Scott Pruitt Attorney General of Oklahoma arrives to meet with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., 7 December 2016. Photo: Brendan McDermid / REUTERS

By Valerie Volcovici and Timothy Gardner
7 December 2016

(WASHINGTON) – Donald Trump will pick an ardent opponent of President Barack Obama's measures to curb climate change as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, a Trump transition team source said on Wednesday, a choice that enraged green activists and cheered the oil industry.

Trump's choice, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, fits neatly with the Republican president-elect's promise to cut back the EPA and free up drilling and coal mining, and signals the likely rollback of much of Obama's environmental agenda.

Since becoming the top prosecutor for the major oil and gas producing state in 2011, Pruitt has launched multiple lawsuits against regulations put forward by the agency he is now poised to lead, suing to block federal measures to reduce smog and curb toxic emissions from power plants.

He is also a leading figure in a legal effort by several states to throw out the EPA's Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of Obama's climate change strategy that requires states to curb carbon output.

In an interview with Reuters in September, Pruitt said he sees the Clean Power Plan as a form of federal "coercion and commandeering" of energy policy and that his state should have "sovereignty to make decisions for its own markets."

Pruitt, 48, has also said he is skeptical of climate change. In an opinion piece in an Oklahoma newspaper this year, he wrote that he believes the debate over global warming is "far from settled" and that scientists continue to disagree on the issue. An overwhelming majority of scientists around the world say manmade emissions are warming the planet. […]

"Scott Pruitt running the EPA is like the fox guarding the henhouse," said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, which supported Trump's opponent in the election, Democrat Hillary Clinton.

"Time and again, he has fought to pad the profits of Big Polluters at the expense of public health."

Heather Zichal, a former Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change under Obama, said Trump's choice was alarming.

"You can meet with Al Gore on Monday, pledge to keep Teddy Roosevelt's environmental legacy alive on Tuesday, but if you nominate the Clean Power Act's leading opponent to head the EPA on Wednesday, you're making an unequivocal statement about the direction of your leadership," she said. [more]

Trump to pick foe of Obama climate agenda to run EPA: source

This figure shows the expected increase in the number of summertime storms that produce extreme precipitation at century's end compared to the period 2000 - 2013. Graphic: Andreas Prein / NCAR

By Laura Snider
5 December 2016

BOULDER, Colorado (NCAR) – At century's end, the number of summertime storms that produce extreme downpours could increase by more than 400 percent across parts of the United States — including sections of the Gulf Coast, Atlantic Coast, and the Southwest — according to a new study by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

The study, published today in the journal Nature Climate Change, also finds that the intensity of individual extreme rainfall events could increase by as much as 70 percent in some areas. That would mean that a storm that drops about 2 inches of rainfall today would be likely to drop nearly 3.5 inches in the future.

"These are huge increases," said NCAR scientist Andreas Prein, lead author of the study. "Imagine the most intense thunderstorm you typically experience in a single season. Our study finds that, in the future, parts of the U.S. could expect to experience five of those storms in a season, each with an intensity as strong or stronger than current storms."

The study was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), NCAR's sponsor, and the Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America.

“Extreme precipitation events affect our infrastructure through flooding, landslides and debris flows,” said Anjuli Bamzai, program director in NSF’s Directorate for Geosciences, which funded the research.  “We need to better understand how these extreme events are changing. By supporting this research, NSF is working to foster a safer environment for all of us.”

A year of supercomputing time

An increase in extreme precipitation is one of the expected impacts of climate change because scientists know that as the atmosphere warms, it can hold more water, and a wetter atmosphere can produce heavier rain. In fact, an increase in precipitation intensity has already been measured across all regions of the U.S. However, climate models are generally not able to simulate these downpours because of their coarse resolution, which has made it difficult for researchers to assess future changes in storm frequency and intensity.

For the new study, the research team used a new dataset that was created when NCAR scientists and study co-authors Roy Rasmussen, Changhai Liu, and Kyoko Ikeda ran the NCAR-based Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model at a resolution of 4 kilometers, fine enough to simulate individual storms. The simulations, which required a year to run, were performed on the Yellowstone system at the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center.

Prein and his co-authors used the new dataset to investigate changes in downpours over North America in detail. The researchers looked at how storms that occurred between 2000 and 2013 might change if they occurred instead in a climate that was 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer — the temperature increase expected by the end of the century if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated.

Prein cautioned that this approach is a simplified way of comparing present and future climate. It doesn't reflect possible changes to storm tracks or weather systems associated with climate change. The advantage, however, is that scientists can more easily isolate the impact of additional heat and associated moisture on future storm formation.

"The ability to simulate realistic downpours is a quantum leap in climate modeling. This enables us to investigate changes in hourly rainfall extremes that are related to flash flooding for the very first time," Prein said. "To do this took a tremendous amount of computational resources."

Impacts vary across the U.S.

The study found that the number of summertime storms producing extreme precipitation is expected to increase across the entire country, though the amount varies by region. The Midwest, for example, sees an increase of zero to about 100 percent across swaths of Nebraska, the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Iowa. But the Gulf Coast, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Mexico all see increases ranging from 200 percent to more than 400 percent.

The study also found that the intensity of extreme rainfall events in the summer could increase across nearly the entire country, with some regions, including the Northeast and parts of the Southwest, seeing particularly large increases, in some cases of more than 70 percent.

A surprising result of the study is that extreme downpours will also increase in areas that are getting drier on average, especially in the Midwest. This is because moderate rainfall events that are the major source of moisture in this region during the summertime are expected to decrease significantly while extreme events increase in frequency and intensity. This shift from moderate to intense rainfall increases the potential for flash floods and mudslides, and can have negative impacts on agriculture.

The study also investigated how the environmental conditions that produce the most severe downpours might change in the future. In today's climate, the storms with the highest hourly rainfall intensities form when the daily average temperature is somewhere between 20 and 25 degrees C (68 to 77 degrees F) and with high atmospheric moisture. When the temperature gets too hot, rainstorms become weaker or don't occur at all because the increase in atmospheric moisture cannot keep pace with the increase in temperature. This relative drying of the air robs the atmosphere of one of the essential ingredients needed to form a storm.

In the new study, the NCAR scientists found that storms may continue to intensify up to temperatures of 30 degrees C because of a more humid atmosphere. The result would be much more intense storms.

"Understanding how climate change may affect the environments that produce the most intense storms is essential because of the significant impacts that these kinds of storms have on society," Prein said.

Title: The future intensification of hourly precipitation extremes

Authors: Andreas F. Prein, Roy M. Rasmussen, Kyoko Ikeda, Changhai Liu, Martyn P. Clark, and Greg J. Holland

Journal: Nature Climate Change, DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE3168

Extreme downpours could increase fivefold across parts of the U.S.


ABSTRACT: Extreme precipitation intensities have increased in all regions of the Contiguous United States (CONUS)1 and are expected to further increase with warming at scaling rates of about 7% per degree Celsius, suggesting a significant increase of flash flood hazards due to climate change. However, the scaling rates between extreme precipitation and temperature are strongly dependent on the region, temperature, and moisture availability, which inhibits simple extrapolation of the scaling rate from past climate data into the future. Here we study observed and simulated changes in local precipitation extremes over the CONUS by analysing a very high resolution (4 km horizontal grid spacing) current and high-end climate scenario that realistically simulates hourly precipitation extremes. We show that extreme precipitation is increasing with temperature in moist, energy-limited, environments and decreases abruptly in dry, moisture-limited, environments. This novel framework explains the large variability in the observed and modelled scaling rates and helps with understanding the significant frequency and intensity increases in future hourly extreme precipitation events and their interaction with larger scales.

The future intensification of hourly precipitation extremes

In response to a misleading article on global warming, meteorologist Kait Parker tells Breitbart, 'next time you're thinking about publishing a cherry-picked article, try consulting a scientist first' on 6 December 2016. Photo: The Weather Channel

By Shanika Gunaratna
6 December 2016

(CBS News) – In an unusually direct message, the Weather Channel is taking Breitbart to task for using Weather Channel content to “mislead Americans” about climate change.

“Though we would prefer to focus on our usual coverage of weather and climate science, in this case we felt it important to add our two cents,” the Weather Channel wrote in a post on its website Tuesday.

It firmly denied a claim that overall global temperatures are declining, an idea promoted by Breitbart and spread widely on social media.

The company was specifically concerned after Breitbart — the right-wing opinion website that had been led by President-elect Donald Trump’s chief advisor Steve Bannon — used a Weather Channel video clip atop an article that claimed the last three years of weather patterns represent “the final death rattle of the global warming scare.”

Breitbart is the primary megaphone of the alt-right, an extreme right-wing movement promoting white nationalism that has gained new national stature with Bannon’s involvement in the Trump campaign and future administration.

The Weather Channel explained that, while Breitbart had the legal right to use its video clip through a content sharing agreement, it did not want to stand idly by without addressing the article’s specific, erroneous claims. [more]

Weather Channel to Breitbart: Stop using us to mislead public


6 December 2016 (Weather Channel) – Global warming is not expected to end anytime soon, despite what Breitbart.com wrote in an article published last week.

Though we would prefer to focus on our usual coverage of weather and climate science, in this case we felt it important to add our two cents — especially because a video clip from weather.com (La Niña in Pacific Affects Weather in New England) was prominently featured at the top of the Breitbart article. Breitbart had the legal right to use this clip as part of a content-sharing agreement with another company, but there should be no assumption that The Weather Company endorses the article associated with it.

The Breitbart article – a prime example of cherry picking, or pulling a single item out of context to build a misleading case – includes this statement: "The last three years may eventually come to be seen as the final death rattle of the global warming scare." […]

CLAIM: "Global land temperatures have plummeted by one degree Celsius since the middle of this year – the biggest and steepest fall on record."

TRUTH: This number comes from one satellite-based estimate of temperatures above land areas in the lower atmosphere. Data from the other two groups that regularly publish satellite-based temperature estimates show smaller drops, more typical of the decline one would expect after a strong El Niño event.

Temperatures over land give an incomplete picture of global-scale temperature. Most of the planet – about 70 percent – is covered by water, and the land surface warms and cools more quickly than the ocean. Land-plus-ocean data from the other two satellite groups, released after the Breitbart article, show that Earth’s lower atmosphere actually set a record high in November 2016. [more]

Note to Breitbart: Earth Is Not Cooling, Climate Change Is Real and Please Stop Using Our Video to Mislead Americans

Standing Rock Sioux water protectors, 'Oceti Sakowin', march against the Dakota Access Pipeline project, 13 November 2016. Photo: Redhawk / Standing Rock Rising

Cannon Ball, North Dakota, 4 December 2016 (Stand With Standing Rock) – The department of the Army will not approve an easement that will allow the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe. The following statement was released by Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II.

Today, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will not be granting the easement to cross Lake Oahe for the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline. Instead, the Corps will be undertaking an environmental impact statement to look at possible alternative routes. We wholeheartedly support the decision of the administration and commend with the utmost gratitude the courage it took on the part of President Obama, the Army Corps, the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior to take steps to correct the course of history and to do the right thing.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all of Indian Country will be forever grateful to the Obama Administration for this historic decision.

We want to thank everyone who played a role in advocating for this cause. We thank the tribal youth who initiated this movement. We thank the millions of people around the globe who expressed support for our cause. We thank the thousands of people who came to the camps to support us, and the tens of thousands who donated time, talent, and money to our efforts to stand against this pipeline in the name of protecting our water. We especially thank all of the other tribal nations and jurisdictions who stood in solidarity with us, and we stand ready to stand with you if and when your people are in need.

Throughout this effort I have stressed the importance of acting at all times in a peaceful and prayerful manner – and that is how we will respond to this decision. With this decision we look forward to being able to return home and spend the winter with our families and loved ones, many of whom have sacrificed as well. We look forward to celebrating in wopila, in thanks, in the coming days.

We hope that Kelcey Warren, Governor Dalrymple, and the incoming Trump administration respect this decision and understand the complex process that led us to this point. When it comes to infrastructure development in Indian Country and with respect to treaty lands, we must strive to work together to reach decisions that reflect the multifaceted considerations of tribes.

Treaties are paramount law and must be respected, and we welcome dialogue on how to continue to honor that moving forward. We are not opposed to energy independence, economic development, or national security concerns but we must ensure that these decisions are made with the considerations of our Indigenous peoples.

To our local law enforcement, I hope that we can work together to heal our relationship as we all work to protect the lives and safety of our people. I recognize the extreme stress that the situation caused and look forward to a future that reflects more mutual understanding and respect.

Again, we are deeply appreciative that the Obama Administration took the time and effort to genuinely consider the broad spectrum of tribal concerns. In a system that has continuously been stacked against us from every angle, it took tremendous courage to take a new approach to our nation-to-nation relationship, and we will be forever grateful.

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s Statement on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Decision to Not Grant Easement

Brazil's Amazon guardians: fallen trees are seen during an operation to combat illegal mining and logging conducted by agents of the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, or Ibama, supported by military police, in the municipality of Novo Progresso, Para State, northern Brazil, 11 November 2016. Photo: Ueslei Marcelino / REUTERS

11 November 2016 (Reuters) – Brazil's Amazon guardians: fallen trees are seen during an operation to combat illegal mining and logging conducted by agents of the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, or Ibama, supported by military police, in the municipality of Novo Progresso, Para State, northern Brazil, 11 November 2016. Photo: Ueslei Marcelino / REUTERS

Pictures of the year: Environment

Marine Le Pen, présidente du Front National, lors de la clôture de ses 'Estivales', le 18 Septembre 2016 à Fréjus. [Marine Le Pen, President of the National Front, at the closing of its 'Estivales', on 18 September 2016 in Fréjus.] Photo: AFP

[cf. Australia’s One Nation party vs. science]

By Jessica Shankleman
21 November 2016

(Bloomberg) – Populism is drawing momentum from environmentalism in the U.S. and Europe, threatening the world's effort to rein in climate change.

Donald Trump's election in the U.S., the U.K. Independence Party and Marine Le Pen's ascent in France all represent a break with political leaders who made the environment a priority. All three are skeptical of climate change and resistant to international projects like the United Nations global warming talks.

Envoys from more than 190 countries gathered by the UN made progress this weekend in their work to contain fossil-fuel emissions and keep a lid on temperature increases. Two weeks of discussions in Marrakech, Morocco, were overshadowed by the election of Trump, who has called climate change a hoax. Many delegates left the city concerned about the forces working against them.

"If climate change is labeled as an elitist, global project, which is what UKIP and Le Pen want to do, then it's dead," said Nick Mabey, a former climate adviser to the U.K. government now leading the environmental consultant E3G.

Trump takes office in January and has said he'll pull out of the Paris agreement negotiated through the UN. That's a sharp contrast to outgoing President Barack Obama, who spent six years concentrating on the issue, resulting in a historic agreement with China in 2015 to work together on lowering emissions, prompting dozens of developing economies to follow suit. Trump's stance is echoed by right-wing movements in Europe:

  • Le Pen's National Front doubts global warming is linked to human activity and has promoted a "New Ecology movement" emphasizing national programs on the environment over global rules like the ones coming from the UN talks.
  • UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage called the fight against climate change "one of the biggest and stupidest collective misunderstandings in history," saying the science isn't settled and technologies to defeat the problem like renewable energy are damaging to the economy. UKIP's push to leave the European Union was endorsed by British voters on June 23, leaving Farage more influential in shaping government policy. [more]

Global Trumpism seen harming efforts to reduce climate pollution

Australia Senator Malcolm Roberts from Pauline Hanson's One Nation party delivers his first speech in the Senate at Parliament House in Canberra on 13 September 2016. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Alex Ellinghausen

By Jordan Fermanis
1 December 2016

(Crikey) – When One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts delivered his maiden speech to the Senate on September 13 of this year, he used the occasion to attack the science of climate change. In his speech, Roberts labelled climate change a “scam”, said it was prone to “hyperbolic predictions” and accused no less auspicious an organisation than the Bureau of Meteorology of manipulating climate data.

If Pauline Hanson is her party’s multiculturalism and cultural sensitivity expert, Malcolm Roberts entered Parliament as the self-proclaimed One Nation party climate change expert (with a background in coal mining).

The following exchanges unravel the ideological war between One Nation and its fiercest opponent: science.

One Nation says: On One Nation’s website the party alleges that climate change scientists, the United Nations and global governments including Australia are part of a mass environmental deception. Keep in mind, neither Hanson nor any other senator in One Nation is a qualified scientist.

Climate change should not be about making money for a lot of people and giving scientists money. Lets [sic] know the facts and scientific evidence to make a well informed decision as to how best to look after our environment.

Paris’ main role was to endorse the climate sham. It gives Hunt and Turnbull a way to keep moving Australia under tighter UN control. This is despite there being no empirical evidence that carbon dioxide from humans affects climate.

Science responds: According to NASA’s website, there is a global scientific consensus that humans have contributed to climate change phenomena like global warming. NASA’s scientists include Dr Carmen Boening, who has a PhD in physical oceanography and is a part of the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, and Dr Michael Gunson, an atmospheric scientist with a PhD in chemistry.

Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.

The CSIRO, Australia’s leading scientific research organisation, is responsible for inventing wi-fi and Aeroguard insect repellent. The CSIRO has been monitoring climate data and producing biennial reports since 2012. CSIRO research indicates last century global sea levels rose by 20cm. Global temperatures in this century have increased year upon year, with 2015 ranking the warmest year on record. The CSIRO says it’s getting hot in here:

The Bureau of Meteorology’s Manager of Climate Monitoring, Dr Karl Braganza said Australia was already experiencing the effects of climate change with record-breaking heat now becoming commonplace across the country.

And why?

CSIRO Senior Scientist and leader of the NESP Earth Systems and Climate Change Hub, Dr Helen Cleugh said the [climate] changes were due to an increase in greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, which act like a blanket by keeping heat in the Earth’s lower atmosphere.

Science finds: A report released on Monday by the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies based at James Cook University titled “Life and Death after Great Barrier Reef bleaching” found the highest recorded bleaching levels at the Great Barrier Reef:

Scientists have confirmed the largest die-off of corals ever recorded on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

The worst affected area, a 700 km swath of reefs in the northern region of the Great Barrier Reef has lost an average of 67% of its shallow-water corals in the past 8-9 months. Further south, over the vast central and southern regions of the Great Barrier Reef, the scientists were relieved to find a much lower death toll.

As the figure above indicates, coral bleaching is most acute in the northern section of the reef. Scientists from the ARC forecast that it will take 10 to 15 years for coral in the northern region of the reef to regenerate.

The central and southern portions of the reef remain in relatively healthy condition.

In an attempt to create a political splash last week, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party held a party meeting at Great Keppel Island, in the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef.

One Nation reacts: Hanson, having never attended university, put forth her opinion that the reef was in “pristine condition”, going so far as to deny global warming had a significant impact on coral bleaching.

As the ARC figure shows, the southern part of the reef has been largely unaffected by bleaching events, precisely the location Hanson and Roberts chose to visit. [more]

One Nation v science

Tweet from the House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, repeating a misleading claim about global temperatures made by white-nationalist site, Breitbart News, 1 December 2016. Graphic: Twitter

[Who needs NASA scientists when you have misleading opinions from the platform of the fascist Right? –Des]

By Phil McCausland
2 December 2016

(NBC News) – The House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology's Twitter account retweeted a Breitbart News article that is unscientific and steeped in opinion on Thursday.

The article claims the science behind global warming is "in its final death rattle."

An important committee in the United States House of Representatives, the committee's 38 members are in charge of all energy, environmental, marine, civil aviation and astronautics research and development.

This includes oversight of NASA, the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, FAA, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and FEMA.

The committee is chaired by Rep. Lamar Smith, a Republican from Texas. […]

Scientists were quick to take to Twitter to debunk Delingpole's claim and share their dismay that the House committee would cite an organization like Breitbart. [more]

House Science Committee Tweets Climate-Change Denying Breitbart Article


By Phil Plait
2 December 2016

(Slate) – The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology is, ironically but shocking to no one who understands the majority party, quite anti-science. For years now, the committee and its chairman, Lamar Smith (R-Texas), have been merciless in their attacks on both climate scientists and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Smith—who receives a large amount of funding from fossil fuel interests—has been subpoenaing NOAA staff and data repeatedly in what is a transparent attempt both to create a chilling effect and to directly prevent them from doing their very important research into human-generated global warming.

The Committee's Twitter account often reflects this ideology. And this afternoon, to the dismay of many, they tweeted a climate-denying “news” story from Breitbart.

Yes, that Breitbart, the racist, misogynistic über-right-wing site that calls itself a voice for the “alt right” movement, which is—as my Slate colleague Jeremy Stahl says—composed of “Neo-Nazis in suits and ties.”

The content of this tweet is the same sort of thing you’d get if you fed a bull 20 kilos of Ex-Lax and stood behind it for a while. Global warming, of course, is real. The Breitbart article in question is written by James Delingpole, a flat-out climate change denier who has a history of writing grossly misleading articles about global warming. He gets this information from yet another climate change denier, David Rose, who wrote an article for the execrable Daily Mail claiming that global temperatures have dropped by an entire degree Celsius since this summer. Contrary to what the Daily Mail might have to say, global temperature is indeed increasing. [more]

The House (Anti-)Science Committee Strikes Again

The now-barren slopes at the world's highest ski resort on Chacaltaya mountain in the Bolivian Andes above La Paz. Photo: Ville Miettinen / Wikimedia Commons

By Jan Rocha
26 November 2016

SÃO PAOLO (Climate News Network) – The government of Bolivia, a landlocked country in the heart of South America, has been forced to declare a state of emergency as it faces its worst drought for at least 25 years.

Much of the water supply to La Paz, the highest capital city in the world, and the neighbouring El Alto, Bolivia’s second largest city, comes from the glaciers in the surrounding Andean mountains.

But the glaciers are now shrinking rapidly, illustrating how climate change is already affecting one of the poorest countries in Latin America.

The three main dams that supply La Paz and El Alto are no longer fed by runoff from glaciers and have almost run dry. Water rationing has been introduced in La Paz, and the poor of El Alto − where many are not yet even connected to the mains water supply − have staged protests.

The armed forces are being brought in to distribute water to the cities, emergency wells are being drilled, and schools will have to close two weeks ahead of the summer break

President Evo Morales sacked the head of the water company for not warning him earlier of the dangerous situation, but the changes produced by global warming have been evident for some time. [more]

Bolivian water crisis as glaciers vanish

 

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