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Photo: Matt Brown, Creative Commons license 2.0

The New York Times reminded us this weekend that Donald Trump's war on reality continues apace, as his administration seeks to subvert climate science once and for all. The latest front in the effort? How about taking away all the bad news from the government's official reports on climate, since they just get everybody down?

The real meat of the reporting gets at two efforts in particular: A move to make sure the next National Climate Assessment is stripped of the worst-case scenarios for what will happen if fossil fuel usage continues at present rates, and a directive from James Reilly, director of the United States Geological Survey, to make sure his office's climate reports make no projections beyond 2040, because all the most extreme results of climate change are expected to come after that. Both are disturbing, but fucking around with the National Climate Assessment is likely to have the greater impact. That interagency report, which is updated every four years or so, is the basis for a lot of environmental law and regulations, so if you can gut it, you can screw with actual policy for years, hooray!


Trump really doesn't like the National Climate Assessment (NCA), not that he's even read the executive summary. Trump doesn't have to, because he does not believe it, thanks to his excellent science brain. While Trump didn't actually attempt to influence last fall's NCA, he did try to hide it by releasing it the day after Thanksgiving and then sending out aides to lie about it, insisting it only looked at worst-case projections (no, it looked at a range of outcomes -- including the possibility that we'll do nothing to curb carbon emissions. Which is what Republicans want). But the NCA was still plenty embarrassing for Team Trump:

Government scientists used computer-generated models in their most recent report to project that if fossil fuel emissions continue unchecked, the earth's atmosphere could warm by as much as eight degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century. That would lead to drastically higher sea levels, more devastating storms and droughts, crop failures, food losses and severe health consequences.

So how will the administration fix the next National Climate Assessment? Simple! Get rid of any predictions about the administration's favored course of inaction. because why you gotta be such downers?

Work on the next report, which is expected to be released in 2021 or 2022, has already begun. But from now on, officials said, such worst-case scenario projections will not automatically be included in the National Climate Assessment or in some other scientific reports produced by the government.

"What we have here is a pretty blatant attempt to politicize the science — to push the science in a direction that's consistent with their politics," said Philip B. Duffy, the president of the Woods Hole Research Center, who served on a National Academy of Sciences panel that reviewed the government's most recent National Climate Assessment. "It reminds me of the Soviet Union."

Ah, but that's not fair at all, says paid liar James Hewitt, a spokesperson for Trump's Environmental "Protection" Agency. You see, real science never looks at the worst case scenario, because reasons:

"The previous use of inaccurate modeling that focuses on worst-case emissions scenarios, that does not reflect real-world conditions, needs to be thoroughly re-examined and tested if such information is going to serve as the scientific foundation of nationwide decision-making now and in the future.

Again, making no substantial reductions to carbon emissions is the administration's goddamn goal, so that sounds like the "real-world conditions" that need to be assessed.

Now, here's the REAL reason the next National Climate Assessment needs to deep-six any accurate scientific projections about the cost of doing nothing: The Times notes that the 2018 report is already being used in lawsuits against Trump attempts to deregulate dirty energy, particularly the attempts to undo Obama administration standards for electric power plants and for vehicle fuel efficiency:

Opponents say that when they challenge the moves in court, they intend to point to the climate assessment, asking how the government can justify the reversals when its own agencies have concluded that the pollution will be so harmful.

That is why officials are now discussing how to influence the conclusions of the next National Climate Assessment.

Weirdly, instead of following the money, the Times immediately gives a nice fat quote to one of the fuckers whose industry stands to benefit the most from the attack on science, citing Myron Ebell of the anti-science Competitive Enterprise Institute. The CEI is an industry shill that got its start in the '80s claiming there's no proof smoking causes cancer and that acid rain was no big, but is now a clearinghouse for climate science denial. (You may remember the CEI from the excellent Merchants of Doubt, which should be mandatory reading.)

Oh, yeah, the thing Ebell said. It's stupid. He's delighted that the government will finally prepare a Climate Assessment that "doesn't lead to some silly alarmist predictions about the future," and would instead only look at historic climate activity, because the future hasn't happened yet, so how can you even think about it?

Fortunately, the Times finally gets to real scientists' warnings that

eliminating the worst-case scenario would give a falsely optimistic picture. "Nobody in the world does climate science like that," said Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton. "It would be like designing cars without seatbelts or airbags."

Look, those are some second-term goals, OK?

Then there's the US Geological Survey, and director James Reilly's directive that its reports should not make any predictions past 2040, which the Times points out conveniently lops off the worsening cumulative effects of global warming.

[Scientists] said that by eliminating the projected effects of increased carbon dioxide pollution after 2040, the Geological Survey reports would present an incomplete and falsely optimistic picture of the impact of continuing to burn unlimited amounts of coal, oil and gasoline.

"The scenarios in these reports that show different outcomes are like going to the doctor, who tells you, 'If you don't change your bad eating habits, and you don't start to exercise, you'll need a quadruple bypass, but if you do change your lifestyle, you'll have a different outcome,'" said Katharine Hayhoe, the director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University and an author of the National Climate Assessment.

Accordingly, we should look for a new directive to the Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health, recommending that doctors treating cancer limit their prognoses to no more than a few months out. Who knows what will happen in five years? You could be hit by a bus, God forbid!

Beyond those two threats to science, the Times reminds us that Trump is still apparently planning to go ahead with a major "reconsideration" of all climate science, as proposed earlier this year by Fucking Lunatic William Happer, the guy who said in 2014 that "the demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler." So yeah, he's still around, too.

Go read the whole Times story, which is awful, and while you're at it, go read the brilliantly sad short story "A Full Life" in the MIT Technology Review. Written by Paulo Bacigalupi, it's a science-fictiony tale of the very near future, in which Rue, a 15-year-old girl, and her family are hit again and again by the crises we've done nothing about. There's drought (goodbye organic farm!), power outages (goodbye Austin!) and the inundation of Miami by three hurricanes (goodbye floodwalls built to oil-industry standards!). Once the insurance industry collapses and homeowners walk away from their ruined houses all over the Southeast, things get far, far worse, and even Rue's rich uncle in New York -- who profits briefly after shorting Miami -- is left with nothing as the economy falls apart. Rue ends up a climate refugee, sent to stay with her grandma in Boston, which is safe -- for the moment.

"They should have seen it coming" is a steady, rueful refrain throughout the story -- but it's mostly directed at the individuals who suffer, not all of us. Thank goodness it's merely alarmist fiction and nothing like that could ever happen in real life. Besides, collective action would be socialist.

[NYT / MIT Technology Review / Vanity Fair / Photo: Matt Brown, Creative Commons license 2.0]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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