In Visiting a Charred California, Trump Confronts a Scientific Reality He Denies – By Michael D. Shear and Coral Davenport – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — When President Trump flies to California on Monday to assess the state’s raging forest fires, he will come face to face with the grim consequences of a reality he has stubbornly refused to accept: the devastating effects of a warming planet.

To the global scientific community, the acres of scorched earth and ash-filled skies across the American West are the tragic, but predictable, result of accelerating climate change. Nearly two years ago, federal government scientists concluded that greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels could triple the frequency of severe fires across the Western states.

But the president has used his time in the nation’s highest office to aggressively promote the burning of fossil fuels, chiefly by rolling back or weakening every major federal policy intended to combat dangerous emissions. At the same time, Mr. Trump and his senior environmental officials have regularly mocked, denied or minimized the established science of human-caused climate change.

Now, as he battles for a second term in the White House, Mr. Trump has doubled down on his anti-climate agenda as a way of appealing to his core supporters. At a rally in Pennsylvania last month, he blamed California’s failure to “clean your floors” of leaves, threatening to “make them pay for it because they don’t listen to us.

The lethal fires spreading across the West — like the coronavirus that has ravaged the country for months — are a warning for the president that many voters may hold him and his administration accountable for brushing aside scientific experts and failing to effectively mobilize the government to minimize natural disasters that have claimed lives, damaged property and threatened economic prosperity.

“Talk to a firefighter if you think that climate change isn’t real,” Mayor Eric M. Garcetti of Los Angeles, a supporter of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Mr. Trump’s Democratic opponent, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “It seems like this administration are the last vestiges of the Flat Earth Society of this generation.”

Mr. Trump’s climate record is far more aggressive than the laissez-faire environmental policy promoted for years by business interests in his party. Indeed, as he has sought to zealously roll back regulations, even some of the world’s largest oil companies and automakers have opposed the moves, saying that they will lead to years of legal uncertainty that could actually harm their bottom lines.

“As an historic figure, he is one of the most culpable men in America contributing to the suffering and death that is now occurring through climate-related tragedy,” Jerry Brown, the former California governor who made climate change his signature issue, said in an interview on Sunday, though he was careful not to blame Mr. Trump specifically for the fires ravaging his state.

The president’s record is also more consequential, experts say, because the amount of planet-warming carbon dioxide trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere has now passed the point at which scientists say it would be possible to avert many of the worst effects of global warming — even if tough emissions policies are later enacted.

Mr. Biden’s presidential campaign is hoping to use Mr. Trump’s climate positions as a cudgel against him with independents and moderate Republicans. Christine Todd Whitman, the Republican former governor of New Jersey, is backing Mr. Biden’s candidacy in large part because of the president’s environmental policies.

“It’s mind-boggling, the ignorance that he displays on this subject,” Ms. Whitman said in an interview on Sunday. “He doesn’t understand climate change. He doesn’t particularly believe in science. It’s all about him and his re-election.”

“He doesn’t govern for all Americans,” she said.

On Saturday, Mr. Trump abruptly added the trip to McClellan Park, Calif., near Sacramento, to be briefed on the fires to an already scheduled West Coast fund-raising and campaign swing. He had come under intense criticism for weeks of silence on the increasingly deadly blazes that are consuming parts of California, Oregon and Washington — three Democratic-led states that he has feuded with for years.

. . .   But the president has often treated climate change and the environment as a deeply partisan issue, not unlike his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the recent racial upheaval in some cities, in which he has frequently lashed out at Democratic officials while praising the actions of Republicans.

Trump ended a ban on offshore oil drilling supported by the Republican governor in a key election-year state, even though he has refused to do the same for Democratic-led states in the Northeast.

At the event in front of supporters in Jupiter, Fla., Mr. Trump declared himself “a great environmentalist.”

In fact, Mr. Trump has repeatedly mocked the science of climate change since long before he ran for president. In 2012, he tweeted: “In the 1920’s people were worried about global cooling — it never happened. Now it’s global warming. Give me a break!” He also tweeted that the concept of climate change “was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

The president has continued to take a dim view of climate science throughout his tenure, even as the government he oversees has reinforced the accepted threats to the future of the planet.

. . .   In 2017 and 2018, the federal government published a sweeping, two-volume scientific report, the National Climate Assessment, that represents the most authoritative and comprehensive conclusions to date about the causes and effects of climate change in the United States.

The report is clear about the causes — burning fossil fuels — and the effects: It found that the increased drought, flooding, storms and worsening wildfires caused by the warming planet could shrink the American economy by up to 10 percent by the end of the century.

Two days before the White House published the 2018 volume of that report, Mr. Trump mockingly tweeted, “Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter ALL RECORDS — Whatever happened to Global Warming?”

In an interview a month before, he said of global warming, “I don’t know that it’s man-made,” and suggested that even as the planet warmed, “it will change back again” — an idea scientists have long debunked.

Fossil Fuels Are to Blame for Soaring Methane Levels, Study Shows – By Hiroko Tabuchi – The New York Times

“Oil and gas production may be responsible for a far larger share of the soaring levels of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, in the earth’s atmosphere than previously thought, new research has found.

The findings, published in the journal Nature, add urgency of efforts to rein in methane emissions from the fossil fuel industry, which routinely leaks or intentionally releases the gas into air.

“We’ve identified a gigantic discrepancy that shows the industry needs to, at the very least, improve their monitoring,” said Benjamin Hmiel, a researcher at the University of Rochester and the study’s lead author. “If these emissions are truly coming from oil, gas extraction, production use, the industry isn’t even reporting or seeing that right now.”

Atmospheric concentrations of methane have more than doubled from preindustrial times. A New York Times investigation into “super emitter” sites last year revealed vast quantities of methane being released from oil wells and other energy facilities instead of being captured.”

Opinion | Greta Versus the Greedy Grifters – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Markus Schreiber/Associated Press

“I’ve never been a fan of Davos, that annual gathering of the rich and fatuous. One virtue of the pageant of preening and self-importance, however, is that it brings out the worst in some people, leading them to say things that reveal their vileness for all to see.

And so it was for Steven Mnuchin, Donald Trump’s Treasury secretary. First, Mnuchin doubled down on his claim that the 2017 tax cut will pay for itself — just days after his own department confirmed that the budget deficit in 2019 was more than $1 trillion, 75 percent higher than it was in 2016.

Then he sneered at Greta Thunberg, the young climate activist, suggesting that she go study economics before calling for an end to investment in fossil fuels.

Well, unearned arrogance is a Trump administration hallmark — witness Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, claiming that a respected national security reporter couldn’t find Ukraine on a map. So it may not surprise you to learn that Mnuchin was talking nonsense and that Thunberg almost certainly has it right.

One can only surmise that Mnuchin slept through his undergraduate economics classes. Otherwise he would know that every, and I mean every, major Econ 101 textbook argues for government regulation or taxation of activities that pollute the environment, because otherwise neither producers nor consumers have an incentive to take the damage inflicted by this pollution into account.”

David Lindsay: Thank you Paul Krugman.  Here are two of the most popular comments which I endorsed:

Matt

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez points out that if you don’t have an economics degree, like Greta, they’ll mock you for not having one. If you do have one, like AOC, they’ll claim it’s illegitimate. They will happily deny logic, science, and environmental consensus in order to protect oligarchy. Not surprisingly, economics fares no better.

4 Replies735 Recommended

 
Socrates commented January 27

Socrates
Downtown Verona. NJ

The human depravity required to be a right-wing science and manmade global warming denier is astounding. The only reasons to indulge in such a stance are a sadomasochistic death wish for oneself, humanity, and the entire animal and plant kingdom…and psychopathic greed.

Or as Greta Thunberg said so eloquently at the UN Climate Action Summit:

“People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”

“For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you’re doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.”

“How dare you pretend that this can be solved with just ‘business as usual’ and some technical solutions?” “There will not be any (realistic) solutions or plans presented…here today, because these (C02) numbers are too uncomfortable. And you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is.”

“You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.” “We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.”

“Thank you.”

— Just say NO to the Gas Oil Petroleum party.

5 Replies663 Recommended

Who Controls Trump’s Environmental Policy? – By Lisa Friedman and Claire O’Neill – The New York Times

“A small number of people at a few federal agencies have vast power over the protection of American air and water.

Under the Trump administration, the people appointed to those positions overwhelmingly used to work in the fossil fuel, chemical and agriculture industries. During their time in government they have been responsible for loosening or undoing nearly 100 environmental protections from pollution and pesticides, as well as weakening preservations of natural resources and efforts to curb planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

Of 20 key officials across several agencies, 15 came from careers in the oil, gas, coal, chemical or agriculture industries, while another three hail from state governments that have spent years resisting environmental regulations. At least four have direct ties to organizations led by the Koch brothers, who have spent millions of dollars to defeat climate change and clean energy measures.

Gretchen Goldman, research director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, noted that many Republican administrations had brought in people from regulated industries. “There’s nothing inherently wrong with hiring people from the private sector. But we need to make sure they are making decisions in the public interest,” she said.”

Opinion | Australia Shows Us the Road to Hell – By Paul Krugman- The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

“In a rational world, the burning of Australia would be a historical turning point. After all, it’s exactly the kind of catastrophe climate scientists long warned us to expect if we didn’t take action to limit greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, a 2008 report commissioned by the Australian government predicted that global warming would cause the nation’s fire seasons to begin earlier, end later, and be more intense — starting around 2020.

Furthermore, though it may seem callous to say it, this disaster is unusually photogenic. You don’t need to pore over charts and statistical tables; this is a horror story told by walls of fire and terrified refugees huddled on beaches.

So this should be the moment when governments finally began urgent efforts to stave off climate catastrophe.

But the world isn’t rational. In fact, Australia’s anti-environmentalist government seems utterly unmoved as the nightmares of environmentalists become reality. And the anti-environmentalist media, the Murdoch empire in particular, has gone all-out on disinformation, trying to place the blame on arsonists and “greenies” who won’t let fire services get rid of enough trees.

These political reactions are more terrifying than the fires themselves.”

“. . . . .  The answer, pretty clearly, is that scientific persuasion is running into sharply diminishing returns. Very few of the people still denying the reality of climate change or at least opposing doing anything about it will be moved by further accumulation of evidence, or even by a proliferation of new disasters. Any action that does take place will have to do so in the face of intractable right-wing opposition.

This means, in turn, that climate action will have to offer immediate benefits to large numbers of voters, because policies that seem to require widespread sacrifice — such as policies that rely mainly on carbon taxes — would be viable only with the kind of political consensus we clearly aren’t going to get.

What might an effective political strategy look like? I’ve been rereading a 2014 speech by the eminent political scientist Robert Keohane, who suggested that one way to get past the political impasse on climate might be via “an emphasis on huge infrastructural projects that created jobs” — in other words, a Green New Deal. Such a strategy could give birth to a “large climate-industrial complex,” which would actually be a good thing in terms of political sustainability.”

Opinion | Australia Is Committing Climate Suicide – By Richard Flanagan – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Flanagan is a novelist.

Credit…Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

“BRUNY ISLAND, Australia — Australia today is ground zero for the climate catastrophe. Its glorious Great Barrier Reef is dying, its world-heritage rain forests are burning, its giant kelp forests have largely vanished, numerous towns have run out of water or are about to, and now the vast continent is burning on a scale never before seen.

The images of the fires are a cross between “Mad Max” and “On the Beach”: thousands driven onto beaches in a dull orange haze, crowded tableaux of people and animals almost medieval in their strange muteness — half-Bruegel, half-Bosch, ringed by fire, survivors’ faces hidden behind masks and swimming goggles. Day turns to night as smoke extinguishes all light in the horrifying minutes before the red glow announces the imminence of the inferno. Flames leaping 200 feet into the air. Fire tornadoes. Terrified children at the helm of dinghies, piloting away from the flames, refugees in their own country.

The fires have already burned about 14.5 million acres — an area almost as large as West Virginia, more than triple the area destroyed by the 2018 fires in California and six times the size of the 2019 fires in Amazonia. Canberra’s air on New Year’s Day was the most polluted in the world partly because of a plume of fire smoke as wide as Europe.

Scientists estimate that close to half a billion native animals have been killed and fear that some species of animals and plants may have been wiped out completely. Surviving animals are abandoning their young in what is described as mass “starvation events.” At least 18 people are dead and grave fears are held about many more.”

See Where Australia’s Deadly Wildfires Are Burning – The New York Times

Days into the New Year, deadly wildfires, fueled by wind and scorching summer heat, continued to rage across Australia’s southeast.

Fire detections in the last 24 hours

Fire detections since November 2019

Source: NASA Fire Information for Resource Management System. Data as of January 3.

“Thousands of tourists and residents have been forced to evacuate from areas along the southeast coast so far, and tens of thousands more are fleeing to safer ground ahead of the weekend, with forecasters predicting a new round of dangerous fire conditions.

High winds and temperatures reaching close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 38 Celsius, are expected starting Friday.

Australia’s 2019 fire season started early and has been exceptionally brutal, experts say, even for a country used to regular burning.

Wildfires have scorched millions of acres of land across the country since October, destroying more than a thousand homes and killing at least 19 people, including three volunteer firefighters.

The most-affected state, New South Wales, which includes Sydney, Australia’s largest city, is having its worst fire season in 20 years.”

Australia Fires Keep Spreading as Military Reservists Called Up – The New York Times

By Livia Albeck-RipkaJamie Tarabay and 

Credit…Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

“Hundreds of people who had spent days trapped by fires along a beach in the town of Mallacoota reached safety more than 300 miles away on Saturday morning, after a 20-hour trip on a naval ship.

Others had stayed behind, even as Australian officials across three states urged anyone who could leave to do so. By Saturday, numerous towns along Australia’s eastern and southeastern coasts were ringed by fire.

This is already one of the worst wildfire seasons Australia has ever endured, and by all measures, Saturday was expected to be even more extreme. High winds and temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit were likely to exacerbate fires already raging out of control. Officials in the state of New South Wales said they expected to lose more houses over the weekend.”

Opinion | Apocalypse Becomes the New Normal – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

“The past week’s images from Australia have been nightmarish: walls of flame, blood-red skies, residents huddled on beaches as they try to escape the inferno. The bush fires have been so intense that they have generated “fire tornadoes” powerful enough to flip over heavy trucks.

The thing is, Australia’s summer of fire is only the latest in a string of catastrophic weather events over the past year: unprecedented flooding in the Midwest, a heat wave in India that sent temperatures to 123 degrees, another heat wave that brought unheard-of temperatures to much of Europe.

And all of these catastrophes were related to climate change.

Notice that I said “related to” rather than “caused by” climate change. This is a distinction that has flummoxed many people over the years. Any individual weather event has multiple causes, which was one reason news reports used to avoid mentioning the possible role of climate change in natural disasters.

In recent years, however, climate scientists have tried to cut through this confusion by engaging in “extreme event attribution,” which focuses on probabilities: You can’t necessarily say that climate change caused a particular heat wave, but you can ask how much difference global warming made to the probability of that heat wave happening. And the answer, typically, is a lot: Climate change makes the kinds of extreme weather events we’ve been seeing much more likely.”

Opinion | How to Help Brazilian Farmers Save the Amazon – By Daniel Nepstad – The New York Times

By 

Dr. Nepstad is a forest ecologist who has worked in the Brazilian Amazon for more than 30 years.

Credit…Victor Moriyama for The New York Times

“When I moved to the Amazon “Wild West” town of Paragominas in northern Brazil in 1984 as a young scientist studying forest recovery on abandoned pastures, I expected a town filled with bandits and land grabbers. Instead, what I mostly found were courageous, hard-working families from across Brazil who had come to the rugged town of sawmills, cattle ranches and smallholder settlements to improve their lot in life.

But as the global outcry over recent Amazon fires and the rise in deforestation has demonstrated yet again, the stigma surrounding Amazon farmers as accomplices in this destruction remains, making enemies of would-be allies.

Indeed, outrage over the fires and President Jair Bolsonaro’s rhetoric and actions obscures a central question: Can responsible, law-abiding landholders and businesspeople in the Amazon — like those I met in Paragominas — compete with people who break the law, grab land and forest resources and drive much of the deforestation?

The simple answer is no. And until that changes, it will be difficult to stop the cutting and burning of these forests, which worldwide account for about a tenth of the carbon dioxide emissions that are warming the planet. But two recent developments suggested things may be changing for the better.

One turn of events was the decision by the California Air Resources Board in September to endorse — after 10 years of design and debate — a Tropical Forest Standard that could protect the forests of the Amazon and beyond. The standard sets rules for state, provincial and national governments in the Amazon to limit deforestation so that they can qualify to sell credits to companies seeking to offset some of their greenhouse gas emissions.

This standard is designed to make sure that the carbon offsets that companies are buying are actually going to real, verifiable deforestation efforts. What’s significant about the standard is its size — it focuses on recognizing and rewarding successful forest conservation across entire states, provinces or even nations in the Amazon. Moreover, and this is critical, it includes principles for guaranteeing that indigenous groups and other local communities have a voice in the policies and programs that are developed.”