September 15 2019

September 15 2019

cabernet and climate change, renewable energy grows fast (but not fast enough), #Sharpiegate shows Trump’s disdain for science, join the climate strike September 20

The San Francisco Chronicle reports on the future of Cabernet in the Napa Valley, where climate trends suggest conditions will combine to reduce the quality of wines produced by Napa’s signature grape. Some vintners are already conducting experimental plantings of alternate varietals to understand how to adapt their wine-making activities as climate changes. The Guardian describes how residents of Las Vegas are coping (or not) with rising temperatures, which are projected to reach “hellish” levels in future decades without ambitious climate action. Salon reports on the expectation of longer and more severe allergy seasons due to climate change.

The Prime Minister of Iceland writes eloquently in the New York Times about the importance for climate action, noting he will be dedicating a “Letter to the Future” in the form of a plaque at the former site of the Okjokull Glacier that has now melted. The letter reads in part “…in the next 200 years all [Iceland’s] glaciers are expected to [melt]. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.”

InsideClimate News reports that, although renewable energy capacity quadrupled worldwide over the past 10 years, this rate of growth is still not adequate to reach climate goals. The article notes that capital is shifting away from fossil fuels, as evidenced by the fact that no oil companies are found in the top 10 companies listed by Standard and Poor’s, even though in 1980 seven of the 10 were oil companies.

National Geographic reports on new research concluding that farming seaweed, a plant that grows very fast, could be an important way to mitigate climate change. An article in Grist notes that, when thinking about how to use regenerative agricultural techniques to sequester carbon and provide farmers with a new revenue source, the devil is in the details. There are many ways that these approaches, which are becoming popular on the democratic campaign trail, may be implemented in ways that would be less effective than hoped.

Anthropocene Magazine reports on recent research that concludes renewable energy pays for itself due to the elimination of health impacts caused by burning fossil fuels. The study focused on 10 “rust belt” states and concluded that building out renewable infrastructure will cost $3.5 billion, yield $2.8 billion in savings from avoided climate change impacts and $4.7 billion in health benefits from avoided medical bills and lost wages. The health benefits are produced mainly by elimination of fine-particulate air pollution.

Hurricane Dorian grew into one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes ever, and then stalled over the Bahamas to produce devastating impacts. InsideClimate News reports that Dorian is the fifth Category 5 hurricane in just four years in the Atlantic, and only the 35th on record going back nearly a century. Two climate scientists explain in the Guardian why climate change contributed to Dorian’s destructive power.

To prepare our nation for the arrival of Hurricane Dorian, President Trump canceled a trip to Poland so he could stay home and play golf. He then falsely tweeted (and stated again in a press briefing) that Alabama was going to be in the hurricane’s path, which had to be corrected by the National Weather Service (NWS) after its Birmingham office received calls from worried and confused residents of Alabama. Rather than admit his mistake, the President showed a doctored storm track during an Oval Office briefing, on which a line had been added using a Sharpie to indicate that the storm track reached Alabama. This pathetic and childish maneuver demonstrates a dangerous contempt for science and a profound emotional weakness. Oh, and it is actually against the law (18 USC §2074) to falsify a weather report from the U.S. government.

This egregious action elicited a torrent of criticism and mockery, now known as #Sharpiegate, clearly annoying Trump. Apparently based upon pressure to support the President from Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross (the pressure originated with Trump), NOAA (the parent agency of the NWS) issued an unsigned statement criticizing the NWS in Birmingham. This statement, characterized by Gretchen Goldman of the Union of Concerned Scientists as a choice for political appeasement over scientific truth, caused an uproar among scientists. The head of the National Weather Service made a strong statement at a professional meteorological conference in support of the Birmingham NWS office. He asked the staff of the NWS present at the conference to stand and be recognized, and they received a standing ovation (a lesson in leadership that I’m sure was lost on Trump). The Chief Scientist of NOAA opened an investigation into whether the agency’s scientific integrity policy had been violated, and three former heads of NOAA penned an op-ed in the Washington Post expressing their outrage at this politicization of science. In the New York Times, Charles Blow describes well how the President violated a sacred trust with the American people regarding the truth of maps and other such scientific products.

Remember, a global strike for climate action is planned for September 20th, and I urge you to participate. 2,500 events are currently planned in 117 countries, including over 500 in the U.S. If you need inspiration, read about the walkout planned at Amazon and the letter sent by over 8,000 Amazon employees to Jeff Bezos.