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Monday, October 20, 2014

As Casualties Mount, Scientists Say Global Warming Has Been "Hugely Underestimated"

bDahr Jamail, Truthout, October 20, 2014
Climate change
(Image: High altitudeair pollution via Shutterstock)
As we look across the globe this month, the signs of a continued escalation of the impacts of runaway anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) continue to increase, alongside a drumbeat of fresh scientific studies confirming their connection to the ongoing human geo-engineering project of emitting carbon dioxide at ever-increasing rates into the atmosphere.
major study recently published in New Scientist found that "scientists may have hugely underestimated the extent of global warming because temperature readings from southern hemisphere seas were inaccurate," and said that ACD is "worse than we thought" because it is happening "faster than we realized."
As has become predictable now, as evidence of increasing ACD continues to mount, denial and corporate exploitation are accelerating right along with it.
Climate Disruption DispatchesThis is the start of the paragraph.
The famed Northwest Passage is now being exploited by luxury cruise companies. Given the ongoing melting of the Arctic ice cap, a company recently announced a 900-mile, 32-day luxury cruise there, with fares starting at $20,000, so people can luxuriate while viewing the demise of the planetary ecosystem.
This, while even mainstream scientists now no longer view ACD in the future tense, but as a reality that is already well underway and severely impacting the planet.
It is good that even the more conservative scientists have come aboard the reality train, because a recent National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-led (NOAA) study published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society has provided yet more evidence linking ACD with extreme heat events.
To provide perspective on how far along we are regarding runaway ACD, another recent study shows that the planet's wildlife population is less than half the size it was four decades ago. The culprits are both ACD and unsustainable human consumption, coupling to destroy habitats faster than previously thought, as biodiversity loss has now reached "critical levels," according to the report. More than half of the vertebrate population on the planet has been annihilated in just four decades.
Let that sink in for a moment before reading further.
Meanwhile, the situation only continues to grow grimmer.
NASA announced that this August was the hottest globally since records began in 1880. Days later, NOAA confirmed this and added that 2014 is on track to become the hottest year on record.
Shortly thereafter, NASA announced that this September was the hottest since 1880.
And emissions only continue to increase.
Global greenhouse gas emissions rose this last year to record levels, increasing 2.3 percent.
The effects of all these developments are especially evident in the Arctic, where sea ice coverage reached its annual minimum on September 17, continuing a trend of below-average years. According to the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center, Arctic sea ice coverage this year is the sixth lowest recorded since 1978.
Equally disconcerting and symptomatic of the aforementioned, 35,000 walruses crowded onto land near the Northwest Alaska village of Point Lay late last month, when they couldn't find their preferred resting grounds of summer sea ice.
Earth
The European Space Agency announced that, due to billions of tons of ice loss, a dip in the gravity field over the Western Antarctic region has occurred, making even gravity itself the latest casualty of ACD.
recent analysis of 56 studies on ACD-related health problems revealed that increasing global temperatures and extreme weather events will continue to deleteriously impact human health on a global scale.
On a micro-scale, another report showed how Minnesota's warming (and increasingly wetter) climate is escalating the risk of new diseases in the area, according to the Minnesota Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment.
Further north, warming temperatures continue to disrupt the fragile ecological balance in the Canadian Arctic, which is warming faster than most of the rest of the planet. Canada's minister for natural resources provided a new report detailing the impact ACD is having on that country's forests, which are being impacted "faster than the global average."  [The boreal forests of Siberia, Alaska and Canada are having ever more numerous uncontrolled wildfires.]
In neighboring Alaska, summer heat and invasive insects are taking a similar toll on interior Alaska birch trees, according to experts there.
Wildlife populations continue to struggle to adapt to the dramatic changes wrought by ACD. In California, one of the largest populations of state-protected Western pond turtles in the southern part of that state is struggling to survive as its habitat, a natural two-mile long lake, has become a smelly, severely alkaline death trap due to drought and fires there.
Of course it isn't just wildlife that is struggling to adapt and cope with ACD.
Members of the Swinomish tribe, located north of Seattle, were recently awarded a large grant from the federal government in order to deal with rising seas and flooding, as they live near the mouth of the Skagit River.
Water
The extremes of water, flooding and drought continue to persist and escalate as ACD continues.
In California, where record-breaking drought is becoming a way of life for much of the state, at least 14 communities are on the brink of waterlessness and are trucking in water while trying to find a solution.
In East Porterville, a small rural community in Tulare County, California, the situation has become so desperate that residents are no longer able to flush toilets, fill a glass with water or wash their hands without using bottled water.
Dairy farmers in that state are struggling to survive the drought, as the cost for feed and water is being driven up by the lack of water.
The US Energy Information Administration announced that California's ability to produce electricity from hydroelectric dams is being significantly hampered by the drought, which covers 100% of the state now. This is because the reservoirs, which create power when the water in them is released into turbines, are drying up, thus providing less pressure to spin the turbines. The first six months of this year have seen the state's hydropower generation decrease by half.
And it's not just California that is experiencing drought. The better part of the entire Western Hemisphere has experienced some form of drought in recent years, according to another recent report published in the journal Science which states: "A dry spell has killed cattle and wiped out crops in Central America, parts of Colombia have seen rioting over scarce water, and southern Brazil is facing its worst dry spell in 50 years." [Sao Paulo's reservoir is done to 4% of capacity -- 22 million people are gonna need a lot of water.]
Across the Atlantic, at a recent international conference that was held to discuss the growing global water crisis, experts warned that Britain must prepare for the "worst droughts in modern times."
In Iran, worshippers have sought divine intervention and they're being urged to literally pray for rain.
An excellent report by National Geographic asked a critical question: What will happen to the American West, which has been built upon the back of snowmelt, when the snows fail?
On the other end of the water spectrum - melting and flooding - we continue to see global evidence of the impact of ACD. The aforementioned recent satellite observations from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center revealed in October that the Arctic ice cap has melted so much that open water is now a mere 350 miles from the North Pole, which is the shortest distance ever recorded, according to scientists.
This coincides with predictions from leading British and American polar researchers that Truthout has previously interviewed who predict the ice cap will melt completely during the summer as early as next year.
recent report by the Union for Concerned Scientists warned that several major US cities will see at least 10 times more coastal flooding by 2045, in addition to at least 11 inches of sea level rise by the same year.
In Delaware, they aren't waiting. There, millions of dollars have been spent to pump sand in to build up dunes along the beaches in order to create a buffer from future storms and sea level rise.
Down in Miami, hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent to install new storm pumps and storm drains in order to combat sea level rise at Miami Beach. Near the Cape Canaveral area, a low-lying barrier island is getting even lower as sea levels continue to rise, so communities there are investigating ways to keep the water at bay, or to plan a retreat.
Edmonton, Canada, is pushing forward with a $2.4 billion bill for flood prevention, as that city is seeing increasingly severe downpours.
Southern France experienced a deluge of 10 inches of rain in just three hours, which amounted to half a year's worth of rain in one day in Montpellier. [The Florida panhandle had more than 26 inches in 24 hours.]
In Norway, massive amounts of melt-water from streams and blue ice on mountains indicated that the ice fields and glaciers on central Norway's highest peaks were in full retreat, and exposed rock and ice that had not been seen for 6,000 years. On that note, recent studies also show that sea-level rise over the last century (20 centimeters) has been unmatched in 6,000 years.
Recent reports indicate that the Gulf of Alaska has become unusually warm, warmer in fact than since researchers began tracking surface water temperatures in the 1980s, according to NOAA.
In the Atlantic, lobsters off the coast of southern New England are moving up into Canada due to warming waters. The exotic lionfish, native to the Indo-Pacific, is also heading north up the Atlantic coast, as warming waters are changing ocean habitats.
In Greenland, "dark" snow atop the ice sheet is now being called a "positive feedback loop" by an expert there, as the increasing trend is reducing the Arctic's ability to reflect sunlight, further contributing to runaway ACD.
Recent analysis indicates that scientists could have underestimated the size of the heat sink across the upper ocean, according to a recent report. The study, published in Nature Climate Change, found that the upper 700 meters of the ocean have been warming 24-55% faster since 1970 than previously thought. This means that the pace and scale of planetary warming is much faster than previously believed.
Lastly in this section, and possibly the most distressing, a recent report revealed that fish are failing to adapt to increasing carbon dioxide levels in the oceans. This means that within just a few generations of fish, a mass die-off could occur due to lack of adaptation. More carbon dioxide in the oceans is adversely changing the behavior of fish through generations, which means that marine species may never fully adapt to their changing environment.
Air
study published in Geophysical Research Letters showed that tornado activity in "Tornado Alley" in the Midwestern United States is peaking two weeks earlier than it did 50 years ago, and ACD is the culprit.
Erratic jet stream behavior is now believed to be caused by the rapid retreating of Arctic sea ice as a result of ACD. The increasingly unpredictable jet stream is being blamed for more frequent, prolonged spells of extreme weather in Europe, North America and Asia. This includes more and longer freezing temperatures, storms and heat waves.
In October, California found itself in yet another heat wave, with record-breaking temperatures reported in several cities and hotter-than-usual temperatures across the state. The National Weather Service put the San Francisco Bay area and San Diego under a heat advisory and issued a hazardous weather outlook for the Los Angeles area. The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) cancelled outside activities and sports for the better part of a week due to the extreme heat, which was the second time this school year that LAUSD has had to cancel activities because of high temperatures.
On one day, downtown Los Angeles reached 92 degrees by noon, whereas the average October temperature for that city is 79 degrees. Several cities in Southern California broke record temperatures. Oxnard reached 98 degrees, breaking an almost 70-year-old record.
Fire
As wildfires continued to burn across parts of drought-stricken California, a record-breaking amount of fire retardant was used (203,000 gallons in one day alone) while combatting a massive wildfire in Northern California. The fire was burning so hotly and expanding so explosively, due to the prolonged drought, that firefighters found that normal amounts of retardant weren't stopping the flames.
It is now well known that fire season in California, as well as across all the other Western US states, is extending due to ACD.
Denial and Reality
The person who runs the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a free-market lobbying group that opposes policies to mitigate ACD, is not sure whether humans actually cause ACD, according to an interview recently published in National Journal.
When asked specifically whether or not she thought human carbon emissions are causing climate change, ALEC CEO Lisa Nelson said, "I don’t know the science on that."
The denial-based antics of Gov. Chris Christie are ongoing as well. He recently said that a regional cap-and-trade program from which his state of New Jersey withdrew in 2011 was "a completely useless plan" and added that he "would not think of rejoining it."
Louisiana's Gov. Bobby Jindal, a potential Republican presidential candidate for 2016, is taking a "soft denial" approach by admitting that ACD is real, while saying the extent to which humans have a role is still in "doubt."
The denial project's success is evidenced by large numbers of Americans racing to buy and develop seashore properties in areas well known to be at high-risk for rising seas and increasingly intense storms. Mike Huckabee, now apparently a chronic presidential candidate, is among those racing to build on shores that will be submerged in the not-so-distant future.
It's no coincidence that merely 3% of current Congressional Republicans have even gone on record to accept the fact that climate disruption is anthropogenic, according to PolitiFact, which also found that there is a grand total of eight Republican non-deniers, total, in the House and Senate.
Another interesting turn of events shows companies like GE and Google operating as large companies do in advance of elections - funding both sides to safeguard their interests. In this case, these companies, along with others, are making campaign contributions to Congressional ACD-deniers - while simultaneously professing to be pro-sustainability companies.
Meanwhile the media blitz continues, as the Rupert Murdoch-owned and ACD-denying Wall Street Journal recently ran an article titled "Climate Science Is Not Settled," which was chock full of the usual ACD-denier talking points. The article provides us with a prime example of how the doubt narrative is consistently slipped in as a meme: "Any serious discussion of the changing climate must begin by acknowledging not only the scientific certainties but also the uncertainties, especially in projecting the future."
In stark contrast to the "doubters" and "deniers," the Pentagon recently announced that ACD poses an "immediate risk" to national security, according to the Department of Defense's 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap.
Shaun Donovan, the new US director of the Office of Management and Budget, used his first speech to talk about the dangers of inaction on climate change, in regards to the federal budget. "From where I sit, climate action is a must do; climate inaction is a can't do; and climate denial scores - and I don't mean scoring points on the board," he said. "I mean that it scores in the budget. Climate denial will cost us billions of dollars."
Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently admitted that funding ALEC was a "mistake," and said that the group's spreading of disinformation and lies about ACD was "making the world a much worse place." During an NPR interview, Schmidt said, "Everyone understands climate change is occurring and the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren. . . . And so we should not be aligned with such people - they're just, they're just literally lying."
The Endangered Species Coalition recently released a list of things people should take their children to go see outdoors, because if they wait too long, their kids might not get a chance to see them before they become extinct. The list includes monarch butterflies, polar bears, great white sharks, white bark pine trees and Snake River sockeye salmon. [Don't forget the starfish.]
study published in Environmental Research Letters showed that switching to natural gas will not reduce carbon emissions very much, and could in fact increase them slightly, due to the fact that it would discourage the use of carbon-free renewable energy sources. This is significant because there are many lawmakers who are ACD "realists," including President Obama, who advocate that natural gas is a "solution" to ACD.
remarkable electronic dashboard created by The Guardian shows some of the key indicators of planetary health, where you can view updated snapshots of the impacts your country, as well as humans, are having on the environment.
Lastly, possibly the most disturbing reality check of all comes from MIT's 2014 Climate and Energy Outlook. The recently released report revealed that global energy use and carbon dioxide emissions will likely double by 2100.

Seth Borenstein: Another Month, Another Global Heat Record Broken -- 2014 on track to be hottest year recorded

by Seth Borenstein, AP, October 20, 2014

Earth is on pace to tie or even break the mark for the hottest year on record, federal meteorologists say.


That's because global heat records have kept falling in 2014, with September the latest example.


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Monday that last month the globe averaged 60.3 degrees Fahrenheit (15.72 degrees Celsius). That was the hottest September in 135 years of record keeping.


It was the fourth monthly record set this year, along with May, June and August.

NASA, which measures temperatures slightly differently, had already determined that September was record-warm.


The first nine months of 2014 have a global average temperature of 58.72 degrees (14.78 degrees Celsius), tying with 1998 for the warmest first nine months on record, according to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.


"It's pretty likely" that 2014 will break the record for hottest year, said NOAA climate scientist Jessica Blunden.


The reason involves El Nino, a warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean that affects weather worldwide. In 1998, the year started off super-hot because of an El Nino. But then that El Nino disappeared and temperatures moderated slightly toward the end of the year.


This year has no El Nino yet, but forecasts for the rest of the year show a strong chance that one will show up, and that weather will be warmer than normal, Blunden said.


If 2014 breaks the record for hottest year, that also should sound familiar: 1995, 1997, 1998, 2005 and 2010 all broke NOAA records for the hottest years since records started being kept in 1880.


"This is one of many indicators that climate change has not stopped and that it continues to be one of the most important issues facing humanity," said University of Illinois climate scientist Donald Wuebbles.


Some people, mostly non-scientists, have been claiming that the world has not warmed in 18 years, but "no one's told the globe that," Blunden said. She said NOAA records show no pause in warming.


The record-breaking heat goes back to the end of last year — November 2013 broke a record. So the 12 months from October 2013 to September 2014 are the hottest 12-month period on record, Blunden said. Earth hasn't set a monthly record for cold since December 1916, but all monthly heat record have been set after 1997.


September also marks the fifth month in a row that Earth's oceans broke monthly heat records, Blunden said.


The U.S. as a whole was warmer than normal for September, but the month was only the 25th warmest on record.


While parts of the U.S. Midwest, Russia and central Africa were slightly cool in September, it was especially hotter than normal in the U.S. West, Australia, Europe, northwestern Africa, central South America and parts of Asia. California and Nevada set records for the hottest September.


If Earth sets a record for heat in 2014 it probably won't last, said Jeff Masters, meteorology director for the private firm Weather Underground. If there is an El Nino, Masters said, "next year could well bring Earth's hottest year on record, accompanied by unprecedented regional heat waves and droughts."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/20/global-heat-record_n_6015544.html

Remembering Rick Piltz, Scientific Integrity Advocate


by Michael Halpern, "The Equation," Union of Concerned Scientists, October 20, 2014

Rick Piltz, founder of Climate Science Watch and revered whistleblower who exposed political interference in climate science, succumbed to cancer over the weekend. He took a brave and unusual path from civil servant to scientific integrity advocate and climate activist that inspired many of us. His memory will continue to motivate me and many others to work tirelessly for a better world where science more freely informs public policy.

I first met Rick in 2005. A senior official with the U.S. Global Change Research Program, he had grown tired of working in an environment under the Bush administration where political interference in the work of climate scientists had become routine. He resigned from government service and the Government Accountability Project agreed to represent him as a whistleblower.
He came to the UCS offices to talk about everything he knew about the politicization of climate science. Quite frankly, the amount of information he shared exhausted me. We talked for more than three hours. He was completely open with what he knew, and very interested in exploring strategies for bringing attention to what was happening.
Description: photo of Rick Piltz testifying before Congress
Tireless whistleblower and scientific integrity advocate Rick Piltz testifies at a January 2007 congressional hearing on political interference in climate science. Former UCS Senior Scientist Francesca Grifo also testified at the hearing, where UCS released a survey of government climate scientists showing pervasive political pressures on their work. Screengrab from C-SPAN.
Rick became a minor celebrity when The New York Times published an article based on documents Rick provided showing that a high-ranking Bush administration official and former American Petroleum Institute lobbyist had rewritten government scientific reports to downplay the link between human activity and climate change. The official, Phil Cooney, quicklyleft the administration to work for ExxonMobil. (Yup, sometimes you can’t even make this stuff up).

“Rick was one of the few people brave enough to speak on the record about the distortion and suppression of climate science during the Bush administration despite the possible repercussions for him and his work,” said UCS senior writer Seth Shulman, who investigated many cases of the abuse of science at the time. “Speaking out the way he did still took a lot of courage because he was uncertain about his future in the field. I greatly admired him for that.”
Indeed, it takes a ton of courage to become a whistleblower. You risk your livelihood and often take a big financial hit. You (and your family) often become subject to attacks by powerful interests. You may enjoy some protection from retribution, but even then, the deck is often stacked against you. But Rick soldiered on.
“Rick was a public servant in the truest sense, both while he was in the government and after he made the principled decision to resign and to start up Climate Science Watch,” said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for UCS.
For the next decade, Climate Science Watch paid close attention to the use and misuse of science in government and attacks on climate science and scientists. I knew that whenever I called on Rick, the answer would be an enthusiastic YES. He helped us conceptualize theextensive UCS report on political interference in climate science that was the subject of the House Committee on Government Reform’s first hearing on the topic in 2007 (and testified at that hearing). He contributed ideas that helped us write Federal Science and the Public Good, which remains our basic blueprint for restoring scientific integrity to federal policymaking. He would always be willing to join me to a meeting with an administration official, or meet for coffee to give advice, or send an email to make sure I was aware of a new challenge.

While some deprioritized work on scientific integrity once President Obama took office, Rick knew, personally, that the system that allowed for such rampant abuses of science was still in effect. He did not shy away from criticizing the Obama administration on all kinds of issues when he felt that it was failing to meet the president’s pledge to “restore science to its rightful place” (see herehereherehere, and here for just a few recent posts).

Rick also saw the danger of attacking the work of climate scientists through criminal statutes and open records requests and public defamation. His organization signed on to numerous letters pushing back on such attacks, and he blogged regularly about developments.

Once he stood up, Rick Piltz never again sat down. He never took his eyes off of the prize, which for him was a world responsive to the consequences of climate change, and a democracy that respected the work of experts who devote their lives to public service.
“He has been such a guiding light for truth as we all have been navigating through calm and stormy waters,” UCS’s Brenda Ekwurzel wrote to me this morning. “I can think of no better way of honoring Rick than by continuing the fight he so bravely met head on.”
Those of us who knew him will always remember his soft-spoken manner, his methodical approach, his wry sense of humor, and his strong sense of justice.
So long, Rick. So many of us will miss you, and do our best to carry your passion forward.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Stolen Future, Broken Present: The Human Significance of Climate Change

Stolen Future, Broken Present: The Human Significance of Climate Change

by David A. Collings
ISBN 978-1-60785-314-5
This book argues that climate change has a devastating effect on how we think about the future. Once several positive feedback loops in Earth’s dynamic systems, such as the melting of the Arctic icecap or the drying of the Amazon, cross the point of no return, the biosphere is likely to undergo severe and irreversible warming.
Nearly everything we do is premised on the assumption that the world we know will endure into the future and provide a sustaining context for our activities. But today the future of a viable biosphere, and thus the purpose of our present activities, is put into question. A disappearing future leads to a broken present, a strange incoherence in the feel of everyday life.
We thus face the unprecedented challenge of salvaging a basis for our lives today. That basis, this book argues, may be found in our capacity to assume an infinite responsibility for ecological disaster and, like the biblical Job, to respond with awe to the alien voice that speaks from the whirlwind. By owning disaster and accepting our small place within the inhuman forces of the biosphere, we may discover how to live with responsibility and serenity whatever may come.

Author Bio

David Collings is Professor of English at Bowdoin College, where he teaches courses in British Romanticism, critical theory, sexuality and gender, and environmental studies. He is the author of Wordsworthian Errancies: The Poetics of Cultural Dismemberment (1994) and Monstrous Society: Reciprocity, Discipline, and the Political Uncanny, c. 1780-1848 (2009). He co-edited Queer Romanticisms with Michael O’Rourke (2004-2005) and Romanticism and Disaster with Jacques Khalip (2012). He has written articles on affect without content, anti-biography, the ethics of the impossible, economies of disaster, the impasses of utilitarianism, and the post-covenantal sublime.

Martin Sheen Protects Oceans, Newest Sea Shepherd Vessel Unveiled

by Reese Halter, Huffington Post, October 19, 2014
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society christened its latest research vessel Saturday morning in Marina Del Rey, Calif., naming it after award-winning actor and ocean activist Martin Sheen.
2014-10-19-MartinSheenRVEarthDrReeseHalter.JPG
Ocean activist Martin Sheen speaking at the press conference aboard the RV Martin Sheen, Captain Oona Layolle in the background. Photo credit: Naio Halter.
Martin Sheen has campaigned for 25 years with Sea Shepherd and long-time friend and founder of the movement Captain Paul Watson. These two intrepid warriors have stood shoulder-to-shoulder opposing brutal bludgeoning of Harp seals along Canada's eastern seaboard.
2014-10-19-MartinSheenCaptainOonaLayolleEarthDrReeseHalter.JPG
Martin Sheen and Captain Oona Layolle at the christening ceremony along the docks in Marina Del Rey, Calif. Photo credit: Naio Halter
Sheen told me that, "It's a huge honor and privilege to have a research ship named after me. The biggest risk and danger to the world today are plastics in our oceans. The RV Martin Sheen will conduct scientific research on ocean plastics to protect our oceans and all its sea life."
Sheen agreed that it's imperative that all nations globally work hand in hand to prevent over 20 million tons of land-based plastics each year from entering our oceans and being eaten by fish, and suffocating a hundred thousand marine mammals and a million sea birds.
Sheen joins Brigitte Bardot, Bob Barker, Steve Irwin and Sam Simon in an elite class of Hollywood stars, conservationists and television executives who support Sea Shepherd and have vessels named in their honor.
2014-10-19-SamSimonMarinSheenEarthDrReeseHalter.JPG
Martin Sheen and co-creator of the Simpsons Sam Simon amongst the notable guests at Sea Shepherd press conference. Photo credit: Naio Halter
It was a salubrious and jovial Saturday morning along the docks at Marina Del Rey joined by Captain Paul Watson via Skype from Paris, France.
The addition of the RV Martin Sheen to Sea Shepherd's fleet strengthens their research commitment and ability to protect the ailing oceans at a crucial time in the history of the human race.
2014-10-19-MartinSheenandEarthDrReeseHalter.jpg
Martin Sheen and Earth Dr Reese Halter at the christening of the RV Martin Sheen, Sea Shepherd's new research vessel. Photo credit: Naio Halter.

Earth Dr Reese Halter's soon to be released book is entitled "Shepherding the Sea: The Race to Save Our Oceans."

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Climate Patriot Rick Piltz -- full interview




YouTube.com, published on December 18, 2013
Rick Piltz is a former senior associate in the coordination office of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program. In 2005, he blew the whistle on the White House's improper editing and censorship of science program reports on global warming intended for the public and Congress. GAP, which represented Piltz, released edited reports to The New York Times that documented the actual hand-editing -- by White House Counsel on Environmental Quality Chief of Staff Philip Cooney, a lawyer and former climate team leader with the American Petroleum Institute -- which was done to downplay the reality of human-driven global warming and its harmful impacts, and exaggerate scientific uncertainty. This scandal sparked a media frenzy that resulted in the resignation of Cooney, who found a job at ExxonMobil days later.



Very difficult to see that the article below was written by Andrew Revkin -- he must have been body snatched in the interim:

Bush Aide Softened Greenhouse Gas Links to Global Warming 

by Andrew Revkin, The New York Times, June 8, 2005

A White House official who once led the oil industry's fight against limits on greenhouse gases has repeatedly edited government climate reports in ways that play down links between such emissions and global warming, according to internal documents.

In handwritten notes on drafts of several reports issued in 2002 and 2003, the official, Philip A. Cooney, removed or adjusted descriptions of climate research that government scientists and their supervisors, including some senior Bush administration officials, had already approved. In many cases, the changes appeared in the final reports.

The dozens of changes, while sometimes as subtle as the insertion of the phrase "significant and fundamental" before the word "uncertainties," tend to produce an air of doubt about findings that most climate experts say are robust.



Mr. Cooney is chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the office that helps devise and promote administration policies on environmental issues.

Before going to the White House in 2001, he was the "climate team leader" and a lobbyist at the American Petroleum Institute, the largest trade group representing the interests of the oil industry. A lawyer with a bachelor's degree in economics, he has no scientific training.
The documents were obtained by The New York Times from the Government Accountability Project, a nonprofit legal-assistance group for government whistle-blowers.

The project is representing Rick S. Piltz, who resigned in March as a senior associate in the office that coordinates government climate research. That office, now called the Climate Change Science Program, issued the documents that Mr. Cooney edited.

A White House spokeswoman, Michele St. Martin, said yesterday that Mr. Cooney would not be available to comment. "We don't put Phil Cooney on the record," Ms. St. Martin said. "He's not a cleared spokesman."

In one instance in an October 2002 draft of a regularly published summary of government climate research, "Our Changing Planet," Mr. Cooney amplified the sense of uncertainty by adding the word "extremely" to this sentence: "The attribution of the causes of biological and ecological changes to climate change or variability is extremely difficult."

In a section on the need for research into how warming might change water availability and flooding, he crossed out a paragraph describing the projected reduction of mountain glaciers and snowpack. His note in the margins explained that this was "straying from research strategy into speculative findings/musings."

Other White House officials said the changes made by Mr. Cooney were part of the normal interagency review that takes place on all documents related to global environmental change. Robert Hopkins, a spokesman for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, noted that one of the reports Mr. Cooney worked on, the administration's 10-year plan for climate research, was endorsed by the National Academy of Sciences. And Myron Ebell, who has long campaigned against limits on greenhouse gases as director of climate policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian group, said such editing was necessary for "consistency" in meshing programs with policy.

But critics said that while all administrations routinely vetted government reports, scientific content in such reports should be reviewed by scientists. Climate experts and representatives of environmental groups, when shown examples of the revisions, said they illustrated the significant if largely invisible influence of Mr. Cooney and other White House officials with ties to energy industries that have long fought greenhouse-gas restrictions.

In a memorandum sent last week to the top officials dealing with climate change at a dozen agencies, Mr. Piltz said the White House editing and other actions threatened to taint the government's $1.8 billion-a-year effort to clarify the causes and consequences of climate change.

"Each administration has a policy position on climate change," Mr. Piltz wrote. "But I have not seen a situation like the one that has developed under this administration during the past four years, in which politicization by the White House has fed back directly into the science program in such a way as to undermine the credibility and integrity of the program."

A senior Environmental Protection Agency scientist who works on climate questions said the White House environmental council, where Mr. Cooney works, had offered valuable suggestions on reports from time to time. But the scientist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because all agency employees are forbidden to speak with reporters without clearance, said the kinds of changes made by Mr. Cooney had damaged morale. "I have colleagues in other agencies who express the same view, that it has somewhat of a chilling effect and has created a sense of frustration," he said.

Efforts by the Bush administration to highlight uncertainties in science pointing to human-caused warming have put the United States at odds with other nations and with scientific groups at home.

Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, who met with President Bush at the White House yesterday, has been trying to persuade him to intensify United States efforts to curb greenhouse gases. Mr. Bush has called only for voluntary measures to slow growth in emissions through 2012.

Yesterday, saying their goal was to influence that meeting, the scientific academies of 11 countries, including those of the United States and Britain, released a joint letter saying, 
"The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action."

The American Petroleum Institute, where Mr. Cooney worked before going to the White House, has long taken a sharply different view. Starting with the negotiations leading to the Kyoto Protocol climate treaty in 1997, it has promoted the idea that lingering uncertainties in climate science justify delaying restrictions on emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping smokestack and tailpipe gases.

On learning of the White House revisions, representatives of some environmental groups said the effort to amplify uncertainties in the science was clearly intended to delay consideration of curbs on the gases, which remain an unavoidable byproduct of burning oil and coal.

"They've got three more years, and the only way to control this issue and do nothing about it is to muddy the science," said Eileen Claussen, the president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, a private group that has enlisted businesses in programs cutting emissions.

Mr. Cooney's alterations can cause clear shifts in meaning. For example, a sentence in the October 2002 draft of "Our Changing Planet" originally read, "Many scientific observations indicate that the Earth is undergoing a period of relatively rapid change." In a neat, compact hand, Mr. Cooney modified the sentence to read, "Many scientific observations point to the conclusion that the Earth may be undergoing a period of relatively rapid change."

A document showing a similar pattern of changes is the 2003 "Strategic Plan for the United States Climate Change Science Program," a thick report describing the reorganization of government climate research that was requested by Mr. Bush in his first speech on the issue, in June 2001. The document was reviewed by an expert panel assembled in 2003 by the National Academy of Sciences. The scientists largely endorsed the administration's research plan, but they warned that the administration's procedures for vetting reports on climate could result in excessive political interference with science.

Another political appointee who has played an influential role in adjusting language in government reports on climate science is Dr. Harlan L. Watson, the chief climate negotiator for the State Department, who has a doctorate in solid-state physics but has not done climate research.

In an October 4, 2002, memo to James R. Mahoney, the head of the United States Climate Change Science Program and an appointee of Mr. Bush, Mr. Watson "strongly" recommended cutting boxes of text referring to the findings of a National Academy of Sciences panel on climate and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body that periodically reviews research on human-caused climate change.
The boxes, he wrote, "do not include an appropriate recognition of the underlying uncertainties and the tentative nature of a number of the assertions."

While those changes were made nearly two years ago, recent statements by Dr. Watson indicate that the administration's position has not changed.

"We are still not convinced of the need to move forward quite so quickly," he told the BBC in London last month. "There is general agreement that there is a lot known, but also there is a lot to be known."

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/08/politics/08climate.html?_r=0&pagewanted=all