Climate
By Lorraine ChowTrump Watch  10:53AM EST
Leonardo DiCaprio Meets With Donald Trump to Talk Green Jobs

Leonardo DiCaprio and Terry Tamminen, the CEO of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF), met with Donald Trump and his advisors including daughter Ivanka Trump on Wednesday at Trump Tower in New York to discuss how green jobs can revitalize the economy.

Actor and environmental advocate Leonardo DiCaprio Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation

“We presented the President-elect and his advisors with a framework—which LDF developed in consultation with leading voices in the fields of economics and environmentalism—that details how to unleash a major economic revival across the United States that is centered on investments in sustainable infrastructure," Tamminen said in a statement to EcoWatch. "Our conversation focused on how create millions of secure, American jobs in the construction and operation of commercial and residential clean, renewable energy generation."

"These programs are attainable—and include energy efficiency upgrades that pay for themselves with savings, waste reduction projects that can turn every city into a source of new materials and fuels, and transportation projects that will support global trade while reducing traffic and air pollution and make America a leader in sustainable fuel and vehicle technologies," he added.

The meeting took place on the same day that Trump announced his controversial choice of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Trump's pick was met with unprecedented criticism by environmental and health organizations nationwide, who consider Pruitt a "puppet" of the fossil fuel industry. Pruitt, who believes the science behind climate change is unsettled and believes the EPA's regulations are a war on energy, has spearheaded numerous lawsuits against the Obama administration and the agency he will likely be heading.

Pruitt falls in line with Trump's other cabinet nominees who have close ties to Big Energy and deny the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is causing climate change. The commander in chief to-be is a notorious climate change denialist himself who has made plans to exit the Paris climate accord, revitalize the coal industry and axe many of President Obama's environmental initiatives, including the historic Clean Power Plan that reduces emissions from power plans.

Although the president-elect will not be able to completely nix Obama's Clean Power Plan, having Pruitt—an experienced legal officer—as EPA head can help "substantially weaken, delay or slowly dismantle them," as the New York Times noted.

But Tamminen, who served as Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, said Trump was receptive during their meeting and a follow-up will take place next month.

"Climate change is bigger than politics, and the disastrous effects on our planet and our civilization will continue regardless of what party holds majorities in Congress or occupies the White House," he said. "The President-elect expressed his desire for a follow up meeting in January, and we look forward to continuing the conversation with the incoming administration as we work to stop the dangerous march of climate change, while putting millions of people to work at the same time."

DiCaprio is a prominent environmental advocate who said in October during a sit-down with President Obama and climate scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, that "If you do not believe in climate change you do not believe in facts or science or empirical truths, and therefore in my opinion, you should not be allowed to hold public office."

Well, we all know what happened on Nov. 8.

Perhaps DiCaprio is now using his clout to push the incoming administration towards a more sustainable economy. In one part of DiCaprio's climate change documentary Before the Flood, the Oscar-winning actor toured the Tesla gigafactory in Nevada with founder and CEO Elon Musk, who is also a big proponent of green jobs.

"If governments can set the rules in favor of sustainable energy, then we can get there really quickly," Musk told DiCaprio about transitioning the world to sustainable energy.

Trump recently said he had "an open mind" with regards to climate change science and policies although many environmentalists are skeptical.

"Talk is cheap, and no one should believe Donald Trump means this until he acts upon it," Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said.

Daughter Ivanka, however, is purportedly planning on using her new mantle to address climate change. Earlier this week, Trump and the future First Daughter met with former VP Al Gore at Trump Tower to discuss the topic.

"I had a lengthy and very productive session with the president-elect," Gore said after the meeting. "It was a sincere search for areas of common ground."

DiCaprio also reportedly gave the Trumps a copy of his climate change documentary at a recent meeting.

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By Dan ZukowskiClimate  09:48AM EST
Paris Suffers Worst Air Pollution in 10 Years, Limits Cars and Makes Public Transit Free

For the third day in a row, air pollution blanketed Paris, which authorities called the worst bout for at least 10 years. The city imposed driving restrictions and made public transit free.

Unusually calm air failed to disperse vehicle emissions and particulates from wood fires, creating conditions that have veiled the Eiffel Tower in a gray haze.

Paris has instituted a system based on alternating odd or even license plate numbers to ban certain vehicles from city streets, effectively cutting traffic in half each day. This is just the fourth time in 20 years that Paris has taken this step, and the first time it has been in place for consecutive days.

"Cars are poisoning the air," Paris city hall transport official Herve Levife told Reuters. "We need to take preventive measures."

"We want these bans to automatically take effect when the pollution exceeds a certain level, not have to negotiate them with the government each time," Levife added.

More than 1,700 drivers were issued tickets for violating the ban on Tuesday, which carries a fine of 35 Euros, or about $37.42. Hybrid and battery electric vehicles, as well as those carrying three or more passengers, are exempt.

All public transit was made free, putting a strain on commuter systems as crowds piled onto trains and buses. The city's bike-share system was also free to use.

Along with Paris, the French cities of Lyons and Villeurbanne were expected to impose similar measures.

Air quality index readings reached or exceeded 150 on Thursday, considered a "critical" level.Air Pollution in Paris: Real-time Air Quality Index Visual Map

Readings of particulate matter exceeded 80 micrograms per cubic meter. The European Union has set a maximum daily average of 50. Particulate matter, due to its small size, can be inhaled deeply into lungs. High exposure can cause asthma, lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory diseases, birth defects and premature death.

Beginning July 1, Paris banned all cars 20 years or older. Longer-term, Paris and three other cities—Athens, Madrid and Mexico City—will ban diesel engines by 2025 as announced earlier this week. Diesels area major emitter of particulate matter pollution.

In March 2015, the air quality index in Paris briefly made it the worst polluted city in the world.

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By Climate NexusClimate  09:32AM EST
Greenland Ice May Melt Quicker Than Scientists Thought

Two studies published in Nature Wednesday show seemingly contradictory visions for Greenland's past and the future of its ice sheet, but actually describe different aspects of the ice.

Meltwater on the Greenland ice sheet carved this canyon. Ian Joughin

One study finds that Greenland's ice sheet may have melted almost completely and repeatedly during the last 1.4 million years, suggesting the ice is more sensitive to warming than currently thought.

The second concluded that the ice on the very easternmost coast has been stable over a 7.5 million year period. Scientists working on both studies say that their results could be compatible: both demonstrate the volatility of the ice sheet, both show that more research is needed, and that while the majority of the island's ice has melted multiple times, the high altitude east coast has remained icy. Determining the ice sheet's response to warming is crucial, because its melting could raise global sea levels by up to 24 feet.

For a deeper dive:

Time, Gizmodo, AFP, Christian Science Monitor, US News & World Report, Scientific American, InsideClimate News, Phys.org

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

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By Lorraine ChowTrump Watch  04:09PM EST
Trump Picks 'Puppet of the Fossil Fuel Industry' to Head EPA

Donald Trump has appointed Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The conservative Republican has close ties to the fossil fuel industry and has waged numerous legal wars against the EPA and President Obama's environmental regulations, including the president's signature Clean Power Plan.

Pruitt, who was elected as Oklahoma's top legal officer in November 2010, states on his own LinkedIn page that he "has led the charge with repeated notices and subsequent lawsuits against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for their leadership's activist agenda and refusal to follow the law."

Although the president-elect will not be able to completely cancel Obama's historic carbon emissions standards for power plants, having a legally experienced EPA head can help "substantially weaken, delay or slowly dismantle them," the New York Times reported.

Pruitt was among a handful of other attorneys general that began planning as early as 2014 a coordinated legal effort to fight the Obama Administration's climate rules. That effort has resulted in a 28-state lawsuit against the Clean Power Plan. The case is now pending in federal court, but likely to advance to the Supreme Court, the New York Times said.

Watch this Fox Business interview with Pruitt in August 2015 when he was leading the charge against the EPA's guidelines on emissions, calling the 2015 EPA rules a power grab:

Trump's latest appointee falls in line with his other cabinet picks who deny the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is causing climate change. Pruitt once wrote an editorial questioning "the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind."

The Heartland Institute, a nonprofit that questions the reality and import of climate change, celebrated Trump's EPA appointment. H. Sterling Burnett, research fellow at The Heartland Institute, said in response, "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!"

Keith Gaby, the senior communications director of the Environmental Defense Fund, noted that since 2002, Pruitt has "received more than $314,996 from fossil fuel industries." In 2014, Pruitt was infamously caught sending letters to President Obama and federal agency heads asserting that the EPA was overestimating the air pollution from drilling for natural gas in Oklahoma. Turns out, the letter was by lawyers for one of state's largest oil and gas companies, Devon Energy.

Harold G. Hamm, the chief executive of Continental Energy, was also co-chairman of Pruitt's 2013 re-election campaign.

Pruitt's appointment has been met with unprecedented criticism by environmental and health organizations nationwide.

"By appointing Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Trump is putting America at risk," Greenpeace spokesperson Travis Nichols said. "Pruitt is a pure product of the oil and gas industry, installed in successive government posts to sell out his constituents at every turn. He will push this country far behind the rest of the world in the race for 21st century clean energy. With Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA, the people and the environment will be in the hands of a man who cares about neither."

Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, agrees. "The mission of the EPA and its administrator requires an absolute commitment to safeguard public health and protect our air, land, water and planet. That's the litmus test. By naming Pruitt, President-elect Trump has flunked," Suh exclaimed.

Suh wrote in a blog post on Monday that "over the past five years, Pruitt has used his position as Oklahoma's top prosecutor to sue the EPA in a series of attempts to deny Americans the benefits of reducing mercury, arsenic and other toxins from the air we breathe; cutting smog that can cause asthma attacks; and protecting our wetlands and streams."

"You couldn't pick a better fossil fuel industry puppet," 350.org's Executive Director May Boeve said. "Pruitt's appointment reveals Trump's climate flip-flopping and meetings with Gore as nothing more than a smokescreen."

And the outcry didn't stop there.

Ken Cook, president of Environmental Working Group, said, "It's a safe assumption that Pruitt could be the most hostile EPA administrator toward clean air and safe drinking water in history."

CEO and president of Defenders of Wildlife, Jamie Rappaport Clark, added, "We need a leader for EPA who fully appreciates the gravity of the menace that climate change poses for our nation's public health, our wildlife and our environment, and is prepared to use the full force of our nation's strong environmental laws to curb that threat. Mr. Pruitt is plainly not that person."

Food & Water Watch's executive director, Wenonah Hauter, shared her dismay, too. Pruitt has championed the interests of industrial agriculture in his state, supporting a dubious, deregulatory 'right to farm' initiative that residents rightly rejected at the ballot box this year. He's also sued the EPA over the Waters of the U.S. rule that effectively strengthens the Clean Water Act."

"Pruitt is a wholly owned subsidiary of the oil industry," Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute, said. "Any Senator who doesn't fight this nomination is handing corporate polluters a wrecking ball to destroy our future."

World Resources Institute's Director Sam Adams said, Americans depend on EPA to promote human health and protect families and future generations. Its ability to protect air, water, and the climate for all people must continue."

Friends of the Earth climate and energy program director Benjamin Schreiber concurred. "As the Attorney General, Scott Pruitt did the bidding of the oil and gas industry and fought many of the laws he will now be tasked to enforce," Schreiber said. "He helped Big Oil turn Oklahoma into an Earthquake zone."

David Turnbull, campaigns director at Oil Change International, concluded, "We call on Senators to reject this nomination, as well as other climate-denying, unqualified and regressive nominees. There is no place in our government for individuals who refuse to accept science and risk the safety of Americans around the country. There is no place in our government for individuals who are in clear alliance with the industry fueling our climate crisis. We need a separation of oil and state."

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Trump Watch
By Denier RoundupTrump Watch  12:30PM EST
As Trump Waffles on Climate, What Should We Believe?

Al Gore was the latest participant in the president-elect's parade of pandering, meeting with daughter Ivanka Trump and then Donald Trump himself. Might this mean we might see a change his position on climate change? And will the impeccably cited letter to Ivanka or interview with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. on the Dakota Access Pipeline, both published in the Observer, which is owned by Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, make a difference? Does any of this portend a softening of Trump's denial?

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Not anymore than his waffling at the New York Times interview, or the uncovering of the fact that his golf course in Scotland lists climate change as a reason to build a seawall, or his own signature on a decade-old open letter calling for climate action.

Because the day after the meeting with Gore, Trump's transition team named five new members of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) landing team: David Kreutzer (Heritage), Austin Lipari (Federalist), David Schnare (EELI), Dave Stevenson (Caesar Rodney Institute) and George Sugiyama. Of the five of them, only two aren't with groups receiving funding from the Koch brothers. Although the link between the Kochs and Stevenson's Caesar Rodney Institute isn't crystal clear, they are a member of the Koch-funded State Policy Network. Stevenson also recently wrote that the American Lung Association and EPA are engaged in some sort of anti-clean-air conspiracy because "if you work for the EPA, the worst possible outcome is to actually have clean air."

The other is George Sugiyama, a lawyer who worked for Sen. "Snowball" James Inhofe as his counsel for the Senate's Environment and Public Works committee. After that, he went to work for a law firm that defends companies from regulations, which was described as a focus of his work.

For the next four years, Trump will undoubtedly say lots of things. Some might give us cause for hope. But none should be trusted.

In a post-truth world, only actions matter. And so far, Trump has appointed fossil fuel funded deniers and those who have worked to protect polluters from EPA's regulations to his EPA landing team and entertained the likes of ExxonMobil's CEO Rex Tillerson for the position of Secretary of State. (At least Tillerson has some relevant experience, like his "close ties to Vladimir Putin"). All this to say it's looking pretty undeniable that the Donald will remain in denial.

Which is an inconvenient truth, but not an unexpected or unbelievable one.

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By Climate NexusClimate  09:13AM EST
The Weather Channel to Breitbart: 'Earth Is Not Cooling, Climate Change Is Real'

In a bluntly titled blog post, Note to Breitbart: Earth Is Not Cooling, Climate Change Is Real and Please Stop Using Our Video to Mislead Americans, The Weather Channel took Breitbart to task for using a Weather.com video in an article about "global cooling."

The post lays out the misleading science behind the Breitbart piece and tells the outlet to "please call" the Weather Channel the next time they need a fact check on a climate-related piece.

It says:

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."

In fact, thousands of researchers and scientific societies are in agreement that greenhouse gases produced by human activity are warming the planet's climate and will keep doing so.

The Breitbart article was tweeted out from the official U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology account last week, leading to furious backlash from the scientific community.

Sen. Bernie Sanders mocked the U.S. House Science Committee for retweeting the Breitbart article denying climate change.

For a deeper dive:

CBS, Politico, USA Today, The Hill, Mic, Gizmodo, Mashable, Business Insider, Yahoo, Washington Examiner, AJC

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

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By Dan ZukowskiClimate  03:15PM EST
Can Eating Oysters Make You Sick?

Food poisoning cases linked to eating oysters and other shellfish from New England waters have jumped from five cases in 2000 to 147 in 2013. A study from the University of New Hampshire links this increase to warming ocean waters.

The culprit is a bacteria called Vibrio. It infects seafood and causes 80,000 illnesses and 100 deaths each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is most common when waters are warmer, typically from May to October. Now, as climate change is warming even the typically cool New England coastal seas, the bacteria is spreading.

''In the last 10 or 20 years, it's become very apparent that there is something going on,'' said one of the researchers, Stephen Jones, of the Northeast Center for Vibrio Disease and Ecology at the University of New Hampshire.

Vibriosis can cause vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, fever and chills. A bout typically lasts three days, but those with weakened immune systems or certain medical conditions can experience more serious symptoms.

A separate study published in August in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looked at 50 years of data from water samples in the North Atlantic. They found a direct correlation between rising water temperatures and increased Vibrio infections in both the U.S. and Europe.

Rita Colwell, one of the study's authors, told National Geographic, "We were able to show a doubling, tripling—in some cases quadrupling—of the Vibrio over that 50-year period."

Flickr/Jeremy Keith

Similar reports have come from Alaska as well.

Vibrio first made its appearance there in 2004, when 62 cruise ship passengers were sickened after eating raw oysters from Prince William Sound. A year later, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study that linked the outbreak to increased water temperatures.

The threshold level of danger comes when water reaches 59 degrees Fahrenheit. The study showed that the water temperature at the oyster farm where the infected mollusks were harvested had increased from 1997 to 2004. The temperature exceeded the critical level for the first time in July and August of 2004.

Then, Vibrio began to spread. From Prince William Sound to the Gulf of Alaska and Cook Inlet, over the next nine years 22 marine animals known to eat shellfish—sea otters, a beluga whale and a porpoise—were found to be carrying the bacteria.

The cold waters off Maine and New Hampshire have made Vibrio rare in the region. But, the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99.9 percent of the world's oceans. That has already decimated the lobster industry in Southern New England.

"In the North Atlantic, we are seeing a northern march of whole ecosystems toward the poles as the planet warms: predators, prey, and in the case of Vibrio, the parasites as well, moving with their hosts up the globe," said Andrew Pershing, chief scientific officer at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute.

Vibriosis isn't the only concern coming from warming waters. In recent months, Massachusetts, Maine and Rhode Island have been forced to close many areas to shellfishing due to numerous toxic algae outbreaks. They have since been reopened.

As winter approaches, colder sea temperatures reduce the risk of Vibrio bacteria. Current sea temperatures along the coast of New England are in the upper 40s to about 50 degrees, according to NOAA data, well below the danger level. Alaskan waters range from 33 degrees in Cook Inlet along the Kenai Peninsula to 45 in Prince William Sound and 46 in the Gulf of Alaska.

The CDC recommends cooking shellfish, washing your hands after contact with raw shellfish and avoiding contaminating cooked foods with raw shellfish or its juices. For those who love raw oysters, though, it may be wise to ask where they came from and check the NOAA coastal water temperatures or another app for that location. Or you can follow this common lore, which states that we should only be eating shellfish, especially oysters, in months with the letter "R."

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By Lorraine ChowClimate  02:08PM EST
Polar Sea Ice the Size of India Vanishes in Record Heat, Scientists Say

The sea ice covering Earth's two poles are at record lows amidst exceptionally warm global temperatures.

The eight panels show the November sea ice extent in the Arctic roughly every five years since 1978, when satellites started monitoring sea ice.NASA Earth Observatory

Citing satellite measurements from the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), Reuters reported that the extent of sea ice off Antarctica and the Arctic on Dec. 4 was 1.48 million square miles below the 1981-2010 average. To visualize just how much has vanished, the news service explained we've lost area of sea ice as big as India or two Alaskas.

"There are some really crazy things going on," Mark Serreze, NSIDC director told Reuters, adding that parts of the Arctic experienced temperatures 36 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal on certain days last month.

This season's polar sea ice is the smallest ever recorded, according to NSIDC data. Arctic sea ice hit a record low of 3.96 million square miles early December, below the 2006 record for the same time of year.

NASA's Earth Observatory also found that Arctic sea ice extent averaged 3.52 million square miles in November—the lowest November extent in the satellite record.

On the other end of the globe, Antarctica's sea ice measured 4.33 million square miles, the smallest for December and beating the 1982 record, NSIDC found.

Interestingly, Antarctica's melting sea ice appears to contradict a trend that climate skeptics have cited as "proof" that climate change is not happening. While prior observations indeed showed a rise in Antarctic sea ice, NASA found that the planet's overall sea ice has been melting at an average annual rate of 13,500 square miles since 1979—or roughly the size of Maryland every year. As NASA climate scientist Claire Parkinson pointed out, "global sea ice is still decreasing."

The trends in Antarctic sea ice do not contradict evidence that the climate is warming. Watch here for an explainer on how sea ice behaves very differently in the two regions.

Dr. Jan Lieser from the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre also told Australia's ABC network, "sea ice cover in the Arctic as been reducing steadily over the past several decades and climate models also predict that over time sea ice will also reduce around Antarctica."

Scientists say that the shrinking polar sea ice could be due to a number of factors including natural swings, record high temperatures, a rise in greenhouse gases or this year's El Nino event that unlocked the Pacific Ocean's warm waters.

NSIDC's Serreze said that the record-lows from both poles might be down to "blind dumb chance" but noted that "Antarctica is the sleeping elephant that is beginning to stir."

The record retreat alarms wildlife and climate experts. "Sea ice has this beautiful feature that it reflects much of the sun's energy back into space which helps to keep the climate system in the balance, if we're seeing a change in that balance we're seeing a change in the system," Lieser told ABC. "We know that krill is dependent on sea ice as a habitat. We know that certain types of seal give birth to the pups on the sea ice. If the season is shortened this can have massive implications on the ecosystem."

Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research professor Anders Levermann told Reuters that low polar sea ice is a sign of man-made global warming.

"It's an extraordinary departure from the norm," he said.

Meanwhile, President-elect Donald Trump, who thinks climate change is a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese, plans to entirely eliminate all climate research at NASA and is appointing fellow climate-deniers and fossil-fuel bigwigs for cabinet positions, including Rex Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil and rumored candidate for Secretary of State.

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By Democracy Now!Climate  01:31PM EST
Noam Chomsky: Climate Change and Nuclear War, Most Dangerous Threats to the Human Species

Democracy Now! celebrated its 20th anniversary Monday night at the historic Riverside Church in New York City. Among those who addressed more than 2,000 attendants was world-renowned linguistic Noam Chomsky.

Chomsky spoke about the two most dangerous threats the human species faces today: the possibility of nuclear war and the accelerating destruction of human-fueled climate change. Chomsky also addressed the dangers of Donald Trump's climate change denialism—and what it means for the future of the human species.

Watch the video clips below:

Reposted with permission from our media associate Democracy Now!.

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