Category Archives: Climate Change

2°C: BEYOND THE LIMIT – Extreme climate change has arrived in America

[BenIndy Editor: The focus here is on New Jersey, but read on for reference to Solano County, California, up 2.1 degrees Fahrenheit since 1895.  – RS]
The Washington Post, by Steven Mufson, Chris Mooney, Juliet Eilperin and John Muyskens, Photography by Salwan Georges. Aug. 13, 2019

LAKE HOPATCONG, N.J. — Before climate change thawed the winters of New Jersey, this lake hosted boisterous wintertime carnivals. As many as 15,000 skaters took part, and automobile owners would drive onto the thick ice. Thousands watched as local hockey clubs battled one another and the Skate Sailing Association of America held competitions, including one in 1926 that featured 21 iceboats on blades that sailed over a three-mile course.

In those days before widespread refrigeration, workers flocked here to harvest ice. They would carve blocks as much as two feet thick, float them to giant ice houses, sprinkle them with sawdust and load them onto rail cars bound for ice boxes in New York City and beyond.

“These winters do not exist anymore,” says Marty Kane, a lawyer and head of the Lake Hopatcong Foundation.

That’s because a century of climbing temperatures has changed the character of the Garden State. The massive ice industry and skate sailing association are but black-and-white photographs at the local museum. And even the hardy souls who still try to take part in ice fishing contests here have had to cancel 11 of the past dozen competitions for fear of straying onto perilously thin ice and tumbling into the frigid water.

New Jersey may seem an unlikely place to measure climate change, but it is one of the fastest-warming states in the nation. Its average temperature has climbed by close to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit since 1895 — double the average for the Lower 48 states.

Over the past two decades, the 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit number has emerged as a critical threshold for global warming. In the 2015 Paris accord, international leaders agreed that the world should act urgently to keep the Earth’s average temperature increases “well below” 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit by the year 2100 to avoid a host of catastrophic changes.

The potential consequences are daunting. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that if Earth heats up by an average of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, virtually all the world’s coral reefs will die; retreating ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica could unleash massive sea level rise; and summertime Arctic sea ice, a shield against further warming, would begin to disappear.

But global warming does not heat the world evenly.

A Washington Post analysis of more than a century of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration temperature data across the Lower 48 states and 3,107 counties has found that major areas are nearing or have already crossed the 3.6-degree Fahrenheit mark.

— Today, more than 1 in 10 Americans — 34 million people — are living in rapidly heating regions, including New York City and Los Angeles. Seventy-one counties have already hit the 3.6-degree Fahrenheit mark.

— Alaska is the fastest-warming state in the country, but Rhode Island is the first state in the Lower 48 whose average temperature rise has eclipsed 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Other parts of the Northeast — New Jersey, Connecticut, Maine and Massachusetts — trail close behind.

— While many people associate global warming with summer’s melting glaciers, forest fires and disastrous flooding, it is higher winter temperatures that have made New Jersey and nearby Rhode Island the fastest warming of the Lower 48 states.

Five takeaways from The Post’s analysis of warming climates in the United States

The average New Jersey temperature from December through February now exceeds 32 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature at which water freezes. That threshold, reached over the past three decades, has meant lakes don’t freeze as often, snow melts more quickly, and insects and pests don’t die as they once did in the harsher cold.

The freezing point “is the most critical threshold among all temperatures,” said David A. Robinson, New Jersey state climatologist and professor at Rutgers University’s department of geography.

The uneven rise in temperatures across the United States matches what is happening around the world.

In the past century, the Earth has warmed 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit. But that’s just an average. Some parts of the globe — including the mountains of Romania and the steppes of Mongolia — have registered increases twice as large. It has taken decades or in some cases a century. But for huge swaths of the planet, climate change is a present-tense reality, not one looming ominously in the distant future.

To find the world’s 2C hot spots, its fastest-warming places, The Post analyzed temperature databases, including those kept by NASA and NOAA; peer-reviewed scientific studies; and reports by local climatologists. The global data sets draw upon thousands of land-based weather stations and other measurements, such as ocean buoys armed with sensors and ship logs dating as far back as 1850.

In any one geographic location, 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit may not represent global cataclysmic change, but it can threaten ecosystems, change landscapes and upend livelihoods and cultures.

In Lake Hopatcong, thinning ice let loose waves of aquatic weeds that ordinarily die in the cold. This year, a new blow: Following one of the warmest springs of the past century, harmful bacteria known as blue-green algae bloomed in the lake just as the tourist season was taking off in June.

New Jersey’s largest lake was shut down after the state’s environmental agency warned against swimming or fishing “for weeks, if not longer.”

The nation’s hot spots will get worse, absent a global plan to slash emissions of the greenhouse gases fueling climate change. By the time the impacts are fully recognized, the change may be irreversible.

Daniel Pauly, an influential marine scientist at the University of British Columbia, says the 3.6-degree Fahrenheit hot spots are early warning sirens of a climate shift.

“Basically,” he said, “these hot spots are chunks of the future in the present.”

America’s hot spots

Nationwide, trends are clear. Starting in the late 1800s, U.S. temperatures began to rise and continued slowly up through the 1930s. The nation then cooled slightly for several decades. But starting around 1970, temperatures rose steeply.

At the county level, the data reveals isolated 3.6-degree Fahrenheit clusters: high-altitude deserts in Oregon; stretches of the western Rocky Mountains that feed the Colorado River; a clutch of counties along the northeastern shore of Lake Michigan — home to the famed Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore near Traverse City.

Along the Canadian border, a string of counties from eastern Montana to Minnesota are quickly heating up.

The topography of warming varies. It is intense at some high elevations, such as in Utah and Colorado, and along some highly populated coasts: Temperatures have risen by 2C in Los Angeles and three neighboring counties. New York City is also warming rapidly, and so are the very different areas around it, such as the beach resorts in the Hamptons and leafy Westchester County.

(Clicking this image  takes you to the article on the Washington Post. Scroll down for FIND YOUR COUNTY.)

The smaller the area, the more difficult it is to pinpoint the cause of warming. Urban heat effects, changing air pollution levels, ocean currents, events like the Dust Bowl, and natural climate wobbles such as El Niño could all be playing some role, experts say.

The only part of the United States that has not warmed significantly since the late 1800s is the South, especially Mississippi and Alabama, where data in some cases shows modest cooling. Scientists have attributed this “warming hole” to atmospheric cycles driven by the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, along with particles of soot from smokestacks and tailpipes, which have damaging health effects but can block some of the sun’s intensity. Those types of pollutants were curtailed by environmental policies, while carbon dioxide remained unregulated for decades.

Since the 1960s, however, the region’s temperatures have been increasing along with the rest of the country’s.

The Northeast is warming especially fast.

Anthony Broccoli, a climate scientist at Rutgers, defines an unusually warm or cold month as ranking among the five most extreme in the record going back to the late 1800s. In the case of New Jersey, he says, “since 2000, we’ve had 39 months that were unusually warm and zero that were unusually cold.”

Scientists do not completely understand the Northeast hot spot. But fading winters and very warm water offshore are the most likely culprits, experts say. That’s because climate change is a cycle that feeds on itself.

Warmer winters mean less ice and snow cover. Normally, ice and snow reflect solar radiation back into space, keeping the planet relatively cool. But as the ice and snow retreat, the ground absorbs the solar radiation and warms.

Temperature changes in the Northeast U.S. 1895-2018

NOAA data shows that in every Northeast state except Pennsylvania, the temperatures of the winter months of December through February have risen by 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit since 1895-1896. And U.S. Geological Survey data shows that ice breaks up in New England lakes nine to 16 days earlier than in the 19th century.

This doesn’t mean the states can’t have extreme winters anymore. Polar vortex events, in which frigid Arctic air descends into the heart of the country, can still bring biting cold. But the overall trend remains the same and is set to continue. One recent study found that by the time the entire globe crosses 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the Northeast can expect to have risen by about 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit, with winter temperatures higher still.

Losing three feet of beach a year

Climate change plays havoc differently in different places.

In Rhode Island, Narragansett Bay has warmed as much as 2.9 degrees Fahrenheit in the past 50 years, and for want of cooler water, the state’s lobster catch has plummeted 75 percent in the past two decades.

Along the shoreline, the hotter and higher sea is shuffling the lineup of oceanfront homes.

Roy Carpenter’s Beach is a collection of summer cottages along a quarter-mile stretch that is eroding faster than any other part of the state — an average of 3.3 feet a year.

Rob Thoresen’s great-grandfather bought the property nearly a century ago, and residents living in 377 cottages there now lease the land from the family business.

About a decade ago, the family tried — in vain — to persuade residents to move away from the encroaching ocean. Their reluctance was no surprise; the back of the property features a view of cornfields.

But then the coast took an indirect hit from Hurricane Sandy. It damaged 11 homes in the community’s front row, with three of them washing out to sea. The surf laps over the remains of concrete foundations and wooden pylons, knocking over construction fences.

In 2013, 28 families in the first and second rows started moving to the back of the development — roughly 1,000 feet away. The community is planning to move another 20 houses.

For best viewing of these and other gorgeous photos, please go to the Washington Post website and scroll down.

Rising seas are eating away Roy Carpenter’s Beach in Rhode Island.
Several houses have fallen victim to the encroaching water, forcing their occupants to move farther inland.
Tony Loura bought his cottage nearly 15 years ago. It used to be 1,000 feet from the water. Now, it’s only about 150.

It is expensive. Homeowners pay to physically move their cottages or demolish them and rebuild. Matunuck Beach Properties, the management company, must survey the properties and prepare new locations, laying out new roads and sewer pipes.

Tony Loura, who has summered in Roy Carpenter’s Beach for 15 years, is philosophical about his predicament. He is on the fourth row, where he has an unobstructed view of the ocean from his rocking chair. He estimates that he used to be 1,000 feet from the water. Now, the ocean is only about 150 feet away.

“I’m hoping that I’m back far enough that I won’t have to move to the back,” said Loura, 66. “Every time they say there’s a storm, I get worried.”

With 420 miles of coastline, Rhode Island is particularly vulnerable to the vagaries of the Gulf Stream, a massive warm current that travels up the East Coast from the Gulf of Mexico before making a right turn toward Greenland and Europe.

The Gulf Stream is enormous, encompassing more water than “all of the world’s rivers combined,” according to NOAA. It is one part of an even larger global “conveyor belt” of currents that transport heat around the world.

A slowing of these currents, which scientists think is caused by the melting of Arctic ice, has pushed the Gulf Stream closer to the East Coast, bringing more warm water and, perhaps, hotter temperatures onshore. Offshore, it has become its own hot spot, helping to boost water temperatures by 3.6 degrees Fahrenheitor more in some regions.

If the slowing continues, seas could rise farther and faster. That’s because when the current slows, water it was driving toward Europe drifts back across the Atlantic to the U.S. coastline. Scientists are trying to determine whether the Gulf Stream is already contributing to rapid sea level rise on the East Coast.

MORE gorgeous photos – please go to the Washington Post website and scroll down.

Tidal gauges show sea levels have risen roughly nine inches since 1930, and researchers at the University of Rhode Island have determined that the rate has quickened by about a third in recent years.

By 2030, sea level rise will flood 605 buildings six times a year, according to the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council’s executive director, Grover Fugate.

Roy Carpenter’s Beach is especially vulnerable.

Some residents want the beach’s owners to fight off the sea, Loura said.

“They think they should build a sea wall, they should bring in tons of sand,” he said. “Last year, they spent a lot of money on sand. Guess what? It’s all gone.”

Thoresen’s family is moving a convenience store and office for the second time in a decade — this time all the way back to the 18th row.

“We moved it back 100 feet, and it only bought us 10 years,” Thoresen said. “That’s crazy.”

That’s what people who live in 3.6-degree Fahrenheit zones are discovering: that climate change seems remote or invisible, until all of a sudden it is inescapable.

‘The ice is not safe anymore’

Here at Lake Hopatcong, Tim Clancy, 65, a ruddy-faced fisherman and retiree, has helped run the annual ice fishing contests for years. He has a photo of himself taken in 2015, standing in the middle of the frozen lake, a string of four perch dangling from one hand, his 400-pound all-terrain buggy parked on the ice behind him.

“It was like a tailgate party. Midnight madness. People camped out with their snowmobiles,” he says. “But the ice is not safe anymore.”

At the Lake Hopatcong Foundation offices, director Kane recalls that the lake used to freeze over by Thanksgiving and now rarely does so before January.

According to records kept by the local Knee Deep Club, a fishing group, 26 fishing contests were canceled because of poor ice conditions from 1998 through 2019. Only 19 were held successfully.

MORE gorgeous photos – please go to the Washington Post website and scroll down.

Nine miles long, Lake Hopatcong sits between two counties — Sussex and Morris — in the state’s northwest. Both have been warming fast, especially in winter. According to The Post’s review of New Jersey data, winter temperatures in Sussex have increased 4.7 degrees Fahrenheit since the winter of 1895-1896. For Morris, the winter increase has been slightly sharper 4.9 degrees Fahrenheit.

Robinson, the state climatologist, found that January temperatures in Sussex County generally need to average around 25 to 26 degrees Fahrenheit for successful ice fishing.

Instead, average winter temperatures are moving closer to the freezing point, with some winters now exceeding 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

It is not just the lake that is being wracked by climate changes.

From the Jersey Shore to the shopping malls of Paramus, from hiking trails in the northwest to the Bayway oil refinery, the state faces exceptionally heavy and unpredictable rainfall — even for New Jersey. Last year, it was inundated by a record 64.77 inches of rainfall statewide, 40 percent above average.

Pests, no longer eradicated by cold winters, are attacking people, crops and landscapes alike.

The ⅛ -inch-long southern pine beetle had been largely confined to southern U.S. forests — hence its name. But the warmer temperatures have spurred the beetle’s migration north, where it has damaged more than 20,000 acres of the state’s Pine Barrens, a vast coastal forested plain that Congress has defined as a national reserve.

“They are changing the Pinelands,” says Matthew Ayres, a Dartmouth researcher who has studied the beetle. “It may not be too long before people are driving through the Pinelands saying, ‘Why do they call it the Pinelands?'”

Mosquitoes, once dubbed on postcards as New Jersey’s “air force,” have longer seasons. The Warren County Mosquito Control Commission, whose records date to 1987, uses fixed-wing aircraft to drop a granular, naturally occurring soil microbe on swamps to kill the mosquito larvae.

But the bugs may be winning the air war. The commission’s flights are more frequent, and the past eight years, led by 2018, have had the highest numbers of acres treated annually. Mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus came up from the South 20 years ago. Last year, Warren became the last county in the state to register human cases of the disease.

“Mosquito season used to start on June 1 and end on Sept. 30,” said Rutgers professor Dina Fonseca, an expert on insect-borne disease. But unless the air war starts earlier in the spring, “you’re not going to address the mosquito problem.”

‘Completely dead’

On a cool but sunny day in May, Fred Lubnow, director of aquatic programs at Princeton Hydro, and Katie Walston, a senior scientist there, pulled up their anchor in Lake Hopatcong to find it covered with aquatic weeds. The culprit? Fertilizer runoff combined with winters too warm to kill them off.

“The plants start growing earlier and linger around longer, as well,” Lubnow said. The thick ice blocked sunlight from nurturing the weeds. But “in some of these shallow areas, as early as February, we’re looking through the ice seeing the plants growing.”

MORE gorgeous photos – please go to the Washington Post website and scroll down.

By summer, the weeds become a nuisance, forcing the state government to “harvest” them with large paddles and toss them onto a conveyor belt, then onto barges. Some years, funding has been hard to get, delaying harvesting and angering homeowners.

“If this area is not harvested, you can’t get a boat through it,” Lubnow says. Swimming isn’t possible, either. Fishing becomes difficult.

In late June, disaster struck.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection detected toxic bacteria known as blue-green algae. Aerial photos showed the telltale large streaks of “pea soup” across the lake. The agency urged people to avoid swimming, wading and watersport activities such as jet-skiing, kayaking, windsurfing and paddleboarding.

“It’s almost put us out of business,” says John Clark, co-owner of Little Nicki’s Italian restaurant, which looks out onto the lake. Little Nicki’s does nearly a tenth of its business over the first two weekends in July and is usually jammed the afternoon before July 4. Yet there were only three people there that day. Clark estimated that business was down by half.

“It’s completely dead. Everyone was having a banner year. Then you hit a wall.”

Little Nicki’s Italian restaurant, across the street from Lake Hopatcong, is usually jammed in the summer, but this year, the state warned people to avoid the water, putting a damper on the restaurant’s business.

How we analyzed the data
To analyze warming temperatures in the United States, The Washington Post used the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Divisional Database (nClimDiv), which provides monthly temperature data at the national, state and county level between 1895 and 2018 for the Lower 48 states. NOAA does not provide this data for Hawaii, and its data for Alaska begins in 1925.
We calculated annual mean temperature trends in each state and county in the Lower 48 states using linear regression — analyzing both annual average temperatures and temperatures for the three-month winter season (December, January and February). While not the only approach for analyzing temperature changes over time, this is a widely used method.
County population numbers are the U.S. Census Bureau’s estimate of resident total population for July 2018.
Annual temperature averages in the interactive county feature are displayed as departures from the 1895-2018 average temperature for each county. These departures from the average are referred to as “temperature anomalies” by climate scientists.
To make the maps, we applied the same linear regression method for annual average temperatures to NOAA’s Gridded 5km GHCN-Daily Temperature and Precipitation Dataset (nClimGrid), which is the basis for nClimDiv. For mapping purposes, the resolution of the data was increased using bilinear interpolation.
The warming of Alaska was treated separately, after consulting with Rick Thoman, an expert on the state’s climate at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. Thoman said that a linear trend does not apply in the case of this state because the warming has been so extreme in the most recent years — something that such a trend would understate. So Thoman used a smoothed curve to plot Alaska’s warming trend, calculating about 2.2 degrees Celsius (4 degrees Fahrenheit) just since 1925.
Kenneth Kunkel of the North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies, who developed climate analyses for all 50 U.S. states during the 2013 National Climate Assessment, provided an initial analysis of the Lower 48 states’ temperature trends from 1895 through 2018 at The Post’s request.
Project and story editing by Trish Wilson. Graphics editing by Monica Ulmanu. Design and development by Madison Walls. Copy editing by Emily Morman and Brian Malasics. Photo editing and research by Olivier Laurent. Project management by Julie Vitkovskaya.

    Oil and coal lobbyists influencing Democrats to stay away from debate on climate change

    The DNC’s climate problems run deep

    By Jeremy Symons, The Hill, 06/18/19 06:00 PM EDT
    The DNC's climate problems run deep
    The DNC’s climate problems run deep © iStock

    Defending his decision not to hold a presidential debate on climate change, Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Tom Perez has exposed the great gulf between climate rhetoric and action within the Democratic Party machine.

    Writing in Medium, Perez calls climate change “an urgent threat to our nation and our planet,” giving the obligatory nod to an issue that has risen to a top concern of Democratic voters in Iowa and across the nation.

    Granting a climate debate would be unfair and unrealistic, he argues, because holding a debate on each and every issue would be infeasible. He says the DNC has received more than 50 requests to hold issue debates, but fails to mention that fifteen Democratic candidates have endorsed the call for a climate debate.

    The DNC decision is an important wake-up call for climate donors and voters. Just because Democrats say climate change is an urgent threat does not mean they see it as more urgent than other issues.

    The DNC’s inaction on a climate debate is especially troubling in light of the party’s long dependency on the fossil fuel lobby to fund conventions.

    American Petroleum Institute (API), the top trade association for big oil and gas companies, stepped up with $700,000 for Democrats’ last convention in Philadelphia. That fell just a few money bags shy of the $900,000 API sent to the GOP.

    According to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), API has spent more than $100 million lobbying Congress to “crush any pro-climate policies that might actually reduce carbon emissions” and threaten the bottom line of oil companies.

    The coal lobby has also bellied up to the convention table. In 2012, the DNC publicly touted that it had  barred corporate contributions for the convention. In reality, they relied on Duke Energy, the nation’s second biggest carbon emitter, for a $6 million loan that Democrats never repaid.

    At the 2008 Democratic convention in Denver, I was taken aback by the marketing extravaganza behind “clean coal,” a fictional product. “Regardless of who wins the election, we know that coal will still be running America,” proclaimed The American Council for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), a coal industry trade association. ACCCE members Southern Company and Arch Coal contributed to the Democrats’ convention committee.

    Fossil fuel trade associations are not letting up. They know that if climate change isn’t the Democrat’s top priority, then little will get done.

    They aim to lull Democrats to sleep on climate, joining their Republican colleagues in action if not words by keeping climate on the back burner.

    It’s a tempting lullaby for political operatives. The planet doesn’t have a bank account. Fossil fuel lobbyists pay well and pay often.

    Last year, Perez momentarily seemed ready to bring needed change to the DNC. The DNC quietly passed a resolution sponsored by Christine Pelosi (daughter of Nancy Pelosi), that would have barred the DNC from accepting political contributions from fossil fuel PACs.

    The DNC received swift backlash from labor, however. According to Perez, the resolution was perceived as “an attack on the working people” in energy industries.

    Perez wrote a new resolution that passed the DNC overwhelmingly, reversing the prior funding ban and embracing money from all energy PACs.

    A divisive battle between labor and environmentalists in 2018 would not have benefited anyone, but Perez’ swift and decisive intervention stands in stark contrast to his meek protests now that his hands are tied on a climate debate.

    Alarmingly, Perez’ resolution also touted America’s “all of the above” energy economy.

    The phrase first became prominent when Sarah Palin and John McCainused it to sum up their “drill baby drill” energy platform in 2008.

    When President Obama later called for an “all of the above” energy approach, environmental leaders protested. In a letter to Obama, they argued that an “all of the above” energy strategy that boosts coal, oil and gas would undermine America’s climate goals.

    The DNC struck the phrase from its platform in 2016.

    The DNC’s zig-zagging climate and energy rhetoric is Exhibit A in the case for a climate change debate. Squeezing climate change into other debates will only allow time for rhetoric about the urgency of the problem. A focused, in-depth climate debate will allow voters to better gauge the substance and commitment behind the talking points.

    When it comes to climate politics, commitment and priority is everything. Across three decades, political advisers have whispered in the ears of presidents, cautioning against taking on the combined might of the fossil fuel lobby. This is why we are where we are today.

    In the DNC’s refusal to host a climate debate, we see an early warning signal of those whispers still at work despite unprecedented demand for results from voters.

    By lumping climate change in with 50 unnamed issues, Perez misses the mark entirely. All issues are not equal.

    A debate focused on preserving a livable planet is a debate on justice, economic opportunity, health, security and human rights.

    When you are living on a boat, the value of all things changes if the ship starts to sink.

    The same holds true for the planet we share. The physics of climate change are just as relentless and unforgiving as the rush of water through a hole in a boat’s hull. The climate clock is ticking.

    If Democrats do not believe climate change is important enough to change their own rules now, can we count on them to summon the political moxy to do what needs to be done after our money and votes are secured?

    Jeremy Symons is a consultant at Symons Public Affairs and writer on climate change, energy policy and politics. He previously worked as vice president for political affairs at Environmental Defense Fund and as deputy staff director on the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee.


      Democrats are seriously tackling the climate crisis: No more half-measures or neoliberal compromises

      At least seven 2020 candidates have serious climate plans — and they’re not bowing to fossil-fuel interests

      By Carl Pope, June 16, 2019 10:00AM (UTC)
      Jay Inslee; Beto O’Rourke; Joe Biden; Bernie Sanders (AP/Getty/Salon) / Elizabeth Warren; John Hickenlooper; John Delaney

      Already seven Democratic presidential hopefuls have offered detailed plans for confronting the climate crisis — including the two current (perceived) frontrunners, “moderate” Joe Biden and “progressive” Bernie Sanders, along with Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, Jay Inslee, John Hickenlooper and John Delaney. (Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand have sponsored the Green New Deal resolution but have not yet released individual policies.)

      Media coverage has predictably focused on the horse race: What significance the increased salience of the issue has with primary voters, how the plans and candidates differ from each other, and whether there will or will not be a separate debate on climate. (At this writing, the Democratic National Committee still says there won’t be.)

      But from a climate perspective, what’s revealing (and fascinating) is the degree to which the candidates and their plans are, at heart, indistinguishable. As a group, none of these climate planks harken back to Barack Obama’s “all of the above” genuflection to the enduring political power of fossil fuels. Nor do they resemble Hillary Clinton’s 2016 proposals, which focused almost entirely on renewable power — ambitious but narrow. They eschew the carbon-pricing emphasis of many Beltway economists and policy mavens. And they avoid the austerity frame that climate deniers have for so long used to dampen public support for clean energy.

      Taken as a group, this year’s presidential climate proffers are far broader — and more economically and politically sophisticated — than four years ago. If they have a 2016 antecedent, it is Bernie Sanders’ approach, which culminated in Sanders’ successful effort to buttress the Democratic platform on climate by including ambitious greenhouse emission targets.

      But the Democratic candidates have also introduced some new ingredients, drawn heavily from the Green New Deal. Here’s what the emerging Democratic climate platform looks like, and why it’s important.

      1. Climate science and ambitious decarbonization goals are in.

      While avoiding the confusing Green New Deal language about decarbonizing the economy within a decade, almost all of the candidates commit to get the job done by mid-century. Inslee pledges net zero emissions by 2045, Biden and O’Rourke by 2050. Sanders and Warren offer no date, although Sanders in 2016 called for a 40% emission reduction by 2030.

      Fundamentally, all these Democrats are saying that we can and should, decarbonize our economy fully by mid-century, and the differences in their formal pledges are almost irrelevant this far in advance.

      2. Climate sacrifice and austerity are out.

      None of the candidates suggest that to accomplish this goal Americans need to sacrifice prosperity or freedom — instead they all call for tying a transition to clean energy to a major revitalization of the U.S. economy, with several specifically calling out manufacturing. So striking is this pattern that the New York Times complained about it.

      3. Investment, not carbon pricing, is the new silver bullet.

      Carbon taxes or “cap and trade” aren’t central to the candidates’ thinking. Delaney and perhaps Hickenlooper aside, those with detailed plans all implicitly turn to a mixture of carrots — R&D, investments, incentives — and sticks, meaning regulations and only perhaps some carbon pricing, to do the job. Inslee, having campaigned unsuccessfully for a carbon tax as governor of Washington, doesn’t repeat his call for one. Biden and O’Rourke call for some kind of mandatory mechanism, but don’t specify pricing. Warren and Sanders don’t mention it. Indeed, none of the leading candidates except Pete Buttigieg explicitly favors such a tax.

      The Green New Deal is the source of the single newest ingredient in the policies as a group — the emphasis on massive federal investment in place of carbon pricing. Again, the nominal size of investment varies. O’Rourke asks for $5 trillion, Warren $3 trillion and Biden $1.7 trillion. These numbers represent different program mixes and financial strategies. All a voter can truly discern from them is “I want the government to invest more in American climate progress and I think the number should be big, because the economic gains will be much bigger.” That’s a far cry from the language historically used to advocate carbon pricing.

      4. Standards and regulation are back.

      The idea of using emission standards as if climate were a pollution problem seems to have caught on. To begin with, all the Democratic presidential candidates support restoring Obama-era emission standards which Trump has rolled back or is trying to. Biden, Inslee, Sanders, O’Rourke and Warren explicitly call for additional regulations to get to zero emissions by 2050.

      Inslee and O’Rourke explicitly flag powerful regulatory mandates to decarbonize buildings, utilities and transportation; Biden focuses on transportation; O’Rourke on buildings; Sanders and Warren don’t address sectors.

      5. It’s not just electricity — economy-wide approaches are embraced.

      The emphasis on investment and regulations frees the candidates up to push for emissions reductions outside the electricity sectors. With those tolls the U.S. has clear pathways to 100% clean energy in three sectors of our economy: electricity generation, road and rail transportation, and buildings. Clean power is already cheaper almost everywhere than coal and natural gas; operating fleets of electric vehicles is cheaper than continuing to buy new gasoline or diesel models; and all-electric, hyper-efficient new buildings cost less to own and operate than leaky ones reliant on oil or natural gas for heating and cooling.

      Allowing time for turnover of power plants, vehicles and furnaces, all three of these sectors can be profitably transitioned to 100% clean electricity — so investing in speeding up the transition here with massive federal investments does, indeed, make marvelous economic sense.

      Biden and Inslee give the most detailed road maps, but the other candidates with plans seem headed in the same direction.

      Finally, research gets respect

      These presidential platforms emphasize the need for expanded clean energy research and development, along with deployment of the technologies we have already commercialized. The three sectors discussed above account for only 70% of our emissions.  pollution from the remaining 30% — industry, agriculture, aviation and shipping — requires new approaches and technologies, and significant federal support for research, development, and early stage deployment. All the Democratic candidates call for such investments, and all offer policies to ensure that along with clean energy comes a revival of American manufacturing.

      How do the politics look?

      The right wing and the carbon lobby seem to be teeing up their usual attack on climate advocacy: It will tank the economy and deprive Americans of economic freedom! Republican opponents of climate progress don’t seem to have realized that the Democrats, while raising their ambition on climate and clean energy, have walked away from the taxation, sacrifice and austerity traps. The right wing has attacked Biden, their current whipping boy, for offering a climate plan, suggesting that since swing voters don’t show the same level of interest in climate issues that Democrats do, Republicans will be able to play the climate austerity card against Biden — or any other Democratic nominee who dares to offer a real climate plan.

      The problem with this theory is that while swing voters may not prioritize climate, they love clean energy and they want more investment  in America — and that’s what Democrats are offering. Most of the Democratic candidates, Warren and Biden in particular, are focused on reviving manufacturing, the (broken) promise that carried the Midwest for Donald Trump in 2016.

      And from voices like Greenpeace, candidates are being ranked not only on their demand-side fossil fuel policies, but on where they stand on coal mining and oil and gas drilling and exploration.

      The Beltway establishment is complaining about this willingness of the Democratic presidential field to place carbon pricing where it belongs — as one of a series of needed market reforms that enable us to decarbonize, but not as a fetish totem in itself. Catherine Rampel in the Washington Post lamented this feature, calling a price on carbon “the obvious, no-brainer tool for curbing carbon emissions.”  But it appears the candidates have noted the fact that when given a chance to vote on pricing carbon, even Jay Inslee’s green constituents in Washington state twice politely demurred.

      In many ways, the Democratic field is following the pathway blazed by California under the governorships of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown. Let the public and the legislature set broad and ambitious climate goals. Then pragmatically deploy administrative rules and incentives to test and perfect pathways toward a clean energy economy. As that economy grows in strength, it will challenge and defeat the stranglehold that fossil fuel interests have held for a century over America’s future, and create the politics for a more ambitious next round of emissions reduction targets.

      Carl Pope is the co-author of “Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens Can Save the Planet.” He is the former CEO and chairman of the Sierra Club.

        Trump Administration Hardens Its Attack on Climate Science

        By Coral Davenport & Mark Landler, The New York Times,  May 27, 2019
        The Huntington Canyon coal-fired power plant in Utah. The White House, already pursuing major rollbacks of greenhouse-gas emission restrictions, is amplifying its attack on fundamental climate-science conclusions. Credit: Brandon Thibodeaux for The New York Times

        WASHINGTON — President Trump has rolled back environmental regulations, pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord, brushed aside dire predictions about the effects of climate change, and turned the term “global warming” into a punch line rather than a prognosis.

        Now, after two years spent unraveling the policies of his predecessors, Mr. Trump and his political appointees are launching a new assault.

        In the next few months, the White House will complete the rollback of the most significant federal effort to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, initiated during the Obama administration. It will expand its efforts to impose Mr. Trump’s hard-line views on other nations, building on his retreat from the Paris accord and his recent refusal to sign a communiqué to protect the rapidly melting Arctic region unless it was stripped of any references to climate change.

        And, in what could be Mr. Trump’s most consequential action yet, his administration will seek to undermine the very science on which climate change policy rests.

        Mr. Trump is less an ideologue than an armchair naysayer about climate change, according to people who know him. He came into office viewing agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency as bastions of what he calls the “deep state,” and his contempt for their past work on the issue is an animating factor in trying to force them to abandon key aspects of the methodology they use to try to understand the causes and consequences of a dangerously warming planet.

        As a result, parts of the federal government will no longer fulfill what scientists say is one of the most urgent jobs of climate science studies: reporting on the future effects of a rapidly warming planet and presenting a picture of what the earth could look like by the end of the century if the global economy continues to emit heat-trapping carbon dioxide pollution from burning fossil fuels.

        The attack on science is underway throughout the government. In the most recent example, the White House-appointed director of the United States Geological Survey, James Reilly, a former astronaut and petroleum geologist, has ordered that scientific assessments produced by that office use only computer-generated climate models that project the impact of climate change through 2040, rather than through the end of the century, as had been done previously.

        President Trump has pushed to resurrect the idea of holding public debates on the validity of climate science. Credit: Doug Mills/The New York Times

        Scientists say that would give a misleading picture because the biggest effects of current emissions will be felt after 2040. Models show that the planet will most likely warm at about the same rate through about 2050. From that point until the end of the century, however, the rate of warming differs significantly with an increase or decrease in carbon emissions.

        The administration’s prime target has been the National Climate Assessment, produced by an interagency task force roughly every four years since 2000. Government scientists used computer-generated models in their most recent report to project that if fossil fuel emissions continue unchecked, the earth’s atmosphere could warm by as much as eight degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century. That would lead to drastically higher sea levels, more devastating storms and droughts, crop failures, food losses and severe health consequences.

        Work on the next report, which is expected to be released in 2021 or 2022, has already begun. But from now on, officials said, such worst-case scenario projections will not automatically be included in the National Climate Assessment or in some other scientific reports produced by the government.

        “What we have here is a pretty blatant attempt to politicize the science — to push the science in a direction that’s consistent with their politics,” said Philip B. Duffy, the president of the Woods Hole Research Center, who served on a National Academy of Sciences panel that reviewed the government’s most recent National Climate Assessment. “It reminds me of the Soviet Union.”

        In an email, James Hewitt, a spokesman for the Environmental Protection Agency, defended the proposed changes.

        “The previous use of inaccurate modeling that focuses on worst-case emissions scenarios, that does not reflect real-world conditions, needs to be thoroughly re-examined and tested if such information is going to serve as the scientific foundation of nationwide decision-making now and in the future,” Mr. Hewitt said.

        However, the goal of political appointees in the Trump administration is not just to change the climate assessment’s methodology, which has broad scientific consensus, but also to question its conclusions by creating a new climate review panel. That effort is led by a 79-year-old physicist who had a respected career at Princeton but has become better known in recent years for attacking the science of man-made climate change and for defending the virtues of carbon dioxide — sometimes to an awkward degree.

        The Beaufort Sea in the Arctic, a region that is warming rapidly. The United States recently declined to sign a communiqué on protecting the Arctic unless it omitted references to climate change. Credit: Andrew Testa for The New York Times

        “The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler,” the physicist, William Happer, who serves on the National Security Council as the president’s deputy assistant for emerging technologies, said in 2014 in an interview with CNBC.

        Mr. Happer’s proposed panel is backed by John R. Bolton, the president’s national security adviser, who brought Mr. Happer into the N.S.C. after an earlier effort to recruit him during the transition.

        Mr. Happer and Mr. Bolton are both beneficiaries of Robert and Rebekah Mercer, the far-right billionaire and his daughter who have funded efforts to debunk climate science. The Mercers gave money to a super PAC affiliated with Mr. Bolton before he entered government and to an advocacy group headed by Mr. Happer.

        Climate scientists are dismissive of Mr. Happer; his former colleagues at Princeton are chagrined. And several White House officials — including Larry Kudlow, the president’s chief economic adviser — have urged Mr. Trump not to adopt Mr. Happer’s proposal, on the grounds that it would be perceived as a White House attack on science.

        Even Stephen K. Bannon, the former White House strategist who views Mr. Happer as “the climate hustler’s worst nightmare — a world-class physicist from the nation’s leading institution of advanced learning, who does not suffer fools gladly,” is apprehensive about what Mr. Happer is trying to do.

        “The very idea will start a holy war on cable before 2020,” he said. “Better to win now and introduce the study in the second inaugural address.”

        But at a White House meeting on May 1, at which the skeptical advisers made their case, Mr. Trump appeared unpersuaded, people familiar with the meeting said. Mr. Happer, they said, is optimistic that the panel will go forward.

        William Happer, who serves on the National Security Council, is pushing to create a climate review panel that would question scientific consensus. Credit: Pool photo by Albin Lohr-Jones

        The concept is not new. Mr. Trump has pushed to resurrect the idea of a series of military-style exercises, known as “red team, blue team” debates, on the validity of climate science first promoted by Scott Pruitt, the E.P.A. administrator who was forced to resign last year amid multiple scandals.

        At the time, the idea was shot down by John F. Kelly, then the White House chief of staff. But since Mr. Kelly’s departure, Mr. Trump has talked about using Mr. Happer’s proposed panel as a forum for it.

        For Mr. Trump, climate change is often the subject of mockery. “Wouldn’t be bad to have a little of that good old fashioned Global Warming right now!” he posted on Twitter in January when a snowstorm was freezing much of the country.

        His views are influenced mainly by friends and donors like Carl Icahn, the New York investor who owns oil refineries, and the oil-and-gas billionaire Harold Hamm — both of whom pushed Mr. Trump to deregulate the energy industry.

        Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka made a well-publicized effort to talk him out of leaving the Paris accord in 2017. But after being vanquished by officials including Mr. Bannon, Mr. Pruitt, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the former White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II, there is little evidence she has resisted his approach since then.

        The president’s advisers amplify his disregard. At the meeting of the eight-nation Arctic Council this month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dismayed fellow diplomats by describing the rapidly warming region as a land of “opportunity and abundance” because of its untapped reserves of oil, gas, uranium, gold, fish and rare-earth minerals. The melting sea ice, he said, was opening up new shipping routes.

        “That is one of the most crude messages one could deliver,” said R. Nicholas Burns, who served as the NATO ambassador under George W. Bush.

        Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dismayed fellow diplomats by describing the Arctic as a land of “opportunity and abundance” as a consequence of global warming. Credit: Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

        At the National Security Council, under Mr. Bolton, officials said they had been instructed to strip references to global warming from speeches and other formal statements. But such political edicts pale in significance to the changes in the methodology of scientific reports.

        Mr. Reilly, the head of the Geological Survey, who does not have a background in climate change science, characterized the changes as an attempt to prepare more careful, accurate reports. “We’re looking for answers with our partners and to get statistical significance from what we understand,” he said.

        Yet scientists said that by eliminating the projected effects of increased carbon dioxide pollution after 2040, the Geological Survey reports would present an incomplete and falsely optimistic picture of the impact of continuing to burn unlimited amounts of coal, oil and gasoline.

        “The scenarios in these reports that show different outcomes are like going to the doctor, who tells you, ‘If you don’t change your bad eating habits, and you don’t start to exercise, you’ll need a quadruple bypass, but if you do change your lifestyle, you’ll have a different outcome,’” said Katharine Hayhoe, the director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University and an author of the National Climate Assessment.

        Not all government science agencies are planning such changes. A spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, asked if its scientists would limit the use of climate models, wrote in an email, “No changes are being considered at this time.”

        The push to alter the results of at least some climate science reports, several officials said, came after November’s release of the second volume of the National Climate Assessment.

        While the Trump administration did not try to rewrite the scientific conclusions of the report, officials sought to play it down — releasing it the day after Thanksgiving — and discredit it, with a White House statement calling it “largely based on the most extreme scenario.”

        This summer, the E.P.A. is expected to finalize the legal rollback of two of President Barack Obama’s most consequential policies: regulations to curb planet-warming pollution from vehicles and power plants. Credit: George Etheredge for The New York Times

        Still, the report could create legal problems for Mr. Trump’s agenda of abolishing regulations. This summer, the E.P.A. is expected to finalize the legal rollback of two of President Barack Obama’s most consequential policies: federal regulations to curb planet-warming pollution from vehicle tailpipes and power plant smokestacks.

        Opponents say that when they challenge the moves in court, they intend to point to the climate assessment, asking how the government can justify the reversals when its own agencies have concluded that the pollution will be so harmful.

        That is why officials are now discussing how to influence the conclusions of the next National Climate Assessment.

        “They’ve started talking about how they can produce a report that doesn’t lead to some silly alarmist predictions about the future,” said Myron Ebell, who heads the energy program at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an industry-funded research organization, and who led the administration’s transition at the E.P.A.

        A key change, he said, would be to emphasize historic temperatures rather than models of future atmospheric temperatures, and to eliminate the “worst-case scenarios” of the effect of increased carbon dioxide pollution — sometimes referred to as “business as usual” scenarios because they imply no efforts to curb emissions.

        Scientists said that eliminating the worst-case scenario would give a falsely optimistic picture. “Nobody in the world does climate science like that,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton. “It would be like designing cars without seatbelts or airbags.”

        Outside the United States, climate scientists had long given up on the White House being anything but on outlier in policy. But they worry about the loss of the government as a source for reliable climate research.

        “It is very unfortunate and potentially even quite damaging that the Trump administration behaves this way,” said Johan Rockström, the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. “There is this arrogance and disrespect for scientific advancement — this very demoralizing lack of respect for your own experts and agencies.”

        A version of this article appears in print on May 27, 2019, on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: In Climate Fight, Trump Will Put Science on Trial.