Category Archives: Climate change denial

GAO: Climate change already costing U.S. billions in losses

Repost from the Los Angeles Daily News
[Editor: This came to us in an E-Alert from Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson, who wrote, “The red lights are flashing – hottest summers and fall, greatest hurricane force, worst fires in history of California, lives lost, air pollution killing millions, and all of this is costing us billions… …rising sea level will affect structures near the Benicia waterfront at 6 feet above current sea level.  Our water (sewer) will be affected by rising sea level before 2050.  Our water supply may be uncertain.  We can mitigate and adapt….”  – RS]

US Government Accountability Office: Climate change already costing U.S. billions in losses

By Michael Biesecker, Associated Press, October 23, 2017 8:13 pm
california wildfires
Sarah Boryszewski is helped by her father Gerald Peete as they dig for belongings in the remains of Boryszewski’s home in Coffey Park, Friday Oct. 20, 2017 in Santa Rosa, Calif. Northern California residents who fled a wildfire in the dead of night with only minutes to spare returned to their neighborhoods Friday for the first time in nearly two weeks to see if anything was standing. (Kent Porter/The Press Democrat via AP)

WASHINGTON — A non-partisan federal watchdog says climate change is already costing U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars each year, with those costs expected to rise as devastating storms, floods, wildfires and droughts become more frequent in the coming decades.

A Government Accountability Office report released Monday said the federal government has spent more than $350 billion over the last decade on disaster assistance programs and losses from flood and crop insurance. That tally does not include the massive toll from this year’s three major hurricanes and wildfires, expected to be among the most costly in the nation’s history.

The report predicts these costs will only grow in the future, potentially reaching a budget busting $35 billion a year by 2050. The report says the federal government doesn’t effectively plan for these recurring costs, classifying the financial exposure from climate-related costs as “high risk.”

“The federal government has not undertaken strategic government-wide planning to manage climate risks by using information on the potential economic effects of climate change to identify significant risks and craft appropriate federal responses,” the study said. “By using such information, the federal government could take the initial step in establishing government-wide priorities to manage such risks.”

GAO undertook the study following a request from Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

“This nonpartisan GAO report Senator Cantwell and I requested contains astonishing numbers about the consequences of climate change for our economy and for the federal budget in particular,” said Collins. “In Maine, our economy is inextricably linked to the environment. We are experiencing a real change in the sea life, which has serious implications for the livelihoods of many people across our state, including those who work in our iconic lobster industry.”

The report’s authors reviewed 30 government and academic studies examining the national and regional impacts of climate change. They also interviewed 28 experts familiar with the strengths and limitations of the studies, which rely on future projections of climate impacts to estimate likely costs.

The report says the fiscal impacts of climate change are likely to vary widely by region. The Southeast is at increased risk because of coastal property that could be swamped by storm surge and sea level rise. The Midwest and Great Plains are susceptible to decreased crop yields, the report said. The west is expected to see increased drought, wildfires and deadly heatwaves.

Advance copies were provided to the White House and the Environmental Protection Agency, which provided no official comments for inclusion in the GAO report.

Requests for comment from The Associated Press also received no response on Monday.

President Donald Trump has called climate change a hoax, announcing his intent to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accords and revoke Obama-era initiatives to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Trump has also appointed officials such as EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, all of whom question the scientific consensus that carbon released into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels is the primary driver of global warming.

Earlier this month Trump nominated Kathleen Hartnett White of Texas to serve as his top environmental adviser at the White House. She has credited the fossil fuel industry with “vastly improved living conditions across the world” and likened the work of mainstream climate scientists to “the dogmatic claims of ideologues and clerics.”

White, who works at a conservative think tank that has received funding from fossil-fuel companies, holds academic degrees in East Asian studies and comparative literature.

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Trump Names Climate Denier to Head White House Environmental Council

Repost from DeSmogBlog

Trump Names Climate Denier Kathleen Hartnett-White to Head White House Environmental Council

By Steve Horn, October 13, 2017 09:32

President Donald Trump, as first reported by EnergyWire’s Hannah Northey‏ on Twitter and as stated in a White House press release, has named Kathleen Hartnett-White to chair the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).

Hartnett-White, as previously reported by DeSmog, is a prominent climate change denier and former Chairman and Commissioner of the Texas Council on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) under then-Texas Governor Rick Perry. Perry now heads up the U.S. Department of Energy and is reported to have advocated for her to run CEQ. She is also an outspoken advocate of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and of exporting oil and gas to the global market.

Long seen as the presumptive front-runner to take the CEQ role, Hartnett-White also worked on President Trump’s presidential campaign on his Economic Advisory Team. And her name was once floated to head up the U.S.Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well, currently led by Scott Pruitt.

The head of the CEQ coordinates interagency science, climate, and environmental policy, and is tasked to oversee things like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review process and agencies’ compliance with that law. The CEQ as an entity itself was actually a creation of NEPA, mandated by that law.

Though CEQ oversees the NEPA process, it remains unclear how seriously Hartnett-White will take the NEPA review process, for decades seen as a bedrock of U.S. environmental regulation since NEPA became law in 1970.

Hartnett-White has long positioned herself as an opponent of environmental and climate actions taken by regulatory agencies. She currently works as a fellow-in-residence at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, which receives fundingfrom ExxonMobil, the Heartland InstituteKoch Industries and others. White also helped head up the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Fueling Freedom Project, which had among its stated goals to “explain the forgotten moral case for fossil fuels” and “end the regulation of CO2 as a pollutant.”

In September 2016 during campaign season, Politico’s Morning Energy reported that Hartnett-White was “among a small group of people who have Donald Trump’s ear on energy policy.” Hartnett-White and Stephen Moore, who also worked on Trump’s campaign, co-authored a 2016 book titled, Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy. The book promoted fracking and said the U.S. shale gas bounty could be worth $50 trillion, a statement which has been called false by an energy analyst who crunched the numbers.

The book also claimed that all of the net jobs gained in the U.S. between 2007-2012 can be linked to the fracking revolution, which they wrote has spawned “millions of new jobs in the energy sector.”

But according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, during that time period, the number of oil and gas industry workers ranged from a low of about 140,700 jobs in 2007 to a high of 194,700 in 2012.

Image Credit: Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy

Hartnett-White Is a Climate Science Denier

Not only a fracking promoter, Hartnett-White has also called carbon dioxide in the atmosphere a major benefit for society.

No matter how many times, the President [Obama], EPA and the media rant about ‘dirty carbon pollution,’ there is no pollution about carbon itself! As a dictionary will tell you, carbon is the chemical basis of all life,” White wrote in September 2015.

Our flesh, blood and bones are built of carbon. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the gas of life on this planet, an essential nutrient for plant growth on which human life depends. How craftily our government has masked these fundamental realities and the environmental benefits of fossil fuels!”

Likewise, Hartnett-White gave a talk for the Texas Public Policy Foundation in November 2015 on a panel titled, “Not a Pollutant: CO2 is the Gas of Life.”

In a September 2016 interview with Politico, Hartnett-White advocated for the creation of a ”blue ribbon commission” on climate change, similar to the “red team-blue team” one being floated by Pruitt’s EPA. The commission, Hartnett-White told Politico, would create an “alternative scientific methodology” to the one used by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). She has also stated on the record that the UN has “revealed themselves” as advocating for communism.

Six years ago at a forum convened by Americans for Prosperity (AFP), funded by the Koch Family Foundations, Harnett-White actually even went so far to say that there “there is no environmental crisis—in fact, there’s almost no major environmental problems.” (starting at about 18:55).

Extreme Power Abuse from AFPhq on Vimeo.

Past as Prologue

Under the presidency of George W. Bush, someone with similarly pro-fossil fuels views also ran CEQ. Before taking over the helm at CEQ in the Bush White House, Philip Cooney served as a lawyer and lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute (API), which itself has a long track record of funding climate change denial.

Cooney came under a cloud of scandal and resigned when it was revealed that he had heavily edited scientific data showing a link between carbon emissions and global warming in official U.S. governmental reports.

“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,” reported The New York Times. “In many cases, the changes appeared in the final reports.”

Soon after he resigned, Cooney was hired by ExxonMobil, another key funder of climate change denial.

Harnett-White, too, has some instructive history to look back upon. In 2007, she came under fire for lack of climate and environmental action while chairing TCEQ. This motivated the watchdog group Public Citizen to create a billboard image near the TCEQ headquarters demanding to “Get White Out” and also build a website by the same name.

Public Citizen said she had not done enough to halt issues such as climate change or slow mercury and air pollution. They also stated that she had tried to erode democracy by eliminating the right to comment publicly on a proposed project unless one lived within two miles of its proposed site.

Chairman White has failed to lead our environmental agency in the right direction. Instead of acting to curb the serious threat from global warming, the TCEQ buried its head in the sand, and determined that global warming impacts would not have to be considered in the contested case hearings for any of the coal plant permits,” Get White Out’s website said of her tenure.

The paper of record in Dallas, Texas, The Dallas Morning News, agreed with this sentiment in a July 2007 editorial written at the end of Harnett-White’s tenure at TCEQ, chiding her track-record in harsh terms.

“She has been an apologist for polluters, consistently siding with business interests instead of protecting public health,” wrote the paper. “Ms. White worked to set a low bar as she lobbied for lax ozone standards and pushed through an inadequate anti-pollution plan.”

In an example perhaps paralleling the Cooney situation most closely, during Harnett-White’s tenure at TCEQ, the agency regularly lowered the statistical data — as compared to federal EPA data — for the amount of alpha radiation traceable in drinking water in places such as Harris County, Texas.

“For years, tests performed by the Texas Department of State Health Services showed the utility provided water that exceeded the EPA legal limit for exposure to alpha radiation,” reported the broadcast news outlet KHOU, based out of Houston, in 2011. “However, the TCEQ would consistently subtract off each test’s margin of error from those results, making the actual testing results appear lower than they actually were.”

In her interview with KHOU, Hartnett-White defended TCEQ‘s actions on this issue during her tenure there.

As memory serves me, that made incredibly good sense,” said Hartnett-White. “We did not believe the science of health effects justified EPA setting the standard where they did. I have far more trust in the vigor of the science that TCEQ assess, than I do EPA.”

As mandated by the U.S. Constitution’s “advise and consent” clause, Hartnett-White will go through a U.S. Senate confirmation hearing process, during which she will likely face questions about her past record of denying climate change and promoting fossil fuels. The Environmental Working Group says it is dismayed by the choice.

At least Butch and Sundance had to put some effort into robbing banks and trains,” Ken Cook, EWG‘s president, said in a press statement. “If Hartnett-White joins Administrator Pruitt, polluters will stroll through the front doors of both the EPA and the White House, no questions asked, as the rampant looting of environmental and public health protection policies continues.”

Image Credit: YouTube Screenshot

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EARTHTALK: Where Do Vice President Candidates Pence & Kaine Stand on Environment?

Repost from Earthtalk

Where Do Vice President Candidates Pence & Kaine Stand on Environment?

By John McReynolds, 08/13/2016

Dear EarthTalkWhere do the Vice President choices for the upcoming Presidential election (Tim Kaine and Mike Pence) stand in terms of environmental track record and commitment?

Mitchell Finan, Butte, MT

Not surprisingly given the current political climate, the respective Vice Presidential candidates differ on most of the issues, including their policies on the environment and energy.

kaine pence sml 400x267 Where Do Vice President Candidates Pence & Kaine Stand on Environment?
The two Vice Presidential candidates (Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mike Pence) could hardly be father apart on their respective stances on conservation, environment, energy and what to do about climate change. Credit: Joel Rivlin, Gage Skidmore

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton’s VP choice Tim Kaine has opposed big oil companies since his career as Virginia State Senator. He first endorsed a “25% renewables by 2025” goal back in 2007, and has continued his staunch support ever since. He has been a champion of diversifying America’s energy portfolio. “We’re not going to drill our way out of the long-term energy crisis facing this nation and the world… we can’t keep relying oil,” said Kaine back in 2008. He reinforced this position again in his 2012 Senate race by arguing against tax subsidies for major oil companies.

As far as environmental protection, he has not shown much of a track record in support or against. In May of 2013, he did vote affirmatively on a bill to protect ocean, coastal and Great Lakes ecosystems. The League of Conservation Voters (LCV), which puts out an annual national environmental scorecard for politicians, has attributed a 91 percent lifetime score to Kaine, clearly naming him as one of our nation’s leading politicians. More recently, in late 2015, Kaine voted against a bill that attacked Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) carbon pollution limits. Of course, a Republican dominated Congress passed the bill anyway, although President Obama quickly vetoed it to maintain stricter limits on carbon pollution.

Across the aisle, Donald Trump’s VP selection, Mike Pence, lacks any sort of environmental agenda in his political career. The LCV gives him a lifetime score of only four percent, meaning he is no friend of the environment. Pence, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2001-2013 when he assumed the Indiana governorship, voted against a “Cash for Clunkers” recycling program in 2009 and also voted no on a bill improving public transportation in 2008. Meanwhile, he voted affirmatively for deauthorizing critical habitat zones and approving forest thinning projects in 2005 and 2003, respectively.

As for energy policy, Pence supported the “25% renewable energy…” goal in 2007 like his opponent Kaine. However, since then, he has supported offshore drilling, opposed EPA regulation of greenhouse gases and voted without any environmental conscience. He also voted against incentives for alternative fuels, for the construction of new oil refineries, and against criminalizing oil cartels such as OPEC.

“I think the science is very mixed on the subject of global warming,” Pence stated in 2009. His record of the environment since then reflects his continued skepticism toward environmental protection efforts.

For environmentalists, Kaine is the obvious choice over Pence, which is no surprise given the Presidential candidates who selected each of them as running mates. While Hillary Clinton may have focused more attention on other political issues over her career, she has continuously supported environmental protection and the transition away from fossil fuels, while Donald Trump has fought environmental restrictions on his ability to operate his real estate empire and recently told reporters he would consider reneging on U.S. commitments to reduce greenhouse gases made at the recent Paris climate summit.

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