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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The Washington Redskins will retire their controversial name and logo, the National Football League (NFL) team announced Monday.
By Alyssa Murdoch, Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle and Sapna Sharma
Summer has finally arrived in the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska, liberating hundreds of thousands of northern stream fish from their wintering habitats.
A Good News Story?<p>On the surface, the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/fwb.13569" target="_blank">results from our study</a> appear to provide a "good news" story. Warming temperatures were linked to higher numbers of fish, more species overall and, therefore, potentially more fishing opportunities for northerners.</p><p>Initially, we were surprised to learn that warming was increasing the distribution of cold-adapted fish. We reasoned that modest amounts of warming could lead to benefits such as increased food and winter habitat availability without reaching stressful levels for many species.</p>
Photo of Arctic grayling (left) and Dolly Varden trout (right). Alyssa Murdoch / Lilian Tran / Nunavik Research Centre and Tracey Loewen / Fisheries and Oceans Canada<p>Yet, not all fish species fared equally well. Ecologically unique northern species — those that have evolved in colder, more nutrient-poor environments, such as Arctic grayling and Dolly Varden trout — were showing declines with warming.</p>
Fish Strandings and Buried Eggs<p>Recent news headlines run the gamut for Pacific salmon — from their increased escapades <a href="https://nunatsiaq.com/stories/article/more-pacific-salmon-showing-up-in-western-arctic-waters/" target="_blank">into the Arctic</a> to <a href="https://www.juneauempire.com/news/warm-waters-across-alaska-cause-salmon-die-offs/" target="_blank">massive pre-spawning die-offs</a> in central Alaska. Similarly, results from our study revealed different outcomes for fish depending on local climatic conditions, including Pacific salmon.</p><p>We found that warmer spring and fall temperatures may be helping juvenile salmon by providing a longer and more plentiful growing season, and by supporting early egg development in northern regions that were previously too cold for survival.</p><p>In contrast, salmon declined in regions that were experiencing wetter fall conditions, pointing to an increased risk of flooding and sedimentation that could bury or dislodge incubating eggs.</p>
Headwaters of the Wind River within the largely intact Peel River watershed in northern Canada. Don Reid / Wildlife Conservation Society Canada / Author provided<p>Interestingly, we found that certain climatic combinations, such as warmer summer water temperatures with decreased summer rainfall, were important in determining where Pacific salmon could survive. Summer warming in drier watersheds led to declines, suggesting that lowered streamflows may have increased the risk of fish becoming stranded in subpar habitats that were too warm and crowded.</p>
The Fate of Northern Fisheries<p>The promise of a warmer and more accessible Arctic has attracted mounting interest in new economic opportunities, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2019.103637" target="_blank">including fisheries</a>. As warming rates at higher latitudes are already <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank">two to three times global levels</a>, it seems probable that northern biodiversity will experience dramatic shifts in the coming decades.</p><p>Despite the many unknowns surrounding the future of Pacific salmon, many fisheries are currently <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/03632415.2017.1374251" target="_blank">thriving following warmer and more productive northern oceans</a>, and some <a href="https://doi.org/10.14430/arctic68876" target="_blank">Arctic Indigenous communities are developing new salmon fisheries</a>.</p><p>As warming continues, the commercial salmon fishing industry is poised to expand northwards, but its success will largely depend on extenuating factors such as <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060023067" target="_blank">changes to marine habitat and food sources</a> and <a href="https://www.yukon-news.com/news/promising-chinook-salmon-run-failed-to-materialize-in-the-yukon-river-panel-hears/" target="_blank">how many fish are caught during the freshwater stages of their journey</a>.</p><p>Even with the potential for increased northern biodiversity, it is important to recognize that some northern communities may be unable to adapt or may <a href="https://thenarwhal.ca/searching-for-the-yukon-rivers-missing-chinook/" target="_blank">lose individual species that are associated with important cultural values</a>.</p>
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If you get a call from a number you don't recognize, don't hit decline — it might be a contact tracer calling to let you know that someone you've been near has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Interviews With Contact Tracers<p>Contact tracing is a public health strategy that involves identifying everyone who may have been in contact with a person who has the coronavirus. Contact tracers collect information and provide guidance to help contain the transmission of disease.</p><p>It's been used during outbreaks of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), Ebola, measles, and now the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.</p><p>It starts when the local department of health gets a report of a confirmed case of the coronavirus in its community and gives that person a call. The contact tracer usually provides information on how to isolate and when to get treatment, then tries to figure out who else the person may have exposed.</p><p>"We ask who they've been in contact with in the 48 hours prior to symptom onset, or 2 days before the date of their positive test if they don't have symptoms," said <a href="https://case.edu/medicine/healthintegration/people/heidi-gullett" target="_blank">Dr. Heidi Gullett</a>, associate director of the Center for Community Health Integration at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and medical director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health in Ohio.</p>
“You’ve Been Exposed”<p>After the case interview, contact tracers will get to work calling the folks who may have been exposed to the coronavirus by the person who tested positive.</p><p>"We give them recommendations about quarantining or isolating, getting tested, and what to do if they become sick. If they're not already sick, we still want them to self-quarantine so that they don't spread the disease to anyone else if they were to become sick," said Labus.</p><p>Generally, the contact tracer won't ask for additional contacts unless they happen to call someone who is sick or has a confirmed case of the virus. They will help ensure the contact has the resources they need to isolate themselves, if necessary. The contact tracer may continue to stay in touch with that person over the next 14 days.</p><p>"We follow the percentage of people that were contacts, then converted into being actual cases of the virus. It's an important marker to help us understand what kind of transmission happens in our community and how to control the virus," said Gullett.</p>
Why You Should Participate (and What Happens If You Don’t)<p>A <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(20)30457-6/fulltext" target="_blank">Lancet study</a> from June 16, which looked at data from more than 40,000 people, found that COVID-19 transmission could be reduced by 64 percent through isolating those who have the coronavirus, quarantining their household, and contacting the people they may have exposed.</p><p>The combination strategy was significantly more effective than mass random testing or just isolating the sick person and members of their household.</p><p>However, contact tracing is only as effective as people's willingness to participate, and a small number of people who've contracted the coronavirus or were potentially exposed are reluctant to talk.</p><p>"Contact tracers have all been hung up on, cussed at, yelled at," said Gullet.</p><p>The hesitation to talk to contact tracers often stems from concerns over privacy — a serious issue in healthcare.</p>
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