The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
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.
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.
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.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Tuna auctions are a tourist spectacle in Tokyo. Outside the city's most famous fish market, long queues of visitors hoping for a glimpse of the action begin to form at 5 a.m. The attraction is so popular that last October the Tsukiji fish market, in operation since 1935, moved out from the city center to the district of Toyosu to cope with the crowds.
gmnicholas / E+ / Getty Images
Kristan Porter grew up in a fishing family in the fishing community of Cutler, Maine, where he says all roads lead to one career path: fishing. (Porter's father was the family's lone exception. He suffered from terrible seasickness, and so became a carpenter.) The 49-year-old, who has been working on boats since he was a kid and fishing on his own since 1991, says that the recent warming of Maine's cool coastal waters has yielded unprecedented lobster landings.
The climate crisis is getting costly. Some of the world's largest companies expect to take over one trillion in losses due to climate change. Insurers are increasingly jittery and the world's largest firm has warned that the cost of premiums may soon be unaffordable for most people. Historic flooding has wiped out farmers in the Midwest.
Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.
'We Should Be Retreating Already From the Coastline,' Scientist Suggests After Finding Warm Waters Below Greenland
By Johnny Wood
The Ganges is a lifeline for the people of India, spiritually and economically. On its journey from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, it supports fishermen, farmers and an abundance of wildlife.
The river and its tributaries touch the lives of roughly 500 million people. But having flowed for millennia, today it is reaching its capacity for human and industrial waste, while simultaneously being drained for agriculture and municipal use.
Here are some of the challenges the river faces.
By Jake Johnson
As a growing number of states move to pass laws that would criminalize pipeline protests and hit demonstrators with years in prison, an audio recording obtained by The Intercept showed a representative of a powerful oil and gas lobbying group bragging about the industry's success in crafting anti-protest legislation behind closed doors.
Speaking during a conference in Washington, DC in June, Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), touted "model legislation" that states across the nation have passed in recent months.
AFPM represents a number of major fossil fuel giants, including Chevron, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.
"We've seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017," said Morgan, citing Dakota Access Pipeline protests as the motivation behind the aggressive lobbying effort. "We're up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet."
Big Oil is now using its political power to try and criminalize protests of oil & gas infrastructure.— Friends of the Earth (@foe_us) August 19, 2019
"This legislation has potential to punish public participation and mischaracterize advocacy protected by the First Amendment."https://t.co/bmiHjONEhy
The audio recording comes just months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that would punish anti-pipeline demonstrators with up to 10 years in prison, a move environmentalists condemned as a flagrant attack on free expression.
"Big Oil is hijacking our legislative system," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said after the Texas Senate passed the bill in May.
As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported Monday, the model legislation Morgan cited in his remarks "has been introduced in various forms in 22 states and passed in ... Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota."
"The AFPM lobbyist also boasted that the template legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support," according to Fang. "In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the version of the bill there, which is being challenged by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even in Illinois, Morgan noted, 'We almost got that across the finish line in a very Democratic-dominated legislature.' The bill did not pass as it got pushed aside over time constraints at the end of the legislative session."
Many of the state bills restricting the right to protest have been "drafted by companies and passed through groups like ALEC, the secretive group of corporate lobbyists trying to rewrite state laws to benefit corporations over people." @greenpeaceusa https://t.co/ZxpTjWdrwT— Stand Up To ALEC (@StandUpToALEC) May 6, 2019
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.