Politics

Banned science & the NC floods; EPA being pulled apart

CRITTERS AND THE GREAT OUTDOORS

OceanDiver writes—The Daily Bucket – gull surprise: “September 23, 2018. Salish Sea. Yet another reason to haul around a camera! Didn’t twig to it at the time but looking at photos last night, I realized the oh yeah more (but always beautiful and welcome) Mew gulls I thought I’d been watching yesterday were actually Bonaparte’s! Unusual sighting for me. This may fall into the category of Huh? for a lot of people, or Who cares? But I’m throwing it out there for our late Bucket today cuz it’s phenology, and they are pretty, also too. Mew gulls are a favorite for me, delicate, energetic and with a sweet plaintive call. But they return from breeding in July so I didn’t think I was seeing anything momentous when I watched a big flock swooping and dipping over the surface of the bay yesterday late afternoon. Cool surprise to see they were actually Bonaparte’s, equally small and delicate, almost tern-like. They also breed to the north but return later than Mews. Similar surface-dipping mode of feeding. Bit more of a chirpy call, which I interpreted to be hoarse Mews at the time ;-)”

OceanDiver writes—Dawn Chorus: Scavengers on the Beach: “This might seem like a story about a dead seal, but read on, birders. It’s really about the birds who scavenged it over a few days. While animals who eat dead stuff aren’t the most glamorous critters out there, scavenging is important. Not only do carcasses provide a wealth of good quality food, scavengers clean up what most of us would rather not have lying around to become a stinky health hazard. A few weeks ago on my usual jaunt out to the beach I inadvertently spooked two bald eagles who lifted off from the shoreline down below the lookout bluff. The two turkey vultures also on the beach did not fly away and I could see why. There was a freshly dead seal pup, minus its head, partly immersed in the shallow water directly below me. […] The vultures were clearly interested, but the tide was coming in, and it looked like they were reluctant to walk in the water. Nevertheless, the boon of meat would be out of their reach in no time, so one tried to salvage it from the rising water. It stepped from one rock to another, wading when unavoidable, and once it reached the carcass, tried to drag it to higher ground.

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PHScott writes—The Daily Bucket: Stinkhorns and Other Delights: “A quick foray around the inner part of my yard and garden, the border between me and the ever-encroaching woods, and there was this stinky beauty sticking out beneath a chunk of bark and looking all too much like a weird male intromittent organ. Here’s close-up of the tip. It’s just getting started with the mass of spores yet to develop. Interesting that it depends on flies drawn to the stink to spread its spores.”

Pakalolo writes—Placing Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court will condemn 100 species to extinction—as early as October 1: “A Brett Kavanaugh confirmation to the United States Supreme Court, coupled with the four other right-wing judicial activists currently on the court, could upend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) as well as clean water, and the existential crisis that is climate change. That is because in its 2018-2019 term, the Supreme Court will hear its first oral arguments on Weyerhaeuser Co. v. Fish and Wildlife Service, on October 1, 2018. Under the ESA, species can be listed as either ‘endangered’ or ‘threatened.’ The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service defines ‘Endangered’ as a species that is in danger of extinction, throughout all or a significant portion of its range. ‘Threate: “”ned’ means a species is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future. President Trump’s outrageous efforts to eliminate ‘job-killing regulations,’ and the rising threat by potential judge-made constraints on our ability to sue to enforce environmental laws, are a real and growing danger in this era of insanity where the scientific know-nothings currently control all levers of power in the U.S. government.

6412093 writes—The Daily Bucket–The Battle of the Backyard Pond: “Gentle readers, when last my virtual pen left electronic paper, the walls had collapsed on one of my backyard ponds. I then had to rescue the goldfish from the damaged pond and pack them into the neighboring pond, but the goldfish turned sullen because of the overcrowding. Then yet another delivery of fish arrived. These were multi-colored, gloriously hued sunfish, that I’d hoped to keep separately from the goldfish. I knew the gold fish would be jealous of the sunfish’s vivid colors, and the sunfish were reputed to be aggressive game fish who’d likely maul my poor aquarium goldfish. I’d paid $100 at $1/inch for the sunfish, meaning I’d be getting 12 sunfish, each about eight inches long. They’d dwarf my goldfish, who were mostly about 4 inches long, near as I could tell. I thought I could just slip the sunfish in unnoticed, but the goldfish had somehow obtained a dossier on my obsession with the sunfish, and the goldfish were getting prepared for battle in a mass meeting.  Some of what follows is true, or could be.”

6412093 writes—The Daily Bucket–Environmental Violator Convicted in Frog Court: “The Frog Court Magistrate peered down at me over the top of his glasses and began speaking. ‘Redwoodman,  you are charged with modifying a surface water body without obtaining the required permits, and without first completing an Environmental Assessment and allowing public comment on your project.’ ‘The charging sheet indicates that you completely dismantled one of your backyard ponds, and several fish died or disappeared when they were moved to a crowded holding area.’ ‘Furthermore, you transported Sunfish without the required Fish & Wildlife permit, and have added aquarium minnows to your backyard ponds, even though our neighboring state of Washington considers those minnows invasive.’ The Magistrate frowned. ‘How do you plead, Redwoodman?’ I took a deep breath and held one hand with the other to stop them from shaking. ‘I plead guilty, your honor,’ I replied.”

Besame writes—Daily Bucket: Pasquale spotted! One week after soaring away from a redwood tree nest cavity (19 Sept at 4:22pm), condor fledgling Pasquale has been found in the top of an oak tree. I don’t know where the redwood tree was located, presumably biologists keep this information guarded to prevent trouble. Even too many interested and kindly-intentioned people hiking in to look at the nest tree and condor family would be a problem and not everyone is kindly-intentioned.* But the general area is steep terrain with a mosaic of redwood forest and scrub habitats. Finding Pasquale required dedication and determination from biologists at Ventana Wildlife Society.
 

CLIMATE CHAOS

Dartagnan writes—The Oil Companies not only knew fossil fuels caused climate change, they knew how bad it would get: “The full extent to which the fossil fuel industry, companies like Shell and Exxon, knew—as early as the 1970s—how their combustible products were contributing to irreversible warming of the planet, became public knowledge over the last few years. A series of painstakingly researched articles published in 2015 by the Pulitzer-prize winning Inside Climate News revealed an industry totally aware and informed for decades about the inevitable warming certain to occur as more and more carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels was released into the atmosphere. In fact, the oil industry, and Exxon in particular, had the best climate models available, superior to those relied on by scientific community. And armed with the foreknowledge developed through those models, Exxon and the other oil companies planned and executed an elaborate, cynical long term strategy: to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in a comprehensive propaganda effort designed to raise doubts about the existence and cause of climate change, a phenomenon they well knew was irrefutable, based on their own research. By 2016 the industry’s lobbying to discredit the science of climate change had surpassed two billion dollars.

ClimateDenierRoundup writes—Impacts of Climate Impacts on Climate Beliefs, and Refining Theories On Conspiracy Theories: “University of Exeter researcher Ben Lyons has a trio of new studies that offer a mix of good, bad, and ugly news about extreme weather and climate beliefs, belief in conspiracy theories, and how we can go about correcting people’s mistaken conspiracy beliefs. The good news on conspiracy theories, per Lyons’s first study, is that it’s possible to keep people from believing in them–so long as you do so before they fully buy into the conspiracy. The bad news is that it’s hard to correct these false beliefs if they dovetail with pre-existing biases. In the study, for example, people who already distrusted Big Pharma or the media were more likely to believe a fake conspiracy about Zika and vaccines. The ugly news is that decades of oil industry propaganda have created biases that make it impossible to completely inoculate the public against climate denialism. The damage has been done.

ClimateDenierRoundup writes—TV Rots Your Brain: Florence’s Climate Connection All But Ignored By TV News: “On Monday, Media Matters published an analysis of how well broadcast news covered the climate change connection to Hurricane Florence. Big surprise: by and large, they didn’t. According to Media Matters, ABC didn’t mention climate change at all in their coverage, while CBS, PBS, CNN and MSNBC provided even less climate-related coverage than they did for Hurricane Harvey last year. NBC was the only outlet to improve, airing a single segment about Florence and climate change. This is an improvement of 100% from last year’s Harvey coverage, which had zero segments on climate change. PBS and CBS both aired two pieces that mentioned the climate connection, compared to each airing three for Harvey. CNN aired five climate-hurricane segments during Harvey, but this year climate only got two off-hand mentions, while MSNBC aired four segments, one less than during Harvey. Fox, ever the leader in quality news programming, aired more climate segments than anyone else. Unfortunately, all six of their segments were dismissive of the established science, with two featuring deniers Roy Spencer and Joe Bastardi. There were also an impressive four separate examples of Fox hosts defending President Trump from the Washington Post editorial that argued Trump’s denial and anti-climate agenda made him complicit in the storm’s damage.

Davey1107 writes—Let’s solve climate change: calling all engineers, mathematicians and nerds: “Our story starts in the Golden State, where we’ve set a goal to achieve 100% clean energy production by 2045. It’s a lofty goal, and there are challenges. We are already feeling the effects of one major issue, the so-called “duck curve,” a tricky problem with grids that produce a lot of solar. The duck curve problem, in a nutshell, is that the sun shines really brightly from 10 am to 2 pm. In a state that is covering every rooftop, parking lot and empty field with solar panels, that means A LOT of incoming electricity during those hours. So much so that energy grid can become overwhelmed as supply shoots up past demand. Unfortunately, we don’t have any way to store this energy (yet). And we have to do something with it…otherwise every microwave and television in the state is going to explode. (Hyperbolic overstatement, but still a fun image. It could be the next Roland Emmerich film). […]  Batteries, and other technologies like ‘liquid air,’ might enable us to achieve our clean energy goals. But they may be years away, and we need to address climate change now.

committed writes—trump/gop says planet temp will rise by 7 degrees F and that it is unstoppable and ok to pollute: “really. they said this. I am glad the numbers are in Fahrenheit. but to say this is inevitable and a good reason not to enforce greenhouse gas emissions tells you where the gop’r party is today. completely insane. and the rapist wannabe on the less than supreme court will not help that. This is not the ‘trump Administration.’ this the gop administration. lock stock and two barrels. Trump administration predicted seven degree increase in global temperature by 2100. […]  Among the consequences, coral reefs would dissolve, oceans would become more acidic, extreme heat waves would plague the globe, and coastal cities would be at risk of being under water, according to The Washington Post, which was the first to report on the prediction. The prediction was contained well into a 500-page draft environmental impact statement. The draft statement was written to defend President Trump’s decision to freeze federal fuel efficiency standards for light trucks and cars built after 2020.”

ENERGY

Nuclear

Meteor Blades writes—Co-owners vote to keep building the only two new U.S. nukes despite ridiculous overruns and delays: “After years of delays and gigantic cost overruns, two co-owners voted Monday afternoon to keep building two half-completed Georgia reactors that were once touted as the leading edge of a torrent of new nuclear power plants in the United States. The current builder—Southern Company’s subsidiary Southern Nuclear—has vowed there will be no more overruns. But officials there made the same vow nine months ago when they took over the troubled project, and there is absolutely no reason to believe the current cost of $27.5 billion will come in at that cost. […] The unfinished reactors at the Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant, near Waynesboro, Georgia—where two other reactors have been operating since 1987 and 1989—were supposed to have come on line in 2016 and 2017, three years after ground was broken. But construction mistakes, production problems with prefabricated modules, contractor departures, deficits in staffing and experience, legal fights, and the bankruptcy of reactor-manufacturer Westinghouse have extended the switch-on date for generating juice from reactors #3 and #4 to 2021 and 2022, respectively. And nobody who has followed the saga is likely to wager their rent money on that timeline being met.

ClimateDenierRoundup writes—Bipartisan Critics Wonder: Is A Trump-y Jerk Politicizing FERC’s Work? The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is a quasi-judicial committee which has historically gone to great lengths to remain, if not totally apolitical, at least nonpartisan. Charged with making important decisions about energy infrastructure, it is legally obligated to remain impartial when making energy decisions. Down south, for example, Florida’s Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA) is asking FERC to examine whether or not is has the authority to step in and free it from a contract with Georgia’s Vogtle nuclear plants. Behind schedule and $20 billion over budget, JEA no longer wants anything to do with the nuclear plant expansion, and is hoping FERC can help. The Trump administration’s decision to support losers like nuclear (and coal) means that if FERC is to make a decision, JEA would rightly want it to do so without taking such political matters into consideration. That Georgia can’t build a nuclear plant on time or on budget is bad news for the industry Trump wants to prop up, but that shouldn’t matter for a committee like FERC.

mettle fatigue writes—“Saudis join forces with US energy industry in nuclear push” – Al-Monitor, Sept. 25: “In an Al-Monitor exclusive this week, Bryant Harris reports that Saudi Arabia and US energy groups are on the same side of a high-stakes push to secure US support for the kingdom’s nuclear industry. And they’re making headway. … several Republicans are holding up a bipartisan resolution that calls on the administration not to allow the Saudis to start a nuclear weapons program on their soil. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., supports the bill from Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. …the [*rump regime] has made clear its desire to strike a deal that could shore up the US nuclear industry. Energy Secretary Rick Perry told reporters this week [WaPo ‘U.S. Makes Shortlist for Saudi Nuclear-Plant Deal’ 26Sept] that it’s difficult to persuade the Saudis to accept an agreement that would preclude them from using US technology to enrich uranium and reprocess plutonium, which are possible precursors to a nuclear weapons program.”

Emissions Controls & Carbon Pricing

ClimateDenierRoundup writes—Trump’s Pro-Polluter Agenda To Cost Americans Over Two Trillion Dollars“: “According to deniers, government regulations are job killers that are a drag on the economy and way too expensive to be worthwhile. A convenient side effect of this belief is, of course, the opportunity for deniers’ industry-funders to profit further from pollution that kills people–something deniers will insist is just a coincidence. Their anti-regulatory crusade is all about what’s best for the public, after all! (Or at least, that’s what they have to say to keep their nonprofit statuses.) But for those of us that know better, what does Trump’s denier-driven, polluter profits-first agenda cost us? Trillions, apparently. According to a new analysis by Public Citizen, Trump’s regulatory rollbacks means Americans will miss out on $2.1 trillion in economic and health benefits over the next 20 years. Energy efficient light bulb regulations, which have been repealed by the DOE, could have brought up to $14 billion in annual benefits to US coffers, the same amount that the glider truck rule will benefit Americans if Wheeler’s decision to revoke Pruitt’s rollback remains.”

REGULATIONS & PROTECTIONS

Mark Sumner writes—While everyone is looking at the Senate, the EPA is being taken apart: “The Environmental Protection Agency will now go forward without the office that advises the agency on science. That office will be “dissolved,” eliminating the feedback on the scientific basis for health and environmental regulations. According to the New York Times, the office is currently occupied by Dr. Orme-Zavaleta, an expert on the effects of chemicals on human health. Orme-Zavaleta has been at the EPA since 1981. Her position and role will now be eliminated. This follows the replacement of scientific advisory boards with lobbyists and industry insiders, and the removal of public data for EPA websites. On Wednesday, the EPA also shut down the Office of Children’s Health Protection, with the head of that office being placed on “administrative leave” and sent home after taking away her ID, email, and access to the building. It’s not clear if Dr. Orme-Zavaleta has been given the same treatment.”

Mark Sumner writes—Head of Office of Children’s Health Protection placed on ‘administrative leave’ for no given reason: “The Environmental Protection Agency has placed the head of Children’s Health Protection on ‘administrative leave.’ This appears to be a first step toward either getting rid of the whole office or sidelining its function. As the New York Times reports, Dr. Ruth Etzel ‘was placed on administrative leave late Tuesday and asked to hand over her badge, keys and cellphone.’ The EPA has not explained or offered any excuse for the action and declined to provide a comment on Etzel’s dismissal. The Office of Children’s Health Protection was added to the EPA in 1997 as part of an executive order signed by President Bill Clinton. The office is charged with seeing that environmental programs consider the effects of environmental factors on children when making decisions. That includes issues such as how pollution triggers asthma, and how lead in the environment affects brain development—both issues that might be overlooked if the EPA based its decisions only on studies of adults.”

AGRICULTURE​, FOOD & GARDENING

Merry Light writes—Saturday Morning Garden Blogging 14.39 – Autumn is here: “We usually have a lot of brown and gold on the hillsides this time of year because the Gambel oak is not very colorful, unlike many of its cousins.  It can be colorful if you’re up close, and you can see the oranges and reds and yellows.  This year isn’t a bad year for fall colors even though we’ve been dry as a bone all year long. I always look back at the summer gardening season about this time and think about what I will do differently next year, and what I will keep the same. I plan to keep my climbing and balcony petunias going as long as I can. I bought the seeds some years ago (and supplement from time to time), from an heirloom seed company. They always readily re-seed and this year as usual they popped up by the hundreds in the spring. So I thinned, and now have some nice reds and pinks on the porch. I’ve also got some white and lavender popping up elsewhere, so we’ll see what we get next year.”


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