CLIMATE SCIENCE & POLICY WATCH is the flagship program of the Government Accountability Project's Environment & Energy Program, covering safety and health issues in the fossil fuel and nuclear power industries, clean air and water, land use, and toxics. We represent whistleblowers, conduct public interest investigations, and lead Know Your Rights Campaigns – read more here.

CSPW CORE INITIATIVES
1. Promoting Scientific Integrity & Exposing Disinformation and the Denial of Climate Science
2. Watchdogging Federal Government Climate Programs & Legislation
3. Investigating the Role of Big Oil in Thwarting Solutions to the Climate Crisis
4. Know Your Rights Campaigns & Public Interest Investigations
5. Ensuring Climate Change is Included in National Energy Policy & Planning
6. Promoting National Preparedness for Climate Change Impacts

HISTORY OF GAP'S ENVIRONMENT & ENERGY PROGRAM
Know Your Rights & Blow the Whistle

Hellish Hurricanes Part One: Just the Facts on Florence, Please

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Have hurricanes like Florence, Maria, and Harvey become deadlier and more destructive because of human-caused changes in Earth’s climate system?

by Anne Polansky
Sr. Climate Policy Analyst

NOAA GOES satellite

From September 14-18, 2018 Hurricane Florence dumped more than 19 trillion gallons of water on the Carolinas with record-breaking rainfall that flooded most highways and roads, caused 16 major rivers to overflow, and produced powerful floodwaters that are still, today, impeding normal activity and inflicting additional damage and loss of life. The first storm-related death occurred on September 13, a day before Florence made landfall, and the death count has risen nearly each day since to reach the current count of 48 at the time of writing. Nearly 50 people of all ages, genders, and races have lost their lives, caused either directly or indirectly by the hurricane and its aftermath. Have no doubt, the mortality rate will continue to rise, possibly to triple or even quadruple digits, for months to come. Property damage and destruction is already immense and overwhelming. Already we are seeing damage appraisals in the tens of billions of dollars, primarily due to destroyed housing stock and other real estate. The full extent of Florence’s devastation to the Eastern Seaboard and its residents won’t be fully known or understood for a long time. Recovery will be difficult and slow for many and, for some, recovery may not happen at all.

Have hurricanes like Florence, Maria, and Harvey become deadlier and more destructive because of human-caused changes in Earth’s climate system? Given the heavy toll to life and property being exacted on large populations, not just by Florence but by Maria, Harvey and others, this is a fundamentally important question. A vast amount of relevant knowledge and information has been produced by a robust US federal climate change research effort that goes back decades and represents the world’s largest scientific investment of its kind. Americans are entitled to the fruits of this taxpayer-funded investment in the form of truthful answers regarding these increasingly unnatural, natural disasters from our elected officials — including the US President.

Yet, in the wake of these devastating storms, the American people have not heard a word from the White House regarding the well-established causal link between rising global average temperatures that disrupt Earth’s climate system and these increasingly extreme weather events.

Not. One. Word.

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Posted in Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Climate Change Education and Communication, Climate Change Mitigation, Climate Change Preparedness, Energy, General, Global Climate Disruption and Impacts, Science Communication, Science-Policy Interaction | Comments Off on Hellish Hurricanes Part One: Just the Facts on Florence, Please

The “Youth v Gov” Climate Change Lawsuit: An Update and Some Insightful Perspectives

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Posted on August 8, 2018 by CSPW Senior Climate Policy Analyst Anne Polansky, introducing guest author Joel Stronberg

CSPW has been following with great interest the ups and downs, ins and outs of the long and arduous pathway 21 youth plaintiffs have been trekking for three years, in a sustained effort to see their legal case against the US government be tried in court. We last wrote about this in December 2016: Why Are 21 Kids Suing the Federal Government, and Why Does It Matter? At issue is whether or not it can be established that the US government, over time, has taken a set of affirmative actions that have exacerbated climate change causes and impacts, and thus failed to protect “public trust” resources for this young generation and generations to follow. Their dogged determination and success in overcoming a set of serious hurdles has paid off: the court trial will commence on October 29, 2018, to be heard before US District Court Judge Ann Aiken in Eugene, Oregon. In both the climate change world and the legal world, this case is a big, big deal. “This suit is really the first time Global Warming is being fully heard in a High Court of the Land,” notes a contributor to Forbes. First-time CSPW guest author Joel Stronberg writes about his perspectives on this seminal legal action, technically known as Juliana et al v. U.S. et al and in social media circles as #YouthvGov.

Stronberg and Polansky worked together throughout the 1990s promoting domestic markets for renewable energy and sensible, sustainable energy policies at the state and national level.

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Posted in Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Attacks on Climate Science and Scientists, Climate Change Education and Communication, Climate Change Preparedness, Climate Litigation, Climate Science Censorship, Congress: Legislation and Oversight, Energy, Global Warming Denial Machine, National Security, Politicization of Climate Science, Science Communication, Science-Policy Interaction, Scientific Integrity, Whistleblowers | Comments Off on The “Youth v Gov” Climate Change Lawsuit: An Update and Some Insightful Perspectives

After a 19-Month Vacancy, White House Taps an Academic Meteorologist to Head the OSTP

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Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, vice president of research and professor of meteorology at the University of Oklahoma.

by Anne Polansky
Sr. Climate Policy Analyst

This week the White House formally announced the appointment of Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, PhD, a meteorologist and atmospheric research scientist at the University of Oklahoma, to direct the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The position has laid vacant for nearly 19 months and most of the staff left long ago. Traditionally, the OSTP Director also doubles as the President’s Science Advisor, but the latter role wasn’t mentioned in the announcement. It’s a critically important position in this day and age: OSTP’s job is to help steer cutting-edge scientific research and technology development in the federal government. The director of the OSTP provides critical, expert advice and guidance to the President on complex scientific and technological matters with significant ramifications for the economy, international competitiveness and trade, national security, public health and safety, energy production, environmental protection, global climate change, and more.

The presidential science advisor position goes back to the 1950s when Vannevar Bush was tapped to serve Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman.

The surprise announcement came just when many in the scientific community had resigned themselves to the notion that the OSTP spot would remain vacant throughout the entire four-year term. It had already been a year and a half since President Trump was sworn into office, or precisely 533 days (for those who were counting, and many were); even longer if you consider that several presidents have made this appointment before taking office.

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Posted in Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Attacks on Climate Science and Scientists, Climate Change Education and Communication, Climate Change Preparedness, General, Global Climate Disruption and Impacts, Global Warming Denial Machine, Obama Administration, Politicization of Climate Science, Science Communication, Science-Policy Interaction, Scientific Integrity | Comments Off on After a 19-Month Vacancy, White House Taps an Academic Meteorologist to Head the OSTP

Taking Stock of Climate Change Impacts: How Many Puerto Rican Lives Did Hurricane Maria Take?

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We Don’t Know for Sure, and the Death Toll is Still Climbing

by Anne Polansky
Sr. Climate Policy Analyst

The 2018 hurricane season is now upon us, even while millions of people residing in hurricane alley – the large swath of ocean stretching from Africa to North America – are still recovering from the hyperactive, catastrophic 2017 hurricane season. Last year we saw Hurricanes Franklin, Gert, Harvey, Irma, Jose, Katia, Lee, Maria, Nate, and Ophelia – 10 hurricanes in all – swoop through the Atlantic and Caribbean Oceans, some wreaking a path of major destruction and devastation. Six of these were considered to be major hurricanes, reaching Category 3 and above. In addition, there were seven named tropical storms. 2017 was the fifth most active hurricane season in recorded history, and featured the highest total accumulated cyclone energy (ACE), or the cumulative wind energy for all hurricanes and storms over a season. To many, this is proof-positive of the deleterious effects of climate change: a warmer atmosphere and warmer waters pump energy and water into tropical storms, creating “hurricanes on steroids,” as the preeminent climate scientist Stephen Schneider would often quip. (See CSPW related posts on hurricanes as climate change impacts: for example, here, here, and here, also listed below.)

Source link: https://grist.org/briefly/we-will-never-know-how-many-people-died-in-puerto-rico-because-of-hurricane-maria/

For Puerto Rico, Hurricanes Irma and Maria packed a harsh one-two punch that brought the island nation to its knees last September, wiping out the entire electricity grid, toppling buildings, downing trees, flooding large areas, and rendering parts of Puerto Rico uninhabitable. The island is still heavily crippled: many are still without power and the entire electricity grid is prone to crashing every few weeks; many lack potable water, sufficient food, and safe shelter. Hundreds of thousands have fled and are still fleeing to the U.S. mainland and elsewhere. Well over one thousand Puerto Ricans have lost their lives as the direct result of Hurricane Maria, and the true mortality rate is still climbing. Yet, we do not have in place methods for accurately counting the death toll following such disasters. Worse, we vastly underestimate the mortality rate by counting only those who die in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster. This needs to change if we are to accurately assess the number of human lives lost following extreme weather events associated with climate change.
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Posted in Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Climate Change Education and Communication, Climate Change Mitigation, Climate Change Preparedness, Energy, General, Global Climate Disruption and Impacts, Global Warming Denial Machine, National Security, Politicization of Climate Science, Science Communication, Science-Policy Interaction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Taking Stock of Climate Change Impacts: How Many Puerto Rican Lives Did Hurricane Maria Take?

As Fossil Fuels Melt the Planet, Could Climate Change Cause a Nuclear Meltdown?

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by Anne Polansky
Sr. Climate Policy Analyst

Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant following an earthquake and a tsunami. SOURCE: https://bit.ly/2qhoWGq

Nearly three dozen nuclear power plants are inadequately protected against major flooding guaranteed to occur after an upstream dam failure – flooding that could easily lead to an accident or meltdown on the scale of the 2011 nuclear power disaster in Fukushima, Japan.

Yet, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) – the federal agency responsible for protecting public health and safety from nuclear power mishaps – has been downplaying the risk and failing to ensure that the measures needed to avert disaster are implemented.

Even more troubling, the agency is deliberately concealing the threat by withholding critical information from the public eye, according to a handful of experienced NRC engineers and risk analysts. For voicing their concerns to management regarding this dangerous vulnerability and seeking internal resolution of the problem, these conscientious federal employees have been met with resistance and retaliation.

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Posted in Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Attacks on Climate Science and Scientists, Climate Change Mitigation, Climate Change Preparedness, Climate Science Watch, Energy, General, National Security, Science Communication, Science-Policy Interaction, Scientific Integrity, Whistleblowers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on As Fossil Fuels Melt the Planet, Could Climate Change Cause a Nuclear Meltdown?

As the Trump Administration Tries to Tamp Down Climate Change, We are Rising Up to Meet the Challenge

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by Anne Polansky and Michael Termini

More than one full year into a Donald Trump presidency, we are taking stock of the new political landscape, already marked by turmoil and volatility. Never before in modern US history have we seen such instability and unreliability in basic governance at the federal level. Here in the nation’s capital, just about everything feels upside down and inside out. Each day’s news serves as a reminder that what once would have been considered abnormal behavior is increasingly giving way to the bizarre. The rapidity and growing accumulation of a host of upsetting, precedent-breaking developments can feel as dizzying and disorienting as being swept up in a Kansas farm house, spinning in a cyclone towards Oz, and waking up in the Twilight Zone.

Well-established scientific findings (such as those regarding anthropogenic global warming and climate change impacts) and simple facts are routinely cast aside by the Trump White House and virtually every federal department head. A significant proportion of executive branch positions remain vacant (including key positions in science and technology – we still do not even have a White House Science Advisor). The White House has been preoccupied with the judicial branch, hastily filling the courts with judges whose views and track records align politically with the (extreme) right wing. Meanwhile, government employees continue to leave their posts in droves. Those who remain privately confess to us their growing frustration at the disrespect they feel from top management, and from feeling prevented from doing the job they were hired to do. Congress is failing to conduct proper oversight, accountability is going out the window, and employees feel chilled into silence. Without a functional democracy, there can be no federal role in responding to voter demand, not only for a clean energy economy that is less dependent on fossil fuels, but also for clean air, water, large reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and a robust federal climate change science program.
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Posted in Activism, Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Attacks on Climate Science and Scientists, Climate Change Education and Communication, Climate Change Preparedness, Climate Science Censorship, Climate Science Watch, Climate Science Watch Update, General, Global Climate Disruption and Impacts, Global Warming Denial Machine, Science Communication, Science-Policy Interaction, Scientific Integrity, U.S. Global Change Research Program, Whistleblowers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on As the Trump Administration Tries to Tamp Down Climate Change, We are Rising Up to Meet the Challenge

U.S. Fails to Submit Reports on 1 January as Required Under U.N. Climate Treaty

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By Nicky Sundt
CSPW Senior Fellow

The United States has failed to meet a key deadline (January 1, 2018) for submitting a major report, required under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Under Section 12 of the UNFCCC, countries listed in Annex I of the Convention (including the US) are required to periodically submit to the Treaty’s Secretariat a detailed “National Communication,” which presents a wide range of information regarding the nation’s implementation of the agreement. UNFCCC guidelines on reporting and review stipulate use of a common format to facilitate analysis and evaluation and allow for comparisons among the national reports. Further, CSPW sees no indication that this report is even underway; a complete failure to submit this report would be unprecedented.

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Posted in Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Climate Change Education and Communication, Climate Change Mitigation, Climate Change Preparedness, General, Global Climate Disruption and Impacts, Obama Administration, Obama Climate Plan, Science Communication, Science-Policy Interaction, Scientific Integrity, U.S. Global Change Research Program | Comments Off on U.S. Fails to Submit Reports on 1 January as Required Under U.N. Climate Treaty

Scientific Integrity at Risk: Government Censorship of Climate Change Information

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By Anne Polansky
CSPW Sr. Climate Policy Analyst

The Trump Administration’s overall approach to climate change is basically akin to shouting LA-LA-LA-LA-LA with your hands over your ears. Cabinet members and top officials across departments and agencies are refusing to admit that this existential threat even exists, and are behaving as though the problem is not real or will magically disappear if it is not talked about or acknowledged in any way. This bizarre case of group denial does have one plausible explanation: scientific findings (i.e., anthropogenic climate change is real, and has dangerous impacts that are happening now and will worsen over time) are antithetical to a shared ideology (i.e. “climate change is a hoax”). Moreover, facing the problem squarely and honestly runs contrary to a shared value system – one that discounts the need for government regulation, favors industry growth and profit over public health and safety, and places a high priority on maximizing domestic fossil fuel extraction. Al Gore had it right: the truth of climate change is simply too inconvenient for this bunch.

Scientific integrity across US government agencies is at risk, and must be aggressively defended…

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Posted in Attacks on Climate Science and Scientists, Climate Change Education and Communication, Climate Science Censorship, Global Warming Denial Machine, Science Communication, Science-Policy Interaction, Scientific Integrity, U.S. Global Change Research Program | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Scientific Integrity at Risk: Government Censorship of Climate Change Information

US Global Change Research Program Released Three Major Climate Reports Today

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By Nicky Sundt
CSPW Senior Fellow

The US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) released three major reports this afternoon: the final Climate Science Special Report (CSSR), the public review draft of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) and the public review draft of the 2nd State of the Carbon Cycle Report (SOCCR-2). The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced the release of the reports yesterday, November 2, in a media advisory: “Experts to discuss new federal climate science report for the U.S.” It announced that the CSSR and draft NCA4 were being released today. We provide a few comments related to the CSSR and the NCA4, and will have more to say about all three reports once we review them.

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Posted in Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Attacks on Climate Science and Scientists, Climate Change Education and Communication, Climate Change Preparedness, Climate Science Censorship, Climate Science Watch, Global Warming Denial Machine, Science Communication, Science-Policy Interaction, Scientific Integrity, U.S. Global Change Research Program, Whistleblowers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on US Global Change Research Program Released Three Major Climate Reports Today

Gag Orders Imposed by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on Research Staff Infringe on Civil Servant First Amendment Rights and May Violate EPA Policy Restricting Censorship

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Source: Tim Faulkner on Twitter, see: http://bit.ly/2gUk5Xy

By Anne Polansky
CSPW Sr. Climate Policy Analyst

Last week, the Trump Administration’s sustained attack on federal scientists studying climate change science and impacts escalated when US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt issued last-minute gag orders preventing several EPA research staff from giving planned presentations at a workshop about the overall health of the Narragansett Bay. This is the first such documented incident of speech censorship at the EPA of which we are aware. It is possible, if not likely, that there have been other similar instances that have gone unreported and relatively unnoticed.

News of the intervention by EPA headquarters got out, and The New York Times broke the story last Sunday afternoon; the Washington Post published a similar account that evening. By Monday morning, protesters holding signs reading “Science Trumps Silence,” “Un-gag Science,” and “Denial is Not a Policy” had gathered and lined the entrance to the Save The Bay Center in Providence where the workshop and press conference were held (see photo above).

CSPW is investigating the incident, and GAP attorneys are concerned that the EPA may not only be in violation of its own “scientific integrity” policy restricting censorship, but that it is attempting to infringe on the First Amendment rights enjoyed by all Americans, including civil servants. Details of the gag order, the response from Members of Congress and the public, and a discussion of the potential legal recourse available to the EPA staff follow.

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Posted in Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Attacks on Climate Science and Scientists, Climate Change Education and Communication, Climate Change Preparedness, Climate Science Censorship, Global Climate Disruption and Impacts, Global Warming Denial Machine, Science Communication, Science-Policy Interaction, Scientific Integrity, Whistleblowers | Comments Off on Gag Orders Imposed by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on Research Staff Infringe on Civil Servant First Amendment Rights and May Violate EPA Policy Restricting Censorship