WASHINGTON — For years, economists at the Agriculture Department have churned out studies that forecast the effects of food trends, environmental changes and trade policy on rural America. But these days, career staff members at the Economic Research Service have been anxiously trying to predict their own futures.
Last year, after an economist with the division presented research that contradicted the Trump administration’s views about the president’s signature tax cuts, the Agriculture Department put into effect new rules about submitting work to peer-reviewed journals. Now, Sonny Perdue, the agriculture secretary, is planning to move the roughly 300-person research unit, along with another division, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, out of Washington and closer to America’s farmers.
Mr. Perdue, who tried to shrink the agencies’ funding early in President Trump’s term, is expected to detail plans to relocate both units to Missouri, Kansas, Indiana or North Carolina, or another location far from the capital. He believes that the move, which could be announced in the coming days, will save money and make research more relevant.
But some critics see the relocation plan as another attempt by the Trump administration to diminish the role of science in government policymaking. Economists at the research service, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss their views of the office’s internal dynamics, said they believed they were being shipped out of town as retribution for producing work that clashed with the administration’s agenda.
“The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made it clear that averting the worst consequences of climate changes (lesser consequences are by now all around us) will mean quickly cutting back on the use of fossil fuels that cause global warming.
Big Oil didn’t get the memo.
Faced with what they saw as an existential threat to their businesses, BP, Valero, Phillips 66, the Koch brothers and other members of the fossil fuel fraternity dumped more than $30 million into Washington State to crush a ballot initiative that would have imposed the first taxes in the nation on carbon emissions. Backers of the proposal hoped it would serve as a template for similar action elsewhere and perhaps for the country as a whole. But the theoretical elegance of a carbon tax, which most economists and scientists believe is the surest way to control emissions on a broad scale, was no match even in reliably Democratic Washington for relentless fearmongering about job losses, higher electricity bills and more expensive gasoline.
The defeat in Washington was the most disappointing setback for climate activists in the midterm elections on Tuesday, a day of decidedly mixed messages on climate change in particular and environmental issues more broadly.”
Introducing the newest op-ed writer for the New York Times, Michelle Alexander, who writes:
“I can’t say that I believe in reincarnation, but I understand why some people do. In fact, I had a bizarre experience as a teenager that made me wonder if I had known someone in a past life.”
“, , , , This month, the world’s leading climate scientists released a report warning of catastrophic consequences as soon as 2040 if global warming increases at its current rate. Democratic politicians expressed alarm, yet many continue to accept campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry that is responsible for such a large percentage of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
It’s nearly impossible to imagine that our elected officials would be so indifferent if they knew climate scientists were foretelling a future that they would have to live without any of the privileges they now enjoy.”
“Climate change is a hoax.
Climate change is happening, but it’s not man-made.
Climate change is man-made, but doing anything about it would destroy jobs and kill economic growth.
These are the stages of climate denial. Or maybe it’s wrong to call them stages, since the deniers never really give up an argument, no matter how thoroughly it has been refuted by evidence. They’re better described as cockroach ideas — false claims you may think you’ve gotten rid of, but keep coming back.
Anyway, the Trump administration and its allies — put on the defensive by yet another deadly climate change-enhanced hurricane and an ominous United Nations report — have been making all of these bad arguments over the past few days. I’d say it was a shocking spectacle, except that it’s hard to get shocked these days. But it was a reminder that we’re now ruled by people who are willing to endanger civilization for the sake of political expediency, not to mention increased profits for their fossil-fuel friends.
About those cockroaches: Details aside, the very multiplicity of climate-denial arguments — the deniers’ story keeps changing, but the bottom line that we should do nothing remains the same — is a sign that the opponents of climate action are arguing in bad faith. They aren’t seriously trying to engage with the reality of climate change or the economics of reduced emissions; their goal is to keep polluters free to pollute as long as possible, and they’ll grab onto anything serving that goal.”
“June 23 turned out be a blistering day in Washington, and much of the nation was suffering through a drought and heat wave. Dr. Hansen took his seat in a Capitol Hill hearing room and laid out the scientific facts as best he understood them.He had thought up a good line the night before, during the Yankees game, but in the moment he forgot to deliver it.
When the hearing ended, though, reporters surrounded him, and he remembered. “It is time to stop waffling so much,” he said, “and say that the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here.”
His near certainty that human emissions were already altering the climate caught the attention of a sweltering nation, catapulting Dr. Hansen to overnight fame. That year, 1988, would go on to be the hottest in a global temperature record stretching back to the 19th century.With the perspective of three decades, it is fair to ask: How right was his forecast?”
. . . .
“So while his temperature forecast was not flawless, in a larger sense, Dr. Hansen’s 1988 warning has turned out to be entirely on target. As emissions have soared, the planet has warmed relentlessly, just as he said it would; 1988 is not even in the top 20 warmest years now. Every year of this century has been hotter.
The ocean is rising, as Dr. Hansen predicted, and the pace seems to be accelerating. The great ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are dumping ever-rising volumes of water into the sea. Coastal flooding is increasing rapidly in the United States. The Arctic Ocean ice cap has shrunk drastically.
If his warning in 1988 had been met with a national policy to reduce emissions, other countries might have followed, and the world would be in much better shape. . . . . “
David Lindsay: Thank you Justin Gillis. Here is one of my favorite comments at the NYT.com:
“. . . In the long run, these tactics probably won’t stop the transition to renewable energy, and even the villains of this story probably realize that. Their goal is, instead, to slow things down, so they can extract as much profit as possible from their existing investments.
Unfortunately, this really is a case of “in the long run we are all dead.” Every year that we delay the clean-energy transition will sicken or kill thousands while increasing the risk of climate catastrophe.
The point is that Trump and company aren’t just trying to move us backward on social issues; they’re also trying to block technological progress. And the price of their obstructionism will be high.”
“. . . In his free time, Mr. Seyed Emami, a youthful 64 when he died, led an influential private environmental organization, the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, founded in 2008 by Morad Tahbaz, an Iranian-American entrepreneur. With his Canadian passport, gotten as many Canadian-Iranians had in the 1980s and 1990s, he could have lived in Canada. But he chose to stay in Iran and work for change here.
In his classes and through the foundation, he urged his fellow Iranians to work within the system to build the country they desired, despite setbacks they might experience. But lately some authorities clearly found his work at the foundation, which had continued for nearly nine years, suspicious.
As part of its preservation of endangered species, the foundation had set up camera traps to track rare animals like the Persian leopard in the wild. Those cameras, as well as the foundation’s frequent invitations to foreign experts, would figure in the spying charges.”