Scott Pruitt digs virtual coal

Scott Pruitt, the head of the US Environmental Protection Agency continues to impress: he lied on TV about the number of jobs generated in the coal industry over the last six months: he said “since the fourth quarter of last year to most recently added almost 50,000 jobs in the coal sector. In the month of May alone, almost 7,000 jobs.” Check out the Labor Stats: In January 2016 there were 55,500 jobs in the Mining and Logging sector. One year later the number had droppedd to 50,000.  The provisional figure for May this year is 51,000. Huffington Post has the story.

Did Pruitt just make a mistake and get confused by the Labor report?  Seems unlikely: he’s a smart lawyer. He may not know much about climate change but he’s smart. So the presumption is that he knew that what he said wasn’t true. This is generally called lying.

The big news for me was the circulation of the draft Special Report on Climate Science by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medecine.  It’s a big report but you can download it for free.  The climate change deniers should pay attention to Key Finding 3 on page 15 where it states :

Many lines of evidence demonstrate that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are primarily responsible for the observed climate changes in the industrial era. There are no alternative explanations, and no natural cycles are found in the observational record that can explain the observed changes in climate.

This finding is characterized in the report as being of “Very High Confidence”.  So if you still believe that climate change is a Chinese hoax then you are disagreeing fundamentally with the considered and careful scientific and evidence-based opinion of the best scientists and engineers in America.  Of course, Scott Pruitt is still not convinced. He’s a lawyer after all.  A lawyer’s job is to contradict the evidence. It doesn’t matter what it is—you work to undermine it, belittle it, disparage it and finally negate it.

But in fact most climate change deniers have now moved on to the fall-back position which is that, OK the climate is changing but–we can’t do anything about it. This view is also flatly contradicted by the report where it notes that the growth in carbon emissions has slowed since 2014 even though economic growth has continued to increase. So carbon emissions CAN be reduced: the numbers clearly show that it’s possible. And without impacting economic growth.

Note that emissions of carbon may have slowed—but they haven’t yet flatlined. They are still increasing—just more slowly than before. The Paris Agreement is a global initiative to get these emissions under control and to force them to decline.  Trump has rejected the agreement as being ‘a bad deal’ for America.  But it’s not.

But it is a bad deal for the fossil fuel conglomerates. And they’re the ones pulling the strings in the Trump administration.

Another key report was just issued by the National Research Council. It’s called “Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: anticipating surprises”. It’s available as a free download here.

This is not a fun report.  It identifies and evaluates the probability of a number of abrupt impacts of climate change.  A couple of scare stories are reckoned to be nothing much to worry about—at least not yet.  It’s good to know that ocean circulation patterns in the north Atlantic are not going to fail anytime soon, and the scientists believe that the huge amounts of methane stored in the permafrost and in some ice formations are not going to be released abruptly—although they caution that they are not absolutely certain about this one.

The big worries are the abrupt disappearance of late summer Arctic sea ice—with environmental impacts that are difficult to gauge, but which will likely include irreversible changes to Arctic ecosystems, and possibly changes to large-scale atmospheric circulation and its variability. Also rated highly probable are abrupt increases in extinctions of marine and terrestrial species. So we are not just trashing the planet as we move further into the 21 century, we are driving numerous species into extinction along the way.

Lastly, offshore wind prices continue to fall. An article from McKinsey highlights the continuous decline in prices to the point where offshore wind is now increasingly competitive with carbon fuels.

Offshore wind once played second fiddle to the onshore windfarms but not any more. There are several advantages to locating the huge turbines offshore, the main one being that they can be installed relatively close to the urban centers that need the power. These massive machines are key players in the energy revolution that is now underway—a revolution that is central to the global effort to keep climate change impacts manageable.



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