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Climate Hustle

The EPA debunked Administrator Pruitt’s latest climate misinformation

Posted on 12 February 2018 by dana1981

Last week, a Las Vegas news station interviewed Trump’s EPA administrator Scott Pruitt. The interviewer brought up the topic of climate change, and virtually everything Pruitt said in response was wrong, and was often refuted on his own agency’s website, until he started deleting it.

Humans are causing global warming. All of it.

To begin, Pruitt claimed that we don’t know ‘with precision’ what’s causing global warming.

Our activity contributes to the climate changing to a certain degree. Now measuring that with precision, Gerard, I think is more challenging than is let on at times.

Here’s what the EPA website said about that a year ago, before Pruitt got a hold of it as part of the Trump Administration’s systematic deletion of government climate change websites:

Research indicates that natural causes do not explain most observed warming, especially warming since the mid-20th century. Rather, it is extremely likely that human activities have been the dominant cause of that warming.

To support this statement, the EPA referenced the latest IPCC report. The IPCC concluded with 95% confidence that humans are the main cause of global warming since 1950, with a best estimate that humans are responsible for all of the global warming during that time. That’s what the scientific research has overwhelmingly concluded:

all of it

The percentage of human contribution to global warming over the past 50-65 years from various peer-reviewed studies. Illustration: Dana Nuccitelli and John Cook

Similarly, the EPA’s Student’s Guide to Climate Change (which has survived the Trump purge) says:

The Earth is getting warmer because people are adding heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere, mainly by burning fossil fuels … People are causing these changes, which are bigger and happening faster than any climate changes that modern society has ever seen before.

It’s bad

Pruitt later shifted gears to repeat the third most popular climate myth:

I think there’s assumptions made that because the climate is warming, that that necessarily is a bad thing.

This is not a matter of assumptions – it’s a conclusion supported by a vast body of scientific research. The EPA website likewise tackled this one, until Pruitt got his hands on it:

Scientific studies indicate that extreme weather events such as heat waves and large storms are likely to become more frequent or more intense with human-induced climate change.

And the EPA’s Student’s Guide to Climate Change addresses it:

The negative impacts of global climate change will be less severe overall if people reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we’re putting into the atmosphere and worse if we continue producing these gases at current or faster rates.

The EPA’s Climate Change Indicators page likewise lists a number of dangerous climate change consequences. Quite simply, more intense droughts, floods, and hurricanes, and coastal inundation from sea level rise are all very bad outcomes. And even the rosiest analyses conclude that any further global warming will be bad for the economy.

The ideal climate is a stable one

In fact, not only did Pruitt suggest the consequences of global warming won’t be bad, he seemed to think they’ll be good and humans will “flourish.”

Is it an existential threat - is it something that is unsustainable, or what kind of effect or harm is this going to have? We know that humans have most flourished during times of, what, warming trends? … Do we know what the ideal surface temperature should be in the year 2100 or year 2018? It’s fairly arrogant for us to think we know exactly what it should be in 2100.

I asked climate scientists to answer this ‘ideal temperature’ question last month. They all agreed that the ideal climate is a stable one. Pruitt is wrong to say humans flourished during warming trends – we flourished during times of relatively flat temperatures without rapid trends. Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe explained:

There is no one perfect temperature for the earth, but there is for us humans, and that’s the temperature we’ve had over the last few thousands of years when we built our civilization, agriculture, economy, and infrastructure. Global average temperature over the last few millennia has fluctuated by a few tenths of degrees; today, it’s risen by nearly 1°C and counting.

Why do we care? Because we are perfectly adapted to our current conditions…

Pruitt’s goal with these answers is clearly to manufacture doubt – to make people think that we needn’t take urgent action to slow global warming because the outcome might not be so bad. But that argument ignores the vast body of scientific evidence that clearly shows the net consequences of continued rapid climate change will fall somewhere in the range of bad to catastrophic. I summarized some of those consequences in this Denial101x lecture:

Pruitt’s fossil fuel agenda slips out

Toward the end of the interview, Pruitt let slip his allegiance to the fossil fuel industry:

Renewables need to be part of our energy mix, but to think that’s going to be the dominant fuel, or dominant energy source on how we generate electricity, I think is simply fanciful … There was a declared war on coal. The EPA was weaponized against certain sectors of our economy – fossil fuels generally - and that’s not the role of a regulator.

First of all, under the Obama administration, the EPA regulated carbon pollution because it was legally required to do so under the Clean Air Act, according to the Supreme Court. That’s not being ‘weaponized’ against fossil fuels, it’s called enforcing the law to protect Americans’ health.

Second, there is no reason why renewables couldn’t be the dominant fuel in our energy mix. In fact, several states have renewable portfolio standards and goals to make that happen. For example, Hawaii aims for 100% renewable energy by 2045, and California and New York have targets of 50% renewables by 2030. California is even ahead of schedule, on track to meet that goal a decade early, by 2020.

Lies about the Paris agreement

As if his misinformation about climate science and clean energy weren’t bad enough, Pruitt really laid it on thick when asked about the Paris climate accords.

[Paris] was a bad business deal for this country … it was not about CO2 reduction. If it was about CO2 reduction, they would not have let China and India take until 2030 to reduce their CO2 footprint.

In reality, the Paris agreement couldn’t have been a better deal

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Comments

Comments 1 to 11:

  1. It's hard to see how to ignore the political nature of Administrator Pruitt's activities, but I'll confine myself to saying he's unscientific. James Hansen's analysis is conclusive, and see Alex Cannara on "the Evil Twin or Global Warming"

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  2. There are three schools of thought.
    0 / There is no such thing as human caused global warming.

    1/ It can be cured by using the products of recent sunshine.

    2/ It can only be cured by using the products of ancient supernova catastrophes.

    There are people who think that the third option above, nuclear, can be "part" of the solution, along with what is popularly called "renewables", but a careful analysis shows that renewables of the solar origin sort, other than hydro when it has received sufficient H2O precipitation, is not at all dispatchable. Therefore it needs backup. If that backup is non-fossil, then it is Gen IV nuclear. If you have enough geothermal, hydro, and nuclear to meet peak demand, you gain nothing from intermittent renewables.

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  3. CS:

    Can you provide a peer reiviewed citation to support your wild claim that nuclear can provide even10% of total power?

    Abbott 2011 gives 14 reasons why nuclear is completely impractical.  Please address at least 4 of them in your citations.  They include: 15,000 sites to locate reactors do not exist, not enough rare elements like hafnium and beryllium exist, the expected accident rate would be one major accident per month, and there is not enough uranium in known reserves.

    I note that to power the world countries like Iran, Syria, North Korea and Zimbabwe would have to install nuclear.

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  4. Conradin Sakison I agree with your comment about Pruits political motivations.

    "If you have enough geothermal, hydro, and nuclear to meet peak demand, you gain nothing from intermittent renewables."

    The operative word is of course "if". Geothermal power is a limited resource, with only 10 countries using it significantly as below. 

    sustainabletechnologyforum.com/which-countries-produce-the-most-geothermal-electricity_21870.html

    While capacity does exist in some other countries particularly in Africa, building geothermal plant is significantly more expensive than wind and solar power. I live in NZ which is a relatively young country geologically, and very seisimically active being on a plate boundary, and we have geothermal power, but its only sufficient for part of our electricity needs, and we are building wind power as well. I have no opposition to geothermal its great power, but we need to be accurate about the availability and costs.

    Hydro electricty is nearly "maxed out" in many countries with the larger rivers already utilised. Building more dams is contentious, because of the environmental impacts on wildlife and local communities.

    Nuclear power comes up against a long list of problems as pointed out above.

    Therefore as a general rule globally, it appears that the primary focus is going to be on wind and solar , with hydro and geothermal providing supplementary power, or peaking electricity supply in the background, along with storage strategies and some limited use of gas.

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  5. Honestly Pruitt would drive anyone to total despair.

    "The EPA was weaponized against certain sectors of our economy – fossil fuels generally - and that’s not the role of a regulator."

    Pruits use of the term "weaponises"  uses inflammatory, manipulative language to appeal to emotion, combined with a strawman fallacy. Quite a combination of rhetorical click bait, and unbecoming of someone 'leading' an organisation. And at least my clickbait is accurate.

    And it is actually the job of the regulator to regulate fossil fuels. From Investopedia "The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established in December 1970 under United States President Richard Nixon. The EPA is an agency of the United States federal government whose mission is to protect human and environmental health. "

    "Warming is good for humanity"

    No it isn't.  The article summed it up well.  Humanity elected the IPCC to do the in depth research on whether climate change is a problem, so that we aren't reliant on the views of one person, with all the baggage individuals have. Its foolish to now loose faith in The IPCC, or to subscribe to the views of people like Pruitt, who have a huge anti enviromental history, and thus a clear bias.

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  6. Conrad,

    I'm quite curious to see the analysis of which you speak which indicates that solar power is not dispatchable. Certainly, you can't "turn on" more solar panels to meet peak demand when there are clouds, it is night time, etc, but a robust power storage system will still allow a solar powered grid to meet demand when demand peaks. There have been notable recent advancements in solar power that now allow many solar power plants to supply the grid in much the same way as older fossil fuel or hydropower plants were able to load follow. Specifically, concentrated solar power plants use concentrated solar radiation to melt salts or other substances, which are then used to generate electricity thermally, and the molten salts are stored to meet later peaks in electricity demand.

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  7. If Pruitt opposes renewable energy like wind power, he is just hurting the American People, given its now cheaper than coal, as well as lower CO2 emissions, and it also causes less respiratory health problems. I don't think there can possibly be any logical argument otherwise. I dont live in America, so it's just my observation. 

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  8. Speaking of heads of organisations we have the following:

    "Trump’s Science Advisor, Age 31, Has a Political Science Degree
    Because Trump has not nominated someone to head the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Michael Kratsios is the de facto leader."

    www.scientificamerican.com/article/trump-rsquo-s-science-advisor-age-31-has-a-political-science-degree/

    Can anyonee believe the  cynical, destructive,  ideologically driven anti science agenda here? Political science is not a hard physical science, or even much of a science at all.

    "Kratsios graduated from Princeton in 2008 with a political science degree and a focus on Hellenic studies. He previously served as chief of staff to Peter Thiel, the controversial Silicon Valley billionaire and Trump ally."

    "The vacancy might reflect Trump's skepticism on climate change. If the president believes that the Senate would balk at a nominee who questions widely accepted views on climate change, he might prefer to leave the post open, said William Happer, an emeritus physics professor at Princeton University who is considered a leading candidate for the job. Happer says the Earth is experiencing a "CO2 famine."

    "There is no problem from CO2," Happer said last month in an interview with E&E News (Climatewire, Jan. 25)."

    You couldn't make this stuff up. If it was an idea for a fiction book or movie, it would be rejected as too implausible. But no, it's actually happening.

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  9. nigelj: We also have this...

    Trump seeks big cuts to science across agencies by Scott Waldman, E&E News, Feb 13, 2018

    Luckily, the US Presidents' budget proposals are rarely, if ever, enacted as proposed. This one will be no different.

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  10. Sweet at 03:16, 13 feb

     

    Please look at the graph in Wiki https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abundance_of_the_chemical_elements#/media/File:Elemental_abundances.svg

    There is far more Halnium on earth than there is uranium.

    Halfnium is used as a neutron absorber in a nuclear reactor and absorbers are only necessary in small amounts in civilian reactors. Its use is mainly needed for naval reactors where high power to weight ratio is essential and the fuel is highly enriched and so a greater proportion of  neutron absorber is required. Civilian reactors use low enriched fuel less than 5% U235 and use far less absorber than a naval reactor. Neutron absorbers are only a minor component in a civilian reactor (but very important) In fact netron absorbers lower the reactivity of the reactor and so the leas used the better. For civilian reactors there is absolutley no need to use halfnium it is a design choice since there are many other absorbers that are also used such as boron (100 times more abundant than uranium) and  considerably cheaper than hafnium, gadolinium and samarium. At a push cadmium may be used but is toxic.

     

    I  could go through the rest of your diatribe but will give you a couple examples, 70 % of the electricity generated by France is from nuclear power (40 % of total energy) If France can do it the the rest of the world can.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_in_France


    . It has found space to put them, and exports electricity to Britain and Germany.

    "I note that to power the world countries like Iran, Syria, North Korea and Zimbabwe would have to install nuclear".

    You should read the news a bit more Iran and North Korea already have nuclear power


    Now for the finite uranium resource. In the current type of reactors U-235 is almost exclusively the only fuel. It is present at 0.711% in natural uranium and using current enrichment techniques just over a half of the material is extraced into the fuel, the rest remains in the tails for future extraction.

    The rest of the uranium, mainly U-238 can be used in an other design of reactor. which leads us to 99 times the current fuel resouce. In addition thorium can also be used to fuel reators in which there is a further ten fold abundance on earth.

    It is not the lack of resource that limits the use of nuclear power but the public acceptance and the improved technology that that would require.

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  11. Alchemyst @10, 

    People seem to get very passionate about advocating nuclear power for some reason. Its almost a little extreme.

    Please note there may be large quantities of hafnium in sea water and in zircon (?) etc but this gets expensive to extract, that is probably the significant point. Its the same issue with minerals in general, and they are all essentially limited finite resources ultimately.

    And regardless of resource issues, not many countries are building nuclear reactors, due to capital costs, time delays and so on. You can't force it upon them.

    "You should read the news a bit more Iran and North Korea already have nuclear power"

    Iran only has one nuclear reactor fully operational last year I think, and gets most of its electricity by far from gas and other sources.  

    www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-profiles/countries-g-n/iran.aspx

    But the real point is thousands of reactors around the world will create a real global safety risk, especially in badly run countries. These sorts of accidents don't respect borders. You could do a complicated costs benefit analysis, but I still don't like it too much.

    I confess I grew up during the three mile island scare and chernobyl, and these things imprinted a little on me and made me sceptical, but clearly these disasters were still pretty serious. I think I have it in perspective, and the safety issue is still a very real concern.  Chernobyl needed a concrete encasement costing billlions, and this already leaks, and needs to be replaced every 100 years basically forever.

    France is a well run country, but others aren't and will have slack safety standards. You would need to be very careful in earthquake vulnerable countries, because one blunder with the design of the building and its all over. Have you seen what building standards are like in third world countries? Its shockingly poor and corrupted.

    I think the nuclear advocates need a safer technology, and then you will find people will listen.

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