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Climate Deniers' Big Day on Capitol Hill

No one thought that Lamar "my career has been funded by fossil fuels" Smith was going to put on an unbiased hearing on climate science. After all, the minority Democrats on Smith's House Committee on Science, Space, & Technology published a report this month, Much Ado About Nothing, which details Smith's "crusade to attempt to undermine and invalidate" Tom Karl's pause-buster study. (Yet Smith still can't get NOAA's name right)!

Although little was said about Karl, Wednesday's House Science Committee hearing with Drs. Michael Mann, John Christy, Judith Curry and Roger Pielke Jr. was a quite a circus. Which is exactly why someone who's been through Smith's nonsense, Dr. David Titley, wrote for the Washington Post that scientists should boycott these biased hearings.

That would be nice, if that meant that Smith would stop holding them. But since he shows no sign of slowing his inquisition, someone needs to show up to set the record straight and push back on all the denial packed into the hearing like so many clowns in a tiny car.

And that's exactly what Dr. Mann did, successfully walking the tight-rope between correcting other witnesses and coming off as a jerk. Most notably and most clearly getting under Smith's skin, Mann cited a recent Science Magazine article describing Smith's comments at the Heartland conference. Mann read the killer quote about how Smith "acknowledged that the committee is now a tool to advance his political agenda rather than a forum to examine important issues facing the U.S. research community."

In response, Lamar Smith, the esteemed media critic who cited the Daily Mail's bogus Bates story, who has written for Breitbart and said that people should get their news directly from Trump, claimed that Science Magazine is "not known as an objective magazine." As Emily Atkin of the New Republic aptly put it, "The fact that the chairman of the House Science committee doesn't consider that source 'objective' is ACTUALLY MIND BLOWING."

Smith, with pie on his face, also demonstrated his media savvy by citing the never-correct editorial page of the Wall Street Journal on heat records. This opinion is about as solid as cotton candy and has been contradicted by the paper's own reporting.

Speaking of dumb Wall Street Journal opinions, Mann also did a nice job of calling out Pielke's hypocrisy for whining in the Journal about being harassed, after sending threatening letters to Mann and Kevin Trenberth's bosses when they criticized his awful FiveThirtyEight piece that needed correction.

Also needing correction was John Christy, who trotted out his error-laden graph of models and observations. Again, Mann highlighted the foolishness of his fellow witnesses by pointing out how others have corrected Christy many times on the satellite record vs. the thermometer record. And more importantly, he cited the recent research that totally debunks Christy's false contention that models overestimate warming.

And then there's Judith Curry who, true to form, was there to talk about uncertainty (inappropriately). Again Mann was prepared, pointing out that uncertainty is actually a reason to take stronger action sooner. Uncertainty cuts both ways: while Curry and the GOP would have you believe maybe warming won't be so bad, it could actually be much worse than we fear.

Curry also bristled at being referred to as a "climate science denier" in Mann's written testimony. That's silly: She's teamed up with the Kochs, questioned the validity of the endangerment finding and said in her opening statement that it's time to "make the debate about climate change great again." So it is safe to say that "Judith Curry is absolutely a climate denier."

And she proved it in the hearing, denying the science and claiming we don't know how much is human versus natural. In 2014, NASA's Gavin Schmidt laid out the case for Curry that our best estimate is that humans are causing 110 percent of warming. (It's more than 100 percent because natural forces and particulate pollution cause cooling, which CO2 is overcoming to cause warming).

Curry also questioned ocean acidification science, in a way that Brian Kahn noted "is way out of step with most ocean scientists" that he's talked with.

Other odds and ends that made an appearance include the 1998 documents showing Big Oil's plan to inject uncertainty into the climate debate, the long-debunked 70s cooling myth and Smith's tired denial of the consensus.

So like any good circus, there were plenty of clowns, people lion, tired grr-causing myths and bear-ly believable statements.

Oh my.

Here's the full hearing:

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Science vs. White Nationalist Tabloids

Everyone's favorite climate scientist witch-hunter and man who told us to believe Donald Trump instead of the news, Lamar Smith, held a hearing Tuesday on Making EPA Great Again.

Despite a line-up of three industry voices against a lone voice of reason in Dr. Rush Holt of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the hearing failed to land any substantial blows against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Instead, Holt and the pro-science members of the committee explained the many ways in which Smith's "sound science" fixation sounds stupid to those who know science.

While Smith did his best to use this weekend's fake news about the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to stir up drama, the fact that the "whistleblower" told E&E there was no data manipulation took the wind right out of his sails. Instead of problems with the conclusion of the study, the concern Bates had was that the data wasn't archived properly because the paper was rushed, which isn't true. So when Smith asked if Science would retract the paper, Holt reiterated these points. He added, "This is not the making of a big scandal" and "there is nothing in the Karl paper that, in our current analysis, suggests retraction." Score one for science!

The industry speakers, on the other hand, made relatively drab and inconsequential statements in the form of vague platitudes about the need for "sound science" instead of "secret science." For those who missed it, The Intercept had a great piece the other day on this Orwellian term and its tobacco industry-origins (which the ever-awesome Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson entered into the record to close the hearing). Because while Smith claims it will make science at the EPA better, what it would really do is prevent the EPA from using studies that rely on confidential health records or studies of individual events, which by definition can't be replicated.

Dr. Holt made it clear that, "The Secret Science Act, as it has been previously introduced, has been based on a misunderstanding of how science works." Though, given its design as a vehicle for the tobacco (and now fossil fuel) industry to prevent regulation, one might believe that it is less a misunderstanding of science than a deliberate attempt to cripple it.

The second aspect of "making the EPA great again" was proposed reform to the EPA's Scientific Advisory Boards. This idea was deceptively described by the industry speakers as an effort to increase "diversity" and "balance" and provide more "perspective" to these review boards. What they really do is give industry a seat at the table so they can do what industry wants- fight regulation. That Smith called on Jeffrey Holmstead, who was once disqualified as an expert witness by a judge due to his multiple conflicts of interest, namely lobbying for coal and other energy companies, tells you everything you need to know.

The third witness was Dr. Richard Belzer, an economist and president of "Regulatory Checkbook," who seems to be in the outer orbit of the Koch universe and whose Twitter feed appears to be a bizarre advertisement for a wine website. His main contribution was that cost-benefit analyses should be called benefit-cost Analyses because ... benefits are better? It wasn't really clear.

The last witness on Smith's side was Dr. Kimberly White of the American Chemistry Council. She made a valiant effort to portray the injection of biased industry voices into the federal peer review process as a matter of balance and perspective, which one would expect from someone representing an industry group.

Our favorite part of the hearing, though, came not from any of the witnesses but from Rep. Don Beyer, who donned a red "Keep The EPA Great" hat after saying that, "We will not help anyone by disputing climate science with stories from white nationalist websites like Breitbart.com or tabloids like the Daily Mail."

Given Rep. Smith's history of writing op-eds for Breitbart and reliance on the Mail to attack NOAA, we couldn't have put it better ourselves.

Watch the hearing here:

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Koch Brothers Take Root in Trump Administration

As Donald Trump's administration begins to take shape, we're learning more and more about the Koch puppets that Trump is appointing to #StaffTheSwamp.

The other day, an Environmental Defense Fund post called out Trump's EPA Admin nominee Scott Pruitt for possible impropriety and what looks like "pay-to-play" situations, where Pruitt, on multiple occasions, received money from the energy industry and shortly after took efforts to defend them.

And as E&E points out, since Pruitt has a super-PAC, he can still "keep raising money from the corporate interests he is charged with regulating." On top of that, as one of the first Cabinet-level appointees (who are prohibited from soliciting money) to have a super-PAC (which exists to solicit money), the legality and potential for corruption threatens to undermine what little credibility Scott "unprecedented, secretive alliance" Pruitt would have as the EPA administrator.

But not content merely pulling strings behind the scenes, the Koch network continues to pander the public with an offensively ironic effort to improve the reputation of fossil fuels by supposedly "standing up for poor, underserved communities." (Similar efforts have been taken by tobacco and soft drink companies to sell their products.) Hiroko Tabuchi, in a great piece in the New York Times, pulls back the curtain on a Koch effort to convert minorities to its fossil fuel religion—in some cases fairly literally, as the piece opens with a scene from a Koch-sponsored gospel concert.

The front group putting on the show is Fueling U.S. Forward, which has already come up a couple times over the short year of its existence. It puts a contemptible, self-serving effort into painting fossil fuels as "pro-human" and "sustainable," in order to improve the public image of the Koch's oily empire.

For those wondering if perhaps the Kochs really are sticking up for the poor and not just using them for their own gain, a 2016 literature review makes it clear that "children, and especially poor children, now bear a disproportionate burden of disease from both environmental pollution and climate change due to fossil fuel combustion."

And abroad, even more heartbreaking are the 1.3 million African children who are starving thanks to a drought amplified by climate change. Their families are surviving by making soup out of chalk or ash from the fire, with one man even contemplating selling his 10 year old daughter as a bride so she'd be the husband's responsibility to feed.

Meanwhile, the Koch's Fueling U.S. Forward reportedly planned to spend $10 million a year on its pro-fossil fuel efforts.

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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Does Trump Even Know the Koch Brothers Are Pulling His Strings?

Despite the fact that Donald Trump campaigned against special interests and suggested his primary opponents who begged for Koch cash were puppets, he now seems to be happy to #StaffTheSwamp with Koch operatives.

Beyond Myron Ebell and David Schnare on his environment team, news broke Sunday that Trump picked Steven Groves to lead the Department of State "landing team." Groves is an international policy wonk at the Koch (and Exxon, and Korean gov't) funded Heritage Foundation, and just last week, he wrote an article advocating for a pull-out of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as a way to exit the Paris agreement. As the negotiating framework for the UN's climate efforts and the underlying basis for the Paris agreement, if the U.S. were to leave the UNFCCC, it would remove us from the negotiating table altogether.

Not only would this "lead to political consequences with our allies," as Groves admitted in a House Science hearing last April, but it would also mean that Trump wouldn't be able to negotiate an amazing new treaty on climate, as the U.S. would no longer be part of the negotiating framework.

But contradictory advice is nothing new to the Heritage Foundation, which during the Farm Bill fight in 2013 told the GOP to split the bill into two parts. When Republicans did as they were told, Heritage still wasn't happy. Republican Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina said: "Heritage was now scoring against Republicans for doing exactly what Heritage had been espousing only a month before." Because of this stunt, as well as their push for 2013's government shutdown, former House speaker Boehner said: groups like Heritage had "lost all credibility."

Unfortunately, from the top of the Trump administration down, a distinct lack of credibility seems to be the unifying factor. But it is ironic that despite the Koch network's distinct lack of effort to get Trump elected, they are nonetheless filling Trump's administration with their operatives, from VP Mike Pence to CIA chief Mike Pompeo to Ebell, Schnare and Groves. And on the Energy Department front, it's been reported by E&E that Thomas Pyle of Koch-funded American Energy Alliance is running the transition, while the Interior is being led by Doug Domenech, of Koch-funded Texas Public Policy Foundation. And according to PoliticoPRO, on the Treasury team are Heritage-affiliated Bill Walton and Curtis Dubay.

The question is: Does Trump even know the Kochs are pulling his strings? Or does he really think he's "No puppet?"

Why Trump, or Anyone for That Matter, Can't End the War on Coal

For years now, Senate Majority Leader and possible undercover turtle Mitch McConnell has been a stalwart defender of his Kentucky home in the so-called war on coal.

Delegates holding "Trump Digs Coal" signs at the Republican National Convention in July at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.

With Obama on his way out and energy lobbyists ready to move into the White House, McConnell is surely telling everyone the war is soon over, right? Not exactly.

Which is why McConnell now says it's "hard to tell" if jobs will return because coal mining is "a private sector activity." Turns out that cheap natural gas and renewables are the real enemy of coal, not all those pesky regulations that fight asthma, black lung or climate change. After nearly a decade railing against the war on coal, it seems regulations are secondary to the one force the right loves most: the free market.

Which is why we now see a variety of stories that explain why Donald Trump can't stop the growth of clean energy. So he'll probably have to walk back on this campaign promise. Just like his promise to drain the swamp. Or to release his tax returns. Or to disclose his charitable giving. Or to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. Or to repeal Obamacare. Or to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it.

At this rate, Trump might break a record for broken promises before even starting his term.

Which is actually pretty encouraging.

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Coal Will Not Cure Global Poverty

The UN Economic Commission for Europe and World Coal Association are holding an event today and Thursday to tout the idea that coal is a cure for poverty. Sound off to you? There's a good reason for that.

A group of more than a dozen international organizations lead by the Overseas Development Institute have put out an in-depth report on the bogus claim that coal can cure poverty. It's true that more than a billion people around the world lack access to energy, but the report shows how more coal will make things worse.

The basic facts are very simple: Coal is a primary source of air pollution, which kills millions, and is a major driver of climate change. Climate change is very bad for all of us, but even worse for the world's most vulnerable.

At least 2,400 coal-fired power plants are in the planning or construction phases around the world right now. Building just a third of those would push the world over 2 C of global warming, worsen climate impacts and negatively impact the millions of people that are already struggling with air pollution.

Multiple coal companies, anti-climate action politicians, fossil fuel PR pros and denier groups have perpetuated the myth that getting rid of fossil fuels will deny millions of people access to energy and its economic benefits. Surely it is merely coincidence that as coal use declines in the U.S., they're hoping developing countries pick up the dirty energy addiction.

But they neglect to mention that only about 15 percent of the world's "energy poor" live in urban areas with existing power grids, the rest residing in rural areas where the grid doesn't reach. Building more coal plants to feed into the grid that people cannot connect to is not going to help. It will only eat away at the quickly-dwindling global carbon budget. If they actually wanted these rural populations to get connected, then distributed wind and solar would be the obvious answer, as they don't require a centralized grid.

So coal, as a poverty cure? That's rich.

Climate Deniers Peddled Conspiracy Theories as Millions Prepared for Hurricane Matthew

Hurricane Matthew wasn't an ordinary storm. It killed more than a thousand people in Haiti and at least 20 in the U.S. Its trail of widespread devastation was shocking and it will take the affected regions time to recover.

But while 1.5 million people were being asked by Republican governors to head to safety for the fear for their lives, Drudge wondered if the government was lying to its people to "make an exaggerated point on climate." During the time when hurricane-related reported deaths in Haiti jumped from 20 to more than 300, Drudge questioned National Hurricane Center's data in a now-infamous tweet. Several people (such as Jason Samenow of WaPo and Libby Nelson of Vox) wrote against his outrageous claims for not only trying to score cheap political gains but also putting lives in danger.

Not to be outdone, Rush Limbaugh too accused the government of "hyping Hurricane Matthew to sell climate change," earning the ire of even the Daily Dot.

Without having any other evidence to disprove the solid climate science linking Hurricane Matthew to climate change, the denial community has been repeating one fact ad nauseam—the arbitrarily defined "major hurricane drought." It's a classic case of cherry-picking data that trivializes the lives disrupted and lost by major storms like Matthew, Sandy and others.

While the U.S. has been fortunate that no hurricane has made landfall in the past decade as a Category 3 or higher, the fact remains that hurricane activity in the Atlantic basin has increased since the 1970s. And there is also increasing evidence of landfalling typhoons in Asia have become more intense over the last four decades due to warmer waters. Politifact has a great article on this subject.

From the time it became apparent that the hurricane will seriously impact the U.S., everyone swung into action. Experts sought to look for climate signals to understand in advance what potential impacts might be. Governors announced states of emergency and mandated evacuations. Climate deniers peddled conspiracy theories.

While most stocked up on food and water, deniers were content with tin foil.

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