Plait does a great job summarizing Smith’s history against climate change, as well as the recent controversy involving the Union of Concerned Scientists – a quick and informative read:
To the surprise of no one, Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is continuing his unfounded attack on science, ratcheting it up even higher than before. This time, he’s trying to tie up the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The good news? They’re having none of it.
Smith’s been ramping up a new(ish) tactic, trying to flush out what he thinks is a cabal of scientists fighting the fossil fuel industry. On May 18, 2016, he sent a letter to the UCS, an obvious attempt to create a chilling effect on their work to help scientists maintain the freedom they need to do their research.
Several members of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee have sent letters to 17 state attorneys general, the Union of Concerned Scientists and other groups, requesting that they turn over documents and communications among the groups related to investigations into ExxonMobil. Attorneys general from California, Massachusetts, New York, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are investigating whether ExxonMobil lied to its shareholders and the public about the threat of climate change.
Below is a statement by Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“The premise of Chairman Smith’s letter is a farce. The attorneys general are not investigating ExxonMobil’s scientific research, but rather whether the company misled shareholders and the public about the dangers of climate change in order to continue profiting from a lucrative product. Documents uncovered by UCS and others reveal that scientists with Exxon and other companies knew about the causes and consequences of climate change by the 1970s, but company leaders chose to deny, disparage and downplay this evidence to avoid sensible regulation.
“We are unapologetic about our efforts to expose this deception, and we will not be intimidated by this tactic. Record temperatures, rising seas and unprecedented flooding affects people around the globe and they rightly expect carbon producers to be held accountable for their deliberate strategy to deceive the public, shareholders and policy makers.
“It’s ironic that Representative Smith sees our work as an attempt to stifle scientific discourse, when he has spent the last 10 months harassing National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists whose research he doesn’t like. This abuse of power has been repeatedly and strongly rebuked by the scientific community.
“In keeping with Mr. Smith’s calls for transparency, the public should demand that oil companies fully disclose what their scientists knew about climate change and when. And more importantly, the public deserves to know which industry executives made decisions to mislead shareholders, policy makers and investors about the harm of their products.”
The world took a collective sigh of relief in the last days of 2015, when countries came together to adopt the historic Paris agreement on climate change.
The international treaty was a much-needed victory for multilateralism, and surprised many with its more-ambitious-than-expected agreement to pursue efforts to limit global warming to 1.5°C.
The next step in bringing the agreement into effect happens in New York on Friday 22 April, with leaders and dignitaries from more than 150 countries attending a high-level ceremony at the United Nations to officially sign it.
The New York event will be an important barometer of political momentum leading into the implementation phase – one that requires domestic climate policies to be drawn up, as well as further international negotiations.
It comes a week after scientists took a significant step to assist with the process. On April 13 in Nairobi, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change agreed to prepare a special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. This will provide scientific guidance on the level of ambition and action needed to implement the Paris agreement.
Why the ceremony?
The signing ceremony in New York sets in motion the formal, legal processes required for the Paris Agreement to “enter into force”, so that it can become legally binding under international law.
Although the agreement was adopted on December 12 2015 in Paris, it has not yet entered into force. This will happen automatically 30 days after it has both been ratified by at least 55 countries, and by countries representing at least 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Both conditions of this threshold have to be met before the agreement is legally binding.
So, contrary to some concerns after Paris, the world does not have to wait until 2020 for the agreement to enter into force. It could happen as early as this year.
Signing vs ratification
When a country signs the agreement, it is obliged to refrain from acts that would defeat its object and purpose. The next step, ratification, signifies intent to be legally bound by the terms of the treaty.
The decision on timing for ratification by each country will largely be determined by domestic political circumstances and legislative requirements for international agreements.
Those countries that have already completed their domestic processes for international agreements can choose to sign and ratify on the same day in New York.
Who is going to sign and ratify in New York?
It is perhaps no surprise that the countries which are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and who championed the need for high ambition in Paris will be first out of the gate to ratify in New York.
Thirteen Small Island Developing States (SIDS) from the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Pacific have signalled their intent to sign and ratify in New York: Barbados, Belize, Fiji, Grenada, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Samoa, Saint Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, the Seychelles and Tuvalu.
While these countries make up about a quarter of the 55 countries needed, they only account for 0.02% of the emissions that count towards the required 55% global emissions total.
Bringing the big emitters on board
China and the United States have recently jointly announced their intentions to sign in New York and to take the necessary domestic steps to formally join the agreement by ratifying it later this year. Given that they make up nearly 40% of the agreed set of global emissions for entry into force, that will go a significant way to meeting the 55% threshold.
We can expect more announcements of intended ratification schedules on 22 April. Canada (1.95%) has signalled its intent to ratify this year and there are early signs for many others. Unfortunately the European Union, long a leader on climate change, seems unlikely to be amongst the first movers due to internal political difficulties, including the intransigence of the Polish government.
The double threshold means that even if all of the SIDS and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) ratified, accounting for more than 75 countries but only around 4% of global emissions, the agreement would not enter into force until countries with a further 51% of global emissions also ratified.
Consequently, many more of the large emitters will need to ratify to ensure that the Paris agreement enters into force. This was a key design feature – it means a small number of major emitters cannot force a binding agreement on the rest of the world, and a large number of smaller countries cannot force a binding agreement on the major emitters.
The 55% threshold was set in order to ensure that it would be hard for a blocking coalition to form – a group of countries whose failure to ratify could ensure that an emissions threshold could not be met in practice. A number much above 60% of global emissions could indeed have led to such a situation.
The countries that appear likely to ratify this year, including China, the USA, Canada, many SIDS and LDCs, members of the Climate Vulnerable Forum along with several Latin American and African countries – around 90 in all – still fall about 5-6% short of the 55% emissions threshold.
It will take one more large emitter, such as the Russian Federation (7.53%), or two such as India (4.10%) and Japan (3.79%) to get the agreement over the line. The intent of these countries is not yet known.
Why is early action important?
The Paris agreement may be ambitious, but it will only be as good as its implementation. That will depend on the political momentum gained in Paris being maintained. Early entry into force for the treaty would be a powerful signal in this direction.
We know from the Climate Action Tracker analyses that the present commitments are far from adequate. If all countries fully implement the national emission reduction targets brought to the climate negotiations last year, we are still on track for temperature increases of around 2.7°C. Worse, we also know that current policies adopted by countries are insufficient to meet these targets and are heading to around 3.6°C of global warming.
With average global annual temperature increase tipping over 1°C above pre-industrial levels for the first time last year, it is clear that action to reduce emissions has never been more urgent.
Early entry into force will unlock the legally binding rights and obligations for parties to the agreement. These go beyond just obligations aimed at delivering emissions reductions through countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions to the critical issues of, for example, adaptation, climate finance, loss and damage, and transparency in reporting on and reviewing action and support.
The events in New York this week symbolise the collective realisation that rapid, transformative action is required to decarbonise the global economy by 2050.
Climate science tells us that action must increase significantly within the next decade if we are to rein in the devastating impacts of climate change, which the most vulnerable countries are already acutely experiencing.
Rep. Lamar Smith at a recent hearing claimed a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change “confirms the halt in global warming.” It doesn’t. In fact, the authors of the paper write, “We do not believe that warming has ceased.”
At the March 16 House hearing, Smith also continued to criticize the Science paper. He said the paper was “prematurely published,” but the editor-in-chief of Science told us Smith’s claim is “baseless and without merit.” Smith also said that the NOAA researchers used “controversial methods” in their study, but the authors of the Nature paper cited by Smith said this wasn’t the case. In fact, they cite the Science paper as having “high scientific value.”
Overall, each study asked different scientific questions, the answers to which can both remain valid and correct, according to the Nature authors themselves.
The SCICHECK also goes on to remind us of the many other times Lamar Smith was way off base when it came to climate science… a trend even an untrained scientist like Smith should be able to recognize.
This is not the first time Smith, a Republican from Texas, has made false statements about climate science and the so-called “Karl study,” named after Thomas R. Karl, director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information and the Science paper’s lead author.
As we’ve written before, Smith claimed in October 2015 that “climate data has clearly showed no warming for the past two decades” and that NOAA scientists “altered the data” to get the results they presented in the Science study.
Check the whole article for the latest SCICHECK of Lamar Smith!!!
“Instead of hyping a climate change agenda, NOAA should focus its efforts on producing sound science and improving methods of data collection,” said Smith. “NOAA should prioritize areas of research that significantly impact Americans today, such as ways to improve weather forecasting. Unfortunately, climate alarmism often takes priority at NOAA.”
Kathryn Sullivan, head of NOAA responded to Smith:
“NOAA forecasts help communities prepare and respond to weather events, including the severe storms that swept through Texas last year, tornado events across the mid-west and Florida, and the recent winter storm that struck the Northeast,” writes Dr. Sullivan in her statement. “But the greater demand for our services goes beyond just extreme weather.”
But perhaps the best response came from Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson:
“It is clear to me that this investigation is unfounded, and it is being driven by ideology and other agendas,” says Johnson. “The majority has asserted, without offering any credible evidence, that NOAA and the climate science community at large are part of some grand conspiracy to falsify data in support of the significant role humans play in climate change. However, the overwhelming body of scientific evidence across many different fields has shown that this is not the case.”
In our opinion, Lamar Smith and the House Science Committee are an embarrassment to the American people, and the amazing science that is done here. It is very sad that NOAA and NOAA scientists are constantly being harassed by this political entity. (Check out @HouseAntiScienc on twitter)
The highly regular spacing of fairy circles in Australia becomes visible in dense vegetation. The grasses in the foreground of the image are patchy as they are rebounding from fire. (Brad Howe, Heliwest Group)
Mysterious Fairy Circles Have Been Found in Western Australia
Once thought to exist only in Namibia, circles spotted 6,200 miles away are helping sort out how these odd features form
In certain spots, the Namibian plain looks like a scene from a Dr. Seuss book—large, regularly spaced circles dot an otherwise grassy landscape, the red dirt glaring like a beacon against the pale tufts of grass. Guesses about how these bizarre formations came to be range from the practical to the fanciful: underground gas, termites, radiation, dragons and giants.
Whimsically dubbed fairy circles, the strange shapes had only been spotted in Namibia—until now. This week scientists report their appearance roughly 6,200 miles away in the desolate outback of Western Australia. The discovery is already helping scientists tease through the mystery behind these natural patterns.
Scientists from many fields have previously tackled the perplexing question using mathematics, biology, ecology and entomology. Recently the debate has homed in on two theories: Either termites killed rings of plants by munching on their roots, or the grass self-organized to best take advantage of resources in the harsh desert landscape.
“Water is limited, and because water is limited it cannot sustain a continuous vegetation coverage,” explains lead author Stephan Getzin at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ in Germany. So “we have gaps and other patterns like labyrinths and stripes or even spots.”
The annual growth rate of atmospheric carbon dioxide measured at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii jumped by 3.05 parts per million during 2015, the largest year-to-year increase in 56 years of research.
In another first, 2015 was the fourth consecutive year that CO2 grew more than 2 ppm, said Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network.
“Carbon dioxide levels are increasing faster than they have in hundreds of thousands of years,” Tans said. “It’s explosive compared to natural processes.”
In contrast to Marco Rubio last night, John Kasich seems to be moving in the right direction in terms of his stance on climate change. FINALLY someone in the GOP seems to be having somewhat rational thoughts on this matter (from Huffington Post):
“I do believe we contribute to climate change,” he said. “We want all the sources of energy. We want to dig coal but we want to clean it when we burn it. We believe in natural gas, we believe in nuclear power, and you know what else I believe in? I happen to believe in solar energy, wind energy, efficiency, renewables.”
He later clarified that, “we don’t know how much humans actually contribute.”
YAAAAS Kasich… thank you for admitting that humans contribute to climate change, and that solar and wind energy are viable alternatives.