EPA cancels appearance of scientists at climate change event

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has canceled the appearance of three scientists at an event on Monday in Rhode Island about a report, which deals in part with climate change.

The New York Times reports EPA spokesman John Konkus confirmed on Sunday that agency scientists would not be speaking at the event in Providence. Konkus did not provide an explanation.

The event is designed to draw attention to the health of Narragansett Bay, which forms New England’s largest estuary.

A spokesman for Democratic U.S. Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island says the event will go on as planned and the report that EPA scientists helped work on will be released.

In a statement to The Associated Press Sunday night, Reed said “muzzling EPA scientists won’t do anything to address climate change.”

[CBS News]

Reality

You can read the report here.

Trump on Climate Change and Hurricanes: ‘We’ve Had Bigger Storms’

President Trump on Thursday dismissed the impact of climate change on Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the two major storms to make landfall in the United States in the last month.

“We’ve had bigger storms,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One, following a trip to Florida to assess the impact of Irma.

Trump later ignored a question about his views on climate change, according to reporters traveling with him.

The president’s trip to Florida was the third he’s taken to survey damage from Harvey and Irma, both of which were unusual it their strength and severity.

Harvey broke the record for rainfall from a tropical cyclone in the United States, dropping more than 50 inches of rain on parts of Texas and Louisiana late last month, leaving Houston inundated.

Irma, at its peak, packed sustained winds of 185 miles per hour, making it one of the five strongest storms to form in the Atlantic Ocean. It was a Category 5 hurricane for three days and three hours, the second-longest for any storm on record.

Climatologists have said that while climate change didn’t cause the two monster storms, it likely exacerbated them and made them stronger.

Trump has said he doesn’t accept the scientific consensus of climate change, calling it a “hoax” perpetrated by the Chinese to undermine the American economy.

[The Hill]

EPA Public Affairs Official Given Right to Veto Climate Change Federal Grants

Scientists and university researchers who are seeking grants from the Environmental Protection Agency are unlikely to see any funding come their way if they mentions the dreaded double-C words: climate change.

According to the Washington Post, the EPA has given veto power over grants and awards to John Konkus, who goes by the title of Deputy Associate Administrator for Public Affairs.

The Post notes that the EPA doles out hundreds of millions of dollars in funding and that those dollars are, in essence, only given with the approval of Konkus now.

Konkus has reportedly told staffers that he is empowered to look for “the double C-word” — climate change — and warned grant officers that they not to be mentioned in funding solicitations.

The report states that Konkus has already canceled close to $2 million awarded to universities and nonprofit organizations.

EPA spokesperson Liz Bowman dismissed concerns about the politicized influence of Konkus, stating in an email that grant decisions are, “to ensure funding is in line with the Agency’s mission and policy priorities. We review grants to see if they are providing tangible results to the American people.”

Former EPA head, Republican Christine Todd Whitman criticized the role of Konkus, saying, “We didn’t do a political screening on every grant, because many of them were based on science, and political appointees don’t have that kind of background.”

Prior to serving in the EPA’s pubic affairs office, Konkus served as President Donald Trump’s Leon County, Florida, campaign chairman and as a political consultant for hire.

[Raw Story]

Trump Nominates Science-Denying Politician To Run NASA

President Trump plans to nominate Rep. James Bridenstine (R-Okla.) to be the next administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the White House announced Friday.

Bridenstine entered Congress in 2013, serving on the House Armed Services Committee as well as the Science, Space and Technology Committee, which has jurisdiction over NASA.

He was also an aviator in the U.S. Navy Reserve, having flown combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bridenstine is one of two GOP lawmakers that Trump nominated on Friday to positions in his administration.

The White House also announced Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) as Trump’s pick to be the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Bridenstine’s nomination drew immediate criticism from both of Florida’s senators, who expressed concern over his lack of experience and partisanship.

“It’s the one federal mission which has largely been free of politics and it’s at a critical juncture in its history,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told Politico.

“I would hate to see an administrator held up – on [grounds of] partisanship, political arguments, past votes, or statements made in the past – because the agency can’t afford it and it can’t afford the controversy.”

[The Hill]

Reality

In 2013, during his first year in Congress, Bridenstine infamously called on then-President Barack Obama to “apologize” to the state of Oklahoma for his “gross misallocation [sic]” of funds to climate change research.

Trump Dissolves Climate Change Advisory Panel

The Trump administration has decided to dissolve a federal advisory panel that contributes to a report that measures the current and future impacts of climate change on the U.S., The Washington Post reports.

The acting administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Ben Friedman, informed the chair of the advisory committee that the agency would not renew its charter, which expired Sunday, the report said. This comes two years after NOAA formed the panel, called the Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment, whose 15 members were tasked with advising government and private sector stakeholders on navigating climate change.

The National Climate Assessment, as the report on climate change is known, is supposed to be issued every four years, and the next one is expected next spring, according to the Post.

In the meantime, the administration is reviewing a report that could be key to the final assessment, which estimates that human activities are to blame for an increase in global temperature from 1951 to 2010. Scientists from 13 different agencies produced the report.

That report, which was obtained by The New York Times earlier this month, is awaiting final approval by the Trump administration. The report indicates that temperatures in recent decades have been the warmest of the past 1,500 years.

[CBS News]

EPA Chief Scott Pruitt: “Science Shouldn’t Dictate American Policy”

You know the drill. The head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt, has been asked about something scientific and has said something ludicrous in response.

Shortly after announcing that he wants climate researchers to “debate” climate deniers on live TV, he gave a characteristically painful interview to a Texas radio show. Just after appearing to endorse peer-reviewed science, he added that “science should not be something that’s just thrown about to try and dictate policy in Washington DC.”

The idea that science should not dictate nor influence policy is insane. It really doesn’t need to be said that science is one of the key foundations of modern society.

JFK couldn’t have made his famous, rousing speech about heading to the Moon without the advice and expertise of scientific experts, just as lawmakers couldn’t have appropriated funds for the groundbreaking LIGO experiments that detected gravitational waves for the very first time.

Forget America – what about the world? Without science dictating policy, smallpox wouldn’t have been eradicated, hundreds of millions of children would not be alive, and we wouldn’t know that climate change was an existential threat to life on Earth.

Science, as has often been said, is true whether you believe in it or not. It is a constantly self-correcting, unbiased system, one through which our collective understanding of the cosmos advances with each discovery.

Politics is a method in which those with the most convincing argument win elections, regardless of how factual those arguments are.

These two systems are quite different, but in an ideal world, science is used to help the most powerful people on the planet understand what is true and what is not. Evidence is better than reading our future in tea leaves.

When people like Pruitt say that science should stay out of politics, it’s immediately clear that they have an ulterior motive other than concern about the dilution of one or the other. This type of phrase is wielded by those who are unhappy that science is pointing something out to them that they dislike.

Very few people looked up at the solar eclipse and thought that science was a junk field of academia. Plenty of those with vested interests do, however, consider climate science and vaccines to be incredibly suspect. The reason why is incredibly simple: Acceptance of an eclipse probably doesn’t lose this administration votes, but acceptance of climate science does.

So is it any surprise that the Trump administration is doing all it can to destroy the reputation of scientists and the scientific method at any opportunity? Of course not – but it doesn’t make it any less outrageous.

[IFLScience]

 

 

 

Trump Officially Nominates Climate-Denying Conservative Talk Radio Host as USDA’s Top Scientist

Sam Clovis, a former Trump campaign adviser and one-time conservative talk radio host, has no background in the hard sciences, nor any policy experience with food or agriculture. Still, that did not stop President Donald Trump from officially nominating Clovis to the position of the United States Department of Agriculture’s undersecretary of research, education, and economics, the agency’s top science position.

In the past, the undersecretary of research, education, and economics has brought years of experience in science, public health, or food policy. Previous undersecretaries have been biochemists, plant physiologists, or food nutrition experts. The most recent undersecretary, Catherine Woteki, came to the position from Mars, Inc., where she helped manage the company’s scientific research on health, nutrition, and public safety.
Clovis, on the other hand, comes to the position after serving as national co-chair for the Trump campaign, which he joined in 2015. Before that, Clovis was a professor of economics at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa. He has a doctorate in public administration, and unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 2014.

“Dr. Clovis was one of the first people through the door at USDA in January and has become a trusted advisor and steady hand as we continue to work for the people of agriculture,” USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement on Wednesday. “He looks at every problem with a critical eye, relying on sound science and data, and will be the facilitator and integrator we need. Dr. Clovis has served this nation proudly since he was a very young man, and I am happy he is continuing to serve.”

He has served as the administration’s top USDA policy adviser since January, signing off on a memo sent to USDA scientists telling them to cease publishing “outward facing” documents, like press releases or fact sheets.

Clovis, like so many of the Trump administration’s top policy officials, does not accept the scientific consensus on climate change. In 2014, he told Iowa Public Radio that climate science is “junk science” and “not proven.” He also said in an interview with E&E News in October that the Trump administration would not prioritize climate change or climate science at the USDA — a sharp break from the Obama administration, which made a point of trying to better prepare farmers and the food system for imminent climate-fueled changes like droughts or heavier storms.

“Whether or not Clovis acknowledges climate change, it is happening, and agriculture has to deal with that,” Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food and Water Watch, told ThinkProgress. “They have to come up with techniques to grow crops in tough weather conditions, and there are always research needs for how you grow crops in changing climate more efficiently with less resources.”

Clovis would not be the only senior official at USDA to question established climate science. Secretary Perdue called climate science “obviously disconnected from reality” and “a running joke among the public” in a 2014 op-ed published in the National Review.
As undersecretary, Clovis will be responsible for administering policies to ensure USDA’s scientists conform to “scientific integrity.” It’s unclear how Clovis will administer those programs, or whether he will specifically seek to undermine climate science, as EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is doing with his “red team/blue team” initiative aimed at questioning mainstream climate science.

For Lovera, Clovis’ nomination simply underscores the Trump administration’s disdain for science, from the dismissal of dozens of EPA advisory board scientists to the deletion of climate information from government websites.

“It’s a sad continuation of that trend that we were seeing with EPA and science advisory boards, and shutting down different websites,” Lovera said. “It’s just another sad example of the Trump administration putting politics first, and inside USDA, the politics of Big Agriculture.”

[ThinkProgess]

Rick Perry Loses His Cool When Confronted by Sen. Franken on Climate Science

After a week full of misleading and inaccurate statements, Energy Secretary Rick Perry remained incredulous and defiant when confronted with climate science-related facts in a budget hearing Thursday.

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) informed Perry that scientists have concluded that “humans are entirely the cause” of recent warming, to which Perry responded, “I don’t believe it” and “I don’t buy it.”

And when Franken reminded him this was the conclusion of a team of climate science skeptics funded by conservative petrochemical billionaires Charles and David Koch, Perry raised his voice and said: “To stand up and say that 100 percent of global warming is because of human activity, I think on its face, is just indefensible.”

What is indefensible is that the U.S. Secretary of Energy continues to reject established climate science and remain completely impervious to facts — which was made all too clear by a review of this week’s events.

Monday on CNBC, Perry falsely claimed that carbon dioxide was not the primary cause of recent global warming, along with a bunch of other nonsense. He also defended his right to be a “skeptic.”

On Wednesday, the American Meteorological Society (AMS) wrote Perry a letter informing him that he was simply wrong. The central role of greenhouse gases — of which CO2 is the “most important” — is “based on multiple independent lines of evidence that have been affirmed by thousands of independent scientists and numerous scientific institutions around the world,” the letter read.

The AMS called these “indisputable findings,” and pointed out, “we are not familiar with any scientific institution with relevant subject matter expertise that has reached a different conclusion.”

The AMS also explained that while some aspects of climate science are not fully resolved, this wasn’t one of them, adding, “skepticism that fails to account for evidence is no virtue.”

On Thursday, at an Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing, Franken asked Perry to defend downplaying the role of CO2 — and Perry reiterated his denial. Oblivious, Perry repeated, “what’s wrong with being a skeptic?”

Perry went on to call for a so-called “red team” exercise where scientists argue back and forth with a “blue team” on the issue. “But that is exactly how science works,” replied Franken, with teams of scientists pushing back and forth on one another until a consensus is reached.

Franken then pointed out that the Koch brothers had actually helped set up a “red team” of skeptics to take a new look at all of the historical data on global surface temperatures. He then quoted what the head of that team, Dr. Richard Muller, said in the New York Times about their findings:

Call me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.

At that moment in the questioning, Perry lost his composure, not merely rejecting this scientific reality but asserting angrily that it is “just indefensible.”

For the record, not only is it defensible, but in 2013, the world’s leading climatologists concluded in their summary of the latest science that “the best estimate of the human-induced contribution to warming is similar to the observed warming over this period.”

To clarify this science-speak from U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the best estimate is that humans are responsible for all of the warming we have suffered since 1950. Every major government in the world signed off on this conclusion back in 2013.

But the U.S. Energy Secretary is not just unaware of the science; when presented with it, he’s sure it can’t be true. That’s what makes him a denier and not a skeptic.

[ThinkProgress]

Donald Trump Administration Issues Press Release That Links to InfoWars Article

The Donald Trump administration and the far-right conspiracy website InfoWars continue to lean heavily on each other.

Less than two weeks after the White House issued a one-day press pass to the Alex Jones-run website that has peddled the Pizzagate conspiracy theory and is reportedly the subject of an FBI probe, the Trump administration sent out an email Saturday linking to an InfoWars article.

That InfoWars story purported that “Trump Supporters Outnumber Climate Change Advocates at White House.” So, once again, the Trump administration is concerned about crowd size.

[Daily Dot]

 

After Leaving Paris Accord, Trump Surrogates Go To Absurd Lengths To Deny Science

After Donald Trump isolated America from the rest of the world by pulling us out of the historic Paris Accord, there was a race to the bottom from his surrogates to see who could spit out the dumbest excuse to deny settled science.

Trump’s former communications director Jason Miller was caught by Daily Beast editor John Avlon using fake statistics to support absurd points. EPA head Scott Pruitt also claimed Thursday that the president’s decision isn’t about climate denial. Today, Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) also claimed the 4.5 billion-year-old sun is no longer reliable and Trump’s economic advisor Steve Moore didn’t know the difference between 1,000-year-old windmills in Holland and wind energy mills in western Kansas. And finally, Trump apologist Jeffrey Lord called coal “the wave of the future.”

[Raw Story]

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