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Published: Tue, 28 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Tue, 28 Mar 2017 21:32:57 -0400

 



Trump's Climate Change Executive Order Will Make Energy Cheaper

Tue, 28 Mar 2017 14:55:00 -0400

President Donald Trump issued a new executive order today that aims to roll back Obama administration energy policies that sought to address the problem of man-made climate change. The Obama administration's climate strategy stood on three pillars: Tightening corporate average fuel economy standards (CAFE) for vehicles; the Clean Power Plan designed to cut by 2030 carbon dioxide emissions from electric power generation plants by 30 percent below their 2005 levels; and a moratorium on federal coal leasing. These measures were adopted to meet President Obama's commitment to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2025 by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The CAFE standards are now being reassesed. In February, the chief executives of 18 auto companies sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asking that it review the Obama administration's stringent CAFE standards. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt subsequently announced that his agency will conduct such a review decide by April 2018 if the standards should be loosened. The transportation sector is responsible for 26 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, amounting to about 1.7 gigatons of carbon dioxide in 2014. That's down from the 1.85 gigatons pre-global financial crisis peak of vehicle emissions in 2005. Electric power generation is responsible for about 30 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. In 2014, burning coal for electric power generation emitted 1.57 gigatons of carbon dioxide. That is down significantly from peak emissions of nearly 2 gigatons in 2007. In 2014 emissions from natural gas burnt for electric power generation amounted to 0.44 gigatons. Basically, burning natural gas to generate electricity produces about half of the carbon dioxide that burning coal does. Since the carbon dioxide emissions from coal are so much greater than those from alternative fuels, the Clean Power Plan's carbon dioxide reduction goals would essentially force electricity generators to close down many of their coal-fired plants. President Trump hopes that unraveling the Clean Power Plan will bring back lost coal-mining jobs. "A lot of people are going to be put back to work, a lot of coal miners are going back to work," President Trump told a rally in Louisville, Kentucky last week. "The miners are coming back." That is unlikely for two reasons: automation and cheap fracked natural gas. U.S. coal production has dropped from 1.1 billion tons in 2011 to 0.9 billion tons in 2015. If 2016 fourth quarter coal production remained steady at the 2015 level, that would still mean that overall production will have fallen by nearly a third to 0.74 billion tons in 2016. Coal production in the Appalachian region in 2015 was 44 percent lower than it was in 2000. Power companies have been steadily switching from coal to natural gas as the fracking boom boosted production from 19 trillion cubic feet in 2005 to 28 trillion cubic feet in 2016. Last year, burning natural gas generated 33 percent of America's electricity compared to 32 percent from coal. The upshot is that lower demand for coal means fewer jobs. In 2011, 89,500 people worked as coal miners. That has dropped 50,000 now. In addition, higher productivity means lower demand for workers. Due to automation miner productivity soared rising from 1.93 tons per miner hour in 1980 to 6.28 tons per miner hour in 2015. Rolling back the Clean Power Plan means going through a long regulatory review process that will be opposed at every turn by environmental activist groups. Assuming that it is eventually revoked, what would that mean for future U.S. carbon dioxide emissions? Without the Clean Power Plan, the Energy Information Administration projects that U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions would remain essentially flat up to 2040. President Trump also lifts the moratorium on federal coal leasing imposed in 2015 by the Obama administration. The moratorium was part of the same "keep fossil fuels in the ground" strategy that motivated the Obama administration's refusal to[...]



Biggest Cause of Cancer? Just Plain Old Bad Luck

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 16:20:00 -0400

(image) A new article in Science is reporting that most cancers in people are the result random copying errors that occur when cells in the body divide. Applying some sophisticated mathematics to the question of how the mutations that lead to cancers are produced, Johns Hopkins University cancer researchers Cristian Tomasetti and Bert Vogelstein, sought to figure out what causes 32 different types of cancers. The press release accompanying the report notes that when the two researchers looked "across all 32 cancer types studied, the researchers estimate that 66 percent of cancer mutations result from copying errors, 29 percent can be attributed to lifestyle or environmental factors, and the remaining 5 percent are inherited."

Additionally, they calculated how big a role random errors played for various types of cancers. For example, when critical mutations in pancreatic cancers are added together, 77 percent of them are due to random DNA copying errors, 18 percent to environmental factors, such as smoking, and the remaining 5 percent to heredity. For prostate, brain or bone cancers, more than 95 percent of the mutations that lead to malignancy are due to random copying errors. However, environment does play a big role in lung cancer in which 65 percent of all the mutations are mostly due to smoking, and 35 percent are due to DNA copying errors. Inherited factors are not known to play a role in lung cancers.

The risk of cancer goes up with age. People over age 65 account for 60 percent of newly diagnosed malignancies and 70 percent of all cancer deaths. Why? Because their bodies have experienced many more cell divisions and thus have had greater chances for the sort of random genetic errors that lead to cancer to occur.

Given that Americans face a lifetime risk of around 40 percent of suffering from cancer, what can be done? The researchers note: "Early detection and intervention can prevent many cancer deaths. Detecting cancers earlier, while they are still curable, can save lives regardless of what caused the mutation. We believe that more research to find better ways to detect cancers earlier is urgently needed."




U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions Fall 3 Percent

Fri, 17 Mar 2017 10:00:00 -0400

(image) The International Energy Agency is reporting data showing that economic growth is being increasingly decoupled from carbon dioxide emissions. Basically, human beings are using less carbon dioxide intensive fuels to produce more goods and services. The IEA attributes the relatively steep drop in U.S. emissions largely to the ongoing switch by electric generating companies from coal to cheap natural gas produced using fracking from shale deposits. Renewals also contributed a bit to the decline. From the IEA:

Global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions were flat for a third straight year in 2016 even as the global economy grew, according to the International Energy Agency, signaling a continuing decoupling of emissions and economic activity. This was the result of growing renewable power generation, switches from coal to natural gas, improvements in energy efficiency, as well as structural changes in the global economy.

Global emissions from the energy sector stood at 32.1 gigatonnes last year, the same as the previous two years, while the global economy grew 3.1%, according to estimates from the IEA. Carbon dioxide emissions declined in the United States and China, the world's two-largest energy users and emitters, and were stable in Europe, offsetting increases in most of the rest of the world.

The biggest drop came from the United States, where carbon dioxide emissions fell 3%, or 160 million tonnes, while the economy grew by 1.6%. The decline was driven by a surge in shale gas supplies and more attractive renewable power that displaced coal. Emissions in the United States last year were at their lowest level since 1992, a period during which the economy grew by 80%.

"These three years of flat emissions in a growing global economy signal an emerging trend and that is certainly a cause for optimism, even if it is too soon to say that global emissions have definitely peaked," said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA's executive director. "They are also a sign that market dynamics and technological improvements matter. This is especially true in the United States, where abundant shale gas supplies have become a cheap power source."

In 2016, renewables supplied more than half the global electricity demand growth, with hydro accounting for half of that share. The overall increase in the world's nuclear net capacity last year was the highest since 1993, with new reactors coming online in China, the United States, South Korea, India, Russia and Pakistan. Coal demand fell worldwide but the drop was particularly sharp in the United States, where demand was down 11% in 2016. For the first time, electricity generation from natural gas was higher than from coal last year in the United States.

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In addition, China's emissions fell by one percent, suggesting that its use of coal to generate electricity may be close to peaking. This is good news for those who think that man-made global warming could become a signifcant problem later in this century. In any case, whatever else the Trump administration may say, domestic coal use ain't never coming back.




Warmest February in Contiguous U.S. in 39-Year Satellite Record: Global Temperature Trend Update

Fri, 03 Mar 2017 09:45:00 -0500

(image) The 2015-16 El Niño Pacific Ocean warming event has faded into history, but the globe still saw its fourth warmest February in the satellite global temperature record, including the warmest February in that time for the contiguous 48 U.S. states, notes Dr. John Christy, director of the Earth System Science Center at The University of Alabama in Huntsville. How hot was it? The average temperature over the U.S. was +2.1 Celsius (about 3.78 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than seasonal norms in February 2017. The next warmest Februarys in the lower 48 states occurred in 1991 (+1.69 C), 2003 (+1.58 C), 2001 (+1.32 C), and 1998 (+1.12 C).

Global climate trend since Nov. 16, 1978: +0.12 C per decade

February temperatures (preliminary)

Global composite temp.: +0.35 C (about 0.63 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for February.

Northern Hemisphere: +0.54 C (about 0.97 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for February.

Southern Hemisphere: +0.15 C (about 0.27 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for February.

Tropics: +0.05 C (about 0.09 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for February.

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Go here to view the monthly satellite temperature data since 1978.




Less Cropland and More Meat Eating in U.S.

Thu, 02 Mar 2017 12:35:00 -0500

(image) Meat consumption in the U.S. has grown substantially since 1969, but the amount of land devoted to growing the crops to feed cows, pigs, and chickens has dropped by nearly a third. In 1969, the average American consumed about 82, 54, and 47 pounds of beef, pork, and poultry respectively for a total of 183 pounds of meat annually. By 2016, per capita consumption of meat had risen to 213 pounds, consisting 55, 50, and 108 pounds of beef, pork, and poultry respectively. Collectively Americans ate about 15 million tons of meat in 1969 and 24 million tons in 2014. Despite the per capita increase in meat consumption along with the growth of population from 202 million to 324 million, farmers are using less cropland to grow feed for meat animals, according to Rockefeller University analysts Jesse Ausubel and Iddo Wernick in their new article, "The Shrinking Footprint of American Meat."

Ausubel and Wernick calculate that these shifts in consumption and improvements in agricultural efficiency has actually reduced the area of cropland devoted to producing animal feed since 1969 by around 9 million acres. That's an area equivalent in size to the state of Maryland. Between 1969 and 2010, they report:

Population and GDP per capita grew at annual rates averaging about positive 1% and 1.7% respectively over this period. In contrast, the same interval saw negative annual changes in the amount of meat Americans ate per dollar, the amount of grain needed to produce a unit of meat, and the amount of land needed to grow that grain. On average, between 1969 and 2010, the amount of US cropland used to grow meat fell almost 0.8% per year.

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The shift in taste away from red meat toward poultry helped. By one estimate, it takes about 2.5 pounds of grain to grow one pound of chicken; 3.5 pounds for a pound of pork; and 6 pounds of feed to produce a pound of beef. Increased agricultural efficiency played a significant role too. For example, corn yields in 1969 averaged 86 bushels per acre; last year corn yields per acre averaged 171 bushels.




Protester Trash and Debris Threaten Water Contamination at Dakota Access Pipeline

Thu, 16 Feb 2017 16:44:00 -0500

(image) There may be a looming environmental disaster in North Dakota, but the problem isn't the Dakota Access Pipeline. It's the people protesting it.

After the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a statement demanding that the Oceti Sakowin Camp be closed by February 22 over concerns of flooding, many protesters packed up and departed. Left behind was their trash and waste, NBC News reported.

Oceti Sakowin Camp sits in a lowland area where the Missouri and Cannonball Rivers converge, making it a prime location for flooding. The record winter snowfall heightens the chances as spring arrives. And with flooding comes the risk of water contamination as trash and human waste could be swept into the nearby rivers.

Federal and local officials estimate there's enough trash and human waste to fill 2,500 pick-up trucks, according to ABC News. Efforts to clean up the area are underway, but time is of the essence as the surrounding snow begins to melt.

"We're really fighting the clock," Morton County Emergency Manager Tom Doering told ABC News on Wednesday. "There's more garbage down there than anybody anticipated."

"There's more than anticipated, and it's under a lot of snow," Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault said, per CBS Minnesota. "I wouldn't say it's going to get done in days; it's going to take weeks."

Standing Rock Environmental Protection Agency and Dakota Sanitation are currently working to remove the mountains of trash that have accumulated. Everything from tents to cars have been left behind after protesters received the evacuation notices. Around 300 to 400 people are reportedly still at the campsite, with some aiding in the clean-up effort. Despite the help, the job is only half-finished, according to the Washington Times.

One of the main arguments against constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline in the first place was that it was an environmental risk, since a rupture in the line could contaminate potable water in the area. Now it seems the protesters themselves may end up polluting the rivers, if their debris can't be cleared out in time.




Carbon Dividends: Solve Man-Made Climate Change While Shrinking Government?

Wed, 08 Feb 2017 13:40:00 -0500

The Climate Leadership Council, a group of conservative stalwarts, has just released its carbon dividends proposal as a way to address the man-made climate change problem. They accept that man-made global warming could become a significant problem for humanity later in this century. In order to mitigate that risk, they propose a carbon dividends plan that rests upon four pillars: (1) a gradually increasing carbon tax, (2) carbon dividends for all Americans, (3) border carbon tax adjustments, and (4) the elimination of all current top-down climate change regulations. The CLC folks envision the carbon dividend plan as collecting a carbon tax beginning at about $40 per ton at the wellhead, minehead, or import terminal. The tax would gradually and predictably increase over time enabling innovators, businesses and consumers to take future energy prices into account as they make their plans. The CLC group calculates that the tax would initially garner $200 and $300 billion which they estimate would yield about $2,000 annually in dividends for a family of four. All of the tax proceeds would be distributed on an equal and quarterly basis via dividend checks, direct deposits or contributions to their individual retirement accounts. The CLC cites a Treasury Department estimate that the bottom 70 percent of Americans would come out ahead under their proposal. "Carbon dividends would increase the disposable income of the majority of Americans while disproportionately helping those struggling to make ends meet," they calculate. Border adjustments to prevent free-riding would be made to goods imported from countries without comparable carbon taxes and rebates made to American exporters whose goods are subject to comparable foreign carbon taxes. Border adjustment proceeds would be added to the quarterly carbon dividends paid to Americans. The carbon tax and dividend program would entirely replace the EPA's current tangle of intrusive, burdensome, and expensive regulations on carbon emissions. Specifically what regulations would be eliminated? The CLC group argues for getting rid of the Obama Administration's Clean Power Plan that would have required electric power generation companies to cut their carbon dioxide emissions an average 30 percent by 2030. Adopting the carbon dividend proposal would also justify eliminating all green energy subsidies and tax preferences and all energy efficiency standards. In addition, the Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards (CAFE) and state renewable energy portfolio standards could be dumped. As result, the CLC folks argue that their carbon dividend proposal will shrink the overall size of government and steamline the regulatory state. Recognizing the vexed politics concerning climate change, the CLC folks note that all four pillars of their proposal must be adopted. They state: For the elimination of heavy-handed climate regulations to withstand the test of time and not prove highly divisive, they must be replaced by a market-based alternative. Our policy is uniquely suited to building bipartisan and public support for a significant regulatory rollback. It is essential that the one-to-one relationship between carbon tax revenue and dividends be maintained as the plan's longevity, popularity and transparency all hinge on this. Allocating carbon tax proceeds to other purposes would undermine popular support for a gradually rising carbon tax and the broader rationale for far-reaching regulatory reductions. According to The New York Times, CLC member James Baker who served as Reagan's Treasury Secretary is scheduled to discuss the plan today with Vice President Mike Pence, Jared Kushner, the senior adviser to the president, and Gary D. Cohn, director of the National Economic Council, as well as Ivanka Trump.[...]



NOAA Climate Change Data Manipulation Charge: Scandal or Nothing to See Here?

Wed, 08 Feb 2017 11:15:00 -0500

Did National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers rush and manipulate data back in 2015 in order to publish a high-impact study in Science disproving the notion that the rate of man-made global warming has slowed significantly after 2000? That is certainly the way that an explosive article at the Daily Mail portrayed the claims by prominent and just retired NOAA data slinger John Bates against his former (also now retired) colleague Tom Karl. Characterizing Bates as a whistleblower, the Mail reported that Bates ... ...accused the lead author of the paper, Thomas Karl, who was until last year director of the NOAA section that produces climate data – the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) – of 'insisting on decisions and scientific choices that maximised warming and minimised documentation… in an effort to discredit the notion of a global warming pause, rushed so that he could time publication to influence national and international deliberations on climate policy'. Specifically, Karl and his colleagues in their "pausebuster" 2015 study used improperly archived and vetted data on sea surface and land temperature trends that showed considerably more warming than other datasets did at the time. "The central estimate for the rate of warming during the first 15 years of the 21st century is at least as great as the last half of the 20th century. These results do not support the notion of a 'slowdown' in the increase of global surface temperature," concluded the study. Bates' claims have reignited the debate over just how "settled" the science of man-made climate change is. Interestingly, Energy & Environment News reports that in an interview with Bates that he expressed a "significantly more nuanced take" about what happened with the NOAA data than the one found in the Mail. According to E&E News: Bates accused former colleagues of rushing their research to publication, in defiance of agency protocol. He specified that he did not believe that they manipulated the data upon which the research relied in any way. "The issue here is not an issue of tampering with data, but rather really of timing of a release of a paper that had not properly disclosed everything it was," he said. On the other hand, it is the plain fact that Bates did assert in a his February 4 post "Climate scientists versus climate data" over at the invaluable Climate Etc. website run by climate researcher Judith Curry that Karl had put his thumb on the scale by urging colleagues to make adjustments to the temperature data that maximized warming. So what claim is Bates really making? Did Karl and colleagues purposedly manipulate the data to get the result they wanted or were they just irresponsibly sloppy and less transparent than they should have been about what they had done? Or is Bates saying he thinks that the sloppiness and lack of transparency was deliberately used to hide data manipulation? All too predictably, this contretemps has most everyone rushing to find data that confirms what they already think. "No Data Manipulation in 2015 Climate Study, Researchers Say," headlines The New York Times. "As planet warms, doubters launch a new attack on famous climate change study," reports The Washington Post. "House Committee to 'Push Ahead' With Investigation Into Alleged Climate Data Manipulation at NOAA," reports The Daily Caller, citing claims from Committee on Science, Space and Technology aides that other unnamed NOAA whistleblowers are coming forward. Fox News headlines, "Federal scientist cooked the climate change books ahead of Obama presentation, whistle blower charges." Defenders of Karl's 2015 NOAA article rightly point to an independent Science Advances study just published in January that basically concluded that the study's temperature adjustments were properly done and that the increase in sea surface temperatures ha[...]



Climate Scientists Manipulated Temperature Data to Fool Politicians and Public, Claims 'Whistleblower'

Mon, 06 Feb 2017 13:20:00 -0500

The Daily Mail reports that climate scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration manipulated temperature data to make it look like the rate of global warming is speeding up after 2000. Their study published in 2015 in Science called into question the existence of the 17-year long "hiatus" during which the increase in global average temperature had significantly slowed. In its 2013 comprehensive Fifth Assessment Report, even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change noted, "The rate of warming of the observed global mean surface temperature over the period from 1998 to 2012 is estimated to be around one-third to one-half of the trend over the period from 1951 to 2012." The NOAA study instead found that the oceans are warming at 0.12 degrees Celsius (0.22 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade since 2000, which is nearly twice as fast as earlier estimates of 0.07 degrees Celsius per decade. This rate is similar to the warming that occurred between 1970 and 1999. The goal of 2015 Science study, according to the Mail, was to convince policy makers and the public of the need to adopt what would become the Paris Agreement on climate change that aims to keep global temperature from rising beyond 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average. This goal would be achieved chiefly by curbing the emissions of carbon dioxide produced by burning oil, gas, and coal. The Mail's reporting relies chiefly on claims being made by now-retired NOAA climate scientist John Bates whose expertise is verifying and archiving data. In an interview with the Mail, Bates is quoted as accusing.... ...the lead author of the paper, Thomas Karl, who was until last year director of the NOAA section that produces climate data – the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) – of 'insisting on decisions and scientific choices that maximised warming and minimised documentation… in an effort to discredit the notion of a global warming pause, rushed so that he could time publication to influence national and international deliberations on climate policy'. According to Bates, both the sea surface and land temperature data were adjusted at the insistence of now retired NOAA researcher Tom Karl in ways that created specious warming trends and that both are now being reviewed to see if corrections are warranted. Bates also asserts that the data on which the 2015 study was based were not properly archived such that other researchers would be able to check what was done to the data. So settled science? Not hardly. In February 2016, Nature Climate Change published an article by a prominent group of researchers led by Canadian climate scientist John Fyfe that concluded that global warming hiatus is real and thus strongly contradicted Karl's 2015 Science study: It has been claimed that the early-2000s global warming slowdown or hiatus, characterized by a reduced rate of global surface warming, has been overstated, lacks sound scientific basis, or is unsupported by observations. The evidence presented here contradicts these claims. The above figure by Fyfe and his colleagues compares three different surface temperature records with 124 simulations from 41 different climate models. As you can see the models are running hotter than the actual temperature trends and the pace of warming did slow down after 2000. As Nature News reported: "There is this mismatch between what the climate models are producing and what the observations are showing," says lead author John Fyfe, a climate modeller at the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis in Victoria, British Columbia. "We can't ignore it." Next in this saga of data slinging is a new study published in Science Advances just last month by the researchers from the Berkeley Earth group that concludes that the adjustments made under the direction of Karl at NOAA [...]



January Average Global Temperature Ticked Up from December: Global Temperature Trend Update

Fri, 03 Feb 2017 15:00:00 -0500

(image) Every month climatologists John Christy and Roy Spencer from the University of Alabama in Huntsville report global temperature trends based on satellite-based instruments that measure the temperature of the atmosphere from the surface up to an altitude of about eight kilometers above sea level. The based on th latest data, they report that while temperatures in the tropical atmosphere continued to drop in January as temperatures there moved closer to their long-term averages, the composite temperatures over both hemispheres bumped slightly warmer in January, especially in the higher latitudes.

Global Temperature Report: January 2017

Tropics cool in January; globe doesn't

Global climate trend since Nov. 16, 1978: +0.12 C per decade

January temperatures (preliminary)

Global composite temp.: +0.30 C (about 0.54 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for January.

Northern Hemisphere: +0.27 C (about 0.49 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for January.

Southern Hemisphere: +0.33 C (about 0.59 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for January.

Tropics: +0.07 C (about 0.13 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for January.

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The researchers add that in the Northern Hemisphere, pockets of warmer than normal air were especially pronounced over the eastern U.S., Canada and the North Atlantic. In the Southern Hemisphere, Australia and a large area of southern ocean between South America and New Zealand were warmer than normal. the month of January, 2017.




Trump Orders EPA to Take Down Its Climate Change Page, Says Reuters

Wed, 25 Jan 2017 01:10:00 -0500

(image) As of midnight January 24, the Environmental Protection Agency's climate change webpage and links were still up and operating. Among the important data that the agency collects and maintains is the inventory of greenhouse gas emissions trends in the United States. It is true that the EPA website is reporting the consensus view that climate change in recent decades is largely the result of increases in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases generated from burning fossil fuels. But slashing and burning data that both skeptics and alarmists use would be stupid.

Reuters reported:

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.

Climate science is politicized from top-to-bottom. Of course, the current holdover EPA website is promoting Obama administration policies aimed at cutting greenhouse gases that President Trump has vowed to overturn. Obviously, those webpages will change as the new administration develops its own plans and policies. In contrast to views of those advising the Trump administration, the Obama administration also argued that climate model projections are sufficiently robust to guide policy.

If Reuters' sources are accurate, it's pretty clear that the haste with which Trump and his minions are acting is meant to send a strong signal to the permanent bureaucracy that there's a new sheriff in town. Presumably the actual data on things such as sources and amounts of greenhouse gases are not being erased and access to them will be restored quickly. It will be interesting to see how "alternative" the new Trump administration's EPA climate change webpages will turn out to be.




Changes in Commodities Prices Since 1960 Show a Richer World

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 07:00:00 -0500

Today, a post short on words, but full of good news. The World Bank has updated its famed "Pink Sheet," which tracks the prices of 72 commodities going back (in most cases) to 1960. I have eliminated some repetitive datasets (for example, there are four crude oil prices—West Texas Intermediate, Dubai, Brent and "average") and some datasets that contain data for only very short periods of time. As such, I was left with 42 commodity prices, which are included in the chart below.

Out of those 42 commodity prices, 19 have declined in absolute terms, which is to say that, adjusted for inflation, they were cheaper in 2016 than in 1960. Twenty-three commodities have increased in price over the last 56 years. However, of those 23 prices, 20 rose less than global per capita income (177 percent). Only three commodities (crude oil, gold and silver) rose more than income, which is to say that in a vast majority of cases commodities became cheaper—absolutely or relatively—in spite of population growth of 142 percent.

So, what's the moral of the story? Eighteen years after his untimely and much lamented passing, Julian Simon's wisdom continues to shine. As Simon argued in his 1981 book The Ultimate Resource, human beings, unlike other animals, innovate their way out of scarcity by increasing the supply of natural resources or developing substitutes for overused resources. Human ingenuity, in other words, is "the ultimate resource" that makes all other resources more plentiful.

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Is President Trump a 'Climate Menace'?

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 13:30:00 -0500

"Donald Trump is a climate menace, no doubt about it," asserts Greenpeace U.K. spokesperson John Sauven. "President-elect Donald Trump threatens our environment and we vow to fight him every step of the way," declares Kate Colwell from Friends of the Earth. The Union of Concerned Scientists Research Director Gretchen Goldman warns, "It is hard to imagine a Trump administration where science won't be politicized." It is the case that in a 2014 tweet Trump notoriously asked, "Is our country still spending money on the GLOBAL WARMING HOAX?" In 2012, Trump tweeted that the concept of global warming had been created by the Chinese to make American manufacturing noncompetitive. During the presidential campaign, he vowed that he would "cancel" the Paris Agreement on climate change. Being his usual consistently inconsistent self, Trump claimed during a Fox News interview last year that the Chinese tweet was a "joke," and he told The New York Times after the election that he would keep an "open mind" about the Paris Agreement. Yet none of Trump's cabinet picks seem to agree that man-made climate change is hoax. In the hearings for various cabinet nominees, Democrats have sought valiantly to unmask them as "climate change deniers." So far, not one has questioned the scientific reality of man-made global warming. On the other hand, they have tended not to be as alarmed as their interlocutors, and/or have failed to endorse the climate policies that Democrats prefer. Take Scott Pruitt. The Oklahoma attorney-general, nominated to run the Environmental Protection Agency, stated flatly: "I do not believe that climate change is a hoax." He added, "Science tells us the climate is changing and human activity in some manner impacts that change. The ability to measure and pursue the degree and the extent of that impact and what to do about it are subject to continuing debate and dialogue." Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was particularly annoyed that Pruitt pointed to uncertainties about the future course of warming. But those uncertainties are real. The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) argues that warming will continue unless GHG emissions are curbed, but it also notes that "the projected size of those changes cannot be precisely predicted." IPCC further observed that "some underlying physical processes are not yet completely understood, making them difficult to model." Pruitt is one of the 27 state attorneys-general that are challenging the legality of President Obama's Clean Power Plan (CPP), which would require electric utilities to cut their emissions of carbon dioxide by 30 percent below their 2005 levels by 2030. The Supreme Court stayed the implementation of the CPP last February, which indicates that Pruitt and his fellow attorneys-general have substantial legal grounds to challenge that EPA regulation. In November, the eco-modernist think tank the Breakthrough Institute released a study that suggested that the U.S. could well speed up its GHG reduction trends if the CPP was abandoned. Other nominees asked about their views on climate change include former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson (nominated to run the State Department), Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke (Interior Department); Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions (Justice Department); businessman Wilbur Ross (Commerce Department); and former Texas governor Rick Perry (Energy Department). Tillerson testified, "I came to the decision a few years ago that the risk of climate change does exist and the consequences could be serious enough that it warrants action." Zinke similarly declared that he does not believe climate change is "hoax." Sessions offered, "I don't deny that we have global warming. In fact, the theory of it always struck me as pla[...]



Trump Cabinet Picks Acknowledge Man-Made Climate Change: New at Reason

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 13:30:00 -0500

(image) In a 2014 tweet Donald Trump notoriously asked, "Is our country still spending money on the GLOBAL WARMING HOAX?" In 2012, Trump tweeted that the concept of global warming had been created by the Chinese to make American manufacturing noncompetitive. During the presidential campaign, he vowed that he would "cancel" the Paris Agreement on climate change. Being his usual consistently inconsistent self, Trump claimed during a Fox News interview last year that the Chinese tweet was a "joke," and he told The New York Times after the election that he would keep an "open mind" about the Paris Agreement.

Yet none of Trump's cabinet picks seem to agree that man-made climate change is hoax.

In the hearings for various cabinet nominees, Democrats have sought mightily to unmask them as "climate change deniers." So far, not one has questioned the scientific reality of man-made global warming. On the other hand, they have tended not to be as alarmed as their interlocutors, and/or have failed to endorse the climate policies that Democrats prefer.




Trump EPA Nominee Scott Pruitt Grilled on Climate Change at Senate Hearing

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 14:00:00 -0500

During the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing today on Oklahoma State Attorney-General Scott Pruitt's nomination to become administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency various Democratic senators focused on his understanding of the science behind climate change. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was the most impassioned in his questioning. For the most part, Pruitt reiterated each time he was questioned that "science tells us that the climate is changing and that human activity in some manner impacts that change." He added, "The ability to measure with precision the degree and extent of that impact and what to do about it are subject to continuing debate and dialogue, and well it should be." Asked if he agreed President-elect Donald Trump's 2014 tweet that climate change is "a hoax," Pruitt replied, "I do not believe that climate change is a hoax." As The Hill reported: Sanders kept pushing, saying that there is no scientific debate, and eventually asking Pruitt what his personal opinion on the matter is. "My personal opinion is immaterial to the job I'm carrying out," said Pruitt, the current attorney general of Oklahoma. With regard to Pruitt's nomination, Niskanen Center libertarian policy shop president Jerry Taylor observes: With Republicans in charge of the White House and Congress, conservatives no longer need to fear that acknowledging climate change will usher in a parade of policy horribles. They now control the parameters of the debate, which provides them a tremendous opportunity to address one of the greatest threats mankind faces over the next century in an economically responsible manner. Mr. Pruitt's confirmation should ride on whether he's interested in that project or not. Pruitt is right that there is some debate among researchers with regard to the degree and impact that man-made climate change is having now and in the future. Just last year, one group of researchers reported that the global warming hiatus is real while another one found earlier this month that the hiatus never happened. Sounds suspiciously like a debate, doesn't it? Sen. Sanders tried to get Pruitt to endorse the notion that climate scientists all back the goal of deeply cutting the emissions of greenhouse gases. In fact, most climate scientists probably do favor such policies, and they are entitled to their opinions on the economic and energy technology tradeoffs implied, but their views are certainly not dispositive. In other words, there is a debate about how best to address the problem of man-made climate change.[...]