Signs and Portents: White House Website Energy Policy Sketch

A screen capture of the whitehouse.gov energy policy page from 1/22/17.

In a continuing effort to collect the signs and portents from the Trump administration that might signal actual science policy, here is a quick look at the White House website [1]. After Friday, the website changed over to the new administration and with that came a set of new issues that Trump’s administration has made the centerpieces of the site. Notable under the energy policy section is this:

President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule.

 

In case you are wondering what the “Climate Action Plan” is, it used to be a page on the White House website but is gone now with the change of administration. Using the internet “Wayback Machine,” you can find this from 1/19/17:

The White House website on the climate action plan prior to the Trump administration.

I downloaded the PDF to preserve it here, to remind us when the Executive Branch used scientific information to make policy frameworks:

President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan (PDF)

It was a series of executive action directions that the White House took, in the absence of action from the Congress in response to scientific information, to try to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s worth noting that Trump has repeatedly stated that policies like this resulted in the collapse of the coal industry, but this claim has been widely and repeatedly debunked. In fact, it’s largly cheap natural gas, the result of hydraulic fracturing, and the emergence of renewal energy sources (like wind energy and solar) that competed with coal and caused the coal industry to have to compete with better fuels (in other words, coal lost the free-market fight). [2]

These are still just words, and Trump’s words are never to be trusted. But since these have now appeared on the White House website it becomes a policy direction, and thus should be a more reliable signal of intended action.

[1] whitehouse.gov

[2] c.f. http://www.politifact.com/missouri/statements/2016/mar/16/roy-blunt/sen-blunt-overstates-white-house-policys-impact-co/http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Cheap-Natural-Gas-To-Spark-Another-Wave-Of-Coal-Plant-Retirements.html

Our Possible Futures

A coal-fired power plant, one of the engines our species created that had ushered in a new age of the Earth: the Anthropocene. Photo by Robert Ashworth.
A coal-fired power plant, one of the engines our species created that had ushered in a new age of the Earth: the Anthropocene. Photo by Robert Ashworth.

I finally had a chance tonight to listen to the “TED Radio Hour” episode on the “Anthropocene”. This is the name given by some in the climate science community to the epoch of time in which we now live. The Holocene, which began about 11,000 ago when the glaciers of the last ice age receded, had been the period in which we lived. The climate had been relatively stable and generally cool and pleasant. But our species’ strong ability to adapt, evolve technologically, and reshape the world has likely shifted the Earth from that period into a new one. Our consumption of fossil fuels has resulted in a shifting climate that warms more every decade. The last time this kind of warming occurred and was not checked, 90% of all life on Earth was driven to extinction in an event our species named “The Great Dying.”

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Claim assessment: the Daily Mail’s “Global Cooling” nonsense

The Daily Mail claims that the globe is cooling based on one month of sea ice data. This promotes pseudoscience and weak sense critical thinking, because it flies in the face of any small amount of scientific and critical thinking.
The Daily Mail claims that the globe is cooling based on one month of sea ice data. This promotes pseudoscience and weak sense critical thinking, because it flies in the face of any small amount of scientific and critical thinking.

The Daily Mail claims in their science section that the 60% increase in arctic ice extent comparing August of 2012 to August of 2013 means “global cooling” is happening. But is this bad science reporting? Yes. This claim cherry-picks data, comparing only August of 2012 to August of 2013. The article ignores absolute numbers over relative (percentage based) ones, and ignores uncertainty year-to-year in expected average ice coverage, as well as the long-term trends in ice coverage. This article is riddled with the worst kind of pseudoscience.

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