February 2017

Much of my news comes from The Daily Climate, whose wonderful subscription service clues me in to what's going on each day. Another great source of stories (and commentaries) comes from my friend Jim Poyser, at Apocadocs.


February, 2017


  • Shell's 1991 warning: climate changing ‘at faster rate than at any time since end of ice age’: Critics say public information film shows Shell ‘understood the threat was dire, potentially existential for civilisation, more than a quarter of a century ago’
    • Climate change “at a rate faster than at any time since the end of the ice age – change too fast perhaps for life to adapt, without severe dislocation”. That was the startling warning issued by the oil giant Shell more than a quarter of a century ago. The company’s farsighted 1991 film, titled Climate of Concern, set out with crystal clarity how the world was warming and that serious consequences could well result.
    • “Tropical islands barely afloat even now, first made inhabitable, and then obliterated beneath the waves … coastal lowlands everywhere suffering pollution of precious groundwater, on which so much farming and so many cities depend,” says the film’s narrator, over disturbing images of people affected by natural disasters and famine. “In a crowded world subject to such adverse shifts of climate, who would take care of such greenhouse refugees?”
    • “What they foresee is not a steady and even warming overall, but alterations to the familiar patterns of climate, and the increasing frequency of abnormal weather,” it cautioned. “It is thought that warmer seas could make destructive [storm] surges more frequent and even more ferocious.”
    • The film was made for public viewing, particularly in schools and universities, but is believed to have been unseen for many years. It was remarkably prescient, according to Prof Tom Wigley, who was head of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia when it helped Shell with the 1991 film. “It is amazing it is 25 years ago. Incredible,” he said. “It was quite comprehensive on what might happen, what the consequences are, and what we can do about it. I mean, there’s not much more.” He said the predictions for temperature and sea level rises in the 1991 film were “pretty good compared with current understanding”.
    • But Shell’s actions on global warming since 1991, such as major investments in highly polluting tar sands and lobbying against climate action, have been heavily criticised. In 2015, it was accused of behaving like a “psychopath” by the UK’s former climate change envoy and of being engaged in a cynical attempt to block action on global warming. Even its own former group managing director, Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, said in 2015 it was “distressing” that “remarkably little progress” had been made on climate change by Shell and other oil companies.
    • Shell had, in fact, known of the risks of climate change even earlier. A “confidential” company report written in 1986, also seen by the Guardian, noted the significant uncertainties in climate science at the time but warned of the possibility of “fast and dramatic” changes that “would impact on the human environment, future living standards and food supplies, and could have major social, economic, and political consequences”.
    • The company has said it has remained a member of groups that hold different views on climate action to “influence” them. But Thomas O’Neill, from the group Influence Map, which tracks lobbying, said: “The trade associations and industry groups are there to say things the company cannot or does not want to say. It’s deliberately that way.”
    • Another Carbon Tracker report in 2016 cited a 1998 Shell document showing the company was aware of this risk. “Shell knew about, but did not act on, the risks of a carbon bubble,” the report said. “Looking back over the last 20 years, it seems like Shell has gone backwards in terms of transparency, and is still recycling the same old green initiatives, and attempting to deflect responsibility in the face of an existential threat to its business.”
    • Shell’s 1986 report said the climate change problem was one that “ultimately only governments can tackle”. But it also noted, over three decades ago, that the energy industry “has very strong interests at stake and much expertise to contribute. It also has its own reputation to consider, there being much potential for public anxiety and pressure group activity.”
    • View it here!
  • Donald Trump accuses Obama of orchestrating protests against him: In interview with Fox, president says – without evidence – his predecessor ‘is behind’ demonstrations over travel ban and national security leaks
    • Donald Trump has accused former president Barack Obama and his “people” of organizing the demonstrations that have roiled city streets, airports and town halls during the first weeks of his presidency.
    • Trump was asked by the Fox interviewer whether he believed Obama was involved in organizing protests, including the recent spate of raucous Republican town hall meetings, and “if he is, is that a violation of the so-called unsaid president’s code?” “No, I think he is behind it. I also think it’s just politics. That’s just the way it is,” Trump said in the pre-taped interview, a portion of which was released on Monday night. Trump continued: “You never know what’s exactly happening behind the scenes … I think that President Obama’s behind it because his people are certainly behind it.”
  • For Some Arctic Plants, Spring Arrives Almost a Month Earlier: In a new paper published in Biology Letters, researchers detail findings from a 12-year study of when plant species in the low Arctic region of Greenland first green up in the spring. Timing varied from plant to plant, but one speedy sedge species — a flowering, grasslike herb — stirred a full 26 days earlier than it did a decade ago.
    • According to Eric Post, an ecology professor at the University of California, Davis and the paper’s lead author, transformations in the Arctic are happening so rapidly that they are discernible to researchers who have studied its ecology for decades.
  • Shell’s Green Car Plans Must Overcome Hydrogen’s Deadly History:


  • Half of the world's species could die out in 'sixth extinction,' biologists say: Here's the sobering truth: Around half the species on Earth today could disappear by middle of the century, unless we humans can tackle climate change and slow our population growth.
    • That's a view shared by leading biologists and ecologists, many of whom are gathering in the Vatican this week for a wonky but optimistic-sounding conference: "How To Save the Natural World on Which We Depend."
    • Scientists estimate that by mid-century, as many as 30 to 50 percent of all species could face extinction. "The living fabric of the world … is slipping through our fingers without our showing much sign of caring," the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which organized the conference, said on its website. The Catholic Church has made ecological issues a top concern under Pope Francis.
    • During Earth's 4.5-billion-year history, five major extinction events have wiped out nearly all the species on the planet, the geological record shows. The last die-off happened around 65 million years ago, when dinosaurs disappeared. Asteroid strikes, volcanic eruptions and natural climate shifts were likely to blame for those past events. The planet may now be heading for a sixth mass die-off, this time because of humans.
    • More: At the Vatican, a call to avoid 'biological extinction'
  • Utah students organize public hearing on climate change:
  • Health industry makes plea to gas drilling lobby to embrace methane controls: Thousands of Pennsylvania doctors, nurses and other health care professionals have sent a letter to the Marcellus Shale Coalition, requesting that it stop legal challenges and lobbying against regulations aimed at controlling drilling air emissions and safeguarding public health.
  • Climate change predicted to transform Vancouver into San Diego, but at a heavy cost: A new 70-page study, Climate Projections for Metro Vancouver, predicts changes in temperature and precipitation that will affect everything from sewage pipes to ski hills in the 2050s — just 33 years distant — and 2080s. Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium, based at the University of Victoria, assisted in the report.
    • The report’s author, Jeff Carmichael, division manager of utilities research and innovation for Metro Vancouver, said the findings are meant to help the region and its member municipalities plan for the future while doing their own part to reduce greenhouse gases.
  • Scott Pruitt vows to slash climate and water pollution regulations at CPAC: Head of the EPA told the conservative audience they would be ‘justified’ in believing the environmental regulator should be completely disbanded
    • Pruitt said the EPA “can’t just make it up” when it decides rules to address climate change, adding that it is “hard to measure with precision” the impact of human activity on the changing climate. In fact, an abundance of research points to the burning of fossil fuels as the key driver of warming temperatures.


  • Here’s why it's so frickin’ hot right now:
    • For individual days' worth of warm weather, you mainly have the jet stream to thank. This current of fast-moving air at about 35,000 feet above the ground has been steering a never-ending series storms into the West Coast, where California's mountains have picked up a crazy 500 inches of snow so far, and then moved across the U.S. in a way that has cut off flow of frigid air from the Arctic.
    • Through Feb. 23, daily record highs have been blowing away daily record lows by a far greater than 100-to-1 ratio, which, if it holds for a few more days, would itself set a record. So far this month, there have been nearly 5,000 daily record highs set or tied, compared to just 42 daily record lows. (Although this records ratio might need an asterisk, considering the short calendar month.)
    • And it's not the daily records that are most impressive, but rather the number of monthly records that are being tied or broken from the Gulf Coast all the way to the Midwest and northeastward into Canada. During the past week alone (not including Feb. 23), there were 736 daily record highs set or tied in the U.S., compared to zero daily record lows for the same period. Even more startling is the number of record warm overnight temperatures set or tied in the past seven days, which total a whopping 940. There were no record cold overnight low temperatures set or tied during the same period.
    • These figures do not include monthly temperature records that were broken on Friday, which included 73 degrees in Boston, shattering the previous record by 3 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, Allentown, Pennsylvania hit a remarkable 77 degrees, and Binghamton, New York reached 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Dayton, Cincinatti and Columbus Ohio each either tied or broke their monthly high temperature records on Friday as well, with numerous monthly milestones set on Thursday, too.
  • Bill McKibben rates Canada's climate performance: Canada's current government has shown a lot of progress, compared to their predecessors, at having great talking points on climate. But if you measure just their commitments under the Paris agreement to their approval of two tarsands pipelines, support for Keystone XL and approval of a massive LNG facility the math doesn't add up. A federal coal phase out is great, but when the Kinder Morgan pipeline has the same impact as building 42 new coal fired power plants, the scales don't balance.
    • Keep up the fight against pipelines. We'll do our best on Keystone XL, but now we need help from Canadians to make sure that projects like Kinder Morgan are never built and we can stop tar sands expansion at the source. There is a major new tar sands mine in Alberta, the Teck Frontier Project, that the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation are opposed to and that's something that should be on every climate activist in Canada's radar. As always, support for indigenous communities may be our best hope at times like this. The 350.org team in Canada has some big plans for 2017 as well, folks should make sure they're plugged into that to get the latest updates.
    • How do you see the role of media in the climate issue? "Still too easy to fool. For me, the classic example is the inability to get across that fracking and natural gas don't actually help with climate change — the science has been clear for two years now, but the reporting hasn't caught up. That said, there's also been some remarkable reporting — check out the NYT piece on Mexico City from earlier this week for instance."
  • Mexico City, Parched and Sinking, Faces a Water Crisis: Climate change is threatening to push a crowded capital toward a breaking point.
    • As Arnoldo Kramer, Mexico City’s chief resilience officer, put it: “Climate change has become the biggest long-term threat to this city’s future. And that’s because it is linked to water, health, air pollution, traffic disruption from floods, housing vulnerability to landslides — which means we can’t begin to address any of the city’s real problems without facing the climate issue.”
    • The system of getting the water from there to here is a miracle of modern hydroengineering. But it is also a crazy feat, in part a consequence of the fact that the city, with a legacy of struggling government, has no large-scale operation for recycling wastewater or collecting rainwater, forcing it to expel a staggering 200 billion gallons of both via crippled sewers like the Grand Canal. Mexico City now imports as much as 40 percent of its water from remote sources — then squanders more than 40 percent of what runs through its 8,000 miles of pipes because of leaks and pilfering. This is not to mention that pumping all this water more than a mile up into the mountains consumes roughly as much energy as does the entire metropolis of Puebla, a Mexican state capital with a population akin to Philadelphia’s.


  • ‘Greatest threat to democracy’: Commander of bin Laden raid slams Trump’s anti-media sentiment: William H. McRaven, a retired four-star admiral and former Navy SEAL, defended journalists this week, calling President Trump’s denunciation of the media as “the enemy of the American people” the “greatest threat to democracy” he’s seen in his lifetime.
    • That’s coming from a man who’s seen major threats to democracy. McRaven, who was commander of the secretive Joint Special Operations before he retired from the military, is the man who organized and oversaw the highly risky operation that killed Osama bin Laden almost six years ago. The admiral from Texas had tapped a special unit of Navy SEALs to carry out the May 2011 raid of the elusive terrorist’s hideout, a high-walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, The Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock reported shortly after bin Laden’s death.
    • In an interview Saturday on NBC News, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz), a vocal Trump critic, said such criticisms of the media is “how dictators get started.” “In other words, a consolidation of power,” McCain told “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd from Munich. “When you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press. And I’m not saying that President Trump is trying to be a dictator. I’m just saying we need to learn the lessons of history.” McCain was specifically responding to Trump’s condemnation of the news media as the enemy of the people, a phrase “typically used by leaders to refer to hostile foreign governments or subversive organization” and “echoed the language of autocrats who seek minimize dissent,” the New York Times wrote.
  • Thousands of emails detail EPA head’s close ties to fossil fuel industry: In his previous role as Oklahoma’s attorney general, the Environmental Protection Agency’s new administrator regularly huddled with fossil fuel firms and electric utilities about how to combat federal environmental regulations and spoke to conservative political groups about what they called government “overreach,” according to thousands of pages of emails made public Wednesday.
    • Though the emails show Pruitt’s ties with a wide range of fossil fuel interests and conservative political groups, they show a particularly friendly working relationship with officials Devon. Much of the correspondence revolves around arranging speaking engagements, obtaining contact information for people at the federal Office of Management and Budget and coordinating letter-writing efforts.
    • Pruitt’s close ties to Devon Energy were first highlighted in 2014 by the New York Times, which reported that a letter ostensibly written by the attorney general alleging that the EPA overestimated air pollution from natural gas drilling was actually written by the company’s attorneys. “That’s actually called representative government in my view of the world,” Pruitt later said of the letter.
    • “This is Scott Pruitt’s mission statement: attack environmental safeguards, protect industrial polluters and let the public pay the price,” Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. “These emails tell us that he’s in league with the very industries we’ve now entrusted him to police. He so deeply imbedded himself with energy companies that they described Pruitt and his allies as ‘fossil energy AGs,’ a badge of dishonor for a public guardian if ever there were one.”
  • Climate scientists face harassment, threats and fears of 'McCarthyist attacks': Researchers will have to deal with attacks from a range of powerful foes in the coming years – and for many, it has already started
    • “Trump himself is a bully and has emboldened a whole trove of people who have become bolder and meaner. That includes those who will target climate scientists. I’ve spoken to a scientist who received a death threat and is concerned it will happen again.” Kurtz and her small team, housed at Columbia University, are currently siding with the University of Arizona against a demand it release more than a decade’s worth of emails from two of its climate scientists, Malcolm Hughes and Jonathan Overpeck.
    • “We are hearing a real sense of despair from people at federal agencies,” said Rebecca Lave, who volunteers for the project aside from her role as associate professor of geography at Indiana University. “There’s a sense that quite drastic things can happen even in democratic societies. The US isn’t immune to that.”
  • Early flowering of rhododendrons signals climate change in Uttarakhand: Spring has just begun, but red rhododendrons are in full bloom up in the hills of Uttarakhand. It's almost a month ahead of its usual blossoming time. The early bloom of rhododendron or Burash as it is known locally, has drawn attention to climate change.
    • Villagers often welcome the blooming of the state flower as it indicates the end of bitter winter. But, there is an old belief in the hills that early blooming of Burash' affects the crop cycle and forecast a scorching summer. “It is generally observed that 'Burash' used to touch their peak flowering season after ‘Holi’- in mid March. But, in my village the shrubs of Rhododendron are in full bloom these days,” Pankaj Kushwal, a native of village Raithal in Uttarkashi, says.


  • Dubai's bid to cash in on climate change: During the 5th World Government Summit in Dubai, the government set out a bold vision for how adapting to climate change could form the basis of an industry worth billions to the country.
    • [ael: this is a poorly titled piece! It's about Dubai's exciting and realistic attempt to address the inevitable problems that will arise. It's a call to arms for economic powerhouses, and Dubai will clearly be one if they keep themselves at the head of this spear.]
  • Researcher's 1979 Arctic Model Predicted Current Sea Ice Demise, Holds Lessons for Future: Study from decades ago proved remarkably accurate in showing how global warming would affect the Arctic's sea ice, currently in steep decline.
  • How to survive the Trump era – be vigilant and resist at every turn -- Joseph Stiglitz:
  • John McCain on Trump: suppressing free press is 'how dictators get started': Despite ‘hating the press’, Republican senator says media is necessary after president calls media ‘the enemy of the American people’
    • “I’m very serious now, if you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press,” he continued. “Without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started.” The Republican party’s presidential nominee in 2008, McCain has repeatedly criticized Trump’s ideas as a candidate and now as president. The interview, broadcast Sunday, was taped not long after the president tweeted on Friday night that he considered the media “the enemy of the American people”.
    • Also on Saturday, the progressive senator Bernie Sanders warned: “According to Trump, if you want the truth, ignore everything except what he is saying. That’s what totalitarianism is all about.”
    • Asked whether the Republican leadership in Congress would allow a fair and thorough investigation of a president in their party, McCain was equivocal. “I hope so. And I have to believe so,” he said. “More hope than belief.”
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  • AAAS CEO Champions the Merit of Scientific Integrity in House Testimony: AAAS CEO Rush Holt delivered on February 7 a forceful defense of the integrity of the scientific process, saying public policy efforts that interfere with the way science is practiced would make the United States less attractive to the world’s brightest minds and stifle the nation’s scientific progress.
    • “I am here to say: don’t try to reform the scientific process. It has served us well and will continue to serve us well,” said Holt, who heads the world’s largest general scientific organization, in testimony before the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.
    • At the outset of the hearing, Holt said he would focus his remarks on the importance of using good science as the basis for public policies and regulation and he drew laughter in adding “I am pleased to note from the title of today’s hearing ‘Making EPA Great Again’ that [the committee] acknowledges that the EPA has been great.”


  • When Canadian Scientists Were Muzzled by Their Government: Less than a month into the Trump presidency, and the forecast for science seems ominous.
    • Scientists at federal agencies have been hit with gag orders preventing them from communicating their findings, or in some cases, attending scientific conferences. Social media accounts and websites have been censored, and at least one agency was asked to identify personnel who worked on climate policies. Now there are proposals for slashing research budgets and gutting funding that could affect the training of the next generation of scientists. To top it all off, President Trump’s cabinet nominees and senior advisers include many who are climate deniers or doubters.
    • One of the biggest blows came when research libraries were closed and historical data and reports, many unique and irreplaceable, were literally thrown into Dumpsters. This purge of environmental data was justified as a “cost-saving” measure. Additionally, many crucial data-gathering institutions were closed or saw their funding cut. To the outrage of the international science community, this included cutting all funding for the Experimental Lakes Area, a world-renowned research facility where scientists run experiments on pollution and environmental contaminants in more than 50 small lakes in northwestern Ontario. Other casualties included our northernmost Arctic monitoring station and our national census.
    • Fearing the continued erosion of even the most basic protections for food inspection, water quality and human health, Canadian scientists filled Ottawa’s streets in the Death of Evidence march. That theatrical mock funeral procession became something of a cultural touchstone. It was a turning point that galvanized public opinion against Prime Minister Harper’s anti-science agenda. By the next election, Justin Trudeau’s center-left government swept in on a platform that put scientists’ right to speak and the promise of evidence-based decisions alongside job creation and economic growth.
    • Evidence and objective reality are the foundation of successful policy and governance. Openness is as vital to science as it is to democracy. We cannot allow hard-won knowledge to be ignored or distorted. To fight the snuffing of the light of scientific inquiry, learn from your neighbors to the north. Reject interference. Stay vigilant and stay vocal. In other words, stay scientists.
  • AAAS CEO Champions the Merit of Scientific Integrity in House Testimony: AAAS CEO Rush Holt delivered on February 7 a forceful defense of the integrity of the scientific process, saying public policy efforts that interfere with the way science is practiced would make the United States less attractive to the world’s brightest minds and stifle the nation’s scientific progress.
  • Investors with $2.8 trillion in assets unite against Donald Trump’s climate change denial: As US President ramps up support for fossil fuels, some of the world's biggest funds demand end to coal and oil subsidies
    • But as G20 foreign ministers meet on Thursday to prepare for a climate change summit in Hamburg in July, managers of funds with assets totalling more than $2.8 trillion - more than the entire annual GDP of the UK - called for leading economies to phase out fossil fuel subsidies within the next three years to avert a catastrophe.
  • Antarctica Just Shed a Manhattan-Sized Chunk of Ice: A massive iceberg roughly 225 square miles in size — or in more familiar terms, 10 times the size of Manhattan — broke off in July 2015. Scientists subsequently spotted cracks in the glacier on a November 2016 flyover. And in January, another iceberg cleaved off the glacier.
    • Satellite imagery captured the most recent calving event, which Ohio State glaciologist Ian Howat said “ is the equivalent of an ‘aftershock’” following the July 2015 event. The iceberg was roughly “only” the size of Manhattan, underscoring just how dramatic the other breakups have been.
    • Other part of Antarctica from the peninsula to East Antarctica are also in danger of slowly melting out and raising sea levels. Cutting carbon pollution presents the only path forward to stave off the worst impacts of a melting Antarctic.


  • Why we’re all everyday climate change deniers: Alice Bell
    • Global warming is scary and abstract. No wonder we struggle to face up to it – and let politicians and industry off the hook
    • After Donald Trump won last month’s US presidential election, hot takes speedily declared it game over for the planet. But as Al Gore said at the weekend, “despair is just another form of denial”. About this, he is entirely right. Now is not the time to cry into your graphs of melting Arctic sea ice. That only helps the people who profit from delay on climate change.
    • You probably agree climate change is happening, have maybe even bothered to cut down on how much meat you eat or bunged Greenpeace a quid or two when Russia locked up those Arctic activists. But most of the time you avoid looking global warming in the eye. In many ways this everyday denial is understandable. Climate change is abstract. We only know about it through vast, complex, global and multi-generational networks of interdisciplinary, highly advanced science. It’s easy for it to drop out of our minds, even if we believe in it.
    • It’s also very scary. A friend who, once upon a time, was the greenest person I knew, hugs her infant son tight and tells me softly, slowly: “I just can’t think about climate change since I had him.” This feels entirely rational to me. But it’s this rather prosaic climate denial that lets the Trumps of the world get away with their more extreme forms. It also lets less extreme politicians and businesses off the hook, helping keep climate change as a low-priority topic. At best it puts the issue to one side, and allows us to imagine that Chinese solar businesses, Elon Musk, Ivanka Trump or some other ethereal hero will save us. At worst, it skips the issue entirely.
    • That future is possible. It might even be probable. But it’s not inevitable. We can choose to see climate change, and we can choose to do this before it’s too late. So how can we escape the quagmire of denial? As it turns out, the first step isn’t that hard: just talk about it. To your friends, family, colleagues – even to yourself. By talking about climate change, you’ll make it feel less scary. By talking about it, we’ll unlock solutions. And, crucially, it’s by talking about climate change that we’ll break the silence that allows it to go unnoticed and ignored.


  • 'Draconian' Trump gag on scientists could affect legislation, experts warn: ‘Oppressive’ approach to federal agency communications could result in misinformation on climate change, former presidential science advisers said
    • John Holdren, who was science adviser to Barack Obama until last month, said that Donald Trump’s team already appeared to be taking “a more comprehensive, more draconian and more oppressive” approach to vetting scientists’ communications than previous administrations. According to Holdren, a series of memos and public statements by administration officials has amounted to a clear message: “Nobody talks to anybody without permission from the team at the White House.”
    • Speaking to the press on Thursday morning, the AAAS CEO, Rush Holt, said: “When officials use a phrase like ‘alternative facts’ without embarrassment, you know there’s a problem. “Ideological assertions have been crowding out evidence in public and private debates and in policymaking,” Holt added. “It’s reaching the point where people are truly troubled by what this means for the practice of science.”
  • EPA staff told to prepare for Trump executive orders: sources:
  • Trump's choice for national security adviser has turned down offer: sources: President Donald Trump choice for national security adviser, retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward, has turned down the offer, the Financial Times reported on Thursday, citing two people familiar with the situation
  • US Special Ops chief: US government 'in unbelievable turmoil': "Our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil. I hope they sort it out soon because we're a nation at war," Army Gen. Raymond "Tony" Thomas told a symposium in Maryland.
    • While it wasn't exactly clear what Thomas was referring to, his remarks come less than 24 hours after retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn was forced to step down as national security adviser, becoming by far the shortest tenured adviser in history.
  • Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence:
    • American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election. The officials interviewed in recent weeks said that, so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation.
    • But the intercepts alarmed American intelligence and law enforcement agencies, in part because of the amount of contact that was occurring while Mr. Trump was speaking glowingly about the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin. At one point last summer, Mr. Trump said at a campaign event that he hoped Russian intelligence services had stolen Hillary Clinton’s emails and would make them public.
  • The Holocene climate experience: The history of climate and human health gives us a glimpse of the dramatically amplified risks we face as present trends continue.
    • The main general conclusion to be made about climatic impacts on health and survival during the Holocene is this: whether in the Arctic, temperate regions, or the tropics, the climatic comfort zone that sustains food and water supplies, stability of ecosystems, and other basic needs is confined within a narrow range of temperatures and a particular pattern of seasonal rainfall. Outside that comfort zone, stresses mount, biological function is compromised, and human health is impaired.
    • For all our cleverness, there is a serious chink in our species’ armour. Humans, as products of evolution’s central “survive the present” criterion, lack a strong hardwired instinct to act on behalf of the distant future and on behalf of species and ecosystems that are far away and unfamiliar. Earlier societies typically made reactive responses to climatic adversity, and often did so too late. They had limited information and awareness that critical environmental limits were being breached and limited formal knowledge of the workings of ecosystems and the climate system, and accordingly they had little forecasting capacity that could support proactive planning. So they did little more than build city walls, irrigation systems, and granaries to buffer them against any future floods and droughts. Today we know much more about the workings of the planet, the biosphere, and the climate system, as well as the mounting pressures on those systems. This knowledge, teamed up with our cerebral capacity for abstract thought and imagining the future, should enable us to respond in more proactive fashion. But will it?
  • Trump adviser proposes dismantling NASA climate research: An adviser to Donald Trump says NASA should no longer conduct climate research, a proposal that has been swiftly condemned by leaders in the Earth science and climate communities. Bob Walker, who advised the Trump campaign on space policy, told the Guardian that NASA should focus on space and leave the investigation of Earth to other parts of the government.
  • Canadian Scientists Know What to Expect from Trump: The Canadian biologist Ian Stirling has spent much of his life with polar bears. Now seventy-five years old, he joined the Canadian Wildlife Service in the early nineteen-seventies, at a time when no one was doing much in the field beyond tagging the bears and waiting to see where they went. For years, the government paid little attention to how Stirling spent his time; he even did much of his own fund-raising. But, beginning in 2006, when the conservative, business-friendly government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper came to power, Stirling and thirty-six thousand other federal scientists were abruptly forbidden to talk about their work publicly, unless their statements had been vetted and approved by bureaucrats in Ottawa. The policy lasted for nine years, until 2015. In that time, according to Elizabeth May, the leader of Canada’s Green Party, Harper’s “Orwellian” requirement became “a humiliation for scientists, and brought us into international ridicule.”
    • a memo leaked to the press indicates that Trump has imposed a gag order on E.P.A. employees, preventing them from speaking with journalists, posting on social media, or sending out news releases. Past Presidents, including Barack Obama, have issued similar orders, but theirs tended to be limited in scope. Trump’s is comprehensive—much like Harper’s.
  • Could a £400bn plan to refreeze the Arctic before the ice melts really work?: Temperatures are now so high at the north pole that scientists are contemplating radical schemes to avoid catastrophe
    • Physicist Steven Desch has come up with a novel solution to the problems that now beset the Arctic. He and a team of colleagues from Arizona State University want to replenish the region’s shrinking sea ice – by building 10 million wind-powered pumps over the Arctic ice cap. In winter, these would be used to pump water to the surface of the ice where it would freeze, thickening the cap.


  • Can the world fight climate change in the era of Trump? Former White House science adviser thinks so:
    • Trump has already amassed an alarming number of people who reject the scientific consensus regarding climate change, have deep ties to the fossil fuel industry, and are quite clear regarding their intent to undo or weaken the Obama climate legacy. His transition team has asked the Department of Energy to name staff who worked on Obama administration climate policy, and pressed the State Department about its international environmental spending.
    • Everybody is suffering from climate change, and no matter how much hand-waving a few folks may want to continue to do about how it’s not all proven, the fact is everybody around the world now understands that it’s real, that human activities are causing it, and that aggressive action is required to fix it.
    • One of the things I’ve found a little irritating about the climate science discussion over the years is the discussion about when will we reach dangerous human interference in the climate system. I think it’s very difficult to argue climate change isn’t already dangerous. We’re not really in the business any longer of trying to avoid dangerous climate change — we’re already in dangerous climate change. We’re trying to avoid catastrophic climate change and I think it would be better to be clear about that.
  • Scientists Just Sharply Denounced Trump’s Travel Ban: On Tuesday, 151 scientific societies and universities sent a joint letter denouncing the Trump administration’s immigration ban targeting seven predominantly Muslim countries as well as refugees. The International Council for Science, a group representing scientific bodies in 142 countries, also denounced the ban in a separate statement.
    • As of 2013, 18 percent of all scientists in the U.S. were immigrants. In the wake of Trump’s election, scientists were already worried about the impact a potential immigration ban could have on their families and by extension, their work. When the ban became reality on Friday, stories began to emerge about the real world impacts on scientists. A rising star doctor from Iran studying heart disease was barred from entering the U.S., according to the New York Times. Another Iranian climate science PhD student at the University of Calgary was planning to visit Greenland in April via the U.S. and her plans are likely on hold, according to Mashable.
    • “It is also concerned about the negative effects the Order will have on the freedom of scientific exchange among scientists and students of science worldwide, resulting in negative impacts on the progress of science, and impeding societies around the globe from benefitting from this progress,” the council said in a statement.
  • The EPA Has Started to Remove Obama-era Information : A mention of carbon pollution as a cause of climate change has also been removed and adaptation has been emphasized, indicating an attempt to separate the cause of climate change from the response.
  • Sea Ice Hits Record Lows at Both Poles: Arctic temperatures have finally started to cool off after yet another winter heat wave stunted sea ice growth over the weekend. The repeated bouts of warm weather this season have stunned even seasoned polar researchers, and could push the Arctic to a record low winter peak for the third year in a row.
    • Sea ice at both poles has been expected to decline as the planet heats up from the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. That trend is clear in the Arctic, where summer sea ice now covers half the area it did in the early 1970s. Sea ice levels in Antarctica are much more variable, though, and scientists are still unraveling the processes that affect it from year to year.
    • Sea ice around Antarctica hits record low, preliminary U.S. data show: more
  • Coastal Cities Could Flood Three Times a Week by 2045:
    • Washington and Annapolis, Md. could see more than 120 high tide floods every year by 2045, or one flood every three days, according to the study, published last week in the journal PLOS ONE. That’s up from once-a-month flooding in mid-Atlantic regions now, which blocks roads and damages homes. “The flooding would generally cluster around the new and full moons,” said Erika Spanger-Siegfried, a Union of Concerned Scientists analysts who helped produce the new study. “Many tide cycles in a row would bring flooding, this would peter out, and would then be followed by a string of tides without flooding.”


  • ‘Extremely High Levels’ Of Toxic Pollutants Found In Deepest Parts Of World’s Oceans: There’s literally no escaping mankind’s mess.
    • In a shocking discovery highlighting the interconnectedness of our planet, scientists have detected “extremely high levels” of organic chemicals in the fatty tissue of amphipods, a type of crustacean, living in Mariana trench ― the deepest part of the world’s oceans.
    • The contaminants, including industrial polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, were found “in all samples across all species at all depths in both trenches,” at levels “considerable higher than documented for nearby regions of heavy industrialization,” according to the findings.
    • Disturbingly, the highest levels of PCBs ― compounds widely used in electrical equipment until they were banned in the 1970s ― were detected in Mariana trench at concentrations 50 times that of crabs from China’s heavily polluted Liaohe River. The researchers say the most logical explanation for the accumulation of these toxic compounds in such isolated areas is that plastic marine debris and dead animals contaminated at the surface sank through the water column. Once at the bottom, they were consumed by deep-sea species.
  • Deputy CIA director could face court deposition over post-9/11 role in torture: Attorneys for psychologists who helped design brutal interrogations seek deposition from Gina Haspel, newly appointed by Donald Trump
  • India’s Air Pollution Rivals China’s as World’s Deadliest:
    • India’s rapidly worsening air pollution is causing about 1.1 million people to die prematurely each year and is now surpassing China’s as the deadliest in the world, a new study of global air pollution shows.
    • The number of premature deaths in China caused by dangerous air particles, known as PM2.5, has stabilized globally in recent years but has risen sharply in India, according to the report, issued jointly on Tuesday by the Health Effects Institute
  • Young representatives craft climate change resolution for Indy: The resolution is, “a proposal for a special resolution to reduce carbon emissions, increase energy efficiency and renewable energy use, to create a climate change-resilient City of Indianapolis that will protect the children and grandchildren of the community,” according to the press release.
    • “It would have been easy to have a lot more [speakers] than that,” said Jim Poyser, the executive director of Earth Charter Indiana and the director of Youth Power Indiana, “but that was what the request was…so we wouldn’t overwhelm the committee with too many speakers.”
    • “The resolution is a combination of setting benchmarks for carbon neutrality in city functions, looking out over time, but it’s also about how the city can be of inspiration to its citizens to be more carbon aware,” Poyser said…. After the kids and others in the community spoke, the committee voted on the resolution, unanimously voting to send it to the City Council. The kids who were gathered at the meeting were met with two standing ovations to celebrate their work.


  • The Winter of Blazing Discontent Continues in the Arctic: Weird. Strange. Extreme. Unprecedented.
    • These are some of the words that describe what’s been happening in the Arctic over the past year as surge after surge of warm air have stalled, and at times reversed, sea ice pack growth. And the unfortunate string of superlatives is set to continue this week.
  • Dakota Pipeline Greenlighted As Fossil Fuels Move to Fore: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is cancelling an environmental review of the Dakota Access Pipeline and will grant approval of an easement that allows the final link in the pipeline to be constructed. The decision on Tuesday makes good on President Trump’s executive order advancing the controversial project, which has been the subject of months of protests at the construction site in North Dakota.



  • A new analysis of sea surface temperatures from an independent source corroborates updated global warming data released in 2015 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: The results contradict allegations from some Republicans on Capitol Hill that NOAA manipulated its 2015 data to show continuous global warming, since earlier NOAA research had suggested the Earth was experiencing a warming "pause" or hiatus.
    • Between 1998 and 2012, NOAA research based on sea surface temperatures seemed to suggest that average global temperatures were not rising. This data did not support the theory of climate change, and skeptics were quick to use these figures as proof that global warming was a "hoax." But in 2015, NOAA updated its research with new data that does indeed show a steady rise in global temperatures. This outraged some politicians who claimed that the numbers had been recalibrated to please climate action proponents on Capitol Hill. Now, another study has independently corroborated NOAA’s 2015 results.
    • Zeke Hausfather, a research scientist at Berkeley Earth in California and one of the lead authors of that study, explains it this way: “In 2015, NOAA published a paper in Science, in which they released a new version of their sea surface temperature records. They updated it from version three to version four. This new version showed a lot more warming than their old version. It roughly doubled the amount of warming reported since 1998.”
    • Hausfather objects to the way some members of Congress have reacted to the new NOAA data. The head of the House Science and Technology Committee, for example, accused NOAA scientists of “cooking the books,” and even demanded access to all the scientists' emails. “In general, the way science works is when you disagree with the result, you don't go after the scientists' emails — you ask other scientists to replicate it,” Hausfather says. “Science is all about uncertainty,” he continues. “The problem in a lot of cases is that people interpret, ‘This is uncertain,’ as, ‘We know nothing.’ Scientists have said multiple times that we're 95 percent certain that the majority of warming in recent years is due to humans. Ninety-five percent is a pretty good number. If 19 out of 20 doctors you talked to said that you had a tumor, you probably would want to do something about that, even if that one out of 20 was less sure.”
  • Commentary: Forget the Anthropocene. Welcome to the Idiocene: Will the daily barrage of falsehoods, insults, and boneheaded moves give cover to the business of dismantling environmental protection?
    • AP science and environment stories are particularly widespread, but for hardly the best of reasons: Stories from the sprawling news nonprofit are being scooped up by daily newspapers whose in-house environment reporting has vanished in the industry-wide meltdown. New media and nonprofit news sites are performing nobly, but let’s face it: Collectively, we don’t rate a mention when the administration talks about war against the media.
  • Coal rule killed by U.S. Congress, others near chopping block: By a vote of 54-45, the Senate approved a resolution already passed in the House of Representatives to kill the rule aimed at keeping pollutants out of streams in areas near mountaintop removal coal-mining sites.
    • The resolution now goes to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it quickly. It was only the second time the Congressional Review Act, which allows lawmakers to stop newly minted regulations in their tracks, has been used successfully since it was passed in 2000.
  • Bay of Bengal: depleted fish stocks and huge dead zone signal tipping point: Long treated as a bottomless resource pit, over-exploitation of the ocean, pollution and rising sea levels are having a catastrophic impact on life in the bay
    • But the fisheries of the Bay of Bengal have been under pressure for decades and are now severely depleted. Many once-abundant species have all but disappeared. Particularly badly affected are the species at the top of the food chain. The bay was once feared by sailors for its man-eating sharks; they are now rare in these waters. Other apex predators like grouper, croaker and rays have also been badly hit. Catches now consist mainly of species like sardines, which are at the bottom of the marine food web.


  • Frightened by Donald Trump? You don’t know the half of it: Many of his staffers are from an opaque corporate misinformation network. We must understand this if we are to have any hope of fighting back against them
  • Canadian scientists were followed, threatened and censored. They warn that Trump could do the same:
    • Canada's information commission eventually launched a censorship investigation into the complaints. It had not concluded before late 2015, when Harper lost to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who restored scientists' rights to speak directly to the public, the Smithsonian reported. President Barack Obama did something similar — ordering a “scientific integrity” policy when he took over the White House from President George W. Bush, who had restricted public access to research on climate change, according to The Post.
  • Army Corps ordered to issue final Dakota Access pipeline permit, two lawmakers say: The acting secretary of the Army has instructed the Army Corps of Engineers to provide the final permit needed to complete the Dakota Access pipeline, according to two Republican North Dakota lawmakers who support the project.
  • A Climate Change Economist Sounds the Alarm:
    • In the early 1990s, Yale's William Nordhaus was among the first to examine the economics of reducing carbon emissions. Since then, he and colleagues have mixed climate physics with economic modeling to explore how various policies might play out both for global temperatures and growth. The approach attempts to weigh, in present-value terms, the costs of preventative measures against the future benefit of avoiding disaster.
    • In his latest analysis, though, Nordhaus comes to a very different conclusion. Using a more accurate treatment of how carbon dioxide may affect temperatures, and how remaining uncertainties affect the likely economic outcomes, he finds that our current response to global warming is probably inadequate to prevent temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above their pre-industrial levels, a stated goal of the Paris accords. Worse, the analysis suggests that the required carbon-dioxide reductions are beyond what's politically possible. For all the talk of curbing climate change, most nations remain on a business-as-usual trajectory. Meanwhile, further economic growth will drive even greater carbon emissions over coming decades, particularly in developing nations.
  • Senate Republicans suspend committee rules to approve Scott Pruitt, Trump’s EPA nominee:
    • Pruitt’s written responses also reflected a more detailed and specific expression of doubt about the science of climate change, compared with the vaguer statements he made in his confirmation hearing. “I am also aware that ‘warmest year ever’ claims from NASA and NOAA are based on minimal temperature differences that fall within the margin of error,” Pruitt asserted in one response. In actuality, however, NASA expressed a more than 95 percent certainty that 2016 was the warmest year on record (dating back to 1880) and NOAA gave a 62 percent certainty.
  • Essay: Meteorologists and the sacred position between people and science: Whether doctor or meteorologist, when we fail to look at the systemic causes of the immediate problems in front of us, we are guilty of malpractice.
  • Is the North Atlantic headed for an ice age?: In a study published last month, they say the Atlantic circulation pattern that keeps Europe cozy is likely to collapse due to climate change. The researchers estimate the circulation pattern, best known as the Gulf Stream, could switch off centuries in the future. If that happens, it could cause surface air temperatures in Europe to plunge more than 12 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter, and drive intense storms in the Northern Hemisphere.
    • That upheaval is likelier than researchers thought, Xie and Liu concluded, after calculating salinity changes in polar water. Salty water is heavier than fresh water, and sinks more readily, driving the Atlantic heat pump. As polar water gets fresher because of ice melt and precipitation, however, the cycle could shut off.
  • Protect the environment, reject Pruitt: Our view
    • Scientists are constantly being surprised by how quickly the planet is changing. Last year was the warmest since modern record-keeping began. Rising temperatures contributed to killer heat waves in Asia and the Middle East, a supersize wildfire in Canada, the retreat of glaciers across the globe and the vast bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef off Australia.
    • Carbon dioxide emissions are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, and Trump could not have nominated someone more opposed to the agency's mission than Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to be its new administrator. Pruitt, a champion of the fossil fuel industry, has sued the EPA 14 times to block environmental regulations. In 13 cases, co-plaintiffs included industries that contributed money to Pruitt's political campaign or affiliated committees. During recent confirmation testimony, the nominee declined to say whether, as EPA administrator, he would voluntarily recuse himself from dealing with the lawsuits he filed against the agency.
  • Deutsche Bank pulls out of coal projects to meet Paris climate pledge: The biggest bank in Germany says all new investment will stop and existing exposure will be gradually reduced
  • U.S. House axes rules to prevent corruption, pollution: Two major U.S. rules aimed at curbing corruption and pollution in the energy sector may be entirely wiped from the books by next week, after the Republican-led House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to repeal them. The Senate is expected to take up repealing the rules, both of which were years in the making, as soon as Thursday. Under the virtually untested Congressional Review Act, the Republican-led Congress can vote to permanently undo newly minted regulations. Agencies cannot revisit overturned regulations and timing in the law means any regulation enacted in the Obama administration's final months are eligible for axing.

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