Guest's blog

Curbing Climate Change: Why It's so Hard to Act in Time

Climate change action sign in front of Capitol at March for Science

By Timothy H. Dixon, University of South Florida

This summer I worked on the Greenland ice sheet, part of a scientific experiment to study surface melting and its contribution to Greenland’s accelerating ice losses. By virtue of its size, elevation and currently frozen state, Greenland has the potential to cause large and rapid increases to sea level as it melts.

When I returned, a nonscientist friend asked me what the research showed about future sea level rise. He was disappointed that I couldn’t say anything definite, since it will take several years to analyze the data. This kind of time lag is common in science, but it can make communicating the issues difficult. That’s especially true for climate change, where decades of data collection may be required to see trends.

A recent draft report on climate change by federal scientists exploits data captured over many decades to assess recent changes, and warns of a dire future if we don’t change our ways. Yet few countries are aggressively reducing their emissions in a way scientists say are needed to avoid the dangers of climate change.

While this lack of progress dismays people, it’s actually understandable.

Red Team-Blue Team? Debating Climate Science Should Not Be a Cage Match

Boxing match

By Richard B. Rood, University of Michigan

Scott Pruitt, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, has called for a “red team-blue team” review to challenge the science behind climate change. “The American people deserve an honest, open, transparent discussion about this supposed threat to this country,” he said on a radio show, adding he hoped to hold the exercise in the fall.

Most commonly, red team-blue team reviews are used as a mechanism to improve security of information systems or military defenses. The blue team is associated with an institution, the owner of an asset or a plan. The red team is charged with attacking the blue team, with the goal of revealing vulnerabilities.

Trump's Rejection of National Climate Report Would Do More Damage Than Exiting the Paris Agreement

People in and around a boat in floodwaters

By Gary W. Yohe, Wesleyan University

A scientific report done every four years has been thrust into the spotlight because its findings directly contradict statements from the president and various Cabinet officials.

If the Trump administration chooses to reject the pending national Climate Science Special Report, it would be more damaging than pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement. Full stop. This is a bold claim, but as an economist and scientist who was a vice chair of the committee that shepherded the last national climate assessment report to its completion, I can explain why this is the case.

What to Do When You See Science Denial at the Science Museum

Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History

This is a guest post by Hui Liu of Greenpeace USA. It was originally published at www.greenpeace.org.

I went to D.C.’s Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History expecting to learn about the history of our planet. Instead, I stumbled upon a Koch-funded climate denial disaster.

With the planet in peril, arts groups can no longer afford the Koch brothers money.”

That’s what Washington Post art and culture critic Philip Kennicott wrote in a recent opinion piece about prolific climate denial funders Charles and David Koch. Having recently seen Koch money in action at one of the world’s most prestigious science museums, I couldn’t agree more.

If We Keep Subsidizing Wind, Will the Cost of Wind Energy Go Down?

Wind farm along I40 in Oklahoma

By Eric Williams and Eric Hittinger, Rochester Institute of Technology

There are high hopes for renewable energy to help society by providing a more stable climate, better energy security and less pollution. Government actions reflect these hopes through policies to promote renewable energy. In the U.S. since 1992 there’s been a federal subsidy to promote wind energy, and many states require electricity utilities to use some renewable energy.

But when is the right time to stop government support for an energy technology?

Why Shifting Regulatory Power to the States Won't Improve the Environment

Power plant with a tall smoke stack

By Michael A. Livermore, University of Virginia

President Trump and his appointees, particularly Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, have made federalism a theme of their efforts to scale back environmental regulation. They argue that the federal government has become too intrusive and that states should be returned to a position of “regulatory primacy” on environmental matters.

We have to let the states compete to see who has the best solutions. They know the best how to spend their dollars and how to take care of the people within each state,” Trump said in a speech to the National Governors Association last February.

Some liberal-leaning states have responded by adopting more aggressive regulations. California has positioned itself as a leader in the fight to curb climate change. New York is restructuring its electricity market to facilitate clean energy. And Virginia’s Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe, has ordered state environmental regulators to design a rule to cap carbon emissions from power plants.

State experimentation may be the only way to break the gridlock on environmental issues that now overwhelms our national political institutions. However, without a broad mandate from the federal government to address urgent environmental problems, few red and purple states will follow California’s lead. In my view, giving too much power to the states will likely result in many states doing less, not more.

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