display during the current presidential transition.”
As he prepares to transfer power to Trump, Obama has turned to an unusual format to make his case to Trump to preserve his policies: academic journals. In the last week, Obama also published articles under his name in the Harvard Law Review about his efforts on criminal justice reform and in the New England Journal of Medicine defending his health care law, which Republicans are poised to repeal.
The articles reflect an effort by Obama to pre-empt the arguments Trump or Republicans are likely to employ as they work to roll back Obama’s key accomplishments in the coming years. Yet it’s unclear whether Trump or the GOP could be swayed by scholarly arguments in relatively obscure publications. [Continue reading…]
At tomorrow’s press conference, Donald Trump is sure to be asked for clarification on questions raised by his recent tweets.
On the other hand, “Did you read any of President Obama’s recent articles in Science, the Harvard Law Review, or the New England Journal of Medicine, Mr Trump?” is an unlikely question.
But on the off-chance something along those lines does come up, Trump is likely to wave it off with something like this: “I’m happy for President Obama to write for academics while I work for the American people.”
It would be understandable if Obama feels like he’s served his time and is now entitled to a quiet life, but I hope he does the opposite — that he doesn’t withdraw to an ivory tower but instead lends his voice (more than his pen) to active and engaged opposition to what promises to be the worst presidency in American history. Writing for academic journals, however, is preaching to the choir.
Scientific challenges against an anti-science president and an anti-science political party are going to get parried by the same expression of mock humility — “I’m not a scientist, but…” — a line that resonates well in a scientifically illiterate nation.