Climate and Science and the Current Occupant of the White House

Perhaps the petty and farcical corruptions of the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency have angered and/or amused you to the point of distraction. National Geographic magazine has made it easy to keep current with our federal government’s attacks on science and environmental regulation. They publish a regularly-updated listing of the latest news on their web site. Their latest post: “Trump Officials Set Aside Evidence of National Monuments’ Successes.”

Bookmark “A Running List of How President Trump Is Changing Environmental Policy” to keep your outrage up to date.

Stupid Old White People

Here’s something else to blame on Obama:

An African-American president urged action on climate change and signed the U.S. onto the 2015 international Paris climate agreement. The result? “A significant number of white Americans deciding that they were done believing in climate change.”

That’s according to Salil Benegal, a political-science professor at DePauw University. Benegal did a study that found American climate-change deniers tend to be older and white, have racist attitudes and – surprise – identify as Republican.

Before you get carried away about a political-science professor postulating on climate change… he’s not. He’s simply looking at correlations. He also found that these same people only believe what Republicans tell them about climate. Professor Benegal recently summarized his findings in the Washington Post.

Okay, so concurrence is not causation. This is just an interesting factoid.

“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”

– Neil deGrasse Tyson

Handy Guide to Coming Disasters

Both senators from Texas, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, and twenty of their House colleagues voted against the 2013 Hurricane Sandy Relief Act. (In the previous fiscal year, Texas received more federal disaster relief money than any other state.) All but four Texas reps voted in favor of initial Harvey relief legislation. The four dissenters don’t represent coastal districts, so they don’t care.

Florida Governor Rick Scott (still the record holder for Medicare fraud) warned residents of his state as Hurricane Irma bore down on them, “This is a catastrophic storm our state has never seen.” Governor Scott in 2015 purportedly banned state employees from using the terms “climate change” and “global warming.” Post hurricane, he still demurs when questioned about the subject, his stock answer, “I am not a scientist.” (I am not a doctor, but I know a 105° fever requires attention.)

Climate-change denier Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency (a legacy of the Nixon administration) says it would be “very, very insensitive to the people in Florida” to discuss the cause of “these massive, anomalous storms.”

The Los Angeles Times recently published a concise summary of scientific consensus about cause and effect of natural catastrophes and why we can expect more in the future.

  • Wind & Rain – Rising sea levels mean more flooding – storm surge – when storms push water into the shore. Warmer air results in more moisture in the atmosphere, so… when it rains, it pours. And oh yeah, scientists say there’ll be fewer weak storms. That’s because more of them will be Category 4 and 5.
  • Lack of Wind & Rain – Warmer temperatures mean quicker evaporation into the atmosphere to feed the storms in hurricane zones. Meanwhile, in the southwestern U.S., even with normal rainfall – which has not occurred the past few years – the ground will be drier meaning less moisture for living things.
  • Fire – Dry conditions mean more fires. Duh. Warmer weather also means greater survival rates for pine beetles that generally perish in frigid conditions. The pest has expanded its area of devastation from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Northwest and Canada.

Read the rest of it here.

The Jevons Paradox and the Rebound Effect

The U.S. imposed its first automobile fuel-economy regulations in 1975, a response to the Arab oil embargo. (If you’re old enough, you remember lining up to buy gasoline and odd-even days to fill up, based on your license number.) Since then, average miles-per-gallon has gone from 13.5 to about 27 now. (33 for cars, 24 for light trucks. Overall consumption has increased, however, the result of more miles driven – more than double since then – increased horsepower and heavier vehicles. Hence what is called the “Rebound Effect.”

In the mid-nineteenth century, William Stanley Jevons published “The Coal Question,” a book casting doubt on England’s long-term prospects as a world power. Britain’s industrial and military dominance was supported by its abundance of coal, a natural resource it was rapidly depleting. Jevons argued that conservation, e.g. energy efficiency, would not delay the inevitable depletion.

It is wholly a confusion of ideas to suppose that the economical use of fuel is equivalent to a diminished consumption. The very contrary is the truth.

His thesis, also known as the “Jevons Paradox,” is that the more something is perceived as economical, the more people will use. Our cars are more fuel efficient, so we drive more.

Since climate-change has officially been determined to be a hoax and unfair to the U.S., we may as well extract all the fossil fuels and burn them. And if it turns out that burning carbon is not good for us? Not to worry, Mother Earth will recover and be just fine after we’re gone.

(For a rebuttal of the Jevons Paradox, click here.)

Good News For Corn Syrup

Changing climate is affecting maple syrup producers in the Northeast. Cold winters with frigid nights are essential for trees to generate the precious syrup. Warmer weather causes sap to rise up in the trees instead of descending to the taps. One producer reports that 75 gallons produced in 2000 is now down to 15 gallons. Some growers report lower sugar content.

New England produces most of this country’s maple syrup. Tiny Vermont by itself accounts for 47% of it. (A famous Illinois maple “sirup” producer is a must-stop for Route 66 travelers.)

Log Cabin brand long ago contained maple syrup. Now it advertises “authentic maple-tasting syrup.”

Climate change is also good news for Oregon wine growers – short term – but maybe not so good for California. Major producers in the Golden State are hedging bets by purchasing vineyards in Oregon and Washington.

Our new president has taken up the challenge by proposing a 25% cut in the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget.

What You Don’t Know Can’t Hurt You.

The day of our peaceful transfer of power, one of the first changes was the disappearance of the Climate Change page on whitehouse.gov. (Also disappearing: LGBT, Civil Rights. Oh, and the button for users with disabilities including a White House video tour in sign language, an explanation of links on the site for viewers to access audible screen readers, closed captioning and other services.)

  • Wildfires in the West are worse, much worse
  • Artic ice is melting; sea levels are rising
  • Oceans are becoming more acidic
  • Plants and animals are migrating
  • It’s getting hotter (yes, blizzards fit into the scientific model)

If we pretend it’s not there, it will go away.