Thursday, September 29, 2016

Trump Runs Headfirst into the New Politics of Climate Change - by Jeremy Symons, Senior Advisor, EDF Action

Land-Ocean Temperature Index (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
In her first debate with Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton came out firing on climate change, shining a spotlight on Trump’s prior comments that global warming is a “hoax.” Trump interrupted Clinton to deny making these statements.  But he has called climate change a hoax multiple times.  Most recently, he blamed scientists, telling Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that scientists were secretly laughing about the whole thing.
The New Politics of Climate Change
If climate change had a political glass ceiling, Secretary Clinton just shattered it.

Clinton didn’t wait for moderator Lester Holt to bring up climate change, which is how presidential nominees have historically treated the issue in general elections.  But Clinton boldly inserted the issue just 14 minutes into the first debate, watched by an estimated 84 million people.  Her emphasis on climate change reflects the new politics of climate change.

Global warming is now a mainstream political issue due to the growing concern across the political spectrum (which is now at an 8-year high, according to Gallup).  Independent voters’ views tend to mirror Democrats’ strong support for action, and Republican voters are split on the issue, especially along generational lines.  Conservative millennials who otherwise lean toward supporting Republican candidates no longer trust their own party on this issue, according to a recent nationwide poll of 940 young conservatives by Republican pollster AGC Research on behalf of Young Conservatives for Energy Reform.  Sixty-five percent of young conservatives see climate change as a serious concern.  In a sharp departure from their trust in the Republican party on most issues, only 31% of conservative millennials trust the Republican party more than Democrats to do the right thing when it comes to climate change.

Whether a voter prioritizes climate change near the top or bottom of their list of issues, climate leadership boosts a candidate’s credibility with most voters.  Denying or ignoring climate change, on the other hand, will inevitably create doubts and disconnects as voters struggle to understand how candidates process information and make decisions.
What to Believe?  Read The Candidates’ Energy Plans
Trump has not personally clarified his false denial at the debate, but there can be no doubt where his policy agenda would take us.  Trump has put forward an alarming energy plan aimed at erasing the clean energy regulations that President Obama has put in place.  Trump’s plan seeks to return America to the era when energy companies can emit unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the atmosphere.

Trump also wants to do away with the breakthrough Paris climate agreement.  Whatever one’s views on President Obama and his climate actions here in the U.S., it would be foolhardy to unravel the first global agreement that secures commitments from China, India, and a host of other nations to do their fair share to combat climate change.  It has long been a goal of Republicans and Democrats alike to make sure there is an effective global response to climate change.  Not only is Trump convinced that climate change is a hoax, but he is so confident that there is so little risk that he is willing to turn the entire world away from the path of cooperation and action.

View Trump’s plan here.

View Hillary’s plan here.

Reality Check
Climate change is not just a fact check issue. It is a reality check issue.  Here are some reality checks on what is really at stake, with links to just a few of the many resources available on these topics:

Read more at Trump Runs Headfirst into the New Politics of Climate Change

Appeals Court Mulls Challenge to Clean Power Plan

A power plant near Carlsbad, Calif. (Credit: Bryce Bradford/flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Six hours and 42 minutes.

That’s how long the legal challenge to the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan was argued before a federal appeals court on Tuesday — more than double the time the court allotted for the hearing.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s most important greenhouse gas emissions regulation is being challenged by a group of 24 states led by West Virginia with support from the fossil fuel industry.  The challenge was heard before 10 of the 11 judges for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.  U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland recused himself.

“I thought that yesterday’s argument went very well for EPA,”  said Richard Revesz, director of the Institute for Policy Integrity at NYU.  “The judges were very prepared and very engaged. The strength of EPA’s arguments came through clearly throughout the give and take.”

Vickie Patton, general counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund, said in a statement that the hearing was far-ranging and the judges showed that they understood that the Clean Power Plan establishes achievable and legal emissions cuts.

“This was a good day in court for America’s Clean Power Plan and for healthier air, a safer climate and economic prosperity,” she said.

The hearing’s length shows that the judges were deeply concerned about the Clean Power Plan and major legal issues involved, said Tom Lorenzen, an attorney who argued in court on behalf of the fossil fuels industry.  He spoke Wednesday at Georgetown Law in Washington, D.C., with the other attorneys who argued the case.

Read more at Appeals Court Mulls Challenge to Clean Power Plan

No Big Shift in U.S. Flood Patterns Despite Climate Change:  Study

A man wades through a flooded street in Ascension Parish, Louisiana, U.S., August 15, 2016. (Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Bachman/File Photo) Click to Enlarge.
U.S. flooding patterns have shown some regional changes but no countrywide shift despite heavier rains spawned by global warming, a study by U.S. and Austrian researchers said on Wednesday.

Findings that the biggest changes were in the Upper Mississippi Valley, northern Great Plains, and New England could help focus resources in dealing with a changing climate, said Stacey Archfield, a U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist and one of the study's authors.

"It's a much more nuanced approach than saying, 'We know change is happening everywhere and this is a particular solution for it,'" she said.

In weighing the impact climate change is having on flooding, researchers from the Geological Survey and Austria's Vienna University of Technology analyzed records from 345 stream gauges in the conterminous United States from 1940 to 2013.

The gauges covered 70 percent of the lower 48 states.  The first 30 years served as a base period.

The results concluded that most of the United States had shown no major change since 1970 in the categories of flood frequency, peak magnitude, duration and volume.

The study said that Wyoming and South Dakota had registered a 150 percent increase in peak magnitude.  They joined North Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas in notching significant increases in flood duration along with a fall in frequency.

The duration of flooding in sections of the Great Plains went up two to five times.  Flood volumes in the area rose almost six times above the average in the base period.

New England, on the other hand, showed an increase in the average number of yearly floods to five from two even as duration, magnitude and volume went down.

Read more at No Big Shift in U.S. Flood Patterns Despite Climate Change:  Study

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

  Wednesday, Sep 28

Global surface temperature relative to 1880-1920 based on GISTEMP analysis (mostly NOAA data sources, as described by Hansen, J., R. Ruedy, M. Sato, and K. Lo, 2010: Global surface temperature change. Rev. Geophys., 48, RG4004.  We suggest in an upcoming paper that the temperature in 1940-45 is exaggerated because of data inhomogeneity in WW II. Linear-fit to temperature since 1970 yields present temperature of 1.06°C, which is perhaps our best estimate of warming since the preindustrial period.

Fossil Fuel Majors Ignore Climate Crisis

Eminent US environmentalist warns that fossil fuel use is destroying the planet, and calls for curbs on the political power of the oil industry.

Bill McKibben, pictured speaking at an environmental protest in the US, says civil action can help save the planet. (Image Credit: chesapeakeclimate via Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Bill McKibben, the US environmentalist who is one of the world’s foremost authors and activists on issues of global warming, does not mince his words.

“We have to check the power of the fossil fuel industry,” he says.  “It’s going to take an immense amount of work, but if we don’t win, then there won’t be any future.”

In an interview with Climate News Network, McKibben said that oil majors such as ExxonMobil and Shell show no signs of rethinking their policies or re-ordering their activities.

“They are digging deeper and choosing to ignore what’s going on,” he warned.  “Recent work by investigative journalists shows that ExxonMobil knew all about climate change and its effects on the world 40 years ago.

Deep trouble
“If it had spoken out, maybe we wouldn’t be in the deep trouble we’re now in.  It was prepared to keep the fossil fuel industry going, even at the risk of breaking the planet.”
“In terms of saving the planet from the impact of climate change, we are cutting it extraordinarily close,” McKibben says.

“We have an enormous battle on our hands – a battle that’s not going to be won at the UN but by civil society action.”

Read more at Fossil Fuel Majors Ignore Climate Crisis

The Biggest Loser in Monday Night’s Debate?  Climate Change

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton shake hands ahead of the first presidential debate. (Credit: Reuters/Mike Segar) Click to Enlarge.
Monday’s presidential debate featured spirited back-and-forths on tax returns, how to heal divides in the U.S., and the candidates’ economic plans.  Notably absent, though, was any thorough discussion about climate change.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump differ wildly on their views on climate policy and whoever is elected president will play a large role in shaping global climate policy in the decades to come.

Despite their differences, debate moderator Lester Holt left climate change by the wayside in favor of other topics.  This follows in the footsteps of the 2012 presidential debates when not a single climate question was asked of either candidate.

“Candidates absolutely should be asked to address the issue of how they will deal with global warming, if elected,” Ed Maibach, director of the Center for Climate Change Communication and a collaborator on a project with Climate Central, said.  “By a ratio of about 3-to-1, voters say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports climate action, and are less likely to vote for a candidate who opposes climate action.”

Twitter statistics show that energy and the environment were the third most-tweeted topic during Monday night’s debate (whether they were lamenting a lack of questions, detailed answers or just chatting about climate change using the debate hashtag is unclear).  And a recent Pew Research poll indicates that while climate change wasn’t a top issue for most people, respondents on average wanted seven minutes of the debate devoted to the topic, though that would still rank it near the bottom of voter interests.
That same poll notes a discrepancy between Trump and Clinton supporters’ interest in the hearing about the topic.  Clinton supporters wanted an average of 10 minutes devoted to climate change while Trump supporters only wanted four minutes in comparison. 

That’s perhaps why Clinton pivoted toward the topic multiple times, often framing it largely as a clean energy issue.  She used a question on how to bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. to discuss solar panels and upgrading the electricity grid (while also taking a swipe at Trump’s 2012 tweet saying climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese).

"We can deploy a half a billion more solar panels," she said.  "We can have enough clean energy to power every home.  We can build a new modern electric grid.  That's a lot of jobs. That's a lot of new economic activity."

In comparison, Trump denied his climate denying and also took an oblique swipe at Solyndra, a solar manufacturer that received a federal loan but subsequently filed for bankruptcy, as a bad use of taxpayer money.

Overall, both candidates were light on policy specifics for how to address climate change, but they have provided clues as to what they would do if elected.

Clinton has signaled a continued commitment to international cooperation and policies put in place under the Obama administration while Trump has indicated he would likely help prop up the fossil fuel industry at home, roll back clean air regulations and attempt to “cancel” the Paris climate agreement that the U.S. recently ratified.

For election horse race watchers and climate and energy hawks, this isn’t necessarily news. But with more than 80 million people tuning into the debate last night — roughly comparable to the Super Bowl — it offered average voters a chance to directly hear from the candidates about their plans to address one of the world’s most pressing problems.

Read more at The Biggest Loser in Monday Night’s Debate?  Climate Change

Addicted to Oil:  U.S. Gasoline Consumption Is Higher than Ever

U.S. Gasoline Consumption per Day  (Source: Constructed by Lucas Davis (UC Berkeley) using EIA data ‘Motor Gasoline, 4-Week Averages.) Click to Enlarge.
August was the biggest month ever for U.S. gasoline consumption.  Americans used a staggering 9.7 million barrels per day.  That’s more than a gallon per day for every U.S. man, woman and child.

The new peak comes as a surprise to many.  In 2012 energy expert Daniel Yergin said, “The U.S. has already reached what we can call`peak demand.”  Many others agreed.  The U.S. Department of Energy forecast in 2012 that U.S. gasoline consumption would steadily decline for the foreseeable future.
Fast forward to 2016, and U.S. gasoline consumption has increased steadily four years in a row. We now have a new peak.  This dramatic reversal has important consequences for petroleum markets, the environment and the U.S. economy.
Can Fuel Economy Standards Turn the Tide?
It’s hard to make predictions.  Still, in retrospect, it seems clear that the years of the Great Recession were highly unusual.  For decades U.S. gasoline consumption has gone up and up – driven by rising incomes – and it appears that we are now very much back on that path.

This all illustrates the deep challenge of reducing fossil fuel use in transportation.  U.S. electricity generation, in contrast, has become considerably greener over this same period, with enormous declines in U.S. coal consumption.  Reducing gasoline consumption is harder, however.  The available substitutes, such as electric vehicles and biofuels, are expensive and not necessarily less carbon-intensive.  For example, electric vehicles can actually increase overall carbon emissions in states with mostly coal-fired electricity.

Can new fuel economy standards turn the tide?  Perhaps, but the new “footprint”-based rules are yielding smaller fuel economy gains than was expected.  With the new rules, the fuel economy target for each vehicle depends on its overall size (i.e., its “footprint”); so as Americans have purchased more trucks, SUVs and other large vehicles, this relaxes the overall stringency of the standard.  So, yes, fuel economy has improved, but much less than it would have without this mechanism.

Read more at Addicted to Oil:  U.S. Gasoline Consumption Is Higher than Ever