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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.

The Exxon-Treasury Fight And The Roots Of Russiagate

By David Halperin and Kert Davies, originally published at HuffPost.

Putin and Exxon have aimed relentlessly at ending U.S. sanctions, but scandal and Congress have now tied Trump’s hands.

How Electric Vehicles Could Take a Bite out of the Oil Market

Electric cars charging at stations

By Amy Myers Jaffe and Lewis Fulton, University of California, Davis

When will cars powered by gas-guzzling internal combustion engines become obsolete? Not as soon as it seems, even with the latest automotive news out of Europe.

First, Volvo announced it would begin to phase out the production of cars that run solely on gasoline or diesel by 2019 by only releasing new models that are electric or plug-in hybrids. Then, France and the U.K. declared they would ban sales of gas and diesel-powered cars by 2040. Underscoring this trend is data from Norway, as electric models amounted to 42 percent of Norwegian new car sales in June.

European demand for oil to propel its passenger vehicles has been falling for years. Many experts expect a sharper decline in the years ahead as the shift toward electric vehicles spreads across the world. And that raises questions about whether surging electric vehicle sales will ultimately cause the global oil market, which has grown on average by 1 to 2 percent a year for decades and now totals 96 million barrels per day, to decline after hitting a ceiling.

Energy experts call this concept “peak oil demand.” We are debating when and if this will occur.

History Shows That Stacking Federal Science Advisory Committees Doesn't Work

Deepwater Horizon oil rig on fire

By Donald Boesch, University of Maryland

Scientists are busy people, but every year thousands donate many hours of their time without payment to advise Congress and federal government agencies. They provide input on all kinds of issues, from antibiotic resistance to mapping the world’s oceans in three dimensions.

The Trump administration has raised alarms by signaling that it is determined to replace scientific advisers who are not in line with its political philosophy. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is replacing most of the members of EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors and, very likely, its Science Advisory Board. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has suspended the activities of numerous advisory panels, including many scientific committees, pending review of their purpose and composition.

Will Trump Cabinet members really be able to shift the scientific advice on which their agencies rely? And how should scientists respond?

Cleaning up Toxic Sites Shouldn't Clear out the Neighbors

San Francisco's Pier 70, a brownfield site, with a smokestack in the background

By Lindsey Dillon, University of California, Santa Cruz

San Francisco has embarked on a project to transform its industrial southeast waterfront into a bike-friendly destination called the Blue Greenway. When completed, the Blue Greenway will be a 13-mile network of parks, bike lanes and trails along the southeastern edge of the city.

Among its many benefits, the project creates green space and waterfront access in the low-income Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood. The Blue Greenway is part of a larger transformation of Bayview Hunters Point. This older, neglected neighborhood is still full of vacant lots and a large, abandoned naval base, but it is becoming a landscape of hip townhomes and new coffee shops. Its transformation includes the complicated cleanup of many toxic waste sites — most notoriously, a military radiation lab on the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard.

The Blue Greenway project cleans up toxic land along its route with funding from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfields Program, which supports the cleanup and reuse of contaminated sites. Brownfield redevelopment projects like the Blue Greenway are intended to bring environmental and economic benefits to run-down urban areas. And yet, as I have found in my own research, they can also contribute to gentrification and economic displacement.

Facts Versus Feelings Isn't the Way to Think About Communicating Science

Army Corps scientist teaching university students about wetlands

By John Cook, George Mason University and Sander van der Linden, University of Cambridge

In a world where “post-truth” was 2016’s word of the year, many people are starting to doubt the efficacy of facts. Can science make sense of anti-science and post-truthism? More generally, how can we understand what drives people’s beliefs, decisions and behaviors?

'Clean Coal' Officially Dead in Mississippi as Southern Company Battered by Kemper Fallout

By Dan Zegart, crossposted from Climate Investigations Center.

Clean coal officially died in Mississippi today as state regulators voted unanimously to issue an official order denying further money for the Kemper coal plant and beginning a settlement process with its builder, Southern Company.

The order provides a legal framework for the state Public Service Commission's June 21st vote proposing the plant continue to operate on natural gas, as it has since August 2014, instead of spend additional money to try to use Kemper's non-functional multi-billion dollar gasifier to generate power from lignite coal.

“The commission today is taking firm steps towards resolving all substantive matters associated with the Kemper Project,” says the 35-page PSC order.

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