Saturday, March 11, 2017

Climate Central: Arctic Sea Ice Continues Its Astonishing Streak of Lows

Warm weather ensured Arctic sea ice hit its lowest extent ever recorded for February. Sea ice covered 5.51 million square miles, which is 455,600 square miles below average or a chunk of missing sea ice four times the size of Italy. Yet, Scott Pruit, Administrator of the EPA, and the Trump Administration, deny the facts that burning fossil fuels increases global warming.

In the be-depressed, very-depressed category, nothing recently beat the comments of Scott Pruit, new EPA head, on climate change. Not that anything he said should surprise anyone at this point, but at a moment when spring has arrived across the U.S. three weeks early and Arctic sea ice hit new monthly lows (to mention just two of the many weather oddities that are the new norm on the planet) Pruitt does take the cake for inanity -- oh sorry, these days it's called climate "skepticism" -- that could someday make him and others in the Trump administration, including the president, among the greatest criminals in human history for deliberately taking the U.S. out of the climate change sweepstakes. Tom

"Asked his views on the role of carbon dioxide, the heat-trapping gas produced by burning fossil fuels, in increasing global warming, Mr. Pruitt said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that “I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so, no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”

“But we don’t know that yet,” he added. “We need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis.”

"Mr. Pruitt’s statement contradicts decades of research and analysis by international scientific institutions and federal agencies, including the E.P.A. His remarks on Thursday, which were more categorical than similar testimony before the Senate, may also put him in conflict with laws and regulations that the E.P.A. is charged with enforcing.

"His statements appear to signal that the Trump administration intends not only to roll back President Barack Obama’s climate change policies, but also to wage a vigorous attack on their underlying legal and scientific basis.

"A report in 2013 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of about 2,000 international scientists that reviews and summarizes climate science, found it to be “extremely likely” that more than half the global warming that occurred from 1951 to 2010 was a consequence of human emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

"A January report by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration concluded, “The planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 2.0 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century, a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere.”

"Benjamin D. Santer, a climate researcher at the Energy Department’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, said, “Mr. Pruitt has claimed that carbon dioxide caused by human activity is not ‘the primary contributor to the global warming that we see.’ Mr. Pruitt is wrong.”

“The scientific community has studied this issue for decades,” Dr. Santer added. “The consensus message from many national and international assessments of the science is pretty simple: Natural factors can’t explain the size or patterns of observed warming. A large human influence on global climate is the best explanation for the warming we’ve measured and monitored.”

"The basic science showing that carbon dioxide traps heat at the Earth’s surface dates to the 19th century, and has been confirmed in many thousands of experiments and observations since.

"Mr. Pruitt has faced frequent criticism for his close ties to fossil fuel companies. In his previous job as the attorney general of Oklahoma, he sought to use legal tools to fight environmental regulations on the oil and gas companies that are a major part of the state’s economy. A 2014 investigation by The New York Times found that energy lobbyists had drafted letters for Mr. Pruitt to send, on state stationery, to the E.P.A., the Interior Department, the Office of Management and Budget and even Mr. Obama, outlining the economic hardship caused by the environmental rules.
Short Answers to Hard Questions About Climate Change

"But in a sign of how far outside mainstream views Mr. Pruitt’s remarks on Thursday have placed him, even executives of some of the nation’s largest fossil fuel producers said they were surprised by his comments. Interviewed at CERAweek, an annual conference of major energy producers this week in Houston, Wael Sawan, an executive vice president at Shell Energy Resources, said he was “absolutely convinced CO2 can cause serious damage to not only this generation but future generations....”

On Arctic sea ice

As winter draws to a close, Arctic sea ice
extent nears its peak. Scientists are waiting to see if 2017
 will be the third year in a row of setting the record low maximum.
Credit: Zack Labe

Arctic Sea Ice Continues Its Astonishing Streak of Lows