Dr. Michael Mann on Paris and Clean Power Plan: 'We’re Seeing Real Movement'
Climate Reality recently chatted with world-renowned climatologist and geophysicist Dr. Michael E. Mann, distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University, ahead of our Climate Reality Leadership Corps training in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At the training, Dr. Mann participated in the panel "Our Changing Storms."
“We predicted this long ago.” Dr. @MichaelEMann on the changing face of extreme weather https://t.co/YFYt4FoLsA #ActOnClimate— Climate Reality (@Climate Reality)1508811720.0
Climate Reality: The Trump administration recently announced its intent to repeal the Clean Power Plan. Could you please speak to the importance of emissions regulations in the fight for climate solutions?
Dr. Michael Mann: The Clean Power Plan, first of all, demonstrated good faith on the part of the United States in meeting our obligations to the world community in combatting the climate change problem. It gave us the leverage to achieve a very important bilateral agreement with China a few years ago, by [President] Barack Obama. And, of course, it set the stage for the monumental progress that we saw in Paris. So the U.S. was able to go into those negotiations with quite a bit of credibility because it was demonstrating a willingness to act in a meaningful way on this problem—through the Clean Power Plan, through the Obama era regulations on automobile efficiency and clean energy standards, and incentives for renewable energy.
What we're seeing right now, it isn't just the dismantling of the environmental policy success of the last administration, the Obama administration. We are seeing the dismantling of policies that were put in place by both Republican and Democratic administrations over the past half century. It's unprecedented. It's catastrophic. It's, as far as I'm concerned, clearly impeachable. [EPA Administrator] Scott Pruitt has violated the public faith by acting on behalf of polluting interests rather than the people he is supposed to represent.
Climate Reality: Realistically, what sort of regulation at the Federal and State levels do you believe is necessary to effectively mitigate climate change?
Dr. Michael Mann: The irony is that we may well meet our obligations under the Paris treaty, even with the current administration playing an adversarial role. That's simply because of all of the progress that we are seeing now at the state level, at the municipal level thanks to efforts by folks like Al Gore to really mobilize the American people on this issue.
I think we're seeing real movement, and I think we're seeing so much movement that there's really nothing that the polluting interests can do to stop the transition that's underway. All they can do is try to slow it down. If they can slow it down, well, they can make more fossil fuel profits in the meantime.
What they're really worried about are stranded assets—you know, all of the fossil fuels that they currently have on their bank sheets. So their agenda is to try to extract and sell as much fossil fuels as they can before the inevitable happens—before the global transition that's underway ultimately leads us away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy.
That transition is happening anyways. We may well meet our obligations under the Paris treaty, even without any support from the administration or from the Congress. That having been said, it makes it tougher, obviously, for us to meet our reduction targets, and it slows down that necessary transition.
#LeadOnClimate: Clean energy is one of the most powerful solutions to the climate crisis. Retweet if you agree with… https://t.co/MNFSL4Dryg— Climate Reality (@Climate Reality)1508334181.0
Ironically, it puts the U.S. in a less competitive position. The rest of the world recognizes that the future of our global economy will be in renewable energy. That's the great economic revolution of this century. And what Trump and those whose agenda he's advancing are doing is holding us back as the rest of the world moves on, and guaranteeing that we lose out in this economic race.
It's really misguided on multiple levels. It's misguided on an environmental level because, ultimately, it means more degradation of the planet. It means increased risks for the American people when it comes to food and water and health and national security. But it also means that we lose out in terms of our international competitiveness as a nation.
We'll still get there. But it will slow that progress down a bit, much to our detriment—and much to the world's detriment. Because the fact is, every ton of carbon that we put into the atmosphere does additional damage, and we want to emit as little carbon as we possibly can.
As Dr. Mann makes clear, there's no mystery what's happening to our planet. And there's no mystery about how we solve this crisis by switching from dirty fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designed America's Clean Power Plan to accelerate this shift and cut the dirty power plant emissions driving climate change. But now, fossil fuel interests leading EPA want to repeal the Clean Power Plan and take us back to the dark days of dirty energy.
We're not about to just sit back and let that happen. If you're ready to act, join us and thousands of others by adding your comment in support of America's Clean Power Plan.
Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.