EPA Head Wheeler Hints Administration Could Meddle With Next Climate Assessment
The Trump administration might have tried to bury the most recent U.S. government climate change report by releasing it the Friday of a holiday weekend, but it did not interfere with the writing of the report itself, officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirmed to the Huffington Post. But if former coal lobbyist and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler gets his way, that could change when it comes time to write the next national climate assessment.
Volume II of the Fourth National Climate Assessment, released Friday, stated clearly that the global climate is changing faster than at any time in human history, primarily because of human actions. It further warned that continued inaction could cost the U.S. thousands of lives and billions of dollars. That's a conclusion that various administration officials, including the president himself, have disputed. Wheeler added his voice to the chorus during remarks made at a Washington Post event Wednesday.
"Going forward, I think we need to take a look at the modeling that's used for the next assessment," Wheeler said, as POLITICO reported.
Writing for The Huffington Post, Sara Boboltz and Alexander C. Kaufman explained why political meddling of the type Wheeler described could have serious consequences:
The announcement is concerning in light of a previous incident of political interference. In 2005, Philip Clooney, a former oil lobbyist working for the George W. Bush administration, was caught altering language in climate science reports to weaken the link between fossil fuels and rising global temperatures.
What Wheeler appeared to suggest Wednesday goes beyond that. He said the administration could take a dangerously optimistic route by developing what the EPA chief called "more realistic projections" incorporating future advancements in "technology and innovation."
Wheeler also accused the administration of former President Barack Obama of directing report authors to focus on worst-case-scenario outcomes.
"The drafting of this report was drafted at the direction of the Obama administration," Wheeler claimed at the event. "And I don't know this for a fact—I wouldn't be surprised if the Obama administration told the report's authors to take a look at the worst case scenario for this report."
Wheeler's comments echoed a misrepresentation by press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders that the report was based on "the most extreme modeled scenario, which contradicts long established trends," as CNN reported.
Report author and climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe took to Twitter to correct the administration's characterization of the report's use of the "worst case scenario." The report actually took pains to lay out several different emissions scenarios, she explained. But the actual rise of greenhouse gas emissions in the past 15 to 20 years is in fact closer to higher emissions scenarios.
Moreover, the scenarios chapter in Vol 1 discussed the scenarios in detail, and it concludes that “the observed inc… https://t.co/of9HpLLyPR— Prof. Katharine Hayhoe (@Prof. Katharine Hayhoe)1543336844.0
End Climate Silence founder and Director Dr. Genevieve Guenther further laid out the problem with dismissing the report as focusing on the most extreme projections. Climate scientists typically use several different emissions trajectories that lead to different concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide and different temperature increases. The "worst" of these, referred to as RCP8.5, is actually based on "our current trend," Guenther pointed out.
.@PressSec said today that #NCA4 was based on "the most extreme scenario, which contradicts long established trends… https://t.co/7HPO5YuyZi— Dr. Genevieve Guenther (@Dr. Genevieve Guenther)1543356030.0
Obama's Science Adviser John Holdren also disputed the claim that he had directed the scientists and agencies behind the report to reach any particular conclusion.
"My only instruction was that the U.S. Global Change Research Program should continue the distinguished tradition of the first three by drawing on the most current peer-reviewed science to illuminate what climate change is doing and is projected to do across the geographic regions and economic and ecological underpinnings of well-being in the United States," he told POLITICO in an email.
The national climate assessment is mandated by Congress to be released every four years. Despite Wheeler's claims, most of the recent assessment was drafted and revised while Trump, not Obama, was in office, as Hayhoe confirmed.
I checked my own records, and I began Chapter 2 in May 2017 and sent the first draft to my co-authors on June 17. T… https://t.co/cxcBNeJDzB— Prof. Katharine Hayhoe (@Prof. Katharine Hayhoe)1543444094.0
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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