August 7, 2018
The water is murky, but the truth is clear. Rick Scott is the man behind this man-made disaster.
August 7, 2018
The water is murky, but the truth is clear. Rick Scott is the man behind this man-made disaster.
August 15, 2018
Fox tried coming after Denmark’s social safety net. This Danish politician’s clap back was legendary.
A carbon tax will have consequences for food security that need mitigating.
Global warming is getting a little scary, as its consequences emerge more quickly than most scientists had expected, in soaring global temperatures, unprecedented wildfires and many other effects. This year is on target to be the fourth hottest ever, only just behind the three previous years. Meanwhile, humanity has made very little progress in taking action, with CO2 emissions higher now than ever before, having actually increased 60 percent over the past 25 years – all while we’ve been fully aware of the problem.
But hope for a simple fix – such as a carbon tax, the preferred option of most economists — is naive, even setting aside the formidable political challenges. Among other things, a new study suggests, a meaningful carbon tax could trigger food shortages by 2050 for many of the poorest people in the world, and even be worse than climate change continuing completely unabated.
Of course, these are only estimates, and there’s plenty of uncertainty in this analysis. It rests on assumptions, for example, about how rising temperatures and other climate effects will influence food productivity, something we know little about. Indeed, other recent research concludes that rising temperatures could reduce GDP even in developed nations by as much as one-third by 2100. Uncertainties aside, the researchers’ best guess is that on the matter of food security, climate change would be bad, but a carbon tax big enough to reduce emissions significantly could actually be worse. That’s bad news.
Does this mean we shouldn’t address climate change? Hardly. It actually only points out why we’re going to have to be creative in finding ways to deal with the negative short-term consequences of the policies that will deliver long-term benefits. In addition to emissions reductions, we’re going to need wise agricultural policies, stronger social safety nets, and better international cooperation.
Policies designed to avoid climate disaster a century into the future and beyond might be expected to have some negative consequences over times as short as 30 years. By analogy, fire extinguishers have negative short-term consequences for the interiors of houses, but we generally think that using them is a good idea, because we can do other things to deal with those consequences and avoid having to rebuild the whole house.
Likewise, if governments implement a carbon tax – or take other serious actions on climate – they can also take further steps to handle adverse consequences stirred up as a result. Revenue from the tax could be used for food aid, for example, or to transfer more efficient production methods to food insecure regions, which might also further reduce CO2 emissions. The real message of the paper is that a useful carbon tax could cause serious problems, if put in place in the absence of any other policies to make agriculture more resilient or to come to the aid of those most at risk.
In this sense, the paper makes a useful if somewhat mundane point – that long term climate policy will stir up short term issues, like food security. It offers valuable information on where we ought to be thinking about what other policies we might put in place to counteract these problems, and so ensure a path forward not just for some, but for everyone.
Mark Buchanan, a physicist and science writer, is the author of the book “Forecast: What Physics, Meteorology and the Natural Sciences Can Teach Us About Economics.”
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
By Steve Lopez August 11, 2018
Felipe Montiel fishes at Lake Elsinore as the Holy fire reflects across the water while burning in the Cleveland National Forest above homes in Lake Elsinore. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
In the long, hot, smoky California summer of 2018, as we camp under ash-hued sunset skies, the scariest thought is that the future has arrived, and more intense weather extremes will continue to wreak havoc in years to come. Not just in summer, but with drought-deluge cycles and higher temperatures even in cooler months.
Last week, an 81-year-old Van Nuys resident told me that sure, summers have always been hot, but lately they seem to have been imported from Palm Springs.
Near Santa Cruz, a winery owner told me there are fewer foggy days and more high temperatures, shrinking what have long been prime grape-growing regions.
But not everyone is alarmed, it turns out, which I’ve discovered since my July 18 column on climate change. Reaction has fallen into the following categories:
There is no climate change, and I’m a stooge to have fallen for a hoax.
Global warming exists, but it’s not man-made.
Climate change is real, but it’s silly to believe California’s environmental zealotry can measurably improve a global problem.
And lastly, if climate change is real and it’s here, what can we do about it legislatively and individually?
So let’s take a look at each one, beginning with those who believe — as does the president of the United States and a number of his key advisors and members of Congress — that climate change is a figment of our imaginations, or that we’re overreacting to what might simply be natural variations.
“You see, Steve, what you call global warming, we call summer,” wrote a reader named Jim.
“They say the temps are the highest recorded in 130 years,” wrote Joe. “What was the excuse for the soaring temps 130 years ago when there were no cars and very, very little industrialization … here’s a clue — it’s a HOAX swallowed whole by the rush of lemmings who want to believe they are doing gooooooooooood things for the planet.”
I responded by telling Joe what several climate scientists have painstakingly explained to me in recent weeks:
Yes, unusually high temperatures have always existed, but scientists have now documented more frequent and intense heat waves of longer duration. Also, nighttime temperatures have increased, record highs now outnumber record lows by a 5-1 ratio and atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased from 250 parts per million to 400 parts per million, all of which has altered climates around the world.
Joe called this information “crap” that can’t stand up to “REAL SCIENTIFIC SCRUTINY.” He suggested I look up the writings of climate scientist Judith Curry, who has long attacked the views of many climate scientists as alarmist. Curry has not challenged the notion of global warming, but has questioned the causes, and whether there has been a rush to judgment.
Ben Santer, a climate scientist with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, had this to say:
“Prof. Curry has argued (and continues to argue) that: 1) climate scientists routinely ignore important uncertainties in their efforts to quantify human influences on global climate; and 2) reality is too complex for us to comprehend; we will never understand the real-world climate system.”
Santer said he disagrees with Curry on both counts.
“In my line of research — climate fingerprinting — we routinely consider uncertainties in satellite temperature data, in model simulations of natural variability, and in model estimates of the climate response to human influences,” Santer said.
“Furthermore, we routinely look at other possible explanations for the observed changes in climate (such as changes in the Sun’s energy output and changes in volcanic activity). Uncertainty is an integral part of our work. We do not sweep it under the carpet, as Prof. Curry incorrectly asserts,” Santer said.
He added that despite imperfect observations, it is clear “beyond any reasonable doubt” that evidence points to a “human-caused warming signal” related to greenhouse gas increases. And if we wait for more perfect data before responding, Santer warned, “humanity is in trouble.”
California isn’t waiting. The state has long led the way on embracing renewable energysources and limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Then there’s the current legislation demanding better gas mileage in the near future, which is under attack by the Trump administration. But as a single state in a world of major polluters, can going green make a difference?
Alex Hall, a UCLA climate scientist, has no doubt.
“I think what’s happening in California is wonderful,” said Hall, who traded his gas-hungry car for a Chevy Bolt. “It’s a pathway forward.”
Environmentalism isn’t sacrifice, Hall said. It’s change. And in charting a course toward renewable energy and lower greenhouse gas emissions, California is setting an agenda.
“If you look at any transformation in history, it hasn’t happened all at once everywhere,” Hall said. “It’s been a small group of people committed to change. They’ve made change in their communities and it scaled up from there.”
Lynn Sosa of Mt. Washington emailed to say she wishes outdoor mall merchants would close their doors in the middle of summer, instead of throwing them open so shoppers might be lured in by air-conditioned blasts. Sosa and her husband, Jeffrey Parkin, suggested I visit Glendale’s Americana on Brand, and sure enough, more than half the shops had their doors open as the temperature hit 98 one afternoon.
The Apple store was one of them, and Tesla was another — a Tesla showroom with electric cars on display, along with a wall-mounted solar pitch: “Energy Security for Your Home.”
Maybe Tesla/Space X engineering guru Elon Musk has a plan to reverse global warming with air conditioning?
Actually, said the Tesla sales clerk, the AC was working so hard with the doors wide open, it had been on the fritz two or three times in recent weeks. He said that keeping the doors open was mall policy, but Americana owner Rick Caruso denied that and called it unacceptable, promising to look into it.
“We are adamant that we are environmentally sensitive,” Caruso said.
“Adaptation is survival, and we have to do it in our personal and professional lives,” said David Fink, a climate change policy consultant whose projects include updating the state’s Cal-Adapt.org website, which logs climate change data to aid in planning decisions.
We have to be smarter about how we get places, how much fuel we burn, where we clear brush and where we plant trees, where we allow new housing developments and what materials we use to build them, Fink said.
“Laying down black asphalt everywhere is one of the worst things we can be doing,” said Fink, who told me about light-colored coating materials that don’t retain as much heat.
The same concept is true, he added, for new roofing materials that reflect rather than absorb heat.
“A key to all of this is that a number of these things are either free or there are incentives or rebates available,” said Fink, who recommended going to LADWP.com and clicking on “rebates” for information.
There are, of course, ways to make an impact on a bigger scale, or to at least try. You can speak up for candidates who understand the threat to the planet, or you can scream about destructive environmental policy bought and paid for by fossil fuel barons.
As Santer said, one of the best things you can do is educate yourself. He suggested that I read “Climate Change Evidence & Causes,” a short summary that’s been neatly laid out by the Royal Society and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.
I grew up in California, lived in the Bay Area for 30 years and in Southern California for 20 more, and yes, climate variations have always existed. I can recall many extremes of dry heat and steady rain.
But this looks and feels different. The hills are drier and more combustible, the heat is hotter and more stubborn, the fires are bigger and more frightening and I can only wonder what we’ll be passing on to my daughter and future generations.
However many naysayers there are, including a president who blames California’s catastrophe on everything but global warming, leading the way on educating, planning and adapting isn’t just possible, it’s a moral imperative.
Steve Lopez is a California native who has been an L.A. Times columnist since 2001. He has won more than a dozen national journalism awards for his reporting and column writing at seven newspapers and four news magazines, and is a three-time Pulitzer finalist for commentary – in 2012, for his columns on elder care; in 2016, for his columns on income inequality in California; and in 2018, for his columns on housing and homelessness. He is the author of three novels, two collections of columns and a non-fiction work called “The Soloist,” which was a Los Angeles Times and New York Times best-seller, winner of the PEN USA Literary Award for Non-Fiction, and the subject of a Dream Works movie by the same name. Lopez’s television reporting for public station KCET has won three local news Emmys, three Golden Mike awards and a share of the Columbia University DuPont Award.
To the editor: Steve Lopez writes effectively about climate change. But I have a question: Why does he feel he must give any ink, screen space or time to the deniers? These people make no valid arguments; there is no need to counter them. It’s time just to stop covering them.
It’s clear the deniers have scientists over a barrel. Of course no ethical scientist will be able to say, “This particular event is a result of climate change.” They have to talk about trends over time. That’s not a powerful way to counter the deniers. But why feel any need, anymore, to counter them? It’s all too clear, and there’s close to unanimous agreement among the ethical scientists. Countering the deniers makes their arguments seem legitimate.
I agree that leading the way on educating, planning and adapting is a moral imperative. But I’m sad that Lopez doesn’t include the word “preventing.” Obviously we are already in it, and we can’t prevent some of the effects of climate change. But are we really ready to stop talking about preventing the worst effects? I say no.
Mary Byrd, Santa Barbara
To the editor: The climate change debate reminds me of my youth, when I did some technical rock climbing.
The decision to use a safety rope was not based on the likelihood of a fall, but instead on the consequences of a fall. If a fall would be a disaster, we would rope up, even though it was inconvenient and a fall was unlikely. It seems the same logic applies to climate change.
Even if there was a lack of scientific consensus, the consequences of failing to respond to climate change would still demand action. Reducing carbon dioxide emissions will also reduce other forms of pollution, leading to a large decrease in preventable premature deaths.
If our civilization lasts long enough, we will run out of economically viable fossil fuels. It may be decades or it may be centuries, but the earlier we transition to a low-carbon lifestyle, the greater the benefit to mankind.
Tom Hazelleaf, Seal Beach
To the editor: Isn’t it time we stop arguing about what is causing climate change and start figuring out ways to adapt? It’s here. It’s real.
Switching to cleaner, greener energy may slow the exponential speed with which this planet is warming, but it will not stop or reverse it. The time is now (if it’s not already too late) to figure out how to live in this new reality.
Do we just wait around for the next inevitable disaster and shake our heads and shrug our shoulders and say “this is the way it is”? Do we continue to argue about what is causing this? Or do we try to adapt and learn how to survive and live with this new reality?
Roselee Packham, Santa Monica
To the editor: Lopez is correct when he agrees there is indeed global warming. However, he is wrong to concentrate only on summer temperatures. In Southern California, the winters are also getting warmer.
“Winter chill” is the number of hours temperatures reach 45 degrees or lower. In my community adjacent to Agoura Hills and Thousand Oaks, we had 544 hours of winter chill in 2000-01; last winter, we had only 191 hours. Only the winter of 2013-14 was warmer, with 127 hours of chill.
This means my peach tree — a variety specially developed for the mild winters of southern California — produces only two peaches this year instead of a tree full. More important, commercial orchards of peaches, almonds and cherries are struggling because of a lack of winter chill.
Warm winters can be as damaging to food crops as torrid summers.
David E. Ross, Oak Park
By Jacqueline Thomsen August 17, 2018
© Greg Nash
Democratic challenger Tony Evers holds a 5-point lead over Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) in the state’s gubernatorial race, according to a new poll.
The survey from the left-leaning firm Public Policy Polling (PPP) found that 49 percent of Wisconsin voters backed Evers, compared to the 44 percent who supported Walker.
The poll was the first to be conducted after the state’s gubernatorial primaries this week, Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) reported Friday.
“I think Scott Walker is in trouble,” Jim Williams, an analyst at the polling firm, told WPR.
“I think we have a nominee (in Tony Evers) who is in strong position, relative to Scott Walker, and is potentially looking to get stronger as his party coalesces behind him.”
Evers, the state Superintendent of Public Instruction, won the Democratic primary for governor on Tuesday while Walker is running for reelection to a third term this year.
The outlet noted that the poll was slightly skewed toward Democrats, with 36 percent of respondents aligning themselves with the party compared to the 29 percent who said they were Republicans. Another 35 percent said they were Independent voters.
Maggie Gau, Evers’s campaign manager, told WPR that the results show that Wisconsin is “ready for a change” and that voters “already embrace Tony Evers’ positive agenda to fix our roads, improve our schools, and lower the cost of health care.”
Walker campaign spokesman Brian Reisinger said that the incumbent is “preparing for a tough campaign where he’ll have to earn every vote to withstand a flood of money from big government special interests from Washington.”
The PPP survey of nearly 600 Wisconsin voters was conducted Aug. 15-16 via telephone, according to WPR. The margin of error was 4 percentage points.
Steve Peoples, Associated Press August 18, 2018
In this Dec. 8, 2017, file photo, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty speaks after a Chamber of Commerce breakfast in St. Louis Park, Minn. The ranks of the forgotten Republicans are growing. They are members of Congress, governors and state party leaders who have been left behind by President Donald Trump’s Republican Party. Some, like former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, were forced out. (AP Photo/Steve Karnowski, File)
NEW YORK (AP) — The ranks of forgotten Republicans are growing.
Some were forced out, such as Tim Pawlenty, a former two-term Minnesota governor who lost this week’s bid for a political comeback. Some, such as the retiring Republican Sen. Bob Corker, chose to leave on their own. Others still serve, but with a muted voice.
Whether members of Congress, governors or state party leaders, they are struggling to fit into President Donald Trump’s Republican Party.
The expanding list of marginalized GOP leaders underscores how thoroughly Trump has dominated — and changed — the Republican Party in the nearly two years since he seized the presidency. The overwhelming majority of elected officials, candidates and rank-and-file voters now follow the president with extraordinary loyalty, even if he strays far from the values and traditions many know and love.
The Republicans left behind are warning their party with increasing urgency, though it’s unclear whether anyone’s listening.
“I hope this is a very temporary place for the Republican Party,” said Corker. “I hope that very soon we will return to our roots as a party that’s very different, especially in tone, from what we’ve seen coming out of the White House.”
The forgotten Republicans — people like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford and Ohio Gov. John Kasich — have been unwilling to sit quietly as Trump steers the GOP away from free trade, fiscal responsibility, consistent foreign policy and civility.
Isolation and political exile have been their rewards.
Their diminished roles leave fewer Republican leaders willing to challenge Trump under any circumstances, even in his darkest moments.
Fact checkers have recorded an extraordinary level of false and misleading statements flowing out of the White House. And beyond dishonesty, some of the forgotten have decried a disturbing pattern of racially charged rhetoric on issues like immigration, NFL anthem protests and Confederate monuments.
“White nationalism isn’t something I’m ever going to be comfortable with. But it is embraced by, or simply doesn’t bother, a lot of Republicans,” said former Ohio Republican Party chairman Matt Borges, once a Trump confidant who was forced from his leadership post after criticizing Trump in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election.
After Trump’s victory, Borges returned to practicing law, while he continues to play a modest role in local politics.
“To me, it became a matter of how much of your soul are you willing to sell. I would be the wrong person to be leading this party right now,” Borges said.
Trump remains popular among rank-and-file Republicans. And the vast majority of Republican candidates across the country this midterm season are pledging unconditional loyalty — and being rewarded with primary victories.
Gallup found that 82 percent of Republicans approved of the president’s job performance earlier this month. That’s compared to just 34 percent of independents and 7 percent of Democrats.
Kasich, who has not ruled out a primary bid against Trump in 2020, said the president’s approval is misleading because the universe of people identifying as Republican is shrinking.
“We’re dealing with a remnant of the Republican Party. The party is not what it was,” Kasich said in an interview.
The term-limited governor said he’s content to focus quietly on addressing issues like the opioid epidemic and urban violence on a bipartisan basis while the Trump-led GOP focuses on partisan squabbling.
“Let those in the Republican Party who want to be ideological and partisan, let them wallow in their own failures,” said Kasich.
Other GOP leaders aren’t feeling quite so emboldened.
Pawlenty’s quest for a third term collapsed after Republican primary voters determined his experience — and his years-old description of Trump as “unfit and unhinged” — weren’t welcome.
Pawlenty politely declined to be interviewed, but a former aide, Alex Conant, said this week’s result, like those of other primary elections this year, sent a clear message about the modern GOP.
“There’s not a lot of room for dissent in the Republican Party right now,” Conant said. “Moderates don’t feel welcome. And if you’re not loyal to Trump, there’s not necessarily room for you.”
The details may be different, but Pawlenty’s unexpected exit is reminiscent of that of other public officials who have struggled to find their footing in the Trump era.
Bush, another Trump critic, declined to comment for this story. He has been forced into silence, at least in part, for fear of hurting his son’s political career. In June, Donald Trump Jr. withdrew from a fundraiser for Texas land commissioner George P. Bush after Jeb Bush criticized the president’s policy of separating immigrant children from their families at the border.
Another periodic Trump critic, former House Speaker John Boehner, is in the midst of a 20-stop bus tour to help raise money for vulnerable House Republicans.
Just don’t ask whom he’s raising money for.
Spokesman David Schnittger said it was up to each of the campaigns involved to disclose Boehner’s help. “I’m not sure anyone has exercised that option to date,” he said.
Boehner’s successor, Paul Ryan, has seen his once sky-high career prospects flounder in the Trump era. The 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee has occasionally criticized Trump, but he is retiring at the end of the year.
In South Carolina, Republican Rep. Mark Sanford narrowly lost his June primary hours after Trump tweeted he had been “very unhelpful” and highlighted the congressman’s extramarital affair.
Days later, Sanford described Trumpism as “a cancerous growth.” As he prepares to leave Congress, he’s warning the GOP the cancer is spreading.
“We have a president that will tell numerous dis-truths in the course of a day, yet that’s not challenged,” Sanford said in an interview. “What’s cancerous here is in an open political system, there has to be some measure of objective truth.”
“I’m baffled by the way so many people have looked the other way,” he said.
Asked whether he feels like he fits in today’s GOP, Sanford said simply, “No.”
Back in Ohio, Borges vowed that his departure from politics was only temporary.
“The Trump phenomenon is going to end at some point in time. That might be six years, that might be two years, that might be sooner. No one knows,” the former Ohio GOP chairman said. “When it does end, it’s the job of a lot of us … to make sure that the party is still populated by good, honest, decent candidates and officeholders who we can continue to be proud of.”
AP Congressional Correspondent Lisa Mascaro in Washington contributed to this report.
By Joe Romm August 17, 2018
THE MONTEREY SHALE FORMATION IN CALIFORNIA, WHERE FRACKING IS USED TO EXTRACT GAS AND OIL DURING ONE OF THE WORST DROUGHTS IN STATE HISTORY, MARCH 2014. CREDIT: DAVID MCNEW/GETTY IMAGES
An alarming new study reveals fracking is quite simply destroying America’s water supply.
That means we are losing potable water forever in many semi-arid regions of the country, while simultaneously producing more carbon pollution that in turn is driving ever-worsening droughts in those same regions, as fracking expert Anthony Ingraffea, a professor at Cornell University, explained to ThinkProgress.
The game-changing study from Duke University found that “from 2011 to 2016, the water use per well increased up to 770 percent.” In addition, the toxic wastewater produced in the first year of production jumped up to 1440 percent.
“Previous studies suggested hydraulic fracturing does not use significantly more water than other energy sources, but those findings were based only on aggregated data from the early years of fracking,” explained co-author Avner Vengosh, a professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke.
“After more than a decade of fracking operation, we now have more years of data to draw upon from multiple verifiable sources,” said Vengosh. The researchers looked at data on water used — and oil, gas, and wastewater produced — for over 12,000 wells from 2011 to 2016.
Ingraffea, who was not involved in the study, explained that while first generation wells used 3 to 5 millions gallons of water, current third generation wells use 10 to 30 million gallons. Ingraffea — who worked with the fossil fuel industry for three decades and has been co-editor-in-chief of the journal Engineering Fracture Mechanics since 2005 — noted that the federal government “forecasts a million more such wells in the next 20 years.”
That would mean trillions of gallons of water used.
The Duke study warns that the water footprint of fracking could jump as much as 50-fold in some areas by 2030, “raising concerns about its sustainability, particularly in arid or semi-arid regions in western states, or other areas where groundwater supplies are stressed.”
As their analysis shows, some of the fracking sites that are seeing the biggest jump in water footprint per well — like the Permian and Eagle Ford Basins — are also located in highly water-stressed areas (see chart below).
SOME OF THE BIGGEST FRACKING SITES — LIKE THE PERMIAN AND EAGLE FORD BASINS — ARE IN HIGHLY WATER STRESSED AREAS. CREDIT: DUKE UNIVERSITY.
One key point the study makes is that, unlike other energy sources, much of the water fracking uses is essentially lost to humanity. Either the water doesn’t escape the shale formation or, when it does come back to the surface, it “is highly saline, is difficult to treat, and is often disposed through deep injection wells.”
Therefore, even though other forms of energy have a higher intensity of water use, “the permanent loss of water use for hydraulic fracturing from the hydrosphere” may still be higher.
The study also points out that the world has seen “rapidly diminishing global water resources due to population growth and climate change.”
Yet countless studies show that because the fracking process leaks so much methane — a highly potent greenhouse gas — fracked gas isn’t a climate solution. In fact, “natural gas could warm the planet as much as coal in the short term,” one major 24-author study from June concluded. So those who continue touting fracked gas as a bridge to a low-carbon future are not keeping up with the latest science.
And so we have the tragic situation where we are using up one of our most precious non-renewable resources, water, to produce oil and gas, which worsens the stress on our water system.
As Ingraffea put it, “shale gas/oil is exchanging absurd volumes of water for absurd volumes of fossil fuels at a time where using the latter is jeopardizing the availability of the former.” At the same time, fracking “is exchanging precious volumes of water usable for drinking and farming for toxic volumes of wastewater most of which has to be transported and injected underground,” at grave risk to underground sources of drinking water. Finally, “most of what is not transported and injected stays underground, an exchange of H2O for CO2.” Therefore, almost all of what arrives at a well is forever lost to the water cycle.”
Fracking is truly a Faustian bargain.