- It presents only one side. There are seldom any explanations for why governments, organizations, and individuals want to limit the use of coal. Beyond the ludicrous ones (the Intelligencer sometimes claims that it is a "vendetta" by Obama), the explanations that are offered seldom do justice to the arguments presented by the other side.
- The articles never mention that most of the jobs lost in the coal industry occurred a generation ago.
- The articles seldom deal with today's economic realities - that other sources of energy (for example, natural gas) are much cheaper.
- The industry people quoted in the article are never asked a tough question. For example, this article's final paragraph tells us that "(t)he 214 Mountain State layoffs come as Murray announced plans last week to pay $1.37 billion for a 34 percent stake in St. Louis-based coal company, Foresight Energy." Okay, Murray Energy, if the future of coal is so bleak, why did you just pay over a billion dollars for a stake in another coal company?
The year 2014 ranks as Earth’s warmest since 1880, according to two separate analyses by NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists.
The 10 warmest years in the instrumental record, with the exception of 1998, have now occurred since 2000. This trend continues a long-term warming of the planet, according to an analysis of surface temperature measurements by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS) in New York.
In an independent analysis of the raw data, also released Friday, NOAA scientists also found 2014 to be the warmest on record.
On December 28, I wrote about a Charleston Gazette story on how the state school board had changed the new state standards for teaching science because some of the board’s members didn’t approve of the standards that suggested that humans were responsible for climate change. (See "New state standards for teaching science" in recent posts.) The Gazette has done an excellent job of following developments in the story. For instance, they covered the reaction of the state science teacher association on Sunday:
The West Virginia Science Teachers Association is criticizing the state Board of Education’s controversial changes to K-12 education standards on climate change, saying the changes compromise and misrepresent the science.
"Climate change will be addressed in West Virginia classrooms, and teachers will continue to provide students with the data and skills they need to be informed West Virginia citizens," WVSTA President Libby Strong wrote in a statement. "The science was compromised by these modifications to the standards, specifically by casting doubt on the credibility of the evidence- based climate models and misrepresentation of trends in science when analyzing graphs dealing with temperature changes over time."
The group said it was unaware of the changes before news media reported on them.
Today, they had a op-ed piece by a retired high school science teacher, Julian Martin.
Additionally, the story has been picked-up by the national media, especially online. Here are just a few of the headlines:
Where have our local "newspaper’s" been on this story – I would think that it is newsworthy on a number of levels? (It even has a local angle – I believe Libby Strong, mentioned above, is a local teacher.) In my original post, I guessed that we would see an editorial supporting the changes rather than a news article. But so far, the story has been ignored.
Update - January 14
The Charleston Gazette is reporting that the state school board reversed itself earlier today and is going back to the original standards:
The West Virginia Board of Education voted Wednesday to withdraw changes proposed to the state’s science education standards. The new version, which will be open for a public comment period, is a version without the controversial alterations regarding climate change.
How much do you know about coal and climate change? If you've been a regular reader of this blog, you should do well.
Click here to begin.
Here’s the headline on the front page of this morning’s Charleston Gazette: "Climate change learning standards for W.Va. students altered" and here’s the article’s lede:
At the request of a West Virginia Board of Education member who said he doesn’t believe human-influenced climate change is a "foregone conclusion," new state science standards on the topic were altered before the state school board adopted them.
The state school board member is Wade Linger and he authored a number of changes. When asked about them, he explained:
"We’re on this global warming binge going on here," Linger said. ". . . We need to look at all the theories about it rather than just the human changes in greenhouse gases."
Another state school board member, Tom Campbell, defended Linger:
State school board member Tom Campbell said that in response to the climate change language, Linger brought up concerns about political views being taught in classrooms during an open school board meeting in Mingo County in November. Campbell said he shared those concerns.
"Let’s not use unproven theories," said Campbell, a former House of Delegates education chairman. "Let’s stick to the facts."
So Linger and Campbell are concerned about politicizing science by teaching the "unproven science" of climate change:
When asked why climate change was the particular "unproven science" that he and Linger were concerned about, Campbell responded that "West Virginia coal in particular has been taking on unfair negativity from certain groups." He also noted the coal industry provides much money to the state’s education system.
"I would prefer that the outlook should be ‘How do we mine it more safely and burn it more cleanly?" Campbell said. "But I think some people just want to do away with it completely."
Yeah! Let’s not politicize science.
The morning News-Register did not cover the change in the state science standards. Instead, the top story was about the drop in student test scores at some of our local schools. Here are two predictions: (1) we will soon see an editorial praising the changes in the state science standards, and (2) we will see another editorial about the decline in test scores for which President Obama and/or liberals will somehow be blamed. I was going to add (3) long term, student science scores will drop if these new state standards are kept but I think the state's science teachers are a lot brighter than the creators of these standards.
A new NOAA study has raised questions as to whether the California drought is being caused by climate change. Here’s the morning Intelligencer’s editorial, "Climate Change Myth Dispelled":
During a visit to California earlier this year, President Barack Obama linked the lengthy drought there to climate change. "A changing climate means that weather-related disasters like droughts, wildfires, storms, floods are potentially going to be costlier and they're going to be harsher," he said.
But scientists, led by those in the federal government, say climate change had nothing to do with the Golden State drought. A report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lays the blame on natural variations in the weather - not climate change.
In fact, NOAA's Martin Hoerling suggested the drought may be an argument against accepting some climate change predictions. Weather events in California for three winters are "not the conditions that climate change models say would happen," he noted.
Will Obama heed the scientists he is so fond of claiming support his climate change agenda? Don't bet on it - because for Obama, it is the politics that are really settled.
As is often the case with their editorials, the Intelligencer did not publish the original AP story on which I presume (it has the quotes) this editorial was based. By not publishing the original article, it allows them to use the material that supports their position and ignore that which doesn’t support it and this editorial does leave out a number of important details from the original article:
1. The study has not been peer-reviewed. The article states: "Study lead author Richard Seager of Columbia University said the paper has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal." Is that important? Yes. In the scientific community, peer review is extremely important – it gives credibility to a study.
2. A significant amount of space in the article is devoted to critics of the study. For example:
Some outside climate scientists criticized the report, saying it didn’t take into effect how record warmth worsened the drought. California is having its hottest year on record, based on the first 11 months of the year and is 4.1 degrees warmer than 20th-century average, according to the National Climatic Data Center.
"This study completely fails to consider what climate change is doing to water in California," wrote Kevin Trenberth, head of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. He said the work "completely misses" how hotter air increases drying by evaporating more it from the ground.
Leaving the AP article, you can google the study and find considerable commentary about it from other scientists. (My understanding is that this is not unusual with the release of a non-peer-reviewed study.) Here for example is climatologist Michael Mann:
" . . . most inexplicably, they pay only the slightest lip service to the role of temperature in drought, focusing almost entirely on precipitation alone. This neglects the fact that California experienced record heat over the past year, and this certainly contributed to the unprecedented nature of the current drought."
What I am pointing to is the fact that one study, despite what the editorial tells you, doesn’t prove or disprove climate change by itself – it’s the sum total and that total overwhelmingly supports climate change.
Finally, it ought to be noted that the only time you’ll read something about climate change in the Intelligencer is when someone questions it. And then it will usually show up on the opinion page where the writer can either quote from the industry-financed study or cherry-pick the evidence if it’s a real study.
Regular readers of the Intelligencer editorial page knew this one was coming once the votes on the Keystone pipeline were counted. Today, our local "newspaper" gives us two nearly evidence-free editorials attacking West Virginia's Senator Jay Rockefeller and Ohio's Sherrod Brown for voting against the pipeline.
The Rockefeller editorial asserts a number of points. The first is that building the pipeline would lessen our dependence upon foreign oil. Here, the editorial does reference Senator Manchin who believes that it would lessen this country's dependence on fuel from unreliable foreign sources. That would be true if the pipeline was meant for US domestic use. But as a number of sources have pointed out (this one is from Forbes magazine), the pipeline is meant for foreign sales - that’s why it goes all the way to the Gulf of Mexico:
The Keystone XL is designed to promote exports of Canadian tar sands oil and its refined products to non-U.S. markets, especially China and Latin America. China is now the largest foreign investor in Canada’s tar sands, representing 52 percent of all foreign investment since 2003.
The editorial also asserts that the pipeline would be good for consumers by lowering prices at the pump? As the Washington Post fact checker points out:
For all the claims about energy security, it’s important to remember that TransCanada has not claimed the pipeline would lower gasoline prices. "The price of international oil prices has no impact on the operation of our pipeline and we do not profit from changing market changes," TransCanada says in a fact sheet. "Prices are set on a global level." In other words, if oil prices spike because of unrest in the Middle East, the impact will still be felt in the United States.
Moreover, much of the oil that gets pumped through the pipeline might end up being refined into gasoline that, depending on market conditions, would be exported overseas.
The Forbes analysis takes the Washington Post even one step further – the pipeline may actually increase prices:
Ironically, the XL pipeline may increase gasoline prices for Americans and reduce national energy security – not bolster it, as promoters claim. (Note -- Forbes is a pro-business and not an environmental magazine.)
The editorial additionally argues that Senator Manchin believes that it "would create thousands of jobs." Okay, once the construction is done, how many of these jobs would be permanent? The State Department’s study of Keystone released earlier this year says "once the proposed Project enters service, operations would require an estimated 50 total employees: 35 permanent employees and 15 temporary contractors."
And what about the downside to pushing the dirtiest oil on the planet through America’s heartland? The editorial tells us without a shred of evidence that "exhaustive reviews to date have found no reason to worry about the pipeline for that reason." Really? Then how about quoting just one of those "exhaustive reviews"? For example, if you Google "summary of potential environmental harms + Keystone Pipeline" as I did you can find all kinds of "reason to worry about the pipeline" as I did. Here’s one from Ecowatch.com:
The State Department and independent experts have already determined that the Keystone XL will vastly increase tar sands development in Alberta, Canada. Acclaimed climate scientist Dr. James Hansen has said Keystone would be "game over" for avoiding catastrophic climate change.
"Keystone XL will transport nearly a billion barrels of highly toxic tar sands oil through America’s heartland each and every day for 50 years or more—only to have much of it refined and exported," said Bill Snape, senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity. "Along the way it will crush some of the last habitat for endangered species like the swift fox and whooping crane. It’ll pollute water used by millions of people and emit as many greenhouse gases as 51 coal-fired power plants."
Last year the Center for Biological Diversity released a report on the risks posed to endangered species by Keystone XL and a video highlighting the dangers of oil pipelines—a key point given the State Department’s estimate that the 1,700 Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL pipeline will spill at least 100 times during its lifetime.
Below the editorial attacking Rockefeller for his vote against the pipeline is a shorter editorial attacking Democratic Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown for a similar vote. It is also has the usual assertions and name-calling. Here’s the first sentence:
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, stuck with his fellow ultra-liberals Tuesday, in voting against a measure to allow construction of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
According to our "newspaper" there are 41 "ultraliberals" in the Senate. 41 of them? Who knew? Where have they been hiding?
Finally, from the first editorial we find out what the problem was:
But on Tuesday, the bill lost in a procedural vote in the Senate. Sixty votes were needed for it to advance; the final tally was 59-41. So though an overwhelming majority of senators want the pipeline, 41 lawmakers were able to block it.
Let’s see, for the past four years a Republican minority in the Senate has blocked nearly all legislation and Presidential appointments using that very tactic. And now the ultra-liberals are using the same tactic. How dare they! Don't they it's only acceptable when Republicans do it.
NPR to significantly cut environmental reporting staff
The report is that NPR is in the process of reducing from one editor and three full-time reporters covering climate change/the environment to one reporter who will cover the beat on a part-time basis. I guess all that Koch and fossil fuel money PBS/NPR has been getting is finally taking its toll on the reporting. It's probably just a coincidence but I also find it interesting that this gets out near the end of their semi-annual pledge drive.
Warmest September ever (globally)
From NBC News:
Chalk up another monthly temperature record: This was the warmest September globally in 134 years of data, new NASA numbers indicate. The average temperature on Earth was 58.6 degrees F (14.77 C) — surpassing the 2005 mark and 1.39 degrees F (0.77 C) above the 1951-1980 average for September, according to NASA’s monthly Global Land-Ocean Temperature Index. That follows a record month in August, according to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. Weather.com noted that 2014 has the potential to be the world’s hottest on record.
"Why fracking won’t solve climate change"
Summarizing a new study published in Nature, Grist explains:
Rolling together a suite of models that project energy use, economic activity, and climate systems through to 2050, the study finds that natural gas is essentially useless as a climate solution unless it is buttressed by new policies that discourage carbon pollution and promote investment in renewable energy.
Many serious challenges face the U.S. armed forces. But Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, no doubt acting at the behest of his boss, President Barack Obama, thinks climate change is a top concern.
Yes, of course, why didn’t we see this when we know that Obama is behind everything.
Warmest August ever
From Think Progress:
Last month was the warmest August since records began being kept in 1880, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported Thursday.
Read more about it here.
China’s war on coal
According to Cleantechnica, China is continuing its war against coal:
It may not be the first place you’d think to look for regular efforts to improve emissions quality, but China has spent the past several months targeting its coal emissions in a series of regulatory measures aimed at reducing its emissions and well-known smog issues.
. . . . Early in August the Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported that the capital of Beijing was set to lt ban coal use entirely in six inner-districts by 2020, in an effort to "cut air pollution".
The move was immediately backed up by news that the country had cut coal use by 7% over the first six months of 2014, following news earlier in the year that China had "declared war" against pollution, adopting revisions to the country’s Environmental Protection Law.
This makes you wonder about the frequently-used argument that "it doesn’t matter what we do – the Chinese won’t do anything about their carbon emissions."