EPA Plans for a Bright Environmental Future

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler delivered an address laying out the agency vision for fulfilling its mission.  Excerpts in italics with my formatting and bolds.

EPA’s mission has been straight forward since its founding. Protect human health and the environment. Doing this ensures that all Americans – regardless of their zip code – have clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and clean land to live, work, and play upon. Under President Trump, we have done this as well, if not better, than any recent administration.  This is great news, and like most great news, you rarely read about it in the press.

  • During the first three years of the Trump Administration, air pollution in this country fell 7 percent.
  • Last year, EPA delisted 27 Superfund sites, the most in a single year since 2001.
  • And agency programs have contributed more than $40 billion dollars to clean water infrastructure investment during President Trump’s first term.

For much of the latter part of the 20th century, there was bipartisan understanding on what environmental protection meant. Some of it was captured in legislation and some it by established practice. These principles formed a consensus about how the federal government did its job of protecting the environment.

But unfortunately, in the past decade or so, some members of former administrations and progressives in Congress have elevated single issue advocacy – in many cases focused just on climate change – to virtue-signal to foreign capitals, over the interests of communities within their own country. Communities deserve better than this, but in the recent past, EPA has forgotten important parts of its mission. It’s my belief that we misdirect a lot of resources that could be better used to help communities across this country.

So, if this is where we are – with misdirected policies, misused resources, and a more partisan political environment – and we want an EPA for the next 50 years – how do we get there? One way to do this – and I’ve spent more than 25 years thinking about this problem – is to focus on helping communities become healthier in a more comprehensive manner.

Communities that deal with the worst pollution in this country – and tend to be low-income and minority – face multiple environmental problems that need solving.  Many of the sites EPA has responsibility for are in some of the most disadvantaged communities in this country. And I will point out a truism. Neglect is a form of harm, and it’s not fair for these communities to be abandoned just because they don’t have enough political power to stop the neglect.

So where does this put us as a country in 2020? The truth is this country is facing a lot of environmental and social problems that have not been dealt with the right way up until now. And while the focus of the next 50 years should not be like the last 50, it should be informed by it.

Many towns and cities in the United States are using the same water infrastructure they’ve used for over 100 years, and many schools use lead water pipes long after such pipes were banned from new buildings. The American public views our pesticide program through the lens of the trial lawyers who advertise on television instead of the way we manage the program. And the Superfund Program – which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, has become focused on process, rather than project completion.

These issues are challenging and would be difficult for any administration in office. But they would be easier to solve if people in power were more aware of the consequences of poor environmental policies.

It’s very disappointing to see governors on the East Coast, such as Governor Cuomo, unilaterally block pipelines that would take natural gas from Pennsylvania to New York and New England. These poor choices subject Americans to imports of gas from places like Russia, even in the face of evidence that U.S. natural gas has a much cleaner emissions profile than imported gas from Europe. Governor Cuomo is doing this in the name of climate change, but the carbon footprint of natural gas to New England through pipeline is much smaller than transporting it across the ocean. It also forces citizens in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine to use more polluting wood and heating oil to heat their homes because of gas shortages in the winter months, which in turn creates very poor local air quality.

And there are many examples of poor environmental outcomes here in California, despite its environmental reputation. It should go without saying that dumping sewage into San Francisco Bay without disinfection, indeed without any chemical or biological treatment, is a bad idea, but that’s what been happening for many years, against federal law.

And just last month, the rolling blackouts created by California’s latest electricity crisis – the result of policies against power plants being fueled by natural gas – spilled 50,000 gallons of raw sewage into the Oakland Estuary when back-up wastewater pumps failed. As state policymakers push more renewables onto the grid at times of the day when renewables aren’t available, these environmental accidents will happen more often. CARB seems to have no appreciation for baseload power generation. Or at least their regulations don’t.

Instead of confusing words with actions, and choosing empty symbolism over doing a good job, we can focus our attention and resources on helping communities help themselves. Doing this will strengthen this country from its foundation up – and start to solve the environmental problems of tomorrow. We could do a lot of good if the federal government, through Congress, puts resources to work with a fierce focus on community-driven environmentalism that promotes community revitalization on a greater scale.

This will do more for environmental justice than all the rhetoric in political campaigns.

Over the next four years the Trump Administration is going to reorganize how it approaches communities so it can take action and address the range of environmental issues that need to be addressed for people and places in need. In President Trump’s second term, we will help communities across this country take control and reshape themselves through the following five priorities.

  • Creating a Community-Driven Environmentalism that Promotes Community Revitalization.
  • Meeting the 21st Century Demands for Water.
  • Reimagining Superfund as a Project-Oriented Program.
  • Reforming the Permitting Process to Empower States. And,
  • Creating a Holistic Pesticide Program for the Future.

For communities, traditionally, EPA has focused on environmental issues in a siloed manner that only looks at air, water and land separately, and states and local communities end up doing the same. We will change this, and look at Brownfields grants, environmental justice issues, and air quality in each community at the same time and encourage them to do the same.

Since EPA’s Brownfields Program began in 1995, nearly $1.6 billion dollars in grants have been spent to clean-up contaminated sites and return blighted properties to productive reuse. To date, communities participating in the Program have been able to attract an additional $33.3 billion dollars in cleanup and redevelopment funding after receiving Brownfields funds.

And when combined with the Opportunity Zones created in the landmark 2017 Trump tax bill, economic development, job creation and environmental improvements can truly operate together at the same time. A study published last month found that Opportunity Zones, which have only been in existence since 2018, have attracted about $75 billion dollars in private investment, which in turn has lifted about one million people out of poverty through job creation in a very short time. While all the economic data isn’t available yet for 2019, it’s possible that Opportunity Zones are one of the biggest reasons black unemployment in this country fell to its lowest recorded levels ever in 2019.

One other way we are going to help communities is by creating one consolidated grant program that combines several smaller grants from multiple programs. It will help focus local communities to view environmental problems holistically, and it will help refocus EPA.

We can meet the 21st Century Demands for Clean Water by creating an integrated planning approach using WIFIA loans, our Water Reuse Action Plan, and our Nutrient Trading Initiative to improve water quality and modernize legal frameworks that have been around since the 19th Century. Over 40 percent of water utility workers are eligible to retire. We need to do a better job recruiting and training for 21st century threats to the water utilities industry.

And we can reinvigorate the Superfund Program. Roughly 16 percent of the U.S. population lives within 3 miles of a Superfund site today. That’s over 50 million Americans. EPA has allowed litigation and bureaucracy to dictate the pace of Superfund projects, instead of focusing on improving the environmental indicators and moving sites to completion. We need to fully implement the recommendations of the 2018 Superfund Task Force and reimagine the approach to clean up sites using the latest technologies and best practices.

We can improve the way we handle pesticide regulation. We do a good job approving pesticides on an individual basis, but we have not excelled in explaining to the public our holistic approach to pesticide management. The media and the courts tend to view our individual pesticide decisions in a one-off fashion, which has left the American public uninformed on our science-based process.

We will take into account biotech advances and better examinations of new active ingredients. Just this week, we announced a proposed rule that would remove onerous and expensive regulation of gene-edited plant protectants. We will safeguard pollinators to support the agriculture industry. And we can decrease reliance on animal testing to a point where no animal testing takes place for any of the agency’s programs by 2035.

Here are five things EPA is doing – five new pillars that have gone largely unnoticed by the public – that are changing the way the agency operates today.

The first pillar is our Cost-Benefit Rulemaking.
We are creating cost-benefit rules for every statute that governs EPA. The American public deserves to know what the costs and the benefits are for each of our rules. We are starting with the Clean Air Act, which will provide much better clarity to local communities, industry and stakeholders. And we will implement a cost-benefit regulation for all our environmental statutes by 2022.

Our second major pillar is Science Transparency.

The American public has a right to know the scientific justification behind a regulation. We are creating science transparency rules that are applied consistently. This will bring much needed sunlight into our regulatory process. Some people oppose it, calling it a Secret Science rule. Those who oppose it want regulatory decisions to be made behind closed doors. They are the people who say, “Trust us, we know what’s best for you.” I want to bring our environmental decision-making process out of the proverbial smoke-filled back room. The Cost-Benefit and Science Transparency rules will go a long way in delivering that. After finalizing the Science Transparency rule later this year, EPA will conduct a statute by statue rulemaking, much like the Cost-Benefit rule.

Guidance documents are the third pillar of agency change, and it’s an area we’ve made a lot of progress, and we have shined even more light.

The agency for years was criticized for not making guidance documents – which have almost the force of law – available for public review. The costs involved to uncover guidance documents became a major barrier for anyone wanting to improve their communities. Last year, EPA went through all our guidance documents from the agency’s beginnings, and we put all 10,000 documents onto a searchable database. We also rescinded 1,000 guidance documents. Now all our guidance documents are available to the public, for the first time. This is a huge change in administrative procedures at EPA, perhaps the biggest change in at least a generation.

The fourth pillar is our reorganization of all 10 of our regional offices to mirror our headquarters structure.

All the regional offices across the country now have an air division, a water division, a lands division, and a chemical division. This was a change that was needed for decades.

As the fifth pillar of EPA fundamental change, we have implemented a Lean Management System that tracks real metrics with which the agency can measure success or failure.

There is a lot of good news in these changes, but the best news is this: the problems I’ve highlighted are structural, and when a problem is structural or organizational, an agency can be changed. Until the Trump administration, EPA was not able to track how long it took to complete a permit, a grant process, or a state implementation plan, or really any meaningful task the agency had before it. Organizations do change; it can be hard, but they do change, and when they change, it’s usually for the better.

Conclusion:
As I said at the beginning, EPA data points to 2020 air quality being the best on record. Here in California, where the modern environmental movement began – and from where President Nixon brought it to the rest of the country – it’s important to acknowledge the role states have in being laboratories for democracy, and in this case, laboratories for environmental policy.

But for environmental policy to work nationally, the federal government and states must work together as partners, not as adversaries. To do this involves a new vision, and for a country searching for a new consensus, on the environment as well as on many other things, this can seem tough. But I believe we can find a new consensus, if we strive to.

I believe that by focusing EPA toward communities in the coming years, our agency can change the future for people living in this country who have been left behind simply for living in polluted places. We are a nation made up of communities, and communities are the foundation of this nation, not the other way around.

If we can do the work before us – break down the silos between us as an agency and elsewhere – I believe we can both protect the places we love and bring back the places that have been hurt by pollution – and make them even better than they were before.

I see EPA beginning its second half century with big challenges, but ones that can be overcome with the same skill and tenacity that helped this agency, and this country, overcome the challenges of the last 50 years.  I hope everyone can support our agency as we work to deliver this vision of a great environmental future for all Americans – regardless of where they live.

Thank you.”

Forbes Cancels Michael Shellenberger

Earlier this morning I read a great article by Shellenberger at Forbes.  Above is his tweet.  When I returned to Forbes to read and post on the article, here is what I saw:

While I look for the text now gone missing, here are some overviews of the book, and why activists will want it suppressed. Update:  WUWT archived the article before it was revoked (here)

See Update at End, July 10, 2020 Extract from Book

‘Apocalypse Never’ Review: False Gods for Lost Souls
Environmentalism offers emotional relief and spiritual satisfaction, giving its adherents a sense of purpose and transcendence. Source: John Tierney at Washington Post (paywalled)

Amazon Book Description

Climate change is real but it’s not the end of the world. It is not even our most serious environmental problem.

Michael Shellenberger has been fighting for a greener planet for decades. He helped save the world’s last unprotected redwoods. He co-created the predecessor to today’s Green New Deal. And he led a successful effort by climate scientists and activists to keep nuclear plants operating, preventing a spike of emissions.

But in 2019, as some claimed “billions of people are going to die,” contributing to rising anxiety, including among adolescents, Shellenberger decided that, as a lifelong environmental activist, leading energy expert, and father of a teenage daughter, he needed to speak out to separate science from fiction.

Despite decades of news media attention, many remain ignorant of basic facts. Carbon emissions peaked and have been declining in most developed nations for over a decade. Deaths from extreme weather, even in poor nations, declined 80 percent over the last four decades. And the risk of Earth warming to very high temperatures is increasingly unlikely thanks to slowing population growth and abundant natural gas.

Curiously, the people who are the most alarmist about the problems also tend to oppose the obvious solutions.

What’s really behind the rise of apocalyptic environmentalism? There are powerful financial interests. There are desires for status and power. But most of all there is a desire among supposedly secular people for transcendence. This spiritual impulse can be natural and healthy. But in preaching fear without love, and guilt without redemption, the new religion is failing to satisfy our deepest psychological and existential needs.

Review from Charles Battig

Michael Shellenberger has green activist credentials going back to his high school years. Yet over the ensuing years, he has had an environmental reality epiphany which now has manifested itself most clearly in his recent book “Apocalypse Never,” and with his starting the ecomodernism movement.

The subtitle of the book, “Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All,” echoes the similar conclusions of Moore and Lomborg.

Schellenberger had a few road bumps on the way to his current reality check.

Notable was his 2002 support of the “New Apollo Project,” which called for a major global science and economics research program to make carbon-free baseload electricity less costly than electricity from coal by the year 2025 at an expenditure of $150 billion over a decade.

The Obama administration adopted many of the renewable energy proposals, but Schellenberger documents that much of the money went to “companies that enriched donors to the Obama campaign” but failed to produce the promised renewable energy advances.

Disillusionment gave way to reality, and in 2017, Shellenberger told the Australian:

“Like most people, I started out pretty anti-nuclear. I changed my mind as I realized you can’t power a modern economy on solar and wind… All they do is make the electricity system chaotic and provide greenwash for fossil fuels.”

He has made numerous efforts to support nuclear power.

His current book skewers many of the claims of eco-environmentalists, including mass extinctions, saving of the whales by Greenpeace, waste plastic fouling the ocean for thousands of years, and increases in extreme weather events.

He reflects upon his early devotion to environmentalism as a manifestation of “underlying anxiety and unhappiness in my own life that had little to do with climate change or the state of the natural environment.”

It became a quasi-religion offering “emotional relief” and “spiritual satisfaction” for those, like him, who may have lost the guidance of traditional spiritual faiths.

Schellenberg concludes with the observation that “the trouble with the new environmental religion is that it has become increasingly apocalyptic, destructive, and self-defeating.”

So here are three environmentalists with different degrees of eco-activism in their past, but all now willing to speak out against the incessant climate propaganda of human-related guilt, the purveyors of anxiety, and the poisoners of childhood joy and wonder.

Climate change is the norm; it is not mankind’s original sin. The readers here are encouraged to read the works of these climate realists.

Book burning scene from movie version of Fahrenheit 451.

Excerpt from now inaccessible article (posted at GWPF):

I may seem like a strange person to be saying all of this. I have been a climate activist for 20 years and an environmentalist for 30.

But as an energy expert asked by Congress to provide objective expert testimony, and invited by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to serve as Expert Reviewer of its next Assessment Report, I feel an obligation to apologize for how badly we environmentalists have misled the public.

Here are some facts few people know:

*  Humans are not causing a “sixth mass extinction”

* The Amazon is not “the lungs of the world”

* Climate change is not making natural disasters worse

* Fires have declined 25% around the world since 2003

* The amount of land we use for meat — humankind’s biggest use of land — has declined by an area nearly as large as Alaska

* The build-up of wood fuel and more houses near forests, notclimate change, explain why there are more, and more dangerous, fires in Australia and California

* Carbon emissions have been declining in rich nations for decades and peaked in Britain, Germany and France in the mid-seventies

* Adapting to life below sea level made the Netherlands rich not poor

* We produce 25% more food than we need and food surpluses will continue to rise as the world gets hotter

* Habitat loss and the direct killing of wild animals are bigger threats to species than climate change

* Wood fuel is far worse for people and wildlife than fossil fuels

* Preventing future pandemics requires more not less “industrial” agriculture

In reality, the above facts come from the best-available scientific studies, including those conducted by or accepted by the IPCC, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and other leading scientific bodies.

Some people will, when they read this imagine that I’m some right-wing anti-environmentalist. I’m not. At 17, I lived in Nicaragua to show solidarity with the Sandinista socialist revolution. At 23 I raised money for Guatemalan women’s cooperatives. In my early 20s I lived in the semi-Amazon doing research with small farmers fighting land invasions. At 26 I helped expose poor conditions at Nike factories in Asia.

I became an environmentalist at 16 when I threw a fundraiser for Rainforest Action Network. At 27 I helped save the last unprotected ancient redwoods in California. In my 30s I advocated renewables and successfully helped persuade the Obama administration to invest $90 billion into them. Over the last few years I helped save enough nuclear plants from being replaced by fossil fuels to prevent a sharp increase in emissions

Until last year, I mostly avoided speaking out against the climate scare. Partly that’s because I was embarrassed. After all, I am as guilty of alarmism as any other environmentalist. For years, I referred to climate change as an “existential” threat to human civilization, and called it a “crisis.”

But mostly I was scared. I remained quiet about the climate disinformation campaign because I was afraid of losing friends and funding. The few times I summoned the courage to defend climate science from those who misrepresent it I suffered harsh consequences. And so I mostly stood by and did next to nothing as my fellow environmentalists terrified the public.

Update July 10, 2020

An extended extract approved by Shellenberger is posted at Climate Change Not the End of the World (Shellenberger)

Summary in My Words:

There is no crisis requiring these climate policies.

If there were a crisis, these policies will not help.

Implementing these policies will create a social and economic crisis.

Update June 30, 2020

Michael Shellenberger realized he has been cancelled by Forbes and has reposted his article at EnvironmentalProgress: https://environmentalprogress.org/big-news/2020/6/29/on-behalf-of-environmentalists-i-apologize-for-the-climate-scare

In a comment below Rob Brantly adds some contextual facts about Forbes from zerohedge:

It is notable that the Forbes family no longer controls the magazine as a majority stake was sold in 2014 to a “group of Asian investors known as Integrated Whale Media. The new ownership team is led by Hong Kong-based Integrated Asset Management, founded by Tak Cheung Yam. Another investor with a significant stake is Singapore businessman Wayne Hsieh, the co-founder of Asustek Computer” (NY Post).

This group is either left-leaning or is not willing to alienate the establishment status quo. Forbes publishes the article — and then gets a quick rebuke from the Asians.

Similarly, a few years ago the Financial Times was bought by Nikkei Inc., the dominant Japanese financial publisher. It, too, is left-leaning by American standards — and the FT, which was already left-of-center, has clearly become more liberal since the ownership change.

Doomsday Deja Vu

Ronald Stein writes at Eurasia Review Greta Preaches Many Of The First Earth Day’s Failed Predictions. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

20 million Americans participated in the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. That was more than three decades before the birth of high school dropout Greta Thunberg, the Swedish environmental activist on climate change, diagnosed with Asperger’s, high-functioning autism, and obsessive-compulsive disorder,

We now look back at quotes from Earth Day, Then and Now,” by Ronald Bailey, Reason.com. May 1, 2000 of the spectacularly wrong apocalyptic predictions from Earth Day 1970.

Considering the current doomsday predictions scaremonger activists are verbalizing about global warming that will result in the demise of civilization within the next decade, many of those unscientific 1970 predictions are being reincarnated on today’s social and news media outlets.

Many of the same are being regurgitated today, but the best prediction from the first earth day five decades ago, yes 50 years ago, was that the “the pending ice age as earth had been cooling since 1950 and that the temperature would be 11 degrees cooler by the year 2000”.

The 1970’s were a lousy decade. Embarrassing movies and dreadful music reflected the national doomsday mood following an unpopular war, endless political scandals, and a faltering economy.

The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970— okay, “celebrated” doesn’t capture the funereal tone of the event. The events (organized in part by then hippie and now convicted murderer Ira Einhorn) predicted death, destruction and disease unless we did exactly as progressives commanded.

Behold the coming apocalypse as predicted on and around Earth Day, 1970:

  1. Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.” — Harvard biologist George Wald

  2. “We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation.” — Washington University biologist Barry Commoner

  3. “Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction.” — New York Times editorial

  4. “Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.” — Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich

  5. “Most of the people who are going to die in the greatest cataclysm in the history of man have already been born… [By 1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s.” — Paul Ehrlich

  6. “It is already too late to avoid mass starvation,” — Denis Hayes, Chief organizer for Earth Day

  7. “Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions…. By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine.” — North Texas State University professor Peter Gunter

  8. “In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution… by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half.” — Life magazine

  9. “At the present rate of nitrogen buildup, it’s only a matter of time before light will be filtered out of the atmosphere and none of our land will be usable.” — Ecologist Kenneth Watt

  10. Air pollution…is certainly going to take hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few years alone.” — Paul Ehrlich

  11. “By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate… that there won’t be any more crude oil. You’ll drive up to the pump and say, ‘Fill ‘er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, ‘I am very sorry, there isn’t any.’” — Ecologist Kenneth Watt

  12. “[One] theory assumes that the earth’s cloud cover will continue to thicken as more dust, fumes, and water vapor are belched into the atmosphere by industrial smokestacks and jet planes. Screened from the sun’s heat, the planet will cool, the water vapor will fall and freeze, and a new Ice Age will be born.” — Newsweek magazine

  13. “The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.” — Kenneth Watt

History seems to repeat itself as there will be a disproportionately influential group of doomsters predicting that the future–and the present–never looked so bleak. I guess we’ll need to critique the 2020 doomsday predictions in the year 2050 and see if they were any better than those from the first Earth Day 50 years ago.

Footnote: For a thorough discussion of recent environmental predictions of doom, see Progressively Scaring the World (Lewin book synopsis)

And let’s not leave out the Atomic Clock:

Doomsday was predicted but failed to happen at midnight.

Turtles Vs. Trump

Apologies for the image; I couldn’t find one with turtles wearing lawyers suits.  Again it is ambulance chasers with legal training targeting deep pockets, as explained in USA Today article Trump administration sued for failing to protect green sea turtles from climate change.  Excerpts on this latest example of climate derangement syndrome are in italics with my bolds.

Several environmental groups filed a lawsuit Wednesday claiming several agencies in the Trump administration have failed to protect green sea turtle habitat as required by the Endangered Species Act.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, says the turtles’ nesting beaches in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, as well as their ocean habitat, face threats from sea level rise brought on by climate change and plastic pollution, according to a news release from the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the plaintiffs.

Other plaintiffs are the Sea Turtle Oversight Protection and the Turtle Island Restoration Network. The lawsuit asks the court to rule that several federal agencies are in violation of the Endangered Species Act and order them to designate sites – unspecified as yet –as critical habitat for the turtles.

Defendants include:

Interior Department Secretary David Bernhardt
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross
Margaret Everson, principal deputy director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Chris Oliver, assistant administrator for fisheries at the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration
National Marine Fisheries Service
A UPS driver started posting dog pictures in 2013:It’s now a viral sensation with 1.6M likes

Climate change, sea level rise
The lawsuit acknowledges that green sea turtle populations have been on a general increase over the last few years, but notes the National Marine Fisheries Service and Fish & Wildlife Service found in 2016 that threats from climate change and sea level rise mean the turtles still need protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The act prohibits federal agencies from authorizing activities that will destroy or harm a listed species’ critical habitat.

Floridians should be proud of how far we’ve come with green sea turtle recovery, but the fight’s not over yet,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Now the feds have to step up and ensure that sea turtles have safe passage to nest on our beaches. These imperiled animals can’t afford any more delays.”

Green turtle populations around the world are listed as either endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

 

 

A 144-pound sea turtle was rescued by Indian River County police after being struck by a boat.

2020 Green Obstruction Targets

The remarkable turnaround in the US economy was achieved despite large and expensive Green efforts to stop economic projects and infrastructure. While needed energy pipelines and power plants remain unbuilt in coastal places like New York and California, the heartland will be a battleground for activists wanting to leave the best sources underground in favor of aboveground dilute and intermittent wind and solar power.

Walker Orenstein writes at the Minnesota Post The five environmental stories to watch in 2020. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Next year will be a pivotal one for many of Minnesota’s most controversial environmental debates, from mining to climate change and the 2020 elections. Here’s a look at some of the big questions heading into 2020:

File photo courtesy of the Timberjay PolyMet Mining has won state and federal approval to break ground on its $1 billion copper-nickel mine near Hoyt Lakes.

1. Will PolyMet move forward?
PolyMet Mining has won state and federal approval to break ground on its $1 billion copper-nickel mine near Hoyt Lakes. But the project now faces serious questions after Minnesota courts put several permits on hold by this year.

First, The Minnesota Court of Appeals ordered a lower court to examine if state regulators hid concerns the federal government had with a key water safety permit. The Court of Appeals is also investigating whether Glencore, the Swiss mining giant that owns a majority of PolyMet’s shares, should be named on state permits, and whether the plan for a tailings dam at the mine is safe enough.

On top of the permit issues, PolyMet’s majority owner Glencore is now facing a bribery investigation in the United Kingdom and is in the midst of a leadership change.

After a year of turmoil, 2020 could be pivotal for a project that has faced 15 years of environmental review and could bring hundreds of jobs to the Iron Range. If built, it would be the first copper-nickel mine in the state.

2. Will the Line 3 pipeline get built?

Another controversial project on the brink of construction is Enbridge’s Line 3 oil pipeline. The Canadian energy company is hoping to build a 337-mile pipeline through northern Minnesota to replace an aging and corroding one that is operating at half capacity. State regulators on the Public Utilities Commission granted the $2.6 billion project a Certificate of Need and approved its route.

In July, however, the Court of Appeals ruled the PUC failed to consider the impact an oil spill could have on Lake Superior’s watershed, setting the project back months. A new environmental assessment was completed earlier this month by the Department of Commerce, modeling a spill into a tributary of the St. Louis River. In a worst case-type scenario, the research found oil would be unlikely to reach Lake Superior.

Final Line 3 Replacement Project routek

The five-member PUC now needs to vote again on whether to approve Line 3, which also needs federal permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to move forward.

Opponents of Line 3, who argue building new fossil fuel infrastructure would further contribute to climate change, have protested the Walz administration at many public events and have taken steps to disrupt Enbridge’s existing infrastructure. Will wide-scale protests follow if Line 3 does get approved for construction?

3. Will the Legislature pass any climate change policy?

The 2019 session ended with very little new climate and energy policy, despite a Democratic push to make Minnesota’s power grid carbon-free by 2050 and GOP support for a measure to make it tougher to build new fossil fuel projects.

While 2019 was ultimately focused on writing a two-year budget, such debates could find new life at the Legislature in 2020. Especially since lawmakers will have a healthy pot of unused money from Xcel Energy, from the funds the energy company pays to store nuclear waste in Minnesota.

4. Will there be a showdown over the study of mining near the Boundary Waters?

Ever since the Trump administration canceled a study that could have led to a 20-year ban on copper-nickel mining in the Rainy River watershed, some Democrats have tried to finish the research or at least get the federal government to disclose what it found.

While U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum and others have not been successful in Congress, the state Department of Natural Resources has asked for the information to include in its environmental review of a mine Twin Metals Minnesota wants to build just outside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

The DNR won’t say if it will proceed with its review if the federal government stonewalls the agency. But the state has left open the possibility of a showdown with the pro-mining Trump administration. “We will request the information, we expect to get it,” Barb Naramore, an assistant DNR commissioner, told reporters. “If for some reason it’s not forthcoming we’ll need to evaluate the implications of that at that point in time.”

5. How will environmental issues play in the 2020 elections?

The 2020 elections carry massive stakes for local environmental issues. If Trump is re-elected, his administration is likely to continue support for Twin Metals. Many of the Democratic frontrunners have said they oppose mining in the Rainy River watershed, including Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Joe Biden has not, although the Obama-Biden administration launched the study on a 20-year mining ban in the Rainy River watershed and took other steps to stymie Twin Metals.

Trump has generally supported pipelines, while Warren and Sanders have also opposed Line 3.

At the Legislature, Republicans would likely need to keep a majority in the state Senate to head off the most aggressive parts of Gov. Tim Walz’s climate change agenda in 2021. While not all DFLers support the governor’s measures, minority Democrats in the Senate recently launched a “Clean Energy and Climate Caucus” with an eye on passing some form of Walz’s legislation.

Ocean Oxygen Misdirection

Warmists consistently do recycling, especially alarming stories coming back for encore media appearances.  This week it’s the suffocating ocean meme, which taps into our caring about the seas, but conflates impacts from human maritime activities with subtle temperature changes, i.e climate change (AKA emergency, chaos, crisis etc.).  Of course COP 25 is the trigger for this.  I won’t list the alarming headlines since they are little different from last time, covered in a previous post reprinted below.  Below are two typical recent quotes showing how an actual ocean concern is exploited for fossil fuel activism.

“A healthy ocean with abundant wildlife is capable of slowing the rate of climate breakdown substantially,” said Dr Monica Verbeek, the executive director of the group Seas at Risk. “To date, the most profound impact on the marine environment has come from fishing. Ending overfishing is a quick, deliverable action which will restore fish populations, create more resilient ocean ecosystems, decrease CO2 pollution and increase carbon capture, and deliver more profitable fisheries and thriving coastal communities.”

“Ending overfishing would strengthen the ocean, making it more capable of withstanding climate change and restoring marine ecosystems – and it can be done now,” explained Rashid Sumaila, professor and director of the fisheries economics research unit at the University of British Columbia. “The crisis in our fisheries and in our oceans and climate are not mutually exclusive problems to be addressed separately – it is imperative that we move forward with comprehensive solutions to address them.”

Previous post from last year

The climate scare machine is promoting again the fear of suffocating oceans. For example, an article this week by Chris Mooney in Washington Post, It’s Official, the Oceans are Losing Oxygen.

A large research synthesis, published in one of the world’s most influential scientific journals, has detected a decline in the amount of dissolved oxygen in oceans around the world — a long-predicted result of climate change that could have severe consequences for marine organisms if it continues.

The paper, published Wednesday in the journal Nature by oceanographer Sunke Schmidtko and two colleagues from the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, found a decline of more than 2 percent in ocean oxygen content worldwide between 1960 and 2010.

Climate change models predict the oceans will lose oxygen because of several factors. Most obvious is simply that warmer water holds less dissolved gases, including oxygen. “It’s the same reason we keep our sparkling drinks pretty cold,” Schmidtko said.

But another factor is the growing stratification of ocean waters. Oxygen enters the ocean at its surface, from the atmosphere and from the photosynthetic activity of marine microorganisms. But as that upper layer warms up, the oxygen-rich waters are less likely to mix down into cooler layers of the ocean because the warm waters are less dense and do not sink as readily.

And of course, other journalists pile on with ever more catchy headlines.

The World’s Oceans Are Losing Oxygen Due to Climate Change

How Climate Change Is Suffocating The Oceans

Overview of Oceanic Oxygen

Once again climate alarmists/activists have seized upon an actual environmental issue, but misdirect the public toward their CO2 obsession, and away from practical efforts to address a real concern. Some excerpts from scientific studies serve to put things in perspective.

k2_g_sauerstoffmischung_meer_2_e_en

2.14 > Oxygen from the atmosphere enters the near-surface waters of the ocean. This upper layer is well mixed, and is thus in chemical equilibrium with the atmosphere and rich in O2. It ends abruptly at the pyncnocline, which acts like a barrier. The oxygenrich water in the surface zone does not mix readily with deeper water layers. Oxygen essentially only enters the deeper ocean by the motion of water currents, especially with the formation of deep and intermediate waters in the polarregions. In the inner ocean, marine organisms consume oxygen. This creates a very sensitive equilibrium.

How the Ocean Breathes

Variability in oxygen and nutrients in South Pacific Antarctic Intermediate Water by J. L. Russell and A. G. Dickson

The Southern Ocean acts as the lungs of the ocean; drawing in oxygen and exchanging carbon dioxide. A quantitative understanding of the processes regulating the ventilation of the Southern Ocean today is vital to assessments of the geochemical significance of potential circulation reorganizations in the Southern Hemisphere, both during glacial-interglacial transitions and into the future.

Traditionally, the change in the concentration of oxygen along an isopycnal due to remineralization of organic material, known as the apparent oxygen utilization (AOU), has been used by physical oceanographers as a proxy for the time elapsed since the water mass was last exposed to the atmosphere. The concept of AOU requires that newly subducted water be saturated with respect to oxygen and is calculated from the difference between the measured oxygen concentration and the saturated concentration at the sample temperature.

ocean oxygen

This study has shown that the ratio of oxygen to nutrients can vary with time. Since Antarctic Intermediate Water provides a necessary component to the Pacific equatorial biological regime, this relatively high-nutrient, high-oxygen input to the Equatorial Undercurrent in the Western Pacific plays an important role in driving high rates of primary productivity on the equator, while limiting the extent of denitrifying bacteria in the eastern portion of the basin. 

Uncertain Measures of O2 Variability and Linkage to Climate Change

A conceptual model for the temporal spectrum of oceanic oxygen variability by Taka Ito and Curtis Deutsch

Changes in dissolved O2 observed across the world oceans in recent decades have been interpreted as a response of marine biogeochemistry to climate change. Little is known however about the spectrum of oceanic O2 variability. Using an idealized model, we illustrate how fluctuations in ocean circulation and biological respiration lead to low-frequency variability of thermocline oxygen.

Because the ventilation of the thermocline naturally integrates the effects of anomalous respiration and advection over decadal timescales, shortlived O2 perturbations are strongly damped, producing a red spectrum, even in a randomly varying oceanic environment. This background red spectrum of O2 suggests a new interpretation of the ubiquitous strength of decadal oxygen variability and provides a null hypothesis for the detection of climate change influence on oceanic oxygen. We find a statistically significant spectral peak at a 15–20 year timescale in the subpolar North Pacific, but the mechanisms connecting to climate variability remain uncertain.

The spectral power of oxygen variability increases from inter-annual to decadal frequencies, which can be explained using a simple conceptual model of an ocean thermocline exposed to random climate fluctuations. The theory predicts that the bias toward low-frequency variability is expected to level off as the forcing timescales become comparable to that of ocean ventilation. On time scales exceeding that of thermocline renewal, O2 variance may actually decrease due to the coupling between physical O2 supply and biological respiration [Deutsch et al., 2006], since the latter is typically limited by the physical nutrient supply.

k2_wk_sauerstoffmangel_e_en

2.15 > Marine regions with oxygen deficiencies are completely natural. These zones are mainly located in the mid-latitudes on the west sides of the continents. There is very little mixing here of the warm surface waters with the cold deep waters, so not much oxygen penetrates to greater depths. In addition, high bioproductivity and the resulting large amounts of sinking biomass here lead to strong oxygen consumption at depth, ­especially between 100 and 1000 metres.

Climate Model Projections are Confounded by Natural Variability

Natural variability and anthropogenic trends in oceanic oxygen in a coupled carbon cycle–climate model ensemble by T. L. Frolicher et al.

Internal and externally forced variability in oceanic oxygen (O2) are investigated on different spatiotemporal scales using a six-member ensemble from the National Center for Atmospheric Research CSM1.4-carbon coupled climate model. The oceanic O2 inventory is projected to decrease significantly in global warming simulations of the 20th and 21st centuries.

The anthropogenically forced O2 decrease is partly compensated by volcanic eruptions, which cause considerable interannual to decadal variability. Volcanic perturbations in oceanic oxygen concentrations gradually penetrate the ocean’s top 500 m and persist for several years. While well identified on global scales, the detection and attribution of local O2 changes to volcanic forcing is difficult because of unforced variability.

Internal climate modes can substantially contribute to surface and subsurface O2 variability. Variability in the North Atlantic and North Pacific are associated with changes in the North Atlantic Oscillation and Pacific Decadal Oscillation indexes. Simulated decadal variability compares well with observed O2 changes in the North Atlantic, suggesting that the model captures key mechanisms of late 20th century O2 variability, but the model appears to underestimate variability in the North Pacific.

Our results suggest that large interannual to decadal variations and limited data availability make the detection of human-induced O2 changes currently challenging.

The concentration of dissolved oxygen in the thermocline and the deep ocean is a particularly sensitive indicator of change in ocean transport and biology [Joos et al., 2003]. Less than a percent of the combined atmosphere and ocean O2 inventory is found in the ocean. The O2 concentration in the ocean interior reflects the balance between O2 supply from the surface through physical transport and O2 consumption by respiration of organic material.

Our modeling study suggests that over recent decades internal natural variability tends to mask simulated century-scale trends in dissolved oxygen from anthropogenic forcing in the North Atlantic and Pacific. Observed changes in oxygen are similar or even smaller in magnitude than the spread of the ensemble simulation. The observed decreasing trend in dissolved oxygen in the Indian Ocean thermocline and the boundary region between the subtropical and subpolar gyres in the North Pacific has reversed in recent years [McDonagh et al., 2005; Mecking et al., 2008], implicitly supporting this conclusion.

The presence of large-scale propagating O2 anomalies, linked with major climate modes, complicates the detection of long-term trends in oceanic O2 associated with anthropogenic climate change. In particular, we find a statistically significant link between O2 and the dominant climate modes (NAO and PDO) in the North Atlantic and North Pacific surface and subsurface waters, which are causing more than 50% of the total internal variability of O2 in these regions.

To date, the ability to detect and interpret observed changes is still limited by lack of data. Additional biogeo-chemical data from time series and profiling floats, such as the Argo array (http://www.argo.ucsd.edu) are needed to improve the detection of ocean oxygen and carbon system changes and our understanding of climate change.

The Real Issue is Ocean Dead Zones, Both Natural and Man-made

Since 1994, he and the World Resources Institute (report here) in Washington,D.C., have identified and mapped 479 dead zones around the world. That’s more than nine times as many as scientists knew about 50 years ago.

What triggers the loss of oxygen in ocean water is the explosive growth of sea life fueled by the release of too many nutrients. As they grow, these crowds can simply use up too much of the available oxygen.

Many nutrients entering the water — such as nitrogen and phosphorus — come from meeting the daily needs of some seven billion people around the world, Diaz says. Crop fertilizers, manure, sewage and exhaust spewed by cars and power plants all end up in waterways that flow into the ocean. Each can contribute to the creation of dead zones.

Ordinarily, when bacteria steal oxygen from one patch of water, more will arrive as waves and ocean currents bring new water in. Waves also can grab oxygen from the atmosphere.

Dead zones develop when this ocean mixing stops.

Rivers running into the sea dump freshwater into the salty ocean. The sun heats up the freshwater on the sea surface. This water is lighter than cold saltier water, so it floats atop it. When there are not enough storms (including hurricanes) and strong ocean currents to churn the water, the cold water can get trapped below the fresh water for long periods.

Dead zones are seasonal events. They typically last for weeks or months. Then they’ll disappear as the weather changes and ocean mixing resumes.

Solutions are Available and do not Involve CO2 Emissions

Helping dead zones recover

The Black Sea is bordered by Europe and Asia. Dead zones used to develop here that covered an area as large as Switzerland. Fertilizers running off of vast agricultural fields and animal feedlots in the former Soviet Union were a primary cause. Then, in 1989, parts of the Soviet Union began revolting. Two years later, this massive nation broke apart into 15 separate countries.

The political instability hurt farm activity. In short order, use of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers by area farmers declined. Almost at once, the size of the Black Sea’s dead zone shrunk dramatically. Now if a dead zone forms there it’s small, Rabalais says. Some years there is none.

Chesapeake Bay, the United State’s largest estuary, has its own dead zone. And the area affected has expanded over the past 50 years due to pollution. But since the 1980s, farmers, landowners and government agencies have worked to reduce the nutrients flowing into the bay.

Farmers now plant cover crops, such as oats or barley, that use up fertilizer that once washed away into rivers. Growers have also established land buffers to absorb nutrient runoff and to keep animal waste out of streams. People have even started to use laundry detergents made without phosphorus.

In 2011, scientists reported that these efforts had achieved some success in shrinking the size of the bay’s late-summer dead zones.

The World Resources Institute lists 55 dead zones as improving. “The bottom line is if we take a look at what is causing a dead zone and fix it, then the dead zone goes away,” says Diaz. “It’s not something that has to be permanent.”

Summary

Alarmists/activists are again confusing the public with their simplistic solution for a complex situation. And actual remedies are available, just not the agenda preferred by climatists.


Waste Management Saves the Ocean

 

Untrustworthy Enivronmental Science

Of Republicans with high levels of science knowledge, less than half trust environmental scientists.ELENA LACEY; GETTY IMAGES

Adam Rogers writes at WIRED Americans Trust Scientists Until Politics Gets in the Way.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds

Nothing’s more American than a science-hero—an indomitable, big-brained hasher-out of ideas that change the world, that make the impossible possible. At least since Ben Franklin sat with the founders, and certainly since Vannevar Bush explicitly connected the US’ future to federal funding of science after World War II, the idea of sciencing the shit out of everything has been core to the American character. Like many surveys and studies before it, a new report from the Pew Research Center confirms this truth: Americans love and trust scientists. In 2019, 86 percent of Americans said they had a great deal or a fair amount of confidence in them—up 3 percent from the year before.

That’s higher than confidence in the military (82 percent), or even in public school principals (80 percent)! It’s even higher than, can you believe it, the news media (47 percent, ahem) or elected officials (35 percent).

Except, like the polling nerds say, you have to check the cross-tabs—the particulars of who answered what question, and how. This particular survey compared trust in specific types of scientists. Specifically, it covered dietitians and nutrition scientists, clinicians and biomedical researchers, and (here we go) environmental health specialists and environmental scientists. In other words: nutrition, doctors, and climate change.

And then the pollsters asked for the respondents’ political affiliations. Which: Uh oh.

Of Democrats with high levels of science knowledge (which turns out to be a thing you can pop-quiz for), just about nine out of 10 people trust environmental scientists. Of Republicans with high levels of science knowledge? Less than half. “We often see that public attitudes around climate, energy, and environmental issues are strongly correlated with party ideology, where other kinds of science issues are not,” says Cary Funk, a social scientist and lead author of the new study. This is called “motivated reasoning,” Funk says. “The idea is that your partisan identity kind of trumps the role of knowledge in your beliefs.”

It’s an outcome familiar to climate communication researchers. The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, for example, has found rising belief among Republicans that climate change is human-caused and policy steps should be taken to combat it, but that program’s research still consistently finds a party disparity. “We’re starting to see the signal appear out of the noise and say, yeah, my direct experience reflects climate change,” Anthony Leiserowitz, the Yale program director, told me late last year. “But that’s still a small influence compared to the dominant factor, which is politics.”

Put aside Evangelicals, who often vote Republican and stereotypically express skepticism in a range of scientific conclusions. The people in the Pew study, by and large, accept the conclusions of medicine, of basic physics, of organic chemistry. But even though the methods and philosophies that produced those conclusions are the exact same methods and approaches climate scientists use, if you’re a Republican, odds are you don’t buy it.

Other research, from Pew and elsewhere, has found divides in the amount of trust people have in scientists who study other fields with policy valances, such as genetically modified foods or vaccines. But those divides don’t fall along party lines. It’s just climate.

Why? What powers this motivated cognition? It’s one thing to believe that which confirms your priors, but how do people acquire priors for climate science? At a time when “climate science” means everything from wildfires to emerging diseases to mass migration, how do people still see it as merely an environmental issue?

[Comment:  The author seems oblivious to the history of progressively more extreme environmental scares, trumpeted in the media, then later dropped in favor of a new and different one.  Bernie Lewin’s book provides the story of how each one was promoted taking the public in, and adding to the erosion of confidence.  The sequence of expanding scares was:
Synopsis of the environmental scare history (lest we forget) is at Progressively Scaring the World ]

Some researchers blame the 1970s. See, before then, most of the science that Americans so loved was, in one terminology, “production science.” Even the basic, research work led to cool new stuff, which could become salable new products. Corporations love that. But with the rise of modern environmentalism in the middle and late 20th century came “impact science” that looked at the harms of those industrial-era products—asbestos, DDT, dioxins, chlorofluorocarbons, nuclear waste, and more recently greenhouse gases and plastics. “Environmentalism and the conservation movement take off really at about the same time, the 1970s … but originally those think tanks didn’t pay too much attention to environmentalism,” says Riley Dunlap, an emeritus sociologist at Oklahoma State University.

Thomas Edison in his Menlo Park Lab.

Then, just as international environmentalism started to peak in the early 1990s, the Soviet Union fell apart. Conservatism lost its Big Bad. “We think the conservative movement really substituted a Green Scare for the declining Red Scare,” Dunlap says. The party’s funders turned to fighting the regulatory apparatus that would come with more environmentally sensitive policies.

To Dunlap and others, that’s why Republicans scoff at climate science while embracing, say, particle physics. “They haven’t heard Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity talking about physics,” Dunlap says. “But they’ve had a constant barrage saying global warming is the mother of all environmental issues, the one with the most dire consequences, and in the eyes of the conservatives, the most serious consequences for regulations.”

[Note: The author is also unaware of how alarmists reduce away the complexity of climate science down to their simple pre-determined assertion: Humans are making the world dangerously warmer. Explanation is at Climate Reductionism
That’s why those cross-tabs keep showing the Republicans think climate science is a grift. They mostly trust nutrition science, even though in reality lots of nutrition science (and certainly the mass media coverage of it) is, according to at least one high-powered science watchdog, in need of radical reform. They mostly trust physicians, even though study after study shows that attention and gifts from pharmaceutical reps have a profound influence on what drugs physicians prescribe. These folks aren’t as infallible as we all might hope.

In fact, call me cynical, but I was actually heartened by some of the parts of the Pew study that suggested broad-based skepticism.

“Overall views of scientists are generally positive, but it tends to be a soft support,” Funk says. “It tends to be lower when it comes to counting on scientists to do their job well, on working in the public interest. And then you see the low degree or widespread skepticism around issues of scientific integrity.” Only about one in five Americans thought scientists were as up front about their own conflicts of interest as they should be. And 71 percent of African American respondents, and 63 percent of Latinx respondents, reported professional or research misconduct as a moderately or very big problem. That was higher than what white people said by 20 points and seems worth following up given the scientific establishment’s frankly crummy history with minorities in research.

On a more positive front, people reported trusting scientists more when the data they used was more open—a major goal of the open science and reproducibility movements. Good science works on fixing science.

More Republicans than Democrats thought that scientists’ policy decisions are no better than anyone else’s and that scientists are just as likely to be biased as non-scientists. The thing is, that’s true.

Scientists are human beings. The practice of science, though, remains the single best way for humans to acquire information about how the universe actually works, and then to act on it. If it’s the case that a well-funded conservative movement found a way to convince people that climate change—the single biggest existential threat humanity faces—simply wasn’t happening, they could do it again. The same thing could work with telling people that vaccines violate their personal autonomy or that environmental protections are too stringent.

The cautionary tale here isn’t about petrochemical donors to Republicans enhancing the motivated cognition of their base. It’s about how little Americans know about how science is actually supposed to work as a practice. If they did, they’d make the connection between the broad, informed skepticism that in fact drives science to improve, to continually reach toward the fundamental truths that allow deeper understanding and, candidly, cooler stuff—across every subfield. Those are the results that lead to better policy for everyone instead of higher profits for a few.

See also: Eco Footprint Nonsense

 

Trudeau’s Empty Plastic Gesture

Bjorn Lomborg writes in the Globe and Mail about Canadian PM Justin Treudeau showing off by proposing to ban single-use plastics. Sorry, banning plastic bags won’t save our planet. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a plan to reduce plastic pollution, which will include a ban on single-use plastics as early as 2021. This is laudable: plastics clog drains and cause floods, litter nature and kill animals and birds.

Of course, plastic also makes our lives better in a myriad of ways. In just four decades, plastic packaging has become ubiquitous because it keeps everything from cereals to juice fresher and reduces transportation losses, while one-use plastics in the medical sector have made syringes, pill bottles and diagnostic equipment more safe.

Going without disposable plastic entirely would leave us worse off, so we need to tackle the problems without losing all of the benefits.

The simplest action for consumers is to ensure that plastic is collected and used, so a grocery bag, for example, has a second life as a trash bag, and is then used for energy.

But we need to be honest about how much consumers can achieve. As with other environmental issues, instead of tackling the big-picture problems to actually reduce the plastic load going into oceans, we focus on relatively minor changes involving consumers, meaning we only ever tinker at the margins.

More than 20 countries have taken the showy action of banning plastic bags, including even an al-Qaeda-backed terrorist group which said plastic bags pose “a serious threat to the well-being of humans and animals alike.”

But even if every country banned plastic bags it would not make much of a difference, since plastic bags make up less than 0.8 per cent of the mass of plastic currently afloat on the world’s oceans.

Rather than trying to save the oceans with such bans in rich countries, we need to focus on tackling the inferior waste management and poor environmental policies in developing regions.

Research from 2015 shows that less than 5 per cent of land-based plastic waste going into the ocean comes from OECD countries, with half coming from just four countries: China, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam. While China already in 2008 banned thin plastic bags and put a tax on thicker ones, it is estimated to contribute more than 27 per cent of all marine plastic pollution originating from land.

Moreover, banning plastic bags can have unexpected, inconvenient results. A new study shows California’s ban eliminates 40 million pounds of plastic annually. However, many banned bags would have been reused for trash, so consumption of trash bags went up by 12 million pounds, reducing the benefit. It also increased consumption of paper bags by twice the saved amount of plastic – 83 million pounds. This will lead to much larger emissions of CO₂.

When Kenya banned plastic bags, people predictably shifted to thicker bags made of synthetic fabric – which now may be banned. But Kenya had to relent and exempt plastics used to wrap fresh foods such as meat and other products.

We also need to consider the wider environmental impact of our bag choices. A 2018 study by the Danish Ministry of Environment and Food looked not just at plastic waste, but also at climate-change damage, ozone depletion, human toxicity and other indicators. It found you must reuse an organic cotton shopping bag 20,000 times before it will have less climate damage than a plastic bag.

If we use the same shopping bag every single time we go to the store, twice every week, it will still take 191 years before the overall environmental effect of using the cotton bag is less than if we had just used plastic.

Even a simple paper bag requires 43 reuses to be better for the environment – far beyond the point at which the bag will be fit for the purpose.

The study clearly shows that a simple plastic bag, reused as a trash bag, has the smallest environmental impact of any of the choices.

If we want to reduce the impact of plastic bags while still allowing for their efficient use, a tax seems like a much better idea. A 2002 levy in Ireland reduced plastic bag use from 328 bags a person per year to just 21 bags.

And if we really want to make a meaningful impact on ocean plastics coming from land, we should focus on the biggest polluters such as China, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam, and emphasize the most effective ways to cut the plastic load, namely better waste management in the developing world.

We should also recognize that more than 70 per cent of all plastics floating on oceans today – about 190,000 tonnes – come from fisheries, with buoys and lines making up the majority. That tells us clearly that concerted action is needed to clean up the fishing industry.

If our goal is to get a cleaner ocean, we should by all means think about actions we can take as consumers in rich countries to reduce our use of unnecessary plastic bags. But we need to keep a sense of proportion and, if we’re serious, focus on change where it’s really needed.

Bjorn Lomborg is president of the Copenhagen Consensus Center.

See Also Plastic Trash Talking

Waste Management Saves the Ocean

Plastic Trash Talking

Following a viral video of a turtle with a straw in his nose, plastics suddenly went from the “greatest thing since sliced bread” to environmental villain. This post first summarizes the waste plastic problem discussed in a recent GWPF paper. As in other cases of environmental issues, plastic trash talking conflates several problems, including littering, waste recycling and plastics disposal. Secondly, we shall see that the obvious advantages of incineration are resisted out of (can you guess?) fear of global warming from CO2.

As reported in GWPF, Dr. Mikko Paunio of the University of Helsinki has warned that the UN’s decision to regulate waste plastic as hazardous and restrict exports will unleash a “surge of waste” on many EU countries. Paunio urges a rapid expansion of waste incineration capacity to stop the plastic waste problem turning into a public disaster. His paper is Saving the Oceans and the Plastic Recycling Crisis. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Executive Summary

The United Nations has just decided to add mixed and contaminated plastic waste to the schedule of materials that are regulated under the Basel Convention. This decision will have major implications.

Firstly, it represents a major victory for the environment because it will effectively prevent a large proportion of exports of plastic waste to developing countries. Much of this material ends up in the oceans, so the UN decision does away with a major contribution to the problem of marine waste.

However, it will also mean that the problem of what to do with plastic waste will return to countries that produce it. What is worse, the EU is putting in place stringent new rules on plastic recycling, which will only increase the size of the problem, as will its new rules on landfill.

As a result, EU countries will find themselves faced with a growing mountain of plastic waste, and with few means at their disposal to deal with it. The EU has previously been deeply opposed to incineration of waste because of green dogma: they believe that recycling is virtuous in its own right, as well as seeing it as part of the fight against climate change.

And even if they were to change their views, there could still be major problems because the incineration capacity available falls far short of what is required.

A rapid expansion of waste incineration capacity is urgently required to stop the plastic waste problem turning into a disaster.

The global waste crisis

The Campania (Naples 1990s) trash crisis is a clear warning to governments about the problems that can be caused by blindly following green ideology. Now, it has become clear that a much larger crisis, global in scale, may almost be upon us. The global plastics ‘recycling’ industry is already on the verge of meltdown as a result of China’s import ban. Not only the biggest plastic waste exporter – the European Union – but also the rest of the English-speaking world, Japan and even Brazil, a developing country, are now witnessing rapidly growing mountains of plastic waste. In all these countries, the people who have in good faith been sorting their plastic waste for recycling can quite rightly feel betrayed.

Wealthy countries have tried to deal with China’s import ban by exporting waste to countries like Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. However, waste management in these places is often primitive, and the result has been severe problems with marine pollution. So even though these imports bring much-needed revenue, the situation is becoming so bad that legislative barriers are being raised to prevent them.

plastic_paper_straws

One of the most important developments, which has received little international attention,
is the silent decision of hundreds of municipalities in the US to stop recycling solid waste altogether. These are not ‘Trumpian’ decisions, but decisions made by both Democrats and Republican administrations at local level across the country.

The EU’s confused position on incineration

So the EU’s policy response to the marine plastic waste problem has been to adopt policies that will do little to reduce plastic waste, and which will probably cause the problem to become worse. The example of the Campania crisis, which was only resolved by extensive use of incineration, is therefore likely to become important. Incineration is superior to all other waste management options in terms of climate change mitigation, because it avoids the complex and resource-hungry schemes involved in, for example, turning it into diesel fuel or converting it to some other product. Meanwhile, incineration directly reduces demand imports of coal used in large quantities to produce heat and electricity. Recycling is certainly worse on other fronts too, not least the fact that recycling plants release microplastics in their wastewater streams, while only delivering low-quality recycled material that cannot
be used in important applications like food packaging.

The Commission has argued in favour of incineration, but only very rarely. In a paper entitled, ‘A Clean Planet for All’, released before UNFCCC COP 25 in Katowice, it argued for a carbon-neutral economy fuelled by biomass, although it was reticent about explaining where this biomass should come from. The answer is found in an accompanying document, which explains that it will actually be waste that is burned, and suggests that waste incineration capacity should increase to 100 million tons in 2050.

However, mostly it has been strongly against the idea. For example, in reference to the Circular Economy proposal, it said that of the possible approaches to waste management, recycling was to be preferred, apparently on climate change mitigation grounds, although it presented no evidence to support this claim. It also said that reprocessing waste into fuels is not recycling, but is, like waste incineration, ‘material recovery’. As a result, it has declared that its new cohesion fund will not fund waste incineration plants.

Advantages of  Burning Plastic

You will read in alarmist media about the dangers of incineration releasing chemicals such as hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide, dioxins, furans and heavy metals, as well as particulates. It is true that incomplete combustion of any hydrocarbon is to be avoided. But mainly detractors are using chemophobia against plastic incineration because of their obsession with CO2. Some common sense is provided by Flo-Bro The surprising benefits of burning plastics. Excerpt below with my bolds.

The plastic revolution

Whilst travelling, we’ve witnessed how several Asian countries such as Cambodia and Indonesia have turned into plastic junkyards. Inland and coastal areas are littered with a colourful mixture of bags, bottles, cups, trays and everything else, it is truly a sad and terrible sight. A lot of countries, not just in Asia, suffer from bad solid waste management. Moreover, littering seems to be a deep engrained cultural element. Whilst care for the environment seems to be on the last stage of people’s and the government’s interests, the nature is suffering and people too.

Reaction to Vermont proposal requiring clear plastic trash bags.

Owing to the favourable properties of plastic – strength, durability and light weight, we embraced them in all areas of life. Plastics have created a revolution and improved the quality of life immensely, however, nowadays they seem to be one of greatest plagues of our planet. I can’t enumerate the number of times I came across an article talking about the great plastic vortex the size of Europe in the Pacific, and that the ocean will soon contain more plastic than fish.

The chemical elements of plastic

Most of the packaging plastics which pollute the environment are based on two to four chemical elements. Polystyrene, polyethylene and polypropylene are made of carbon and hydrogen, whilst PET (polyethylene terephthalate), used for bottles, contains also oxygen. Nylon, a polyamide, which is used to make fibres, also contains oxygen and nitrogen in its structure. These elements are essentially the same ones that fossil fuels are made of. This should be of no surprise, since plastics (long chain hydrocarbons) are also made of the same crude oil, as their “short chain” relatives- gasoline and diesel.

In other words: if burned well, plastics create the same products as wood and fossil fuels -> water and carbon dioxide

Recycle or burn plastics?

In conventional terms, it is environmentally more sound to recycle plastics than dispose them. This approach, however, has so far proven quite challenging and more frequently results in “downcycling”.  But even downcycling requires large centralised facilities with advanced sorting lines and plastic recovery processes, which is very expensive and not applicable to solve the pollution problem.

So, you were always told that burning plastics is bad for the environment. Indeed, incomplete combustion of any hydrocarbon creates noxious smoke. As the above image depicts, burning plastics can create the same products as fossil fuel and wood. In waste incineration facilities, thousands of tons of plastic burn worldwide daily, generating heat and electricity.

Burning any material well and without smoke and noxious fumes needs a high temperature and plenty of oxygen. This is best achieved in a stove, where the heat is concentrated and can be put to good use.

As with most solutions, this one is not free of flaws. Plastics such as PVC (polyvinyl chloride), which is used for plumbing, can create more dangerous products of decomposition – such as corrosive HCl gas; and several plastics. Usually the hard plastic used in motorbikes and cars contain flame retarders, which are too not the friendliest chemicals and may create toxic fumes when burned. Based on what I’ve seen, these plastics are a minority and PVC and hard plastics are denser than water and will sink If they end up in the sea. What you see washed up on the shore are light packaging materials and foams.

Conclusion

Plastic pollution is unfriendly to animals and is undoubtedly aesthetically damaging the environment. Burning them might be the best way to quickly improve the situation. If people recognize the benefit of burning plastics in the right stove, it will save them money on fossil fuels, stop plastic pollution, limit deforestation, and improve the quality of life. Combustion of low value packaging plastics is not a totally new idea and a company has already received an award for it.

See also Fighting Plasticphobia

Duped into War on Plastic

Intro to Award Winning Book Population Bombed

Far from being a catastrophe, population growth and carbon fuel-based development are the best means to lift people out of poverty, the authors write.NASA

Update April 3, 2019

The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) is delighted to announce that our book Population Bombed! by Canadian authors Pierre Desrochers and Joanna Szurmak has been shortlisted for the prestigious Donner Book Prize.  For those who would like an overview of the case made by the authors, below are some excerpts from their articles and interviews at the time of the book launching. At the end is posted a recent statement by a US politician taking a similar position, Yes, Babies Are a Better Solution to Climate Change Than the Green New Deal by Senator Mike Lee.

Control the Population, Control the Climate?  Not.

A recent book explains what’s mistaken about climate alarmists/activists thinking human numbers must be reduced in order to save the planet from us (H/T Master Resource). The Title is Population Bombed! by Pierre Desrochers and Joanna Szurmak who provide an introduction to their assessment in an article at Financial Post For 200 years pessimists have predicted we’d ruin the planet. They’re still wrong.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

In Avengers: Infinity War, the villain Thanos said: “If life is left unchecked, life will cease to exist.” Johns Hopkins University philosopher Travis N. Rieder apparently agrees, as he views each new child as an environmental externality putting “irreparable stress on the planet” in a way that “exacerbates … the threat of catastrophic climate change.” Similar ideas have been expressed by the likes of Al Gore, Hillary Clinton and Bill Gates. Feminist icon Gloria Steinem put it best: “What causes climate deprivation is population. If we had not been systematically forcing women to have children … for over the 500 years of patriarchy, we wouldn’t have the climate problems that we have.”

Population-growth catastrophism has been around for centuries. In the English-speaking world it is generally associated with economist Thomas Robert Malthus’ 1798 edition of his Essay on the Problem of Population and U.S. biologist Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 bestseller The Population Bomb. Ehrlich and his co-author and wife Anne predicted imminent environmental collapse followed by mass starvation. What they didn’t see coming was that, to the contrary, hundreds of millions of people would soon be lifted out of grinding poverty while parts of the planet became greener and cleaner in the process.

In our new book Population Bombed! Exploding the Link between Overpopulation and Climate Change we mark the 50th anniversary of the Ehrlichs’ book by explaining that their predictions bombed because their basic assumptions are flawed.

First, the Ehrlichs assume that human numbers cannot exceed the limits set by a finite system. Bacteria in a test tube of food are used to model such a system: Since the levels of food and waste limit bacterial growth, human population growth, by analogy, ultimately cannot exceed the carrying capacity of test tube Earth.

Second, they assume that wealth and development unavoidably come with larger environmental damage. This assumption is still at the core of pessimistic frameworks, which maintain that physical resource throughputs, not outcomes, matter. So, countries such as Haiti where deforestation and wildlife extermination are rampant are inherently more “sustainable” than richer and cleaner countries like Sweden and Switzerland.

Third, Ehrlich does not acknowledge that, unique among this planet’s species, modern humans: transmit information and knowledge between individuals and through time; innovate by combining existing things in new ways; become efficient through specialization; and engage in long-distance trade, thus achieving, to a degree, a decoupling from local limits called the “release from proximity.” And the more brains there are, the more solutions. This is why, over time, people in market economies produce more things while using fewer resources per unit of output. Corn growers now produce five or six times more output on the same plot of land as a century ago while using less fertilizer and pesticide than a few decades ago.

Fourth, the Ehrlichs and other pessimists also fail to understand the uniquely beneficial roles played by prices, profits, and losses in the spontaneous and systematic generation of more sustainable — or less problematic — outcomes. When the supply of key resources fails to meet actual demand, their prices increase. This encourages people to use such resources more efficiently, look for more of them, and develop substitutes. Meanwhile, far from rewarding pollution of the environment, the profit motive encourages people to create useful by-products out of waste (our modern synthetic world is largely made out of former petroleum-refining waste products). True, in some cases dealing with pollution came at a cost — building sewage-treatment plants, for example — but these are the types of solutions only a developed society can afford.

Fifth, pessimists are also oblivious to the benefits of unlocking wealth from underground materials such as coal, petroleum, natural gas and mineral resources. Using these spares vast quantities of land. It should go without saying that even a small population will have a much greater impact on its environment if it must rely on agriculture for food, energy and fibres, raise animals for food and locomotion, and harvest wild animals for everything from meat to whale oil. By replacing resources previously extracted from the biosphere with resources extracted from below the ground, people have reduced their overall environmental impact while increasing their standard of living.

Why is it then that after two centuries of evidence to the contrary, the pessimistic narrative still dominates academic and popular debates? Why are so many authors and academics still focusing on the Malthusian collapse scenario — now bound to come from carbon dioxide emissions and the teeming populations that produce them?

The prevalence of apocalyptic rhetoric may be, arguably, due to factors ranging from financial incentives among academics and activists to behavioural heuristics that dictate why worrying is a motivator, and why even well-meaning people rarely change their mind given new evidence. Short-termism may also take some of the blame: Population control and climate activists take for granted the non-scalable benefits of a carbon-fuel economy in which large numbers of people collaborate and innovate. The cognitive biases at the root of our thinking may shape, and in the end distort, the impulse to question “consensus,” particularly in an intellectual climate lacking the motivation to achieve what social psychologist Jonathan Haidt called “institutional disconfirmation.”

Far from being the catastrophe that Thanos, the Ehrlichs and other pessimists would have us believe, population growth and carbon fuel-based development in the context of human creativity and free enterprise are the best means to lift people out of poverty, to build resilience against any climate damage that increased anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions might have, and to make possible a sustained reduction of humanity’s impact on the biosphere.

Pierre Desrochers, a geography professor at the University of Toronto Mississauga, and Joanna Szurmak, a doctoral candidate at York University, are the authors of Population Bombed! Exploding the Link Between Overpopulation and Climate Change. The book was launched at an event on Oct. 15th in Toronto.

More at their website: Population Bombed!

Update October 17,2018

Master Resource just posted an interview with Desrochers (here)

What we need in order to fight environmental degradation is to make sure that people in less advanced parts of the world can also be the beneficiaries of these processes. There is no doubt in my mind that these beneficial substitutions will happen more quickly the cheaper carbon fuels are. Of course, the argument is even more powerful when you think of the social consequences of less affordable energy.

Now, as with everything else, bad political institutions in some parts of the world will result in greater pollution as more carbon fuels are burned. The solution, however, is not to ban or tax everything from coal to plastic bags, but rather to improve standards of living and public governance. In my opinion, our guiding principle as far as carbon fuels are concerned should be the creation of lesser problems than those that existed before.

Yes, Babies Are a Better Solution to Climate Change Than the Green New Deal by Senator Mike Lee. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

But what was surprising about the reaction to my speech on the Green New Deal is which chart garnered the most vehement anger. It wasn’t Reagan riding a dinosaur or Utah Gov. Gary Herbert battling tornado-propelled sharks or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asserting that the resolution’s own supporters don’t know what’s in it.

No, the most controversial poster of the 14-minute speech turned out to be a simple image of six smiling babies.

Why such an aggrieved reaction to such a heart-warming image?

I’ll let Emily, a 28-year-old woman who talked to FiveThirtyEight from Spokane, Washington, explain.

We have physical proof that we cause a lot of harm to the planet, and I think the statistics show an imperative to reduce the footprint of our population, which has grown so fast. I think that having children can be immoral for a lot of reasons.

Emily is not alone in suggesting that having children is immoral. An author of the Green New Deal [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.] recently said on Instagram, “Our planet is going to hit disaster if we don’t turn this ship around, and so it’s basically like, there’s a scientific consensus that the lives of children are going to be very difficult. And it does lead, I think, young people to have a legitimate question, you know, ‘Is it OK to still have children?’”

Emily and the authors of the Green New Deal are not the first people to believe that bringing children into this world is a morally questionable act. Quite the opposite. The belief that the human population must be limited and controlled by government is a founding principle of the environmental movement.

As far back as 1798, when scholar Thomas Malthus published “An Essay on the Principle of Population,” utopian-seeking elites have made the case that human population growth must be controlled in order to ensure a sustainable society. These well-intentioned beliefs led to policy changes like the Corn Laws, which raised taxes on grain imports to the United Kingdom.

Opposed by classical economists like David Ricardo, who warned that such laws would make food more expensive, the Corn Laws were eventually repealed after they worsened the Great Famine in Ireland, when over 1 million people died of hunger.

Fast forward to 1968 when American biologist Paul Ehrlich published “The Population Bomb,” a book arguing that the government must take urgent action to limit population growth or humanity would face imminent ecological disaster. Ehrlich’s gloom-and-doom prophecies were quite popular with a segment of the American public as the book went on to be a best-seller.

But many economists pushed back—including University of Maryland professor Julian Simon who believed that humanity, if left free to innovate, could find new ways to make limited resources provide for an ever-expanding world population.

Simon and Ehrlich even made a bet testing their beliefs in 1980, picking five commodities to track over a 10-year period. In 1990, Ehrlich was forced to admit he lost, mailing a check to Simon in the amount that the commodities had fallen in price over that 10-year span.

Since that time, the earth has added billions more people, all while global poverty continues to fall.

What Malthus, Ehrlich, Emily, and the authors of the Green New Deal keep failing to understand is that human consumption and production patterns are not static.

Since the beginning of our species, humans have constantly been innovating and changing the world around them. In fact, it is our ability to function as a collective learning brain that sets us apart from every other animal on earth.

And, as Harvard University Department of Human Evolutionary Biology Chairman Joseph Henrich explains in his book “The Secret of Our Success,” the size of our population does matter:

The most obvious way the size of a group can matter is that more minds can generate more lucky errors, novel recombinations, chance insights, and intentional improvements. … So, bigger groups have the potential for more rapid cumulative cultural evolution.

Now the size of a population is not the only thing that matters. A society must also have in place institutions, cultural norms, and a legal framework that encourages experimentation, innovation, and creativity.

And here is where the failure of the Green New Deal as a serious response to climate change is the clearest. Instead of fostering an open-ended approach to addressing climate change, it demands top-down policy programs that forbid certain avenues of exploration, like nuclear energy, while also tacking on irrelevant policy goals, like universal health care, that have nothing to do with the issue the authors of the plan claim is so urgent.

Climates change. It’s what they do. There is even evidence that humans have been affecting the climate since at least the Neolithic era. And these changes to the climate have always presented a challenge to humanity. Today is no different.

We have always survived, and even thrived, in new environments. Just look at California. Left in its natural state, the Los Angeles river basin can support maybe 100,000 people. Today, thanks to a creative web of dams, aqueducts, canals, and pipelines, there is enough water for over 10 million people to live there.

This is the creative, practical, life-affirming path that will help us solve the climate change challenge. Instead of looking to limit and even shrink humanity’s footprint on the world, we should be looking to improve and expand it.

And yes, this means more babies.