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Sudden Severe Flood Leaves 14 Dead in Athens, Forecasts Show Up to 15+ Additional Inches on the Way for Greece

Extreme drought. Extreme floods.

Unfortunately, with human-caused climate change, these kinds of devastating events have become far more frequent. With the Earth warming by around 1.1 to 1.2 C above pre-industrial averages, there are now four times as many instances of extreme weather than there were as recently as the 1970s.

What this means is that anywhere around the world now, the hammer of severe weather and related damages is four times more likely to fall than in the past. That the tempo of such events is now greatly increased. All thanks to continued fossil fuel burning, atmospheric CO2 levels that will average around 407 ppm over the coming months, the heat that these greenhouse gasses are continuing to add to the Earth’s climate system, and a failure to transition swiftly enough to more sustainable practices and zero carbon energy sources to prevent ramping damages.

Major Rain Event Strikes Athens — With More Severe Weather in the Forecast

Today, the major blow appears to have fallen on Greece. To the west of this country, over the Mediterranean, a cut off low is creating instability throughout the region. An intense, thick, moist warm air flow is moving in from the south. This warm and very water dense air is then colliding with a colder air mass to the north. Upper level instability is feeding powerful convection erupting in the atmosphere above Greece. And this convection is producing some mountainous thunderheads.

Last night, torrential downpours dropped 2-15 inches of rain over the outskirts of Athens. A biblical flood of water ripped through the region — rocketing vehicles down roads, prompting more than 600 calls for water rescues, killing 14 people, and leaving streets flooded or buried in mud while depositing cars into trees or on the tops of dwellings.

The rains stretched over a broad area from Greece to the Turkish coast — spurring declarations of emergency throughout the area. As with many of the increasingly fierce new disasters, it will take weeks or more to get a final tally of the total damages. But this event is probably not over.

Unfortunately, the cut-off low is expected to continue to circulate near this already flooded region for the next 3-4 days. Forecasts call for additional rainfall totals of up to 15 inches as the low churns and continues to generate outsized convection over an already hard-hit area.

RELATED STATEMENTS AND INFORMATION:

 

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Record Emissions: 41 Billion Tons of Heat-Trapping Carbon Dioxide Were Added to the Atmosphere This Year 

Over the past few years, something pretty amazing and hopeful happened. Global carbon emissions began to stabilize. This was caused, primarily, by stronger emissions reduction policies in China even as the rest of the world moved steadily away from coal burning and more and more toward adopting clean energy systems provided by the likes of wind, solar and electrical vehicles.

But during 2017, there appears to have been a return to rising emissions rates from both China and the rest of the world. As a result, a rather bad global climate situation is continuing to worsen.

China’s Swing Back to Coal and More Rapid Growth Result in Rising Emissions

As the major present emitter of carbon dioxide and a host to hundreds of hothouse gas spewing coal plants, any big move by China can also really move the global carbon emission total. We saw this in practice from 2013 to 2016 as China began to reign in rampant coal consumption and as global emissions levels subsequently responded.

(During recent years, global carbon emissions have plateaued. But during 2017, a new record high was reached on the back of a return to increased rates of coal burning in places like China. The peak year of fossil fuel burning and the year at which net negative carbon emissions occur are very important factors in determining future warming. And even the best case emissions scenarios will likely lead to 2 C or greater warming this Century. Impacts from 2 C warming will be very difficult to manage with a high likelihood that at least some widespread catastrophic impacts would occur. 3 C warming would be terrible — with very widespread harm and disruption. And it is unlikely that most nations would survive the impacts related to 4 to 6 C warming. Image source: University of East Anglia.)

This year, we see a bit of backsliding by this key energy and climate player due to a combined reduction in hydro based power supply and strong annual rates of economic growth.

Drought afflicting China has hit hydro-electrical power generation pretty hard. China presently possesses about 320 gigawatts of hydro power generation capacity. This is about 1/3 of its total coal generating capacity and compares to a relatively smaller wind and solar capacity of around 150 gigawatts. So any disruption to water flowing into hydro generators can have a big effect on coal use and related downstream carbon emissions.

China also rapidly added solar this year. But it was apparently not enough to offset the impact to hydro resources which increased demand for coal. In addition, China’s rapid projected growth rate of 6.8 percent in GDP also resulted in higher overall power demand — leading to more coal burning. Overall, China’s carbon emissions grew by 3.5 percent or around 350 million tons per year. This increase is well ahead of overall global carbon emissions growth in the range of 2 percent for 2017.

U.S. and E.U. Emissions Drop; India and Rest of World Sees Rise

Other factors included a slowing of U.S. carbon emissions reduction due to a degradation of helpful climate policies by the Trump Administration. Despite this deterioration, U.S. emissions fell by 0.4 percent or around 21 million tons per year. The European Union also saw continued if slow emissions reductions of around 7 million tons per year. Environmentalists have criticized mixed policies in places like Germany that continue to protect high-carbon coal burning. But the picture for the EU has, overall, been one of slow if steady progress. India-based emissions increased by a slower than expected rate of 50 million tons per year. Another somewhat disturbing feature in the new data shows that the rest of the world saw carbon emissions grow by 2.3 percent or about 305 million tons per year.

(Most energy and climate experts did not expect to see a potential peak in global carbon emissions until at least the early 2020s. However, 2013 to 2016’s plateau did provide a hopeful look at what was possible. In order to see an actual peak, the countries of the world will have to be far more aggressive about shutting down fossil fuel based energy sources and rapidly deploying renewables. Image source: The University of East Anglia.)

So even without the big bump in China’s emissions, the world, as a whole would have experienced some CO2 emissions growth. But this single country accounted for almost half of all carbon emissions growth around the world during 2017. And it is worth noting that even a relatively minor reduction in carbon emissions by China this year would have resulted in an extension of the global carbon emission plateau.

A Problem Caused by Fossil Fuel Burning

Where the problem of increasing carbon emissions is coming from is pretty obvious. According to reports, 41 billion tons of CO2 were emitted to the atmosphere during 2017 due to human activities. Of this amount, almost 90 percent came from fossil fuel burning — accounting for 36.8 billion tons of CO2 each year. This overall rate of emission is more than ten times faster than during the last hothouse extinction event to occur on Earth.

(Annual rates of atmospheric CO2 accumulation are now higher than 2 parts per million per year. The last time atmospheric CO2 levels were as high as they are now — around 407 parts per million — the oceans were between 25 and 75 feet higher than they are today. Image source: The University of East Anglia.)

The present increase is problematic in that it also makes it less likely that warming this Century will be limited to 1.5 or 2 C. The scientific community has often identified these as safer limits for warming. But we should be clear that no level of warming is entirely safe. That present warming in the range of 1.1 to 1.2 C above preindustrial levels is already causing harmful impacts like shifting climate zones, more instances of damaging, extreme weather, worsening wildfires, and ramping rates of sea level rise that are threatening islands and coastal cities. We should also be clear that present atmospheric greenhouse gas levels in the range of 407 ppm CO2 and 491 ppm CO2e imply a warming close to or above the 1.5 to 2 C threshold range by the end of this Century even if these levels were to merely remain stable.

An Increasingly Urgent Situation — But the Means of Lessening the Damage is at our Disposal

The urgency of the situation, therefore, cannot be understated. We are presently living in a time during which the safety of global civilization requires that we rapidly reduce to zero presently unprecedented annual levels of greenhouse gas emissions. And the first step to doing this is a swift as possible cessation of fossil fuel burning enabled by a transition to renewable energy.

It is worth noting that 2017’s rate of carbon emissions growth was less than the 3 percent annual rates experienced during the decade of the 2000s. Back then, less well developed renewable energy technology and very rapid economic growth in places like China resulted in far higher annual emissions gains than we see at present. So 2017’s gain may be a blip due to circumstances as combined wind, solar, and electrical vehicle advances begin to take hold of the larger energy and emissions trend. That said, challenges to rates of renewable energy adoption and related rates of carbon emissions reduction coming from right-wing governments like the Trump Administration should not be discounted. Failure to act by leaders in the U.S. and around the world or attempts to return to increasing rates of coal, oil, and gas burning are measures that will result in serious harm going forward.

We are thus at a moment of crisis when it comes to global emissions. We can continue to move forward on replacing fossil fuels with zero emitting energy sources. Or we can return to the very harmful increases in global carbon emissions of the past — at which point the damages we see from climate change will be rapidly enhanced.

RESOURCES:

World’s Carbon Emissions Spike by 2 Percent in 2017

The Global Carbon Budget

Warning Signs For Stabilizing CO2 Emissions

Denial’s Grim Fruits — Actual Puerto Rico Death Toll Probably Near 500; May Climb to Over a Thousand

Massive disruption which results in cascading failure of basic services such as food, water transport and power. That’s the primary catastrophic risk coming from human forced climate change. And we are now in the process of multiplying the potential for such extreme events by continuing to burn fossil fuels and to dump carbon into the atmosphere.

Maria’s recent landfall in Puerto Rico and resulting unprecedented disruption can be seen as a microcosm of the kind of damage that might ultimately be inflicted upon a whole region or nation. And the various failed responses by the Trump Administration and related denial-based attitudes within the Republican Party do little to inspire confidence in the ability of at least one major party to effectively respond to a rising danger it pretends does not exist at all.

Excess Death Toll

Weather forecasters are often quick to point out that the most dangerous direct impact from a major hurricane comes from either storm surge or flooding rains. However, for days, weeks, and, in the case of Puerto Rico, months following a disaster, the major cause of loss of life is disruption of food, water, power supplies and a related increased risk of exposure to infectious diseases.

Due to a sluggish and lackadaisical response to the worst storm to strike Puerto Rico in 85 years by the Trump Administration, it appears now that hundreds of lives have been lost. According to reports from the New York Times, 472 more people died during September of 2017 following Maria’s strike than during September of 2016. Such an abnormally high monthly death rate is an outlier in statistics that epidemiologists call an excess death toll. And the primary likely cause was damage to infrastructure, power, food and water by Maria followed by an inadequate emergency response effort.

Many of the 3.4 million people still living in Puerto Rico have been forced to go without reliable access to water, food, and power for 54 days now. Trump Administration failure to mobilize a major effort to respond to the largest power outage and infrastructure disruption in U.S. history has been coupled with the allowance of vulture capitalist firms like Whitefish to prey on Puerto Rico by charging excess fees for power restoration.

Digging into these glaring failures a bit more, it took more than two weeks for Trump to mobilize 5,000 troops to send to Puerto Rico to assist in aid efforts. And Maria was a disaster that required a force ten times this large to be pre-positioned and then sent in immediately following the disaster, according to emergency planners. Vulture firm Whitefish has been reportedly charging 4 to five times what it is paying power installers on an hourly basis. An obvious level of price gouging that has caused the firm’s contract to be canceled. But not before this company of two permanent employees bungled a power line repair that again resulted in much of Puerto Rico falling into darkness.

Incompetent Governance

Whitefish’s most recent failure resulted in total power availability for Puerto Rico again dropping below 20 percent last week. With PREPA stepping in after Whitefish dropped the ball, the line has been repaired. Yet 52 percent of Puerto Ricans are still without power.

(Climate Change amplifies hurricane impacts. What this means is that as the world warms, hurricanes produce more damage. If this is the case, then governments are going to have to step up and act responsibly to prevent loss of life. Republicans and the Trump Administration have done exactly the opposite in Puerto Rico. Images source: Climate Signals.)

Lack of power itself can be deadly. Such a loss results in a critical shortage for medical equipment necessary to save people’s lives even as it removes key infrastructures like street lights and communications. Incubators, defibrillators, respirators, pulse monitors and a hundred other life saving devices all go dark when the lights go out. Furthermore, lack of clean water and ready access to food increases instances of infection. And damage to roads prevents access by emergency personnel to people falling into harm’s way.

Vulture Capitalism + Climate Change Denial = Failed Responses and Profiteering in the Face of Rising Disasters

This is why Maria’s blow has now become so hurtful. Why the Trump Administration’s neglect is so glaring. And a thousand or more people may have perished as a result. The role of the U.S. Government as the first responder to major disasters was sidelined. The sacred trust to Citizens of the United States violated. But, outrageously, such a lackadaisical, laissez faire attitude is not simply limited to Trump. It is an unfortunately endemic feature of today’s republican party. A party that is now doing its best to cut taxes for the rich while cutting medical coverage for 13 million Americans.

A party that has also done far, far more than its fair share to deny and prevent responses to the human caused climate change from fossil fuel emissions that made Maria far, far worse. For the storm emerged from warmer than normal oceans that helped to pump up its peak intensity. It was one of many storms made worse by climate change — for studies now indicate that at least 63 percent of all extreme weather events have now been pumped up in a warming atmosphere or over a warming ocean. And with just 1.2 C worth of warming achieved, the worse is still to come.

With the republican party both causing these disasters to worsen and ensuring that their damaging impacts are amplified by delayed responses, irresponsible choices for firms contracted to bring infrastructure back up and running, and overall malfeasance, it’s pretty clear that only a numb-skull would vote for such mouth-breathers. But here we are.

Fossil Fuel Based Auto Industry Faces Alien Invasion; 440 Starship Model 3s Have Been Manufactured So Far, But that’s Just the First Wave

Some have conjectured that the only way to make sense of present politician resistance to climate change responses is that alien body snatchers determined to inject toxic climate warming gasses into Earth’s atmosphere have taken control of key world leaders. Given the nonsensical behavior and strange skin color changes seen in some of the world’s most powerful people, this supposition, though fanciful, has broad appeal.

But if the ‘bad aliens’ have taken the side of the fossil fuel industry, we should not also ignore the angelic race hailing from the Blue Star who have decided to come to the aid of humankind and life on Earth. For a secret weapon in the fight to save the world from climate disaster is now steadily being deployed. And the global fossil fuel based auto industry doesn’t even begin to have a clue as to what’s about to hit them.

(Blue Star alien spaceship? Smart, living renewable energy technology, wrapped in a car’s body? Warrior fighting global climate disasters? Or all of the above? Tesla’s Model 3 poses an out-of-context threat to the world’s fossil fuel based automakers. Image source: Clean Technica.)

Like the body snatchers, this weapon has also taken the form of something we humans see as normal and innocuous. It has come to inhabit mere automobiles. For beneath the metal hoods, glass windows and roofs, and sustainably designed interiors of seemingly familiar Tesla road vehicles resides the electrical beating heart of alien technology. A living, almost biological, smart-tech that is pulsing within the fixed metal, plastic, and glass forms we see across the world and on its streets and byways.

The tech possesses living characteristics in that it can change and grow. For after each Tesla is produced, the starship inside awakens, empowering these vehicles to transform in a very autobot-like fashion. Possessed of the much the same hardware as many ‘normal’ electrical vehicles, the smart, alien tech that runs the battery in the breast of each machine is capable of learning and improving. Vehicles coming off the lines with a mere 200 mile range may see improvements that jump it to 230 miles (see Your Tesla May Have Secret Powers). Starship Model 3s with stated 310 mile ranges may suddenly and unexpectedly stretch their legs to 334 miles. The cars may learn to accelerate better using the physical materials that they already possess. They may learn to charge faster. And sitting in their driveways at night, after drinking deep of afternoon solar panel trapped energy, they may dream strange dreams of a vital new world that beats back the oppression of global hothouse extinction even as they learn to cut off the choking fumes of coal-fired powerplants.

(Are we really living in a space opera? No. But the stakes are just as epic. Video source: Iscandar.)

But this starship — posing as automobile — counter-force faces a serious challenge. Earthling means of mass producing the new alien technology that will give each person the opportunity to possess a world-saving starship is presently struggling to ramp up to face down the dark forces of hothouse extinction. Tesla is, after all, just a flawed human-run company. And so only 440 of the cutting-edge Model 3 craft had been produced by the end of October.

Yet Tesla is moving forward despite all opposition. Though suppliers capable of producing alien level tech have sometimes proven unreliable, the company is determined to build the needed components for Blue Star spaceships in-house. And it aims to have this counter-force of Model 3s marching off assembly lines en-masse at the pace of 5,000 per week by early 2018. Though earlier ambitions of a large first wave of Model 3s were disappointed, the second wave is forming with greater mass than before.

The orange skinned, one eyed, fossil fueled political people eaters have, thus far, been unsuspecting of the Blue Star forces in their midst. Perhaps Tesla’s mighty struggle to produce these new craft will provide for them some foreshadowing of the death blow to their nefarious designs that is to follow.

Climate Change Related Drought Bakes the Iberian Peninsula

“Suddenly what was once thought to be a problem confined to the third world has arrived in southern Europe.”Euronews.

*****

We’ve been taught that human-caused climate change through fossil fuel burning only affects poor people. That it only affects the third world. That if you’re rich, or if you live in places like the U.S. and Europe, you’re safe — or at least safer.

We’ve been misinformed.

Climate Change in Our Front Yard

Here, on this blog, again and again, we’ve been warning that climate change impacts EVERYONE. That no-one is really safe from either its direct or systemic impacts. From the subsistence farmer in Africa to the Wall Street hedge fund manager, the damage is ultimately equally bad.

The reason is that the worsening climate change related impacts of sea level rise, extreme weather, acidifying and anoxic oceans are ultimately so far reaching that you can’t call any place on Earth realistically safe from harm. And even if you do avoid the barrage of these varied impacts personally, the damage from rising levels of warming is eventually so deep and widespread that there is serious risk of collapse to the various systems civilization relies on to function — like water, power, transportation, and food supply.

(Despite popular misconception, the wealthier countries of the world are not immune to or even really very resilient to the impacts of climate change. We are seeing this start to bear out now in numerous places to include Southeastern Europe. Namely, the Iberian Peninsula where drought is severely impacting Portugal and Spain. Image source: Global Drought Monitor.)

Though the effects may well be milder at the present 1.2 C warming than they would be at 2 C, 3 C, 5 C or more, they are starting to hit now. And they are hitting indiscriminately across broad regions from Canada, to California, to New York City, to New Orleans, to Brazil, to Bangladesh, to Russia, to Puerto Rico, to India and China, and to more far-flung and wildly varied locations than we can list here. The systemic collapse of Puerto Rico due to a global warming amplified hurricane, can be seen as a relative microcosm to what’s in store for broader global civilization if we don’t get our act together in reducing carbon emissions zero and then net-negative , limiting future warming to more manageable levels, and hardening societies to warming related impacts as rapidly as possible.

Severe Drought in Spain and Portugal

This week, just one more story of catastrophic climate change related impacts focuses on the Iberian Peninsula in Europe. 2017 is presently Spain’s third driest year on record. Following an abnormally dry 4-year period, the situation is starting to get critical. The Douru River, which is basically the Spanish wine-growing region’s Mississippi, is 60 percent dry. Massive reservoirs like the Cuerda del pozo are empty. Hydroelectrical supplies have been cut by 58 percent. And wildfires and crop failures have run rampant with the worst grape harvest in decades leading to a global shortage of wine.

In Portugal, the driest October in 20 years has spurred a government campaign to conserve water — asking people to turn off the taps immediately rather than leave them running. In some places of the country, water is having to be shipped in by truck as local sources fail. The Prime Minister of the country is stating that a water miracle is needed to relieve drought conditions.

These impacts follow a deadly wildfire outbreak in October that killed 44 people and injured 71. One of the region’s worst on record that adds to the context of fires like the Fort McMurray Fire in Alberta and the recent Northern California wildfires that destroyed more than 10,000 buildings.

Rain in the Forecast, But Global Warming Will Bring Worsening Droughts to the Region

Human-caused global warming increases the likelihood of extreme drought by increasing the rate of both precipitation and evaporation. Because this effect is uneven, as the world warms, the prevalence tips toward the extremes. In other words, more of the rain we receive falls less frequently but in heavier events. In addition, rising temperatures enhance the onset and intensity of drought.

For Spain and Portugal, climate zones are moving north. This means that desert-like temperatures and conditions from across the Med in the Sahara are more frequently invading. A reality that most of Southern Europe will eventually face if the Earth continues to warm. That said, forecasts for this winter call for some relief in the form of increased precipitation. For Spain and Portugal, it couldn’t come too soon. But with conditions having been consistently drier than normal over recent years, it will take a very significant pattern change to alleviate presently severe conditions.

Hat tip to BobinSpain

Upside Down America: Trump’s Shameful Opposition to Paris Puts U.S. Behind Syria

We all know someone who thinks this way. Put a stack of scientific evidence in front of them that reaches to the moon, and they will still disbelieve that human-caused climate change is real, harmful, and getting to be so bad that it’s increasingly capable of wrecking our lives. It is the very definition of ‘head-in-sand’ thinking. A pro-fossil fuel PR and politically-driven neurosis that American ideologues and other quacks appear to have perfected — afflicting so many of us through the medium of viral misinformation.

But such views of denial have real and devastating consequences in that they have often sabotaged the necessary societal and governmental response to a growing crisis.

(Yesterday, democrats created a blue wave election in repudiation of bad republican/Trump policies including Trump’s refusal to sign the Paris Climate Agreement. Members of the #Resistance cited Paris as one of the key reasons for demonstrated unity in support of democrats — both progressive and moderate — in opposition to Trump and in favor of helpful climate and energy policies.)

Just ask the 3.4 million people of Puerto Rico who have now gone for 49 days without power after a global warming fueled storm leveled their island. One hundred thousand of them — the lucky ones — have managed to escape this parcel of U.S. territory and avoid living in a world without access to electricity, water, reliable food supplies, decent transport, and medical care. They are now some of the likely 20-30 million refugees that will be produced by worsening climate change related weather, wildfires, sea level rise, and crop disruption this year alone. A number that will rapidly grow in years to come if we don’t adequately address the key disaster enablers — a warming planet and rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Upside Down America

Here, in the land of the American Dream, the dream is being slowly crushed by fossil fuel burning. And, yes, too by people like Trump who are working to prevent government policies that move us away from that harmful energy source and the carbon emissions that keep making the problem worse and worse and worse.

(COP 23 seeks to build on the momentum already developed under the Paris Climate Agreement.)

Yesterday, with Syria’s signature of the Paris Climate Agreement, the U.S., under Trump, is now the only nation that is not a party to it. Though not the ultimate ideal response to climate change, the Paris Agreement, if held to, will move the world rapidly away from the high level of harmful fossil fuel burning and related carbon emissions that are presently ongoing. Paris alone is not enough to prevent about 3 degrees Celsius worth of warming this Century. A level of warming that will bring a number of far worse climate outcomes than we see today. But it does get us off the very harmful path toward 5 C or more that comes from business as usual coal, gas and oil burning. The world, and the dedicated ratifiers of Paris — who now include everyone but Trump’s upside down version of America — recognize that the agreement is just the first step in a number of necessary global policy moves to address climate change (hence the convening of COP 23 in Bonn). A response that will need to rapidly escalate if we are to preserve the safety and stability of modern civilization.

Toxic Thinking = Terrible Policy

Trump’s moves seem completely irrational, idiotic, and nonsensical to anyone who understands the reality of climate and the severe harm that ultimately comes from fossil fuel burning. It does, however, make sense in the frame of a kind of small-minded world-view. One that puts the profits and protection of a single industry over the short term ahead of the safety of everyone and everything else over the medium to long term. Trump’s actions are directly aimed at protecting environmentally destructive fossil fuels from more advanced and less harmful energy sources. His action is less U.S. interest focused than it is aimed at protecting a global industry. For a sitting President would recognize the substantial benefit of the hundreds of thousands of jobs the renewable energy industry is creating even as it replaces more feeble job producers like coal.

(It’s an upside down world that features the U.S. as the only global climate policy laggard. Trump’s world. Image source: World Resources Institute.)

The U.S. has long been a renewable energy innovator. A leader in solar, wind, and electrical vehicle technology. And we are certainly capable of helping to lead the world both away from ever-worsening climate nightmares even as we begin to realize the amazing health and economic benefits granted by clean energy. Trump, however, like many of his republican fellows, appears bound and determined to sabotage this new, jobs-rich, industry in favor of the older, dirty and very dangerous fossil fuels. That’s where his own economic and political interests lie. That can be the only explanation for his otherwise irrational actions that now run counter to the far more clear-thinking leadership of the entire world.

Russian Collusion: Kushner-Associated Corp Linked to Oil Giant Gazprom in Gaining Monetary Leverage Over Facebook and Twitter

Evidence of harmful collusion and conflict of interest damaging to the United States related to the Trump Campaign and its associates has now grown beyond the scope of any of our deepest fears.

Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort has been charged with conspiracy against the U.S. His top aid Gates faces similar criminal charges. Trump Adviser George Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to the FBI for lying about his contacts with Russia. Carter Page’s 243 page House Intelligence Committee testimony and related documents show more links and apparent coordination between Trump campaign people and top officials in the Russian government in the U.S. 2016 election.

With more indictments likely on the way from Mueller there can be little doubt that the present scandal surrounding Trump and Russia is unprecedented in U.S. history. That evidence of the Russia-related influence over Trump campaign members is deep, pervasive, and on numerous occasions rises to the level, not just of alleged and proven criminality, but of firm allegations of some of the worst, most disloyal, crimes a U.S. citizen can commit during peacetime.

We often describe such crimes and allegations as ‘white collar.’ The comparison is unfortunate, because the term white is often associated with purity. There is, however, nothing pure about such acts as they tend to produce more collateral damage on a systemic level than even the worst ‘normal’ crimes.

Facebook, Twitter, and Kushner Targeted by Investments From Russian Oil Giant

And it is here that we come, at last, to new allegations based on a German news dump known as the Paradise Papers. The dump, which includes a mass of documents describing the shady dealings involved in the world’s off-shore tax havens, has created a media firestorm. It has also revealed yet more ties between top Trump campaign and administration officials and Russia. Ties related to increasing evidence of Trump-Russia linked attempts to influence U.S. media, corporations and their holders during the period leading up to and including the 2016 election.

Money from Russian state subsidized oil and gas giant Gazprom and Investment Bank VTB funneled through Yuri Milner controlled companies DST USA II and DST Investments 3 to ultimately form investments in Facebook, Twitter. Milner also used personal money to invest in a real estate company co-owned by Jared Kushner called Cadre. According to a recent report in The Guardian, Milner, used these Russia-backed investment vehicles to then purchase 78 million shares of Facebook in 2011, to invest 191 million dollars in Twitter during the same year. He also spent 850,000 dollars for a stake in Kushner-backed Cadre just prior to the election in 2015.

Who is Yuri Milner? According to The Guardian:

Milner once advised the Russian government on technology through a presidential commission chaired by Dmitry Medvedev, the former president and current prime minister. Now based in California’s Silicon Valley, Milner has invested $7bn in more than 30 online companies including Airbnb, Spotify and the Chinese retailers Alibaba and JD.com (emphasis added).

Motives for Meddling

These investments by both Russia and Milner are material to present Trump-Russia collusion and Russian interference in the U.S. 2016 election in a number of ways.

First, the social media investments in Twitter and Facebook amounted to a roughly 10 percent stake in these giants. Though not controlling stakes, such a high level of investment typically buys a considerable amount of influence through financial leverage. In addition, it is well established at this time that Russian agents produced numerous bot accounts and ads through these media giants during election time. With at least 126 million people being reached by Russian based misinformation from Facebook alone.

From Fortune on October 31:

Representatives from Facebook, Twitter, and Google are set to face hostile questions from Congress about how Russia used their platforms to influence U.S. politics. The problem of unfriendly foreign powers spreading propaganda is not new. It has happened for centuries.

What is new, however, is the reach of the Internet and modern social networks and the speed with which they can launch and propagate misinformation campaigns. This duo has made it easy to spread misinformation and target specific communities with detail that was previously unimaginable.

Tech companies have denied this is happening while happily raking in huge profits from the misuse of their platforms. Only in the past week did Twitter agree to ban ads from state-sponsored Russian news sites, years after government intelligence agencies and media critics called into question whether those sites were publishing outright lies.

Second, due to U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia’s oil and gas companies following the Ukraine invasion, and due to U.S. campaign finance laws, it would be illegal for Russia’s companies to invest in U.S. firms as part of an attempt to influence the U.S. election. Many have said that the Russian campaign against the U.S. 2016 elections rises to the level of an act of war.

Third, Russia’s investment in Cadre through Milner looks a lot like just one more part of a much larger apparent effort by Russia to gain influence over the Trump Campaign. The investment in Cadre was, thus, substantial enough to put Milner on Kushner’s radar. Furthermore, it is notable that Kushner, at first, failed to disclose his investment interest in Cadre to the U.S. government when initially signing on with the Trump Administration in January of 2017.

Milner denies any political rationale for his investments. However, his role in moving Russia-based funds into Facebook, Twitter, and Cadre has been made clear in the recent Paradise Papers dump.

Russia itself had considerable motive to support and influence the Trump Campaign. Manafort’s pro-Russian lobbying efforts ultimately failed and U.S. sanctions following the Ukraine invasion put a major damper on Russian oil and gas production expansion efforts. Exxon, whose former CEO is now Trump’s Secretary of State, was barred from cooperating with Russian oil companies in the Arctic (please also see Exxon fined for violating Russian sanctions). And related efforts by the Obama Administration to enhance responses to climate change called into question the need for new Russian oil and gas in the first place. Hillary Clinton’s moves to support Obama’s climate change policies and to further solidify American policy resolve against Russian aggression adds further economic and political motivation for Russian meddling in support of Trump.

So the massive investments by Milner and Gazprom-linked firms in both social media and in Kushner-backed Cadre should be viewed in this larger energy, climate, and geopolitical policy context.

(UPDATED)

Sleeping Ice Giants Stir — East Antarctica’s Totten Glacier Accelerates Toward Southern Ocean

“Up till now, we basically had a stationary [East Antarctic] ice sheet, and now it’s started to move,” — Catherine Walker, NASA post-doctoral fellow.

*****

East Antarctica. Home to most of the world’s remaining land ice. Scientists previously thought that this last bastion of somewhat stable ice in the world would only slowly succumb to the slings and arrows of human-caused climate change. That its ice giants would still sleep for some time — giving the world more time to stave off or avoid worsening rates of sea level rise. Unfortunately, new evidence reveals that this is not the case. That the best time to act on sea level rise was 20+ years ago, and that the second best time to act, in cutting fossil fuel based CO2 emissions, is now.

(Warm water upwelling near East Antarctica’s Totten Glacier threatens to accelerate global sea level rise. Image source: Texas Institute for Geophysics.)

Extreme warming now periodically besets this frozen land. Massive ice bergs are breaking off from West Antarctica, rainfall is now observed, at times, all around the frozen continent’s perimeter from west to east, and the vast Pine Island glacier is being undermined by warm water currents — causing it to crack up from the inside out.

Now, according to new research, one of East Antarctica’s largest glaciers — the Totten — is accelerating toward the Southern Ocean. It’s a situation that we warned about in an earlier post as an indicator of worsening risks of speeding sea level rise due to human caused climate change. Unfortunately, new studies by scientists have now confirmed that warm waters encroaching on Totten have already had an impact.

Researchers found that combined warm winds and encroaching warmer ocean currents had caused the glacier to speed up by 5 percent during the period of 2000 to 2006. This acceleration means that the vast glacier — home to enough ice to raise seas by 11-13 feet — is melting faster. It also means that the glacier is starting to succumb to the tremendous global heat forcing provided by human fossil fuel burning around the world. We should caution that this report covers a period from more than a decade ago. And since that time, human-forced global warming has considerably advanced.

(The Totten Glacier itself contains enough ice to raise seas by 11-13 feet, which is comparable to all of West Antarctica. Its glacial catchment, however, is larger. Image source:  Australian Antarctic Division.)

The primary cause of Totten’s melt acceleration is wind-diven warm ocean currents starting to encroach upon the glacier. These warm currents dive deep and then upwell near the glacier faces and along their weak underbellies. What the new research shows is that CO2-based warming from fossil fuel emissions is increasing the heat content of the waters even as it drives the strengthening of winds that bring these waters into more frequent direct contact with glaciers like Totten.

Chad Greene, one of the study’s lead authors recently noted to Scientific American:

“Upwelling is driven not purely by the broad-scale magnitude of wind, but by the gradient in wind—how strong the wind is at one latitude versus how strong it is at a different latitude. And CO2 in the atmosphere is modeled to increase the wind gradient around Antarctica, and then therefore increase upwelling around Antarctica.”

Glaciers are very difficult to move when sitting still. But once they get moving, it’s very difficult to stop what amounts to a moving mountain of ice. Forces now encroaching upon Antarctica are now conspiring to trigger the seaward movement of various gigantic glaciers. Once that happens, a certain amount of sea level rise gets locked in. This new research indicates that Greenland and West Antarctica aren’t the only systems that are capable of seeing glaciers released in this fashion. With the new research from Totten, East Antarctica is starting to come into play as well. And that means that multi-meter sea level rise this Century is not out of the question.

Links:

Wind Causes Totten Melt Acceleration

A Flood of Warm Waters the Size of 30 Amazon Rivers is Melting One of East Antarctica’s Largest Glaciers

East Antarctica’s Biggest Glacier Lost Ice

How Wind Might Nudge a Sleeping Giant in Antarctica

Hidden Channels Beneath Antarctica Could Cause Massive Melt

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

 

Another Record Month for U.S. Electrical Vehicle Sales as Tesla Struggles with Model 3 Ramp

Electrical vehicles are a key element of the clean energy revolution. They are more efficient than fossil fuel driven vehicles; they produce zero particulate tailpipe emissions. When mated with solar and wind, they produce zero carbon emissions in operation. And they can serve as storage units for renewable energy sources all as their mass production drives the net cost of batteries continually lower.

So if you’re worried about climate change, and you’re well informed (not misinformed, confused, or focused on various shiny objects presently circulating the media), then you’re really interested in seeing electrical vehicle adoption hitting a high ramp in the near future. For those in this group, the October U.S. electrical vehicle report should serve as some hopeful news even as federal action under President Trump tilts more and more toward extreme anti-climate change response policy.

25th Consecutive Month of Record U.S. EV Sales

According to Inside EVs, plug-in electrical vehicle and hybrid sales saw their 25th month of consecutive record gains. About 14,598 electrical vehicles sold during October — which was 33 percent greater than during October of 2016. The yearly total for the U.S. during 2017 is now 157,039. This roughly matches 2016’s accumulated sales from January to December of 158,614. Given present trends, and given the fact that EV sales tend to ramp up during November and December, it is likely that U.S. numbers will hit near or slightly above the 200,000 mark by year end.

(U.S. Electrical Vehicle Sales During October. Image source: Inside EVs.)

GM’s Chevy Bolt rocketed to the top of the list for the month with 2,781 sales. The Bolt has benefited from broader dealer availability and appears to be riding the wave of excitement produced by the Model 3, which is still not available in the mass market. The car is also low-cost, long range, and extraordinarily well reviewed — despite lacking the larger charging network support available to Tesla owners. Annual Chevy Bolt 2017 sales still lag behind that of Tesla’s market-leading Model S — with 20,750 sales for the Model S and 17,083 sales for the Bolt.

The second best-selling plug-in car during October was Toyota’s Prius Prime at 1,626. Toyota’s plug-in electric hybrid has also been very well reviewed by buyers and features a range extending gas engine that completely removes range anxiety (although this is less of an issue for Teslas and the Bolt which presently boast ranges in excess of 200 miles).

Chevy’s Volt takes up the third spot on the heels of the Prius Prime with 1,362 sales. This hybrid boasts a longer electrical range than Toyota’s Prime and the position of an established leader in the field. However, the Prime’s popularity is now giving the Volt a run as top plug-in-hybrid with annual sales neck-and-neck between the two at 16,710 (Volt) and 16,682 (Prime) respectively.

Tesla’s Model S and X vehicles rounded out the 4th and 5th spots for the month with 1,120 (S) and 850 (X) U.S. sales. For the year, Tesla’s Model S is still the top selling EV with 20,750 U.S. sales and the Model X is the 4th best selling U.S. EV with 16,140 total sales. Tesla sales efforts tend to follow an uneven track with greater sales pushes toward end-quarter. So Tesla’s October lag is par for the course for the company which saw a record 3rd quarter of 2017 with 26,150 cars sold globally during July, August and September. To match this level, Tesla total sales will have to ramp during November and December. However, it is worth noting that sales of Tesla EVs have grown significantly in places like Europe during recent months — hitting 4,662 in Europe during September alone.

Aspirational Tesla Struggles to Meet Vision of Mass EV Production

Tesla is presently struggling to ramp up production of its highly sought-after, signature Model 3. With upwards of 500,000 reservations, the nascent company is seeking to make a leap to major automaker status on the platform of an electrical-vehicle-only line. Tesla bet on a highly automated line and a simplified design to achieve a rapid Model 3 ramp to meet this demand and to ensure cash flow into 2018. However, issues with suppliers and with managing such a high level of automation has caused the Model 3 production ramp to splutter. In total, reports estimate that around 405 Model 3s have been produced through the end of October with 145 produced that month. Tesla, acknowledging difficulties, has rolled back its production ramp by 3 months — aiming for 5,000 Model 3s per week by March.

(The Tesla Model 3. Image source: Tesla.)

Our forecast for Model 3 production by end year has dropped to 2,000 with between 75,000 and 200,000 Model 3s produced for 2018. However, if problems with Model 3 production do not soon clear, the total for 2017 could drop to between 700 and 1,000. Hopefully, Tesla can transport itself out of its various circles of mass production hell and avoid such a lag.

Tesla has a history of missing ambitious targets and then catching up with time. Tesla’s Model X production ramp also encountered difficulties, but the all-electric SUV swiftly became a global best seller once production bottlenecks cleared. That said, these are tough signs in a tough time for Tesla, and for those (like this writer) who support the spirit of Tesla’s fully-integrated all-renewable based business model. Renewable energy foes have been emboldened by Tesla’s struggle with Tesla bears making rabid statements almost daily. The next 3-6 months will be make or break for Tesla — determining whether the company falls behind a growing pack of high-quality electrical vehicle producers or whether it continues to be an industry leader. And, in so many ways, Tesla’s success or failure will help to make or break U.S. global renewable energy leadership. For EVs, as a whole, have found new sources of leadership coming from China and Europe even as many automakers invest more heavily in electrical vehicle lines.

Links:

October 2017 U.S. Plug-in Vehicle Sales Report Card

Tesla Record Month in Europe

Tesla Model 3 Delivery Delays

 

Republicans Seek to Use Tax Bill to Suppress Climate and Clean Air Saving Electrical Vehicles

Republicans in Congress seem more concerned with cutting taxes for the rich than dealing with present and worsening problems like Russian interference in U.S. democracy or the ever-escalating damages coming from human-caused climate change related to fossil fuel burning. In fact, the Republican Party today signaled its intent to use the presently proposed tax bill in a manner that would make one of these problems dramatically worse.

According to news reports, Republicans intend to use their tax cut plan to remove incentives for electrical vehicle ownership by the end of 2017. Presently, buyers of all-electric vehicles enjoy a $7,500 tax credit. An incentive that helps the U.S. clean up its air and reduce the kinds of greenhouse gas emissions that fuel sea level rise, more powerful storms, and worsening droughts, deluges, and wildfires.

(In the U.S., more than 200,000 people die every year as a result of outdoor air pollution to which vehicle transportation is now the primary contributor resulting in 53,000 such deaths per year. That’s more deaths than from vehicle accidents. Moreover, air pollution impacts like asthma, stroke, heart attacks, and reduced lung function are far more widespread. Image source: EPA.)

Though such a policy might not be much of a surprise coming from the party of a Rick Perry, who today falsely claimed that fossil fuel burning prevented sexual assault against women, climate change denier Inhoffe, and tilting at windmills Donald Trump, it would have wide-ranging negative impacts for every American. Impacts like bad air quality which is a health risk for everyone, worsening climate change which is now causing many Americans to lose their homes or be forcibly displaced, and loss of economic advantage coming from new jobs and new industry.

Presently, U.S. automakers hold a global edge in high quality electrical vehicle adoption due to this and other related policy supports. Top EV automakers like Tesla, GM and Ford who produce renowned vehicles like the Model S, Model 3, and the Chevy Bolt. But, apparently, it looks like Republicans are now using tax policy as a means to legislate an attack on this innovation, which result in reduced fossil fuel demand, more energy independence for the U.S., and far less in the way of harmful particulate and greenhouse gas emissions.

(Tesla stock reacts negatively to news that Republicans are adding a provision to remove electrical vehicle incentives to their tax bill. Image source: Google Finance.)

Tesla bears, who have been rabidly consuming and perpetuating bad news (a good portion of it exaggerated or invented) about the leading U.S. electrical vehicle manufacturer, went nuts over the Republican announcement today. Tesla share prices dropped from around $320 to $296 following the move. More than a bit of this investor flight appears to be irrational. Ironically, Tesla is less exposed to risk from removal of this tax cut than automakers like GM due to the fact that it is already approaching the 200,000 EV limit under the tax credit. After this point, tax incentives for EVs from individual automakers drop off. And Tesla has already sold 250,000 vehicles globally with more than 150,000 of those sales coming from the U.S.

Republicans have once again proven that they are the anti-renewable energy, pro harmful impacts from climate change party. They have also once again proven that their capacity to use tax policy to greatly increase a variety of bad effects — ranging from worsening inequality in the U.S., to undercutting innovation and American technological leadership, to fighting directly against the very solutions and mitigations for a rapidly worsening climate situation.

RELATED STATEMENTS AND INFORMATION:

Links:

Republican Tax Plan Kills Electrical Vehicle Credit

EPA

Air Pollution Causes 200,000 Early Deaths in the U.S. Each Year

Rich Perry Says Fossil Fuels Will Prevent Sexual Assault in Africa (Hint: FALSE)

Hat tip to Suzanne

This post is dedicated to DT Lange

Predicted Record 94 Degree (F) November Temperatures for Dallas as Globe Warms Despite Trend Toward La Nina

The globe should be cooling relative to recent and near record warm summer temperatures. But it isn’t. La Nina like conditions, the Pacific Ocean pattern that generally precipitates globally cooler weather, is again spreading across the Equatorial Pacific. Yet if you’re living in Dallas, Texas, or many other places across the globe, you wouldn’t know it.

For this week, temperatures in Dallas are expected to exceed all previous records since monitoring began back in 1898.

(Record warm temperatures predicted for Dallas later this week. Image source: Euro Model.)

According to meteorologist Ryan Maue, and to reanalysis of Euro weather model data, Dallas is expected to see temperatures between 90 and 94 degrees Fahrenheit by Friday of this week. Readings that would be considered pretty hot for a normal summer day occurring on November 3rd. That’s really odd. Especially when you consider the fact that Dallas has never experienced a 90+ degree high temperature from October 31 through December 29 in all of the past 119 years.

If Dallas does hit 94 on Friday, that will be 21 degrees (F) above typical high temperatures there for this time of year.

(According to GFS Model Reanalysis, the globe has warmed through Northern Hemisphere Fall despite a trend toward La Nina. Image source: Global and Regional Climate Anomalies.)

Drawing back from focus on the Dallas region, we find that the world overall is also warming relative to June through September temperature departures. A climate change associated warming that appears to have been kicked off, primarily, by warmer than normal temperatures at the poles (see previous article). This despite cooling Equatorial Pacific Ocean surface waters associated with a 55 to 65 percent of La Nina formation by winter.

In a normal climate system, we would expect a trend toward La Nina to produce relative cooling. But this does not appear to be happening as June warm temperature departures were lower than those during August through October. Preliminary GFS reanalysis indicates that October warm temperature departures were higher than those occurring in September — likely hitting around 1.1 C above 1880s averages (see image above).

So despite a weak La Nina forming, it again appears that polar warming is a major driver for global temperatures as fall moves into winter. Climatologists take note.

RELATED STATEMENTS AND INFORMATION:

Links:

Euro Model

Global and Regional Climate Anomalies

Ryan Maue

NOAA

Extreme Warming at the Poles this Week — Arctic and Antarctic Temperatures to Rise to 20-30 C Above Average in Some Locations

Human-caused climate change via fossil fuel burning produces a number of stranger things. And some of the weirdest happen to occur in the polar regions of our world.

One of the foremost of these odd impacts is called polar amplification. Under polar amplification, the warming effects of elevated greenhouse gasses are concentrated at the poles. This is due to reduced reflectivity (albedo) from smaller snow and sea ice concentrations, due to the increased intensity of the greenhouse effect in colder and darker regions, and due to increased energy transfer from lower latitudes into upper latitudes due to weakening of the polar Jet Stream.

Over the next week, this kind of polar amplification is predicted to generate very extreme warm temperatures for both poles of our world.

(Warm winds blowing into the Arctic will produce far above average temperatures this week. Image source: Global and Regional Climate Anomalies.)

In the Arctic, temperatures in both Northern Greenland and on the Siberian side of the Arctic Ocean are predicted to hit ranges higher than 20 degrees Celsius above average (36 degrees Fahrenheit) with some readings over Northeastern Siberia striking near the 30 C above average mark by early next week (54 degrees F). This will produce near or above freezing temperatures over both Siberia and sections of the Arctic Ocean near or north of the 80 degree North Latitude line. Overall, temperatures are predicted to average as high as 4.4 C above average for the entire Arctic. A very considerable warm temperature departure consistent with the heightened levels of global warming the world has been experiencing during recent years.

In the Antarctic, where temperature variance should be moderating as austral spring shifts toward summer, the exact opposite is occurring. Very warm temperatures hitting more than 20 C above average are expected to sweep across East Antarctica this week and ultimately cross over to West Antarctica. Above freezing or near freezing temperatures in some coastal regions including coastal West Antarctica and over the Amery Ice Shelf in East Antarctica will accompany far warmer than normal, but still below freezing, temperatures inland.

(Even as the Arctic is predicted to heat up, the Antarctic is also expected to experience much warmer than normal conditions. Image source: Global and Regional Climate Anomalies.)

Overall temperatures for East Antarctic land masses will hit an amazing 7 C above average even as temperatures for West Antarctic land masses rise to 5.1 C above average for later this week.

Primary atmospheric drivers for these warming events are large synoptic warm wind patterns drawing above average temperatures into both the Arctic and Antarctic. In the Arctic, winds crossing hundreds of miles of warm Pacific Ocean in association with the back side of a high pressure system moving over the Bering Sea will draw these very warm temperatures northward. In the Antarctic, warm winds funneling southward from Australia will reinforce the influence of a strong high pressure dome over East Antarctica even as another strong synoptic warm wind pattern feeds into West Antarctica off the Pacific and Southern Oceans later in the week.

It’s very early for temperatures over parts of Antarctica to be pushing above freezing. And it’s rather late for such similar temperatures to be continuing to invade so far north into the Arctic. So much warmth will have an ongoing deleterious impact to both sea and land ice as well as snow cover. Contributing to the overall pattern of warming and melt we’ve seen for both Antarctica and the Arctic during recent years as global temperatures have risen into a range from 1 C to 1.2 C above 1880s averages.

RELATED STATEMENTS AND INFORMATION:

Links:

Global and Regional Climate Anomalies

Polar Amplification

Climate Reanalyzer

Earth Nullschool

Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, Agent of the Pro-Russia Party of Regions, Charged With Conspiracy Against the United States

In digressing somewhat from the usual climate change related coverage I perform here to explore a matter of extraordinary importance to us all — I’m going to provide you with a closer look at the attempted corruption of U.S. Democracy by a foreign petro-state (Russia) and its agents. This expose is related, tangentially, to climate change in that it hints at the degree to which petro-state and related corporate actors are presently able to influence, circumvent, or corrupt the U.S. political, electoral and lawmaking system. The lengths to which such entities will go to peddle that influence. And, in the case of Manafort and Russia, an expansive effort both to hide such activities and to circumvent or undermine U.S. law and order.

Manafort, Lobbyist for Dictators, Insurgents, and Tyrants, Pushes Russian Interests in U.S. Congress

Paul Manafort has represented, consulted and lobbied for a long list of nefarious persons throughout his career. The names include Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, dictator of the former Democratic Republic of the Congo Mobutu Sese Seko, and Angolan guerrilla leader Jonas Savimbi. His primary role was to peddle the influence of these various bad actors to U.S. based corporations and U.S. government. But as shady as his earlier career may appear, Manafort’s activities hit a new low during the 2000s and 2010s as Manafort worked with pro-Russian Ukrainian leaders and with agents in Moscow itself to advance Russian interests in the Ukraine and in Europe through secret attempts to shape U.S. policy.

The activities with which Manafort is now charged by the FBI in an investigation led by former FBI Director and highly decorated U.S. Veteran Robert Mueller, were specifically aimed at expanding the influence of Russia in the Ukraine and creating resistance within the top levels of American government to U.S. responses against pro-Russian activities and related aggression in that state. That Manafort is charged with secretly representing Russian interests in Ukraine through its proxy the Party of Regions, of receiving payment for those services by Ukrainian and Russian agents, by hiding those payments from the U.S. government through money laundering, and by lying and failing to report his activities as a foreign agent in the U.S.

Collusion and Conspiracy with Russia

These alleged activities, given assistance by co-conspirator Gates, occurred from 2006 to 2014 in direct support of pro-Russian political activities in Ukraine and lobbying in the U.S. to support or to block intervention against such action by Russia and its Russian sympathizers in Ukraine. False reporting to the FBI and contacts between Manafort and Russian agents extended into the period encompassing the Trump Campaign in 2016 and the Trump Presidency in 2017.

But what’s even more disturbing is there appears to have been an active attempt by Manafort to enable Russia to directly influence the Trump Campaign, to use the Trump Campaign as a funnel for Russia-sourced weaponized information against Hillary Clinton, and to otherwise enable an active campaign aimed at disrupting the U.S. election in a similar manner to Russia’s disruption of Ukrainian democracy during recent years.

From Michelle Goldberg at the New York Times:

So here’s where we are. Trump put Manafort, an accused money-launderer and unregistered foreign agent, in charge of his campaign. Under Manafort’s watch, the campaign made at least two attempts to get compromising information about Clinton from Russia. Russia, in turn, provided hacked Democratic emails to WikiLeaks.

Newly released court filings also found that while acting as Trump’s Presidential Campaign manager, Manafort asked his employee Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian-Ukrainian dual citizen, to offer a Russian Billionaire with close associations to Vladimir Putin — Oleg Deripaska — “private briefings” about the Trump campaign. Exactly the kind of Russian collusion by top Trump Campaign people that Trump himself has repeatedly denied.

Manafort and Gates, according to charges, also acted secretly within Washington as lobbyists for Yanokovich and the Party of Regions prior to Manafort chairing the Trump Campaign. During this time, they attempted to promote pro-Ukrainian policy in Congress, lobbied in opposition to sanctions against the Yanokovich and Party of Regions Government, lobbied that the elections in which Yanokovich achieved power, which were reportedly highly irregular and were disrupted by pro-Russian agents, were valid, and lobbied in support of the imprisonment of Yanokovich’s political opponent Yulia Tymoshenko.

The charges against Manafort are therefore related to the Trump Campaign in that Manafort continued to deceive U.S. investigators, hide foreign agent income, contacts, provide information about the Trump Campaign to Russian agents, seek out Russia-sourced information about Hillary Clinton, and otherwise enable a broader information warfare campaign by Russia against the U.S. while operating as a key member of that Campaign. Contacts communication, information sharing, and other forms of collusion that were still ongoing at the time and that appear to have generated a coordinated effort by Trump campaign staff and the larger Russian information warfare effort against the U.S. election.

In addition, it was widely known at the time that Manafort had represented Russia’s interests in Ukraine, though the extent was not as clear as it is today. All as Trump’s own election-based communications amplified and were amplified by the activity of Russian linked bots, accounts, and media within the U.S. A pro-Trump fomentation of internal U.S. divisions information warfare campaign by Russia that continues within the U.S. to this day.

Trump Campaign Aide George Papadopoulos Pleads Guilty to Lying to FBI About Attempts to Gain Russian Dirt on Hillary Clinton

The charges against Manafort and his assistant Gates come in conjunction with a guilty plea to charges of lying to the FBI by Trump Foreign Policy aide George Papadopoulos. From NYMag:

According to a newly unsealed affidavit, in late April 2016 George Papadopoulos met an unnamed professor in London, who told the Trump campaign adviser that he had “just returned from a trip to Moscow where he had met with high-level Russian government officials” — and learned that “the Russians had emails of Clinton … thousands of emails…”

Weeks after Papadopoulos’s rendez-vous in London, Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner took a meeting with Russian lobbyists on the understanding that the Kremlin wished to provide the Trump campaign with “documents and information that would incriminate Hillary” — as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

Papadopoulos, a foreign policy advisor and oil consultant named by Trump as one of his key advisors during the campaign, has been accused of lying about his activities in seeking Russia-sourced information about Hillary Clinton’s emails from a Putin-linked professor during the Campaign. He has pleaded guilty to those charges and is reportedly working with the FBI on the case of Trump Campaign collusion with Russia. Manafort and Gates have pleaded not guilty to the numerous charges filed against them.

Many experts expect today’s announced indictments to be the first of many against members of the Trump Campaign for collusion with Russia. And the heaviest charges have now risen to the level of conspiracy against the United States.

Never Before Has a Campaign Manager of a Sitting President Faced Such Charges

This event is unprecedented in that a former campaign chair of a sitting U.S. President has never been charged with conspiring with a hostile power against the government of the U.S. A historic event that will add to the already dark infamy of the Republican Party. To be very clear, adding Manafort as campaign chair, at the very least, represents a massive failure of judgement on the part of Trump himself. But, it is more than possible, given Trump’s efforts to actively distract from, sabotage, and obstruct the Mueller Investigation and related Congressional investigations, that the Manafort apple here doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

(UPDATED)

RELATED STATEMENTS AND INFORMATION:

Hat tip to Wili

Whitefish Puerto Rico Contract Cancelled, Now How About Letting Renewable Industry Leaders Step in?

At this blog I often cover how climate change is worsening the global weather situation. How fossil fuel burning is the primary cause of climate change. How renewable energy adoption is the primary means for removing global carbon emissions. And how bad, on our present track, climate change outcomes could become.

What I often do not talk about in main posts (though we see quite a bit in the comments section) is how underlying factors such as political corruption and the ideologies supportiing that corruption can harm effective responses to climate change.

Witness Puerto Rico. A U.S. territory that has suffered a very severe blow from one of the worst hurricanes ever to make landfall in the Caribbean. A storm fed by the warming waters of human caused climate change which were, in turn, fed by a rampant and harmful climate change denial afflicting a number of our powerful political leaders.

There, electricity has now been largely knocked out for more than a month. U.S. Citizens have been forced to go without water, power, and basic life-saving medical services. The Trump Administration’s response to the disaster could best be described as incompetent. More incompetent than the Bush Administration during Katrina. And that’s being generous.

Though people died during the storm, a far more substantial death toll is emerging due to the Administration’s lagging response. With 900 people now estimated to have perished as a result of life-threatening conditions due to a loss of infrastructure and due to Trump’s larger failure to rapidly deploy a necessary massive relief and restoration effort.

If this spiraling situation wasn’t bad enough, Trump Administration incompetence has been followed on by allegations of corruption. The most glaring example comes in the form of a recently cancelled 300 million dollar contract with Whitefish to restore power on Puerto Rico — a small contracting firm reported to have only two permanent employees, links to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and whose larger investors are known Trump donors.

Due to the fact that this contract appeared to contain a number of conflicts of interest that looked like a ‘pay for play’ arrangement, and due to concerns over a privatized grab for control of Puerto Rico’s energy grid, both Republican and Democratic leaders have called for an investigation into the power repair contract. FEMA had also flagged the contract for potential problems. Meanwhile, review of the contract has found a number of cases that could best be construed as over-charging. According to NPR:

Much of the controversy that has surrounded the contract has focused on the high rates Whitefish is charging for labor. The contract shows those labor rates are pricey indeed: $240 an hour for a general foreman and $227 for a lineman. The per diems are also expensive: almost $80 a day for meals, and $332 a day for lodging. Employee flights are billed at $1,000 each way. For subcontractors, the bulk of Whitefish’s workforce, the prices go even higher. A general foreman costs $336 an hour and a lineman, $319.

The combined allegations of corruption, overcharging, and various links to the Trump Administration are all hallmarks of vulture disaster capitalism — where private firms exploit government contracts following disasters or military conflict to bilk exorbitant sums from the government (and by extension the taxpayer) while providing only standard or substandard service. Such exploitation comes along with a policy push for privatization of previously provided government services. And there was serious concern that the Whitefish contract would result in just such a privatized electrical grid in Puerto Rico following over-charging and possible shoddy work.

Today, amid rising scandal, both Puerto Rico’s governor and the mayor of San Juan called for the cancellation of the Whitefish contract. Work already started by Whitefish will be completed — this includes refurbishing two major power lines. But the contract is expected to be awarded to a less shady agency going forward. San Juan’s mayor, on AM Joy today called for work to be led by companies like Tesla or Southern California Edison — both of which have substantial experience with both grids and renewables.

Tesla, for its own part, restored power for a children’s hospital by providing solar + power packs without any incentive. The renewable energy company has become increasingly involved in building power systems for islands and helping to stabilize grids through its renewables based energy storage. Tesla played a pivotal role in providing solar+battery based power for the Hawaiian island of Kauai. It has also worked with Australia to provide batteries to assist in grid stabilization activities.

Given Tesla’s long track record and due to the fact that Tesla workers were already on the ground helping Puerto Ricans, it was a no-brainer add this company to a mixed list of experienced corps in assisting the power restoration effort. In addition, renewable energy systems like those provided by Tesla help to mitigate the root causes of the climate change related extreme weather that has so terribly damaged Puerto Rico — putting of the U.S. citizens there in danger. A fact that was obviously missing in the decision to hire Whitefish — a company with practically zero renewable energy chops.

And it is here that we need to return to the basic problem that arises from having climate change deniers as leaders in government. First, such politicians tend to favor contracts by fossil fuel companies, or worse, by shady firms like Whitefish. They also tend to be ideologically opposed to actual functional government — which leads to harmful privatization, related over-charging, and exploitation following disasters. In other words, such ideologues on the right leave wide open the door to corruption by establishing links with shady corporations. Finally, they tend to block more upstanding corporate players like Southern California Edison and Tesla who have a track record for building public utilities up by establishing solid renewable energy systems rather than by tearing them down by seeking to ram through fossil fuel linked privatization.

RELATED STATEMENTS AND INFORMATION:

Hat tip to Greg

Hat tip to Wili

 

A Bit More Like a Perfect Storm — Hurricane Force Wind Gusts, Record Low Pressure, Potential Record Rainfall on Tap for Northern New England

An area of disturbed weather in the Caribbean has now organized into tropical storm Philippe and is likely to continue to intensify as it moves north and east over Cuba to skirt Southern Florida this afternoon. The storm is then expected to race northward off the Eastern Seaboard — rapidly intensifying as it transitions to extra-tropical by Monday.

This rapid intensification will be fueled by a combination of warmer than normal sea surface temperatures off the U.S. East Coast and by the tropical system’s collision with a colder and very deep trough sweeping down from the north. The interaction of trough, storm, and warmer than normal surface water is predicted to generate some record-breaking extreme weather for the U.S. Northeast by Sunday through Monday.

Record-Breaking Nor’Easter on Tap

Present weather model forecasts now call for a stronger storm than was predicted yesterday. The primary low pressure cell associated with the storm is now expected to hit pressures in the range of 975 to 965 mb as it cartwheels off New Jersey and New York and makes landfall somewhere between Rhode Island and Coastal Maine. Such pressures would substantially break past records for lowest pressure in a Northern New England storm during late October. Sandy featured lower pressures as it roared into New York. But the present storm track brings a record intensity storm further north than Sandy.

(A 968 mb storm making landfall in Northern New England on Monday would be a record event for October. Image source: Tropical Tidbits.)

As this hybrid storm rockets in from the much warmer than normal ocean, it is expected to bring with it hurricane force wind gusts and extreme one day rainfall amounts for the region. Weather models now show that sustained winds may exceed 60 mph for the New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine coasts. Meanwhile some models are indicating hurricane force gusts of up to 92 mph or higher for the region. Rainfall totals over a rather short time period are also expected to exceed 4 inches over a broad area stretching deep into New York state. It’s worth noting that the system will inject unseasonably warm air into Northern New England. So most of the precipitation associated with the storm is presently expected to fall as rain.

The storm’s associated powerful winds will likely drive a stronger than usual storm surge for a Nor’Easter into coastal areas — with flooding more reminiscent of that of a moderate hurricane. We could also see electricity knocked out for more than a million residents as this potentially record-breaking system moves in.

(Model predictions show the possiblity for wind gusts of up to 92 mph in extreme developing Nor’Easter expected to impact New England on Sunday and Monday. Winds more typical of a hurricane than your usual coastal storm. It’s worth noting that the Euro Model has come up with some quite extraordinary wind gust conditions ranging from 111 mph to 129 mph in the highest range models. Consensus models appear to be indicating a somewhat milder, but still very strong, storm.)

Climate Change Related Influences Results in Unusual Storm

We should also note that the moisture feed bleeding into this particular storm is quite intense. And as with other recent events we could see projected rainfall totals exceeded. This due to a heavier atmospheric moisture load and related intense convection associated with atmospheric temperatures that are now, on average, 1 to 1.2 C warmer than late 19th Century temperatures. And such warmer temperatures, set off primarily by human fossil fuel burning, are now increasing the peak intensity of extreme rainfall events.

As noted in yesterday’s post, the factors involved in the present Nor’Easter are rather odd when considering past contexts. For one, winds will tend to blow from the south. This is indicative of a somewhat off-kilter track when compared to a typical Nor’Easter. In addition, various climate change associated elements like the high amplitude trough related to polar warming, the joining of tropical weather with Arctic-originating weather to generate an overall more intense storm, an enhanced overall convection and related increased winds and rainfall rates, and the fuel provided by warmer than normal sea surface temperatures are all factors related to human-caused climate change.

(UPDATED)

Links:

The National Hurricane Center

Tropical Tidbits

NOAA

Weather Underground

Model Data

Sandy-Like Situation Developing? Tropical System to Merge With Potential Record-Breaking Nor’Easter by Sunday.

It’s not yet predicted to be a so-called perfect storm. But a Sandy-like situation appears to be on tap for the U.S. Northeast this weekend. For the forecast weather coming down the pipe bears a distinctly odd combination of features similar to the climate change related hybrid hyperstorms we’ve seen during recent years. To be clear, the presently predicted hybrid storm is not expected to be as intensely ‘perfect’ as Sandy. But it could still be a record-breaker for parts of the Northeast with regards to October rainfall and minimum central pressure come Sunday.

Tropical System Predicted to Combine with a Nor’Easter

93 L isn’t even a tropical depression yet. But this stormy collection of clouds southeast of the Yucatan continues to gather and organize over warmer than normal waters. At this time, development into a tropical system appears more likely — with the National Hurricane Center predicting a 60 percent chance of storm development over the next 24 hours.

(93 L becomes more organized Southeast of the Yucatan on Friday. Image source: The National Hurricane Center.)

To the north, a very deep trough is poised to plunge down over the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. Another one of those high amplitude Jet Stream waves born of conditions related to a warming Arctic. And all across the storm’s projected path sea surface temperatures range between 1 and 4 degrees Celsius above the climatological average.

By Sunday, 93 L is predicted to be funneling into the southern section of this trough just east of Florida. Present model runs show the tropical storm transferring its warm energy northward into a low along the Arctic-originating frontal system over these warmer than normal waters — with potentially extreme results.

(Northern New England doesn’t have a record of a storm with pressures lower than 980 mb during late October. The present storm could intensify to pressures lower than 980 mb as it crosses over this region late Sunday — setting a new record. Image source: Tropical Tidbits.)

Forecasts are presently calling for one day rainfall amounts that could break records for New England. A swath from New Jersey through Eastern New York and western Maine could see between 2 and 8 inches of rainfall in a very short period. Meanwhile, atmospheric pressures could drop to near or below 980 mb as the storm moves north — a measure below 980 would be a new record for Southern New England in October (Sandy hit lower pressures during its Oct 29 New York landfall in 2012).

This is a climate change related movie that we’ve seen before. One that is, thankfully, predicted to be a bit less intense than Sandy this time. That said, those along the U.S. East Coast should keep a keen weather eye out as Arctic air moves over these warmer than normal waters and wraps in an energetic tropical system when the trough plunges south. Moist tropical air colliding with this Arctic mass over these warm, wet waters will create the potential to generate a powerful temperature and moisture dipole in a lifting atmosphere that could well cause this predicted storm to swiftly explode to record-shattering intensity.

RELATED STATEMENTS, UPDATES, AND INFORMATION:

Links:

The National Hurricane Center

New England May Get Record-Setting October Storm

Tropical Tidbits

Earth Nullschool

Hundreds of Billions of Dollars in Damages, ‘Toasted, Roasted, and Grilled’ — That’s What Trump’s Refusal to Support the Paris Climate Agreement Gets Us

So far, in the past three months, we’ve had four major U.S. disasters whose impacts we can certainly say were made worse by human caused climate change.

The costs from these disasters to U.S. society and, in the end, to citizens and taxpayers is tremendous. Thousands of people have lost their homes. Irreplaceable lives were forever stripped from us. Many have lost access to work and livelihoods. And in the case of Puerto Rico, hundreds of thousands of people have been thrust back into what amounts to a modern rendition of the dark ages.

(A satellite image of the burn scar left following the North Bay fires. Human-caused climate change is a primary enabler for these kinds of disasters. Image source: NASA.)

As a measure of money alone and leaving aside the untold human misery, hurricane Harvey may ultimately cost the U.S. $180 billion, Irma may cost the U.S. $65 billion, and Maria may ultimately cost the U.S. as much as $100 billion. Adding in the $85 billion dollar damage estimate for the devastating California wildfires which were also made worse by climate change, and the total cost to U.S. society from these four disasters alone may top $430 billion.

Sitting at 1 to 1.2 C warming and staring down the barrel of 2-4 C or greater warming this Century, we can definitely say that these kinds of disasters are going to get worse. That we need to be both aware and prepared. And that we need to do our best to limit future damages to more manageable levels by working as hard as we can to reduce the climate disaster enabling greenhouse gas emissions. The world agreed to such limits at Paris. And yet it is a mark of consequential irrationality amounting to massive and indiscriminate inflicted harm that the Trump Administration has forced us to withdraw from this noble and moral compact.

A basic fact that hasn’t been lost on Christine Lagarde, chief of the International Monetary Fund, who wrote today in The Guardian that if the world fails to take steps to reduce climate change, we will be ‘toasted, roasted, and grilled.’ Lagarde warned of a dark, dystopian future if major nations fail in their moral responsibility to address climate change — citing the fact that the Trump Administration in the U.S. has withdrawn from the Paris Climate Summit. A global commitment to more rapidly reduce greenhouse gasses that Nicaragua recently joined leaving the U.S. only accompanied by Syria as inauspicious non-signatories.

A federal U.S. policy blind to the impacts of climate change under Trump is far from immune to its slings and arrows, as we’ve found so tragically this summer and fall. And underlying this fact is that an unaffiliated Government Accounting Office (GAO) report from Trump’s own government recently found that climate change related extreme weather and other related damages have topped $350 billion over the past decade. A number likely to significantly increase once recent events are also tallied. A number that will be dwarfed by future events if fossil fuel burning related carbon emissions continue to hit the atmosphere at their geologically unprecedented rate of more than ten billion tons each year.

The report took two years to compile at the bipartisan requests of Susan Collins of Maine (R) and Maria Cantwell of Washington (D). Ms Cantwell noted to the New York Times that the report is:

“basically telling us that this is costing us a lot of money...We need to understand that as stewards of the taxpayer that climate is a fiscal issue, and the fact that it’s having this big a fiscal impact on our federal budget needs to be dealt with.”

The report identified wide-ranging climate change related impacts coming from hurricanes, wildfires, sea level rise and damages to crops. Impacts that do not discriminate between political affiliation or level of income. However, it is notable that the U.S. Southeast, a traditional republican stronghold, is one of the regions the report identifies as likely to experience the some of the most severe and damaging impacts related to climate change.

Failure to provide significant national and international policy to address climate change, in Trump, is not only a failure to recognize basic scientific fact. It is not only putting the U.S. in a less competitive position economically with regards to renewables. And it is not only making the U.S. more vulnerable to the powerful storms and severe weather events such failures contribute to. It is also a dramatic failure of basic fiscal responsibility that will have an equally dramatic and long-last impact on deficits, budgets, taxes and ultimately incomes for years and decades to come.

Links:

New York Times — Climate Change Costs

Climate Change is Already Costing the U.S. Taxpayer Billions of Dollars

We Will Be Toasted and Roasted and Grilled

NASA

Hat tip to Abel

Hat tip to Suzanne

Watts Up With Renewables? According to IEA, About a Thousand Billion More in Capacity by 2022

The big word around the block is that solar is presently changing the global energy game — and rapidly.

The major driver of this global sea change is presently China. But it appears that India is also about to play a substantial role. The U.S., depending on the policy choices of the Trump Administration, can remain a renewable energy leader or turn into a laggard. It all just depends on the whims of a man who has shown a quixotic propensity for pushing terrible policies and then, somehow, self-sabotaging at least half of them.

(Many locations around the world are rapidly transitioning to renewable energy. The destructive impacts of human caused climate change may well serve to speed that process as we see here with Tesla providing solar power generation to Puerto Rico hospitals following the terrible impacts of Hurricane Maria.)

Back to China, the country now holds about 110 billion watts (gigawatts) of annual practical solar panel manufacturing capacity. This is about 66 percent of the world total. From this capacity, it appears that China will itself add around 50 gigawatts of installed solar this year alone — pushing the cumulative to around 125 to 130 gigawatts by year end. China had already, as of September, added 34 gigawatts during 2017 with an overall installed generation capacity at 111 Gigawatts as of about a month ago.

Such a massive add by China will likely drive global new solar capacity in 2017 to around 80 to 100 gigawatts. Add in wind and hydro and that high number probably hits close to 150 billion watts in just one year.

The massive new solar additions are now helping renewables to swamp dirty energy sources like coal and somewhat less dirty though still very carbon intensive sources like gas. This remarkable achievement is primarily due to the fact that solar is now presently cost competitive with these older, more traditional energy sources. And the price of solar energy worldwide is expected to continue to fall over the coming years. According to a recent report — by a further 60 percent within the next decade.

Major energy think tanks are starting to take notice. And it is on the basis of solar, wind, and hydro’s relative economic strengths due to growing price advantages (particularly for solar), that the International Energy Agency (IEA) has predicted a 1,000 gigawatt addition of new renewable energy sources through 2022. Such an addition, in just five years, according to IEA’s Dr Fatih Birol, would amount to “half of the current global capacity in coal power, which took 80 years to build.” The agency also notes that renewable capacity additions will effectively double additions from sources like gas and coal.

(New study shows the cost of solar will fall by another 60 percent over the next ten years.)

IEA recognizes that China, the U.S. and India will be primary drivers of this large renewable energy gain. Though the agency points out that detrimental U.S. policy choices could put a damper on renewable energy additions in that key market. However, IEA also notes that more positive policy choices by China, India, the U.S. and others could result in a more than doubling of the new capacity add for renewables to 2,155 GW. Such policies not only result in major renewable energy growth. They would also produce wholesale replacement of fossil fuel and carbon emissions based power sources. A considerable boon to the global climate.

Even IEA’s base five year scenario shows renewable electrical power generation growing to compose 30 percent of the global market. This up from 26 percent during 2016. Though still not as high a percentage as coal, IEA predicts that renewables will make up half the difference with that dirtiest of power sources by 2022.

(With atmospheric CO2 levels likely to hit between 411 and 412 parts per million by May of 2018, global carbon emissions cuts due to fossil fuel energy replacement by renewables couldn’t come sooner. Image source: The Keeling Curve.)

IEA also predicts that power consumption from electrical vehicles will double from now to 2022. A somewhat conservative estimate considering the fact that the number of EVs on the road will likely double by 2019 to 2020 and that battery sizes for EVs are rapidly growing. IEA’s more conservative base scenario projection continues in that it sees renewables’ contribution to transportation energy sources only growing from 4 to 5 percent by 2022.

Taking this analysis a step further and applying it to the potential for global carbon emissions reductions we should point out that renewables taking up a larger portion of both power generation and transportation through 2022 will present an opportunity to start bending the carbon curve downward. The adoption range in which renewables begin to replace fossil fuels at a rapid enough pace to strongly impact global carbon emissions is 150 to 250 GW added per year + a net replacement of the fossil fuel based transportation fleets with EVs and other alternative fuel vehicles. Given IEA’s forecast, it appears that there’s a decent likelihood that this will happen over then next five years — barring any major numb-skullery by the present U.S. President and his sometimes-enabling fellow republicans in the U.S. Congress.

Fire Danger Again Rises Across California; Number of Structures Lost in Northern Blazes Increases to 8,400

A California still reeling from the devastating impact of wildfires worsened by human-caused climate change just can’t get a break.

An army of 5,000 firefighters presently remain engaged in attempting to contain the large wildfires that are now unarguably the most destructive in California history. As with the recently very extreme hurricanes, we are still tallying the damage estimates.  And the results are pretty stark. 100,000 of our fellow Americans have been displaced. The loss of souls has risen to 42. In total, 8,400 structures including thousands of homes, have been burned to the ground.

Already, this disaster is yet another in the billion-dollar-class of climate incidents. Now numbering 4 in just the past three months with total estimated losses from the fires ranging from 1 to 3 billion dollars. Unfortunately, this devastating toll is likely to climb as further tallies come in.

(Hottest World Series on record amid severe fire risk.)

Presently, the remaining fires still burning are between 79 and 97 percent contained — according to the most recent report from the National Interagency Fire Center. However, temperatures rising into the upper 90s and lower to middle 100s across the state coupled with strong Santa Ana winds are again increasing fire risk. An elevated fire hazard that expected to persist through Wednesday.

In Los Angeles, red flag parking restrictions have been put in place to enable emergency vehicles to rapidly navigate narrow streets in the event of a new fire start requiring rapid attention. And in the south, numerous small brush fires have already been reported. Thankfully, these have not risen to the rapidly expanding extent or intensity of the northern fires over the past couple of weeks. But concerns, given recent events, remain very high.

(Very hot fall temperatures, Santa Ana winds are again predicted across southern and western sections of California today. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Warming global temperatures in the range of 1 to 1.2 C above 1880s averages are now starting to have a profound impact on the hydrological cycle, storms, and related rates of precipitation and evaporation. In California, increasingly extreme weather in the form of more intense and rapidly forming heatwaves and droughts, and precipitation coming more as heavy rainfall events increases fire risk. This, together with the general impact of warming which moves climate zones faster than trees can follow or adapt and that increases the prevalence of invasive species harmful to trees, has increased the incidence of large fires throughout the U.S. West.

We are now in a situation where fires can threaten entire cities (the devastating fire that forced the evacuation of Fort McMurray in Canada was finally declared extinguished during September of 2017 after burning for a year and three months) and where the total number of structures lost can rival the size of a town. This is a terrible impact and hazard for those living in the western and northwestern region. One that did not exist at the level or frequency we see today. And though other factors also contribute — such as increasing encroachment of settlements on wooded areas — the primary factor increasing fire intensity, size, and expanding the length of fire season is human-caused climate change.

The only way we can get a handle on this rising risk is to mitigate and remove the causes of climate change. And that involves working together as a nation to switch the kinds of energy we use to non carbon emitting sources like solar and wind and reducing other harmful practices that emit carbon into our atmosphere.

Links:

Red Flag Parking Restrictions in Effect in LA

Fire Loss Surges to 8,400 Structures in Northern California

California Wildfire Damage Estimates Top $3 Billion

National Interagency Fire Center

Red Flag Warning: Southland Brush Fires

GISS Temperature Data

Devastating Fort McMurray Wildfire Declared out 15 Months Later

Earth Nullschool

Narragansett Bay is Being Impacted by Climate Change; Scott Pruitt’s EPA Says Scientists Can’t Talk About it

Scott Pruitt, a climate change denier who was tapped to head the EPA by a similarly myopic Trump Administration now appears to be wielding the powers of that government agency to suppress the voices of climate scientists.

A report out of the New York Times yesterday found that three scientists scheduled to discuss the impacts of human-caused climate change on the sensitive environment of Narragansett Bay were barred from speaking in a panel discussion today. The scientists are employees of the EPA and contributors to a 400 page report on the health of Narragansett Bay. The study found numerous climate change related impacts to the Bay region — which is a vital economic resource and home to more than 2 million people.

The study found that:

“Climate change is affecting air and water temperatures, precipitation, sea level, and fish in the Narragansett Bay region.”

The EPA, presently headed by Scott Pruitt, gave no reason why the scientists were barred from sharing their climate change related findings at the panel. An agency charged with protecting the clean air and water of the United States, the EPA has likely never housed an administrator so at odds with its institutional mission. Pruitt has opposed numerous agency actions and has worked throughout his career to undermine both the Clean Air and Clean Water acts. Laws that aim to protect American citizens and wildlife from the harmful health impacts of polluted water and damaging particulates in the air.

Pruitt has also received criticism recently for spending $25,000 for a sound proof booth to mask his communications with who knows who, using considerable government funds to pay for round-the-clock personal security, and individually spending more than $58,000 for private charter jet flights.

(Scott Pruitt’s numerous ties to climate change denial and fossil fuel industries. Image source: Desmogblog.)

Pruitt was also one of a number of lawyers who directly challenged the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gasses in an effort to protect the U.S. from the harmful impacts of climate change during the Obama Administration. Pruitt has received significant campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry and is the direct beneficiary of strong political support from climate change denial promoting agencies like the Heartland Institute.

Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D) stated his opposition to this week’s nonsensical censoring of EPA funded scientists stating:

“Narragansett Bay is one of Rhode Island’s most important economic assets and the EPA won’t let its scientists talk with local leaders to plan for its future. Whatever you think about climate change, this kind of collaboration should be a no-brainer. Muzzling our leading scientists benefits no one.”

Links:

EPA Cancels Talk on Climate Change by Agency Scientists

Furor Erupts over EPA Decision to Pull Scientists From Panel Discussion

Desmogblog

Hat tip to Andy in San Diego

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