Whatever his voters intended, we can abandon the notion that President-elect Donald Trump is a right-wing populist. Right-wing, yes, authoritarian, probably, demagogue certainly.
But his cabinet gives the lie to populism as part of his character. Wall Street may have paid Hilary Clinton hundreds of thousands of dollars to make speeches; but it is Trump who has given Wall Street four cabinet slots, three of them to Goldman-Sachs alumni. (Imagine the outcry if a President Clinton had done that). There's a clutch of corporate CEOs—sate, labor, small business; a retired military trio—national security advisor, defense and homeland security; Republican senators, governors and congressmen make up the remainder, plus Ben Carson, who had conceded he was not qualified for such a post. So far, we have four billionaires.
Best piece yet on Trump's Interior pick, Zinke @EcoWatch https://t.co/Pj4JYW44g1— Robert F. Kennedy Jr (@Robert F. Kennedy Jr)1481919367.0
Based on his choices Trump doesn't like or respect Hispanics, but admires Russia greatly.
Trump himself just explained that he wanted a cabinet of "people that made a fortune!" His argument—making a fortune is proof that someone is a great negotiator and that's the job of the cabinet. This is hardly the stuff of populism, right or left. His choices reveal some other traits. He leans toward inside financial manipulators, military brass and the businesses that dominated the American economy of his youth—fossil fuels, manufacturing and real estate. He has no interest in the major drivers of the economy of the future—technology, communications, services other than finance. The American "Greatness" he aspires to, as many said during the campaign, is the world as it existed before 1970. This is pure reaction, nostalgia as politics, memory as vision.
If anyone has any questions left about Donald Trump's #energy plans, check out his new website. https://t.co/ZNxaXph1P8 via @EcoWatch— NRDC 🌎 (@NRDC 🌎)1481753825.0
Steve Bannon's choice as senior counselor is clearly the most outrageous. For a while it was hard to decide which of the choices ranked as the second most appalling—was it a labor secretary who wants to drive down wages for working Americans, an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator who believes that the cornerstone of the agency's mission—clean air and pure water for every American—is outrageous federal overreach or an interior secretary who wants to turn America's public lands over to commercial interests?
Even Climate Denier Glenn Beck Calls Trump's New Chief Strategist Steve Bannon 'Terrifying' https://t.co/SFgmC80JgW @dotearth @tcktcktck— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1479264309.0
Sadly, those have all been, in the pun of the moment, "trumped" by the choice of Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. Tillerson has a rock-solid record of putting the interests of the oil and gas industry ahead of those of the U.S. He never repeated, but also never retracted, the explicit statement by his predecessor, Lee Raymond, that ExxonMobil was not an American company and did not make its decisions based on "what's good for" the U.S.
Trump Taps Exxon's Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, Confirms 'Support of Big Oil and Putin' https://t.co/OA47LMjMJ1 @OpenSecretsDC— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1481666708.0
He should be asked in his confirmation hearings whether he ran the company as an American or rogue, enterprise. The evidence is fairly clear. ExxonMobil was the first oil company to challenge U.S. foreign policy on channeling the oil wealth of Iraq through its central government, signing an oil exploration agreement with the Kurdish Authority. More ominously, when the U.S. was imposing sanctions on Russia, Tillerson maneuvered to complete an Exxon well drilling project in the Arctic Ocean even after the U.S. imposed sanctions.
Exxon's completion of the well enabled Putin to prove to the world that Russia's Arctic reserves were a reality, strengthening his hand is withstanding the pressure of sanctions. It also established Exxon as a reliable friend of the Russian autocrat, insuring Exxon's billion dollar joint ventures from hostile Russian action while they remained suspended by sanctions. But Exxon-Mobil went further, negotiating new deals with Russian oil companies already slated for sanctions by the West at that summer's St. Petersburg Economic Forum. One observer commented that "By defying the White House, the oil majors salvaged what would have otherwise been an embarrassing event for the Kremlin."
Tillerson openly boasted of lobbying against and evading the impact, of the sanctions, boasting that "Our views are being heard at the highest levels. ... There has been no impact on any of our business activities in Russia to this point, nor has there been any discernible impact on the relationship" with Rosneft, one of the sanctioned Russian oil companies closest to Putin. Later sanctions bit. The company has reported that it has lost a billion dollars to the final Western crackdown on investing in Russia.
Raymond's view that Exxon is not an American company, which Tillerson clearly shared, is not surprising. ExxonMobil's reserves are predominantly—70 percent—foreign. (Canadian tar sands are the largest single portion of those foreign reserves). So, relationships with the governments of places like Russia, Nigeria and Qatar are extremely important to Exxon and Tillerson.
But Russia, after Canada, is uniquely important to Exxon (and Tillerson's pension which is tied to the company's stock price). Exxon's deals position it, once sanctions are gone to exploit, the country's Arctic shelf, estimated to contain 105 billion barrels of oil and gas, more than the U.S. and Canadian Arctic combined. Putin's Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavroy, has publicly endorsed the choice of Tillerson as a "pragmatist."
Media coverage of Tillerson's Putin connections have focused on one aspect of the US conflict with Russia—Putin's aspirations to recover influence and perhaps actual control over areas on Russia's borders which were formerly part of the Soviet Empire—particularly the Ukraine and the Baltic.
But there are looming and more immediate threats to American interests. Over the last four months, Russia has constructed a new partnership with OPEC to manipulate global oil markets, limit supply and raise prices. Under the unprecedented agreement signed in Vienna side by side with OPEC, Russia along with Oman, Azerbaijan and the Sudan, agreed to cooperate with OPEC and coordinate cuts in production. Markets responded to these events by raising oil prices by 12 percent. Russia has now joined Saudi Arabia and Iran in declaring war not only on climate protection, and the long term survival of the planet, but on the core short term economic interests of U.S., Japanese, Indian, Chinese and European drivers, shippers and economies—affordable fuel. Global economic growth is once again threatened by manipulated oil markets.
Exxon is a key beneficiary if producers win this economic war. And Exxon's CEO has just been nominated to govern the U.S. response to this war. It's as if after Pearl Harbor Franklin Roosevelt had nominated a key Japanese industrialist to mobilize American industry to win the war.
Tillerson should face some tough questions in his confirmation hearings. And then his nomination should be quashed—the Senate should not confirm the first secretary of state in American history whose primary demonstrated loyalty was not to the U.S.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Did you know that some snakes can fly?
The south Asian paradise tree snake (Chrysopelea paradisi) can launch itself into the air and glide from one tree branch to another. And when it does, it moves its body in waves in something known as aerial undulation. Scientists have long known how the snakes moved. But they didn't know why. Until now.
The Cube is home to a 23-camera motion capture system. Jake Socha
The snakes wore 11 to 17 infrared-reflective markers, which gave the team high-resolution data while still allowing the animals to move freely. Jake Socha
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The oceans could look much emptier by 2100, according to a new study that found that most fish species would not be able to survive in their current habitat if average global temperatures rise 4.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, as The Guardian reported.
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Independence Day weekend is a busy time for coastal communities as people flock to the beaches to soak up the sun during the summer holiday. This year is different. Some of the country's most popular beach destinations in Florida and California have decided to close their beaches to stop the surge in coronavirus cases.
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For some combat veterans, the Fourth of July is not a time to celebrate the independence of the country they love. Instead, the holiday is a terrifying ordeal. That's because the noise of fireworks – loud, sudden, and reminiscent of war – rocks their nervous system. Daily fireworks in many U.S. cities in recent weeks have no doubt been interfering with the sleep and peace of mind of thousands of veterans.
What Is PTSD?<p><a href="https://theconversation.com/veterans-refugees-and-victims-of-war-crimes-are-all-vulnerable-to-ptsd-130144" target="_blank">PTSD</a> can occur when someone is exposed to extreme exposure traumatic experience. Typically, the trauma involves a threat of death, serious injury, or sexual violence. Along with war veterans, it happens to refugees; to victims of gun violence, rape and other physical assaults; and to survivors of car accidents and natural disasters like earthquakes or tornadoes.</p><p>PTSD can also happen by witnessing trauma or its aftermath, often the case with <a href="https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ptsd/what-is-ptsd" target="_blank">first responders</a> and <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-many-faces-anxiety-and-trauma/202006/invisible-wounds-the-frontline-heroes" target="_blank">front-line workers</a>.</p><p>All this adds up to tens of millions of Americans. Up to 30% of combat veterans and first responders, and 8% of civilians, <a href="https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/treat/essentials/epidemiology.asp" target="_blank">fulfill the diagnostic criteria for PTSD</a>. And that criteria is not easily met: symptoms of PTSD include nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive trauma memories, difficulty sleeping, avoidance of reminders of trauma, negative emotions, and what we call "hyperarousal symptoms."</p>
Fireworks Can Trigger Flashbacks<p>Hyperarousal, a core component of PTSD, occurs when a person is hyper-alert to any sign of threat – constantly on edge, easily startled and continuously screening the environment.</p><p>Imagine, for instance, stepping down the stairs in the dark after hearing a noise; you're worried an intruder might be downstairs. Then a totally unpredictable loud sound explodes right outside your window.</p><p>For people with PTSD, that sound – reminiscent of gunfire, a thunderstorm or a car crash – <a href="https://theconversation.com/veterans-refugees-and-victims-of-war-crimes-are-all-vulnerable-to-ptsd-130144" target="_blank">can cause</a> a panic attack or trigger flashbacks, a sensory experience that makes it seem as if the old trauma is happening here and now. Flashbacks can be so severe that combat veterans may suddenly drop to the ground, the same way they would when an explosion took place in combat. Later, the experience can trigger nightmares, insomnia or worsening of other PTSD symptoms.</p><p>Those of us who set off fireworks need to ask ourselves: Are those few minutes of fun worth the hours, days, or weeks of torment that will begin for some of our friends and neighbors – including many who put their lives on the line to protect us?</p>
Who Else Is Affected?<p>Millions of others, though not diagnosed with PTSD, may similarly be affected by fireworks. <a href="https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics" target="_blank">One in five Americans</a> have an anxiety disorder, many with symptoms of hyperarousal. Also impacted are those with autism or developmental disabilities; they find it difficult to cope with the noise, or just the drastic change from life routines. Then there are people who have to work, holiday or not: nurses, physicians and first responders, who have to be up at 4 a.m. for a 30-hour shift.</p><h3>How to Reduce the Negative Impact</h3><p>There are ways to reduce how fireworks affect others:</p><ul><li>For those with PTSD, the unexpected nature of fireworks is probably the worst part. So at least make it as predictable as possible. Do it in designated areas during designated times. Don't explode one, for instance, two hours after the designated time window. And avoid setting them off <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jul/04/fireworks-ptsd-fourth-of-july-veterans-shooting-survivors" target="_blank">on the 3rd</a>. People are less prepared then.</li><li>If you're aware that a veteran or trauma survivor lives in the neighborhood, move the noise as far as possible from their home and give them prior warning. Consider putting a sign in your front yard noting the time you'll set the fireworks.</li><li>Remember, it doesn't have to be super loud to make it fun. Consider using <a href="https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/504964-its-time-for-silent-fireworks" target="_blank">silent fireworks</a>. And you don't have to be the one who lights the fireworks. Simply enjoy watching while your city or township does it safely.</li></ul>
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Koala populations across parts of Australia are on track to become extinct before 2050 unless "urgent government intervention" occurs, warns a year-long inquiry into Australia's "most loved animal." The report published by the Parliament of New South Wales (NSW) paints a "stark and depressing snapshot" of koalas in Australia's southeastern state.
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By Jeff Berardelli
For the past year, some of the most up-to-date computer models from the world's top climate modeling groups have been "running hot" – projecting that global warming may be even more extreme than earlier thought. Data from some of the model runs has been confounding scientists because it challenges decades of consistent projections.
International Effort to Evaluate Climate Models<p>For the past 25 years the international community has been evaluating and comparing the world's most sophisticated climate models produced by various teams at universities, research centers, and government agencies. The effort is organized by the World Climate Research Programme under the United Nations World Meteorological Organization.</p><p>Climate models are complicated computer programs composed of millions of lines of code that calculate the physical properties and interactions between the main climate forces like the atmosphere, oceans, and solar input. But models also go a lot further, incorporating other systems like ice sheets, forests, and the biosphere, to name a few. The models are then used to simulate the real-world climate system and project how certain changes, like added pollution or land-use changes, will alter the climate.</p><p>Every few years there is a new comprehensive international evaluation called the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP). In the sixth such effort, known as CMIP6 and now under way, experts are reviewing about 100 models.</p><p>Information gleaned from this effort will act as a scientific foundation for the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) next major assessment report, scheduled for release in 2021. The goal of the report – the sixth in 30 years – is to inform the international community about how much the climate has changed, and, importantly, how much change can be expected in coming decades.</p>
A Conundrum Emerges<p>Over the past year, the CMIP6 collection of models being reviewed threw researchers an unexpected curveball: a significant number of the climate model runs showed substantially more global warming than previous model versions had projected. If accurate, the international climate goals would be nearly impossible to achieve, and there would be significantly more extreme impacts worldwide.</p><p>A foundational experiment in every report addresses "sensitivity": If you double levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) that were in the air before the Industrial Revolution, how much warming do the models show? This doubling is not expected for a few more decades, but it is a quick way to communicate the critical role of greenhouse gases in changing the climate.</p><p>The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by 35% since the 1800s because of the burning of fossil fuels. As a result, global temperatures have already increased by more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit.</p><p>In the first IPCC assessment report, published in 1990, the answer to that question about the impact of doubling carbon dioxide gave a fairly wide range of results – between 2.7-8 degrees F of global warming. Since then, four more assessments issued six to seven years apart reached nearly the exact same conclusion on sensitivity.</p><p>But that sensitivity may, for the first time, change significantly in next year's assessment. Why? Because starting last year, numerous models in the CMIP6 collection displayed even bigger spikes in temperature upon doubling of CO2 concentrations. We're in serious trouble if the climate sensitivity falls in the mid or upper range of the previous assessments. But if the new, higher estimates are correct, the impacts on civilization would be catastrophic.</p>
In the above CarbonBrief interactive visualization, the bars offer a comparison in the range of sensitivity in the CMIP5 models (gray) and CMIP6 models (blue).
New and Encouraging Evidence Is Emerging<p>At first, scientists were uncertain whether the new model runs were on to something, so the international modeling community dug in to produce multiple studies. The results are not yet conclusive, but a gradual collective sigh of relief seems to be materializing.</p><p>"Evidence is emerging from multiple directions that the models which show the greatest warming in the CMIP6 ensemble are likely too warm," explains Dr. Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.</p><p>For example, <a href="https://www.earth-syst-dynam-discuss.net/esd-2020-23/" target="_blank">a study</a> released April 28 evaluated the past performance of the models making up the CMIP6 ensemble. The team assigned weights to each model based upon historical performance of their warming projections, weighing the poorer performing models less. By doing so, both the mean warming and the range of warming scenarios in the CMIP6 ensemble decreased, meaning the warmest models were the ones with weaker historical performance. This result supports a finding that a subset of the models are too warm.</p><p>That conclusion is supported by another new study evaluating one particular model – the Community Earth System Model (CESM2) – that showed greater warming. Using that model, the researchers simulated the climate in the early Eocene era, about 50 million years ago, when rainforests thrived in the Arctic and Antarctic. The CESM2 simulated a historical climate that seems way too warm compared with what is known about that era from geological data, indicating that the model is likely also too warm in its future projections.</p><p>Two other recent studies of the CMIP6 models being evaluated use clever analysis methods to <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.earth-syst-dynam-discuss.net/esd-2019-86/&sa=D&ust=1589209938203000&usg=AFQjCNHYwFB-1KqndGfJ4sXdrrm9DpbLaQ" target="_blank">narrow the range</a> of future warming projections and also <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/12/eaaz9549&sa=D&ust=1589209938203000&usg=AFQjCNEhKY1YZ19qgjSZ_hJM14JmzqXOXw" target="_blank">reduce the projected warming</a> of the CMIP6 models by 10 to 15%.</p><p>Through the intensive research spurred by the CMIP6 climate-sensitivity curveball, scientists have been able to turn a confounding challenge into a confidence builder, providing even greater certainty than they had before in both the abilities of the climate science community and in the computer models used. Moreover, the experience has helped unearth uncertainties remaining in the modeling process.</p><p>Experts conclude much of this uncertainty probably lies in the complexity of clouds. "We have been looking as a community at why the models with greater warming are doing what they are doing – and it's tied to cloud feedbacks in the southern mid-latitudes mostly," explains Schmidt.</p><p>In fact, <a href="https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/26/eaba1981" target="_blank">a new study</a> addressing the increased sensitivity was published in Science Advances stating, "Cloud feedbacks and cloud-aerosol interactions are the most likely contributors to the high values and increased range of ECS [sensitivity] in CMIP6."</p>
Understanding the Complexity of Clouds<p>It's long been known in climate modeling circles that cloud processes and interactions are a potential weak link for climate modeling. That reality has been brought front and center by the urgent challenges posed during this CMIP6 evaluation period, but the current evaluation of models also provides an opportunity for discovery and improvement.</p><p>Cloud complexity comes from the reality that clouds have a multitude of sizes, altitudes, and textures. Some clouds cool Earth by providing shade, reflecting sunlight back into space. Others act like a blanket, trapping heat and warming the world.</p><p>Given that about <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/lookingatearth/icesat_light.html" target="_blank">70% of the globe</a> is covered by clouds at any given time, it's no surprise that they play an integral role in regulating the climate. The challenge is to figure out which types of clouds will increase, which will decrease, and what the net effect will be on cooling or warming as the climate changes.</p><p><a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-019-0310-1" target="_blank">One study</a> last year reached an alarming conclusion: Left unchecked, the release of CO2 into the atmosphere may lead to a tipping point where shallow low clouds disappear – leading to runaway, catastrophic warming of nearly 15 degrees F. While scientists see that outcome as only a remote possibility, it drives home the urgent need to better understand clouds.</p><p>"We have a saying at NOAA: It isn't rocket science – it's much, much harder than that," quips Dr. Chris Fairall, ATOMIC's lead investigator. "One of the major problems for modeling is there is not clean separation of scales." The photo below is one that Fairall took from the NOAA P-3 aircraft.</p>
Investigating the Secrets of Clouds<p>To address the urgent question about the dynamics and role of clouds in a warming world, NOAA and European partners launched their ongoing research effort unprecedented in scale. The U.S. contribution, ATOMIC – short for Atlantic Tradewind Ocean-Atmosphere Mesoscale Interaction Campaign – is an international science mission that was featured recently on "<a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/video/study-aims-to-examine-links-between-climate-change-and-clouds/" target="_blank">CBS This Morning: Saturday</a>."</p>
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To hear many journalists tell it, the spring of 2020 has brought a series of extraordinary revelations. Look at what the nation has learned: That our health-care system was not remotely up to the challenge of a deadly pandemic. That our economic safety net was largely nonexistent. That our vulnerability to disease and death was directly tied to our race and where we live. That our political leadership sowed misinformation that left people dead. That systemic racism and the killing of Black people by police is undiminished, despite decades of protest and so many Black lives lost.
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