Tidal turbines in firth ‘set world record’ for production

BBC News   Highlands & Islands

Tidal turbines in firth ‘set world record’ for production

From Highlands & Islands       August 31, 2017

https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/660/cpsprodpb/45F1/production/_92450971_turbinenewtwo.jpgImage copyright Atlantis Resources Image caption Dozens of turbines could eventually be installed in the Inner Sound of the Pentland Firth

Two turbines in the Pentland Firth set a world record for monthly production from a tidal stream power station, according to the project’s developer.

Atlantis said its MeyGen scheme in the Inner Sound of the firth off the Caithness coast produced 700 MWh of electricity.

The company said this was enough power for 2,000 homes.

The initial phase of the renewable energy project will involve three turbines.

Atlantis said there had been “minor delays” in receiving upgraded components for the third turbine, but hoped the device would be reinstalled at the site next month.

‘Most powerful’

David Taaffe, director of project delivery at MeyGen, said: “The production performance from the installed turbines on the MeyGen project has been very good.

“August proved to be a world-record month, providing enough energy to power 2,000 Scottish homes from just two turbines.”

Atlantis hopes to expand the project to have dozens of turbines.

Hannah Smith, policy manager at industry body Scottish Renewables, said the world record was the latest in a series of milestones for the MeyGen project.

She said: “The tides that flow through the Pentland Firth are some of the most powerful anywhere on earth and harnessing them has meant using machines and skills which have never before been tested on a commercial scale.

“This latest record is just one in a long line for the MeyGen project, which is leading the world in tidal energy deployment.”

Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “It’s great to see Scotland’s world-leading marine energy sector continuing to make headlines.

“Phase 1A of the MeyGen tidal project, built with financial support from the Scottish government, has surpassed expectations.

“Two turbines alone produced enough energy during August to power around 2,000 homes – believed to be a world record for a tidal power station.”

Scott Pruitt is leaving a toxic trail at EPA after only 6 months on the job


Scott Pruitt is leaving a toxic trail at EPA after only 6 months on the job

EPA chief faces “unprecedented scrutiny” for “doing unprecedented things.”

Mark Hand         August 31, 2017

https://i2.wp.com/thinkprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/scott-pruitt-testimony.jpg?resize=1280%2C720px&ssl=1“Pruitt is under unprecedented investigation or scrutiny because he is doing unprecedented things,” a Sierra Club official said. CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt was sworn into office only six months ago but is already attracting widespread scrutiny for alleged misuse of agency funds, potential violation of a lobbying law, and holding secret meetings with officials from the industries his agency is tasked with regulating.

Upon arrival at the agency, the new EPA administrator pledged a back-to-basics philosophy. That shift in agency priorities, however, appears to be geared toward raising the profile of Pruitt at the expense of cleaner air and water for Americans.

As attorney general of Oklahoma, Pruitt made a name for himself by suing the EPA, claiming the Obama administration had gone too far in asserting federal power. As EPA administrator, Pruitt has found himself the target of lawsuits and legal scrutiny for various types of alleged misconduct.

“The growing number of investigations, inquiries and controversies swirling around Administrator Pruitt should come as no surprise,” Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in an email to ThinkProgress. “Just like his boss, President Trump, this is what happens when you hand someone a job they’re exquisitely unfit to do.”

Democratic House members wrote a letter to Pruitt on Wednesday raising concerns over a “lack of transparency” at the agency. The letter was signed by House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Frank Pallone (D-NJ), House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee ranking member Diana DeGette (D-CO), and House Environment Subcommittee ranking member Paul Tonko (D-NY).

“We are troubled by reports that the agency continues to operate with complete disregard for transparency by discontinuing the long-standing practice of posting the calendars of agency leadership online, taking down agency websites, and halting certain data collections from polluters,” the lawmakers wrote.

The EPA reportedly halted data collection of oil and gas company emissions and closed more than 1,900 agency webpages, the lawmakers said. Employee movement with the agency’s headquarters building is severely restricted, with employees requiring escorts. Employees also are told not to take notes in meetings or carry their cellphones, they said.

“Taken together, these actions suggest a troubling pattern of secrecy and distrust at EPA, which serves to undermine the agency’s mission of protecting human health and the environment,” the House members stated.

EPA employees “feel like there’s been a hostile takeover and the guy in charge is treating them like enemies,” Christopher Sellers, an expert in environmental history at Stony Brook University, told the New York Times.

Other energy- and environment-related department and agency heads in the Trump administration have received criticism for their lack of transparency. During his review of national monuments across the country, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was called out for not holding a single public meeting.

The Department of the Interior’s Office of the Inspector General also has launched a “preliminary investigation” over reports that Zinke threatened to pull funding from Alaskan energy projects if Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) did not vote in support of President Donald Trump’s health care proposal. However, the list of official complaints against Pruitt far outnumber those against Zinke.

Soon after heading to Washington to lead the EPA, Pruitt found himself under investigation by officials in his home state. The Oklahoma Bar Association opened up an inquiry in March into Pruitt’s testimony at his Senate confirmation hearing regarding his use of personal email to conduct official business as Oklahoma attorney general.

Last month, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) sent a letter and filed documents with the Oklahoma Bar Association related to another complaint filed against Pruitt. The documents included new records suggesting Pruitt’s former office “stonewalled” senators during his confirmation process before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the senator’s office said.

Pruitt’s behavior “initially stymied our Committee’s ability to adequately discharge our advice and consent responsibilities and presently stymie its ability to conduct effective oversight of Mr. Pruitt and EPA,” the senator wrote. Whitehouse submitted the documents to supplement a complaint filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and Kristen van de Biezenbos, a former professor at the University of Oklahoma College of Law who now teaches law at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada.

In the spring, the EPA also received complaints that Pruitt had violated its Scientific Integrity Policy by stating that carbon dioxide is not a “primary contributor to global warming,” a position commonly heard from climate science deniers — and from fossil fuel interests, two groups that frequently overlap. Pruitt met with members of these groups as Oklahoma attorney general and has kept an open door policy for them as EPA administrator.

The agency’s Office of the Science Adviser ultimately cleared Pruitt of the charges brought by the Sierra Club, which said it had received a letter from the office explaining its decision. The letter effectively lets Pruitt off the hook for deceiving the American public regularly in high-profile contexts, Elena Saxonhouse, a senior attorney for the Sierra Club, said in an August 3 statement.

“If EPA’s current scientific integrity policy and review process is truly not strong enough to make clear that Pruitt’s denial of climate science is unacceptable for the head of EPA, then that’s simply evidence that the policy must be strengthened,” Saxonhouse said.

Largely owing to the secrecy surrounding the major changes occurring at the agency, the EPA, in June and July, received more than 2,000 Freedom of Information of Act requests for details about the inner workings of the agency and Pruitt’s daily activities, according to the New York Times.

President Barack Obama’s first EPA administrator, Lisa Jackson, was the target of a congressional investigation for using private and secret email addresses — including one account under the alias Richard Windsor — to conduct official business. Scientists at the agency also complained about political minders sitting in on their interviews with reporters and needing clearance before speaking with the news media.

The tenure of Gina McCarthy, who succeeded Jackson as EPA administrator in March 2013, was free of high-profile ethical controversies and scandals.

“Pruitt is under unprecedented investigation or scrutiny because he is doing unprecedented things,” Jonathan Levenshus, senior campaign representative with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, told ThinkProgress. “He is damaging the expectations of transparency and accountability that we expect from our leaders and our government.”

“He is damaging the expectations of transparency and accountability that we expect from our leaders and our government.”

With McCarthy and Jackson, they were scrutinized for their travel and with whom they met. McCarthy traveled frequently to her home in Boston, where her husband lived; however, McCarthy paid for those trips herself while taxpayers paid for Pruitt’s trips to Oklahoma, according to a New York Times report last month.

“It seems to me that there was an openness to it, there was some transparency to it, and there was some accountability to it,” Levenshus said of Obama’s EPA administrators. “And that doesn’t seem to be the case with Pruitt.”

Pruitt is also facing an inquiry by the agency’s inspector general into the frequent trips that he made to Oklahoma on the taxpayer’s dime. Pruitt reportedly traveled to Oklahoma 43 days, or nearly half of all days during March, April, and May 2017, at a cost of more than $15,000. Records indicate Pruitt attended “informational meetings” during his trips to Oklahoma. But those same records also indicate that his trips to the state lasted three to five days, with only one such meeting listed during each of those multi-day trips away from Washington.

Many political observers believe that Pruitt has his eye on the Senate seat currently held by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK). Inhofe’s term ends in 2020, but the 82-year-old has not indicated whether he will seek another as senator. Sierra Club legislative director Melinda Pierce said Monday that Pruitt “seems to be using these visits to launch his political career.” His chances of winning a Senate seat in the deeply conservative state could be boosted if he could show residents that he was the driving force behind reversing many of the agency’s regulatory policies.

According to Levenshus, Pruitt has visited almost two dozen states since February where he typically meets with Republican officials and does interviews with sympathetic talk radio shows and local Fox News television affiliates.

Since taking over as administrator, Pruitt has met repeatedly with oil and gas executives, coal mining groups, and Big Ag industry representatives. These industries have a long list of regulations they would like the EPA to revoke or weaken, including a rule requiring stricter emissions monitoring, the Clean Power Plan, and the Paris climate agreement, which Trump announced in May that the United States would exit

Last month, a watchdog group sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office accusing Pruitt of misusing federal funds by engaging in “grassroots lobbying” against the Paris climate agreement. In April, he reportedly told the National Mining Association about his opposition to the climate agreement. The American Democracy Legal Fund claims such a pronouncement runs afoul of federal lobbying laws because members of Congress had previously introduced bills pertaining to the Paris deal.

“In his official capacity as EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt publicly denounced the Paris climate accord and sought to defeat pending bills and resolutions before Congress that would have affirmed legislative support for the Paris climate accord,” the group wrote in its letter. “His public and closed-door comments represent a misuse of appropriated funds in violation of the Anti-deficiency Act.”

As with most of his trips, Pruitt’s recent visit to North Dakota was off-limits to the public and the press. When two local reporters traveled to the University of North Dakota, a public university, prior to the start of an event on campus, an EPA spokesperson threatened to call police if they did not leave the grounds. Campus police later showed up and told the reporters they could not be at the building because it was private property. The building was not private property and is owned by the University of North Dakota.

Unlike previous EPA administrators, Pruitt also has asked for a protective detail that is on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, rather than the door-to-door security provided to previous EPA leaders. Such protective details are typically reserved for those in national security positions or persons in the constitutional line of succession, such as the Secretary of State, Speaker of the House, and the Secretary of Defense.

“What is he trying to hide from the public? I think he doesn’t want the public to know the truth about who he’s meeting and what he’s discussing with them,” Levenshus said. “His entire career, he has put the agenda of corporate polluters before the health of communities and children and families. And now it has caught up to him. And there are a lot of people who are very concerned about his position and what he is doing as the administrator of the EPA.”

Hurricane Harvey Demonstrates Critical Value of ‘Big Government’


Hurricane Harvey Demonstrates Critical Value of ‘Big Government’

by Leon Kaye, Climate & Environment          August 30th, 2017

http://cdn.triplepundit.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Texas-Army-National-Guard-soldiers-move-through-flooded-Houston-streets-on-August-28.jpgTexas Army National Guard soldiers move through flooded Houston streets on August 28

Walmart’s during and after Hurricane Katrina have long been described as one of the few bright spots during that agonizing relief effort, as well as a transformative event for the world’s largest retailer.

Another outcome apparent after Katrina is that federal government agencies, and the presidents ultimately responsible for leading them, have been far more proactive when disasters strike, as they have wanted to avoid following in George W. Bush’s footsteps. Fair or not, that administration came across as ham-fisted long after Katrina slammed into Louisiana and neighboring Gulf states. As a result, it is doubtful there will be any room for a company to shine through in Houston as Walmart did 12 years ago – though Walmart itself has been updating stockholders about what the company is doing to support Hurricane Harvey recovery across Texas.

While companies have a critical part in assisting relief efforts with their supplies, staff and facilities, Harvey reminds us of the role that “big government” has in preparing, notifying and helping citizens during this time of need. Many of these agencies, from NASA to NOAA to the EPA, have come under scrutiny – or more accurately, attack – in recent years for their various roles in researching climate change, boosting environmental protection efforts, or both.

The timing is also prescient considering the sniping that is already underway between Texas Senator Ted Cruz and his critics. Cruz obviously supports aid efforts for his home state, yet he voted against federal Hurricane Sandy relief packages during his first year in office. He claims he voted against the $50 billion Sandy relief bill because it was loaded with “pork” but that claim has been proven untrue by many. Cruz even got a rebuke from New York’s Peter King, a Republican representative from Long Island.

And as Cruz announces how and where Texans can receive state and federal assistance, we at 3p thought we would point out the role “big government” has in warning, protecting and helping citizens during catastrophes such as Harvey. As the recent viper pit of a debate over healthcare has proven, many of us are against government in any form – until we need it or there is a risk a program will be taken away from us, even if what is available is imperfect.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

This scientific agency tucked under the Department of Commerce’s wing gauges the conditions of both the world’s oceans and atmosphere. Its tasks (despite ongoing distractions) include developing technologies and systems that can help scientists understand tornadoes, hurricanes and the health of coastal ecosystems. Currently it forecasts Harvey’s strength and issues advisories. Divisions such as the National Hurricane Center provide data to anyone who needs it, from local meteorologists updating local viewers and listeners, to insurance companies and utilities trying to price their services and products based on weather variability.


While NOAA gives us the view of climate events from land, sea, as well as the air immediately hovering over us, NASA (an independent agency, designed in part to stay free of politics like the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Reserve), manages and operates the tools that can help us observe what is going on from space. NASA’s satellites and its partnership with the International Space Station provide real-time data and images that can be harnessed by the agency’s friends monitoring the situation on the ground. Measuring and predicting those sudden shifts in wind, or estimations of upcoming rainfall gleaned from several days of satellite data, are among the ways in which NASA contributes to monitoring Harvey’s constantly shifting patterns.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Even under Scott Pruitt, the EPA offered to take a leadership role as Harvey eventually dissipates. Houston is known to have more than its fair share of energy and petrochemical companies. Assessments of the greater Houston region’s 300 water systems, the securing of Superfund sites and fuel waivers allowing for emergency supplies of gasoline are among the tools that the EPA’s regional office in Dallas has at hand if needed. EPA employees may have already been called to action by the time of this writing. Two ExxonMobil refineries have reportedly suffered damage and released hazardous chemicals already and more damage is likely to come to light as waters subside.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

Estimates of the costs resulting from Harvey are all over the map, from $30 billion to even $100 billion. Bloomberg has concluded Katrina’s damages amounted to $160 billion. Insurance companies will pick up some of that price tag; FEMA, which faces a budget cut of as much as 9 percent in recent proposals, will in-part contribute to the costs of clean-up and recovery. Since the late 1970s, the agency’s mandate is to send staff to coordinate with overwhelmed state and local officials as they cope with natural and made-made disasters. And that list is long, from the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake in California to the horrific 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Experts from FEMA work with local officials on recovery efforts. The agency also helps fund infrastructure repair and directs citizens to resources for low-interest loans (a program currently struggling due to a mounting deficit) so they can rebuild homes and businesses. Day in and day out, FEMA also provides online and live training for disaster preparedness.

These agencies are just a few of the moving parts that manage recovery when disaster strikes.

Image credit: DVIDS

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye is a business writer and strategic communications specialist. He has also been featured in The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and Clean Technica. When he has time, he shares his thoughts on his own site, GreenGoPost.com.

Hurricane Harvey Is a Horrible Reminder of the Cost We Pay for Climate Denial


Hurricane Harvey Is a Horrible Reminder of the Cost We Pay for Climate Denial



By Ryan Schleeter     August 30, 2017

With rain expected to continue falling through this Friday, what we already know about Hurricane Harvey paints a devastating picture.

The equivalent of half of Houston’s annual average rainfall has fallen in the last 48 hours; 80,000 households are without electricity; Houston emergency services have received almost 6,000 urgent appeals for rescues; 54 Texas counties have been declared state disaster areas; thousands of people are displaced or in shelters; five people have died.

And climate change is making it all worse.

While we cannot say definitively that climate change caused Hurricane Harvey, science tells us with confidence that it has increased the impact of the flooding and heightened the intensity of the storm.

But this shouldn’t come as a surprise. For many years, scientists have warned that our continued reliance on fossil fuels will lead to bigger and more devastating storms.

It’s also abundantly clear that coastal Texas and the wider Gulf region (which has seen this kind of event before), are on the frontlines of sea level rise and extreme weather heightened by climate change. And Houston in particular—with its slate of oil, gas, and chemical refineries owned by companies like Exxon and Shell—faces the additional risk of toxic petrochemical spills into nearby communities.

When disasters like Harvey strike, those standing in the way of climate action must answer to the victims.

That means we’re looking at you, Greg Abbott. The Texas governor has been on record for years denying the science of climate change, stating that scientists disagree (they don’t) and that their findings “need to continue to be investigated” (not really). He also sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over the Clean Power Plan, President Obama’s initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

There’s also Ted Cruz, the Texas senator so committed to discrediting climate science he once convened a Senate hearing on the issue and filled his panel with “scientists” paid by the fossil fuel industry.

And we can’t forget Lamar Smith, who represents Texas’s 21st congressional district. As chairman of the House Science Committee, he subpoenaed eight environmental groups—including Greenpeace—for calling on officials to investigate Exxon’s history of climate denial.

But this goes beyond Texas—we’re also looking at you, Donald Trump. Not only is Trump a unapologetic denier who has spent his time in office dismantling every climate protection activists have won in recent years, he also rolled back an Obama-era rule that required new infrastructure to be built with climate resiliency in mind (flood protection, specifically).

How you can support the victims of Hurricane Harvey.

In the long run, helping those impacted by extreme weather events means holding big polluters—like Exxon—and climate deniers—like Trump, Cruz, Abbot and Smith—accountable. Only a just transition away from fossil fuels and toward a clean energy economy can soften the impact of the next superstorm to come our way.

But right now, folks on the ground need your immediate support as they deal with power outages, continued flooding, and overcrowded shelters.

Health officials are warning Texans to stay out of Harvey floodwaters for a disturbing reason

Health officials are warning Texans to stay out of Harvey floodwaters for a disturbing reason

Erin Brodwin, Business Insider       August 29, 2017

As flooding from Hurricane Harvey continues to rise and spread, officials are warning thousands of Texans to avoid the water.

Floodwaters act as sponges for hazards. As they bubble past city streets and inundate cars and homes, they collect sharp objects, sweep up insects and wildlife, and gather human waste.

But staying out of the water is easier said than done.

Just before she was rescued at around 4 a.m. on Sunday from Harvey, 17-year-old Maya Wadler watched as brownish-gray floodwaters “bubbled up from the doors, seeped in from the windows,” she told the New York Times.

Chris Van Deusen, a spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services, told NPR that although his group was advising people to avoid floodwaters, “of course, people have had to be in the water — they haven’t had a choice.”

The Environmental Protection Agency warns that floodwaters can pull in raw sewage as well as industrial chemicals and solvents. It urges anyone exposed to frequently wash their hands and ensure children don’t play in it.

“Floodwater mixes with everything below it,” Richard Bradley, the chief of emergency medical services and disaster medicine at the University of Texas’ McGovern Medical School, told Time. “If it covers a field with pesticides, it picks up the pesticides. It can also carry animal waste from fields and forests.”

One concern is tetanus, an infection caused by bacteria in soil, dust, and manure that can enter the body via a cut or puncture wound. When the bacteria enter the body, they produce a poison that causes painful muscle contractions. These can cause a person’s neck and jaw muscles to lock, hence the other name for tetanus: lockjaw.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention typically recommends adults get a tetanus booster shot every 10 years. Because of Harvey, Texas health officials are urging people to make sure they’ve had theirs, NPR reported. They are also sending supplies of the vaccine to the affected areas.

“The bacterial count in floodwater is extremely high,” Bradley told Time. “The chance of getting a skin infection is really quite serious.”

Another risk is wildlife, as snakes, insects, and other wild animals can be drawn to the water or swept up in it.

“Storm activity definitely increases the potential for snakebite as the snakes get flooded out and seek higher ground,” Bryan Fry, an expert on venomous snakes at the University of Queensland in Australia, told the Washington Post.

The dangers don’t necessarily subside once the storm ends, since stagnant water poses risks of its own. Wet environments in houses and buildings are ideal for mold. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, close to half of all inspected homes had visible mold, according to the CDC. Mosquitoes and other pests are also attracted to still water.

Regardless of where you are, the ways to keep yourself safe are the same: ensure you’ve gotten your vaccinations, wash your hands frequently, and let your doctor know if you have any cuts or open wounds that have come into contact with potentially dangerous water.

https://s.yimg.com/lo/api/res/1.2/Di3C5k_keJ5NIRbMqvGvHw--/YXBwaWQ9eW15O3c9NjQwO3E9NzU7c209MQ--/http://globalfinance.zenfs.com/en_us/Finance/US_AFTP_SILICONALLEY_H_LIVE/Health_officials_are_warning_Texans-adf638508a0a249b048387f1db925e84(Floodwaters act as sponges for hazards. As they bubble past city streets and inundate cars and homes, they collect sharp objects, sweep up insects and wildlife, and gather human waste and chemicals from industrial plants. David J. Phillip/AP)

Harvey horror: Shivering tot found clinging to drowned mom

Associated Press

Harvey horror: Shivering tot found clinging to drowned mom

Associated Press       August 30, 2017   

BEAUMONT, Texas (AP) — Authorities found a shivering toddler clinging to the body of her drowned mother in a rain-swollen canal in Southeast Texas after the woman tried to carry her child to safety from Harvey’s floods.

Capt. Brad Penisson of the fire-rescue department in Beaumont said the woman’s vehicle got stuck Tuesday afternoon in the flooded parking lot of an office park just off Interstate 10. Squalls from Harvey were pounding Beaumont with up to 2 inches (5 centimeters) of rain an hour at the time with 38 mph (60 kph) gusts, according to the National Weather Service.

Penisson said a witness saw the woman take her 18-month-old daughter and try to walk to safety when the swift current of a flooded drainage canal next to the parking lot swept them both away.

The child was holding onto the floating woman when a police and fire-rescue team in a boat caught up to them a half-mile downstream, he said. Rescuers pulled them into the boat just before they would have gone under a railroad trestle where the water was so high that the boat could not have followed.

First responders lifted the child from her mother’s body and tried to revive the woman, but she never regained consciousness.

Penisson said the child was in stable condition at Christus St. Elizabeth Hospital.

The identities of the mother and child were being withheld until the father, who was out of town, can be notified.

At least 18 people have been killed by Harvey since Friday, when it made landfall in Texas as a Category 4 hurricane. Harvey has since weakened to a tropical storm.

Climate Change Worsened the Impact of Hurricane Harvey


https://resize.rbl.ms/simage/https%3A%2F%2Fassets.rbl.ms%2F10607730%2Forigin.jpg/1200%2C630/qtqVd7iEzzjsn7Yw/img.jpgTexas National Guardsmen assist residents affected by flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey onto a military vehicle in Houston, Aug. 27. Army National Guard / Lt. Zachary West

Michael Mann: Climate Change Worsened the Impact of Hurricane Harvey

Michael Mann     August 29, 2017  

What can we say about the role of climate change in the unprecedented disaster that is unfolding in Houston with Hurricane Harvey?

There are certain climate change-related factors that we can, with great confidence, say worsened the flooding.

Sea level rise attributable to climate change (some is due to coastal subsidence due to human disturbance e.g. oil drilling) is more than half a foot over the past few decades.

That means that the storm surge was a half foot higher than it would have been just decades ago, meaning far more flooding and destruction.

In addition to that, sea surface temperatures in the region have risen about 0.5C (close to 1F) over the past few decades, from roughly 30C (86F) to 30.5C (87F), which contributed to the very warm sea surface temperatures (30.5-31 C or 87-88F). There is a simple thermodynamic relationship known as the Clausius-Clapeyron equation that tells us there is a roughly 3 percent increase in average atmospheric moisture content for each 0.5C (~1F) of warming. Sea surface temperatures in the area where Harvey intensified were 0.5-1C warmer than current-day average temperatures, which translates to 1-1.5C warmer than the “average” temperatures a few decades ago. That means 3-5 percent more moisture in the atmosphere.

That large amount of moisture meant the potential for much greater rainfalls and greater flooding.

The combination of coastal flooding and heavy rainfall is responsible for the devastating flooding that Houston is experiencing.

Not only are the surface waters of the Gulf unusually warm right now, but there is a deep layer of warm water that Harvey was able to feed upon when it intensified at near record pace as it neared the coast. Human-caused warming is penetrating down into the ocean warming not just the surface but creating deeper layers of warm water in the Gulf and elsewhere.

So Harvey was almost certainly more intense than it would have been in the absence of human- caused warming, which means stronger winds, more wind damage and a larger storm surge (as an example of how this works, we have shown that climate change has led to a dramatic increase in storm surge risk in New York City, making devastating events like Superstorm Sandy more likely.

Finally, the more tenuous but potentially relevant climate factors: Part of what has made Harvey such a devastating storm is the way it has stalled right near the coast, continuing to pummel Houston and surrounding regions with a seemingly endless deluge which will likely top out at nearly 4 feet of rainfall over a several days-long period before it is done.

The stalling is due to very weak prevailing winds which are failing to steer the storm off to sea, allowing it to spin around and wobble back and forth like a top with no direction. This pattern, in turn, is associated with a greatly expanded subtropical high pressure system over much of the U.S. right now, with the jet stream pushed well to the north. This pattern of subtropical expansion is predicted in model simulations of human-caused climate change.

More tenuous, but possibly relevant still, is the fact that very persistent, nearly “stationary” summer weather patterns of this sort, where weather anomalies (both high pressure dry hot regions and low-pressure stormy/rainy regions) stay locked in place for many days at a time, appears to be favored by human-caused climate change. We recently published on this phenomenon:

In conclusion, while we cannot say climate change “caused” hurricane Harvey (that is an ill-posed question), we can say that it exacerbate several characteristics of the storm in a way that greatly increased the risk of damage and loss of life.

Climate change worsened the impact of Hurricane Harvey.

Katharine Hayhoe is successfully convincing doubtful evangelicals about climate change

The Guardian

Study: Katharine Hayhoe is successfully convincing doubtful evangelicals about climate change | Dana Nuccitelli

Dana Nuccitelli, The Guardian         August 28, 2017

A new study finds that a lecture from evangelical climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe successfully educates evangelical college students, validating the “trusted sources” approach

https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/UO6QETVgiKheeLS2VZa0uw--/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjtzbT0xO3c9ODAw/http://media.zenfs.com/en-US/homerun/the_guardian_765/1292af4a7b7a22ea350ec3b184399ff5Katharine Hayhoe speaks about climate change to students and faculty at Wayland Baptist University on November 9, 2011, in Plainview, Texas. Photograph: Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images

Approximately one-quarter of Americans identify as evangelical Christians, and that group also tends to be more resistant to the reality of human-caused global warming. As a news paper by Brian Webb and Doug Hayhoe notes:

a 2008 study found that just 44% of evangelicals believed global warming to be caused mostly by human activities, compared to 64% of nonevangelicals (Smith and Leiserowitz, 2013) while, a 2011 survey found that only 27% of white evangelicals believed there to be a scientific consensus on climate change, compared to 40% of the American public (Public Religion Research Institute, 2011).

These findings appear to stem from two primary factors. First, evangelicals tend to be socially and politically conservative, and climate change is among the many issues that have become politically polarized in America. Second, there is sometimes a perceived conflict between science and religion, as Christians distrust what they perceive as scientists’ “moral agenda” on issues like evolution, stem cell research, and climate change. As Webb and Hayhoe describe it:

theological conservatism, scientific skepticism, political affiliation, and sociocultural influences have reinforced one another to instill climate skepticism into the evangelical tribe mentality, thus creating a formidable barrier to climate education efforts.

Evangelical climate leaders

There are also evangelicals who have tried to convince their peer group about the reality of human-caused climate change and our moral obligation to address it. These include the Evangelical Environmental Network, the Evangelical Climate Initiative, the Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, and evangelical climate scientists like Sir John Houghton and Doug Hayhoe’s daughter Katharine Hayhoe (one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people). However, a majority of evangelicals continue to reject the reality of human-caused climate change, and there hasn’t been research quantifying the effectiveness of these evangelical climate leadership efforts.

Brian Webb and Doug Hayhoe’s study did just that by testing the effectiveness of a climate lecture delivered by Katharine Hayhoe to undergraduate students at the predominantly evangelical Houghton College in New York. Approximately half of the participants self-identified as conservatives and Republicans, 28% as liberals and Democrats, and the remainder as neither liberal nor conservative. 63% of the participants identified as evangelicals (most of the rest were of other Christian denominations).

Katharine Hayhoe’s lecture presented climate science information through the lens of an evangelical tradition. In addition to presenting scientific evidence, it included an introduction about the difference between faith and science (faith is based on things that are spiritually discerned, whereas science is based on observation). About six minutes of the 33- to 53-minute lectures were devoted to theology-based ethics.

Hayhoe lecture’s effectiveness

The participants filled out a survey before and after the lecture, detailing their acceptance that global warming is happening, its cause, whether there’s a scientific consensus, how high of a priority they consider it, how worried they are about it, and how much it will harm various groups. The results showed an increase in pro-climate beliefs for every single question after listening to Katharine Hayhoe’s lecture.

Acceptance that global warming is happening increased for 48% of participants, and that humans are causing it for 39%. Awareness of the expert scientific consensus increased among 27% of participants. 52% were more worried about climate change after watching the lecture, and 67% increased their responses about how much harm climate change will do. 55% of participants viewed addressing climate change a higher priority after attending Katharine Hayhoe’s lecture. For most of the remaining participants, there was no change in responses to these questions.

By testing three different lecture approaches, Webb and Hayhoe also concluded that the lecture was equally effective when presented in person or as a recorded video, and that adding material about common climate misconceptions didn’t make the lecture any more effective.

Facts matter – especially when they come from trusted sources

There’s been some debate among social scientists about how much facts matter in today’s politically polarized society. Some have warned about the “smart idiots” effect, in which people who are more knowledgeable are often less persuadable, essentially because they have more tools with which to reject information they find inconvenient. However, other research has shown that climate-specific knowledge does increase peoples’ acceptance of human-caused global warming. The question then becomes how to arm people with that climate-specific knowledge.

One thing most social scientists agree on is that people are more open to information when it comes from “trusted sources” – people with whom they have shared values. For evangelicals, Katharine Hayhoe is a perfect example, and this study confirms that her lectures are effective at informing evangelical college students about climate change.

Other climate scientists can follow Hayhoe’s successful example by identifying groups whose membership is predominantly skeptical about human-caused global warming, with whom the individual scientist shares a commonality that will make him or her a trusted source of information. This could consist of religious beliefs, political leanings, or other shared values. This study has shown that the trusted source approach is an effective one at breaking through individuals’ resistance to the realities of human-caused climate change.

This miracle weed killer was supposed to save farms. Instead, it’s devastating them.

Washington Post   Business

This miracle weed killer was supposed to save farms. Instead, it’s devastating them.

By Caitlin Dewey      August 29, 2017

https://img.washingtonpost.com/wp-apps/imrs.php?src=https://img.washingtonpost.com/rw/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2017/08/29/National-Economy/Images/170809_DicambaEdit_0034.JPG?uuid=NGprxn-FEeeysa66YoVN-g&w=600Lyle Hadden, a soybean farmer, walks through a field he’s planted that shows signs of being affected by the herbicide dicamba. (Andrea Morales/For The Washington Post)

BLYTHEVILLE, ARK. — Clay Mayes slams on the brakes of his Chevy Silverado and jumps out with the engine running, yelling at a dogwood by the side of the dirt road as if it had said something insulting.

Its leaves curl downward and in on themselves like tiny, broken umbrellas. It’s the telltale mark of inadvertent exposure to a controversial herbicide called dicamba.

“This is crazy. Crazy!” shouts Mayes, a farm manager, gesticulating toward the shriveled canopy off Highway 61. “I just think if this keeps going on . . .”

“Everything’ll be dead,” says Brian Smith, his passenger.

The damage here in northeast Arkansas and across the Midwest — sickly soybeans, trees and other crops — has become emblematic of a deepening crisis in American agriculture.

Farmers are locked in an arms race between ever-stronger weeds and ever-stronger weed killers.

The dicamba system, approved for use for the first time this spring, was supposed to break the cycle and guarantee weed control in soybeans and cotton. The herbicide — used in combination with a genetically modified dicamba-resistant soybean — promises better control of unwanted plants such as pigweed, which has become resistant to common weed killers.

The problem, farmers and weed scientists say, is that dicamba has drifted from the fields where it was sprayed, damaging millions of acres of unprotected soybeans and other crops in what some are calling a man-made disaster. Critics say that the herbicide was approved by federal officials without enough data, particularly on the critical question of whether it could drift off target.

Government officials and manufacturers Monsanto and BASF deny the charge, saying the system worked as Congress designed it.


Leaves and a stalk from a soybean plant showing signs of being affected by dicamba. (Andrea Morales/For The Washington Post)

The backlash against dicamba has spurred lawsuits, state and federal investigations, and one argument that ended in a farmer’s shooting death and related murder charges.

“This should be a wake-up call,” said David Mortensen, a weed scientist at Pennsylvania State University.

Herbicide-resistant weeds are thought to cost U.S. agriculture millions of dollars per year in lost crops.

After the Environmental Protection Agency approved the updated formulation of the herbicide for use this spring and summer, farmers across the country planted more than 20 million acres of dicamba-resistant soybeans, according to Monsanto.

But as dicamba use has increased, so too have reports that it “volatilizes,” or re-vaporizes and travels to other fields. That harms nearby trees, such as the dogwood outside Blytheville, as well as nonresistant soybeans, fruits and vegetables, and plants used as habitats by bees and other pollinators.

According to a 2004 assessment, dicamba is 75 to 400 times more dangerous to off-target plants than the common weed killer glyphosate, even at very low doses. It is particularly toxic to soybeans — the very crop it was designed to protect — that haven’t been modified for resistance.

Kevin Bradley, a University of Missouri researcher, estimates that more than 3.1 million acres of soybeans have been damaged by dicamba in at least 16 states, including major producers such as Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota. That figure is probably low, according to researchers, and it represents almost 4 percent of all U.S. soybean acres.

“It’s really hard to get a handle on how widespread the damage is,” said Bob Hartzler, a professor of agronomy at Iowa State University. “But I’ve come to the conclusion that [dicamba] is not manageable.”

The dicamba crisis comes on top of lower-than-forecast soybean prices and 14 straight quarters of declining farm income. The pressures on farmers are intense.

One Arkansas man is facing murder charges after he shot a farmer who had come to confront him about dicamba drift, according to law enforcement officials.

Thirty minutes down the road, Arkansas farmer Wally Smith is unsure how much more he can take.

Smith’s farm employs five people — including his son, Hughes, his nephew, Brian, and the farm manager, Mayes. None of the men are quite sure what else they’d do for work in this corner of Mississippi County.

Dicamba has hit the Blytheville — pronounced “Bly-vul” — region hard. For miles in any direction out of town, the soybeans that stretch from the road to the distant tree line are curled and stunted. A nearby organic farm suspended its summer sales after finding dicamba contamination in its produce.

https://img.washingtonpost.com/wp-apps/imrs.php?src=https://img.washingtonpost.com/rw/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2017/08/29/National-Economy/Images/170809_DicambaEdit_0007.JPG?uuid=V42-dH-EEeeysa66YoVN-g&w=600Eddie Dunigan, (center) a consultant from Craighead County, raises questions about the volatility of dicamba to Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) during the governor’s “Turnrow Tour” at the Adams Estate in Leachfield, Ark. (Andrea Morales/For The Washington Post)

At the Smiths’ farm, several thousand acres of soybeans are growing too slowly because of dicamba, representing losses on a $2 million investment.

“This is a fact,” the elder Smith said. “If the yield goes down, we’ll be out of business.”

The new formulations of dicamba were approved on the promise that they were less risky and volatile than earlier versions.

Critics say that the approval process proceeded without adequate data and under enormous pressure from state agriculture departments, industry groups and farmers associations. Those groups said that farmers desperately needed the new herbicide to control glyphosate-resistant weeds, which can take over fields and deprive soybeans of sunlight and nutrients.

Such weeds have grown stronger and more numerous over the past 20 years — a result of herbicide overuse. By spraying so much glyphosate, farmers inadvertently caused weeds to evolve resistant traits more quickly.

https://img.washingtonpost.com/wp-apps/imrs.php?src=http%3A%2F%2Fs3.amazonaws.com%2Fposttv-thumbnails-prod%2F06-13-2017%2Ft_1497385930344_name_wplfood032Z8865.jpg&w=600Dr. Marty Matlock, Executive Director of the Office for Sustainability at the University of Arkansas, Ken Cook, President and Co-founder at Environmental Working Group, and Veronica Nigh, Economist at American Farm Bureau Federation, discuss how to manage risks in biotechnology, selective breeding and genetically modified crops and possible tools and resources farmers can use to solve longstanding issues. (Washington Post Live)

The new dicamba formulations were supposed to attack those resistant weeds without floating to other fields.

But during a July 29 call with EPA officials, a dozen state weed scientists expressed unanimous concern that dicamba is more volatile than manufacturers have indicated, according to several scientists on the call. Field tests by researchers at the Universities of Missouri, Tennessee and Arkansas have since found that the new dicamba herbicides can volatilize and float to other fields as long as 72 hours after application.

Regulators did not have access to much of this data. Although Monsanto and BASF submitted hundreds of studies to the EPA, only a handful of reports considered volatility in a real-world field setting, as opposed to a greenhouse or a lab, according to regulatory filings. Under EPA rules, manufacturers are responsible for funding and conducting the safety tests the agency uses to evaluate products.

https://img.washingtonpost.com/wp-apps/imrs.php?src=https://img.washingtonpost.com/rw/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2017/08/29/National-Economy/Images/170809_DicambaEdit_0015.JPG?uuid=pkieRH-EEeeysa66YoVN-g&w=600Pigweed, a highly competitive plant that grows in cotton and soybean fields and has developed resistance to some pesticides, grows tall over soybean fields weakened by nearby dicamba use. (Andrea Morales/For The Washington Post)

And although pesticide-makers often supply new products to university researchers to conduct field tests in varied environments, Monsanto acknowledged it did not allow that testing on its commercialized dicamba because it did not want to delay registration, and scientists said BASF limited it.

Frustrated scientists say that allowed chemical companies to cherry-pick the data available to regulators.

“Monsanto in particular did very little volatility field work,” said Jason Norsworthy, an agronomy professor at the University of Arkansas who was denied access to test the volatility of Monsanto’s product.

The EPA and chemical manufacturers deny that there was anything amiss in the dicamba approval process.

“The applicant for registration is required to submit the required data to support registration,” the agency said in a statement. “Congress placed this obligation on the pesticide manufacturer rather than requiring others to develop and fund such data development.”

Manufacturers say that volatility is not to blame. In a statement, BASF spokeswoman Odessa Patricia Hines said the company brought its dicamba product to market “after years of research, farm trials and reviews by universities and regulatory authorities.”

Scott Partridge, Monsanto’s vice president of global strategy, thinks some farmers have illegally sprayed older, more volatile dicamba formulations or used the herbicide with the wrong equipment.

The company, which invested $1 billion in dicamba production plants last year, has deployed a fleet of agronomists and climate scientists to figure out what went wrong.

“We’re visiting every grower and every field,” Partridge said. “If there are improvements that can be made to this product, we’re going to do it.”

Regulators in the most-affected states are also taking action. In July, Arkansas banned spraying for the remainder of the season and raised the penalties on illegal applications.

Missouri and Tennessee have tightened their rules on dicamba use, while nearly a dozen states have complained to the EPA.

The agency signaled in early August that it might consider taking the new dicamba herbicides off the market, according to several scientists who spoke to regulators.

The agency would not comment directly on its plans. “EPA is very concerned about the recent reports of crop damage related to the use of dicamba in Arkansas and elsewhere,” an agency representative said.

Meanwhile, a class-action lawsuit alleges that dicamba manufacturers misrepresented the risk of their products. The Smiths are considering signing up. Monsanto says the suit is baseless.

There are also early indications that dicamba may not work for long. Researchers have shown that pigweed can develop dicamba resistance within as few as three years. Suspected instances of dicamba-resistant pigweed have been found in Tennessee and Arkansas.

A spokeswoman for Monsanto said the company was “not aware of any confirmed instances of pigweed resistance” to dicamba.

https://img.washingtonpost.com/wp-apps/imrs.php?src=https://img.washingtonpost.com/rw/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2017/08/29/National-Economy/Images/170809_DicambaEdit_0022.JPG?uuid=xcAMEn-EEeeysa66YoVN-g&w=600Soybean farmer Brad Rose’s truck kicks up dust while heading down a road near his farm. (Andrea Morales/For The Washington Post)

Some critics of chemical-intensive agriculture have begun to see the crisis as a parable — and a prediction — for the future of farming in the United States. Scott Faber, a vice president at the Environmental Working Group, said farmers have become “trapped on a chemical treadmill” driven by the biotech industry. Many farmers say they think they could not continue farming without new herbicide technology.

“We’re on a road to nowhere,” said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The next story is resistance to a third chemical, and then a fourth chemical — you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see where that will end.

“The real issue here is that people are using ever-more complicated combinations of poisons on crops, with ever-more complex consequences.”

In Blytheville, at least, one consequence is increasingly obvious: It’s a short, scraggly plant with cupped green leaves and a few empty pods hanging near its stem. At this time of year, this plant should have more pods and be eight inches taller, Mayes said.

“This is what we’re dealing with here,” he said, before shaking his head and turning back to his truck. “We go to work every day wondering if next year we’re still going to have a job.”

Caitlin Dewey is the food policy writer for Wonkblog. Subscribe to her daily newsletter:

Trump Cabinet member’s (Zinke) daughter tells “never piece of sh!t Trump to STFU

Daily Kos

Trump Cabinet member’s (Zinke) daughter tells “never piece of sh!t Trump to STFU

By BruinKid    from August 26, 2017

Oh my, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s daughter recently ripped Trump a new one  over his transgender military ban.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s daughter Jennifer Detlefsen, who is a Navy veteran, sharply criticized the proposal, calling the president a “disgrace,” the Billings Gazette reported Friday. ….

“This man is a disgrace. I’ve tried to keep politics out of my social media feed as much as possible, but this is inexcusable,” read her post on July 26, which still appeared online on Saturday.

“This veteran says sit down and shut the f–k up, you know-nothing, never-served piece of s–t,” she added.

From The Missoulian, more on her Navy background:

Detlefsen served in the Navy as a Deep Sea Diving Medical Technician and later as a High Risk Instructor of an explosive ordnance disposal training unit. She had worked at Special Operations for America, a military-focused super political action committee founded by Zinke, doing digital consulting and social media work, according to filings with the Federal Elections Commission.

Detlefsen now is a Virginia-based glass artist “bound by themes of masculine/feminine dichotomy, double standards, motherhood, and literature’s impact on gender roles.”

Here is the Instagram post, which is still up.  Her full unedited quote:

This man is a disgrace. I’ve tried to keep politics out of my social media feed as much as possible, but this is inexcusable. This veteran says sit down and shut the fuck up, you know-nothing, never-served piece of shit#itmfa #wtf

For those who don’t know, #ITMFA stands for “Impeach the Mother______ Already”.

She also responded to a Trump supporter attacking her on her Instagram post:

You served. So did I. You have your opinion. So do I. I am disgusted that a Commander In Chief would so callously disregard the service and sacrifice of the thousands of transgender soldiers, sailors and airmen already putting their lives on the line for our county. And you can take your machismo posturing elsewhere. I’m not afraid of you or your threats.

Thanksgiving may be a bit awkward at the Zinke household this year.

You can also sign the Daily Kos petition denouncing Trump for the transgender military ban.