Trump’s Climate Change Legacy: “The Coast is Toast”

by on March 30, 2017 · 0 comments

in Election, Environment, History, Ocean Beach, San Diego

Climate Change

Photo by Doug Porter

By Doug Porter / San Diego Free Press

Southern Californians got some bad news this week with the release of a report from the U.S. Geological Survey saying two-thirds of beaches from Santa Barbara to San Diego could be completely eroded back to sea cliffs or coastal infrastructure by 2100.

Reporting by Joshua Emerson Smith in the Union-Tribune details this grim scenario and explains how scientists reached these conclusions::

The findings are the result of a new computer modeling program called the Coastal Storm Modeling System. The numerical modeling incorporates predicted sea-level rise as well as anticipated shifts in storm patterns as a result of climate change.

Predicting shorelines conditions decades out is notoriously tricky. However, scientists with USGS have held up this new program because of how accurately it was able to reproduce historical changes between 1995 and 2010.

Rising Seas Caused by Climate Change

The central culprit in this likely scenario will be sea level rise fueled by climate change. And current projections could double, thanks to “job-saving” efforts involving rolling back environmental regulations by the Trump administration.

According to the Tech Times:

Credit: Ryan Anderson/National Park Service

The findings also offer a peek into the expected future rise in sea levels. The prospect of losing the beaches is not a matter of “if” the seas are rising — that is already seen to be happening, so it’s now a matter of “how much.”

According to earlier conservative estimates by a UN panel, the oceans would rise by a meter by the end of the 21st century, while newer data showed that the rapid melting of Antarctic ice may actually double the rate. Recently, Arctic sea ice levels plummeted to a record low of 5.57 million square miles.

Rising sea levels is already an issue in many coastal communities. Sections of the Gulf Coast as well as Atlantic seaboard, for instance, have risen in greater rates than along parts of the West Coast, the Union of Concerned Scientists said.

The executive orders signed by the President on Tuesday instruct the Environmental Protection Agency to review the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s signature policy for slashing greenhouse gas emissions from the utility sector, by far the country’s biggest emitter.

This review marks the first step toward scrapping the regulation and puts projected carbon emissions back on an upward trajectory.

From the Associated Press, via the Sacramento Bee:

Via Pinterest

The order also lifts a 14-month-old moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands. The Obama administration had argued the program must be modernized to ensure a fair financial return to taxpayers and address climate change.

The order covers a range of other Obama-era rules, including repeal of measures to consider the “social cost” of carbon emissions in all regulatory actions and crack down on methane emissions at oil and gas wells. It also eliminates a rule restricting fracking on public lands and another that requires energy companies to provide data on methane emissions at oil and gas operations.

‘Clean coal’ creating jobs was a campaign promise frequently invoked by candidate Trump during 2016.

‘…But Her Emails…’

A study from Media Matters indicates this campaign promise didn’t get the scrutiny it deserved. ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox did not air a single segment about the ramifications and impacts of a Trump or Hillary Clinton administration as they relate to climate change, according to the study.

In anticipation of this week’s actions by the Trump administration, U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) issued statements calling on broadcast networks to bolster news coverage of climate change;

Here’s Sen. Whitehouse, via a follow up Media Matters report:

The Trump presidency has brought into sharp focus the critical responsibility of an independent news media to cover the science and policy of climate change. … Donald Trump ran a campaign blissfully unconcerned about climate change, even referring to it as a “hoax.” Now President Trump has an ardent climate change denier who received millions from big polluters running the EPA, the former CEO of ExxonMobil heading up the State Department, and other industry operatives making decisions that affect the health and safety of American families. More than ever, Americans will need the free press to deliver the real facts on climate change. We don’t have time to waste on alternative ones.

The ‘Back to Work’ Myth

The administration’s path toward economic prosperity is based on two notions; namely that tax cuts and deregulation will create growth leading to job creation.

The first premise, also known as ‘trickle down,’ is little more than snake oil. The jobs part of the equation is equally hinky.

From McClatchy News:

“You know what this says?” Trump asked a group of coal miners who appeared with him at the EPA on Tuesday when he signed the orders overturning the Obama policies. “It says you are going back to work.”

However, power companies were already moving away from coal and toward cleaner energy sources because of ongoing economic trends. Cheap natural gas produced by hydraulic fracturing has displaced numerous coal-fired power plants. Mechanized mining has been reducing coal employment for decades.

“Unless he does something about natural gas or technological change, it’s really not going to reverse the change we’ve seen,” said Ken Troske, an economics professor at the University of Kentucky. “If anything, these actions will slow the decline.”

Joe Rohn, editor of Climate Progress, takes this analysis one step further, saying not only are Trump’s actions bad for the economy, they are bad for the world:

Incidentally, Trump’s economic rationale for his policies is entirely bogus. This order, along with his budget, would undermine America’s ability to compete economically for perhaps the biggest high-wage job-creating sector of the foreseeable future: clean energy.

But far more importantly, this order makes America a rogue nation in the global fight to save the climate, comparable to Vladimir Putin’s Russia. And it renders moot the question of whether Trump formally stays in the Paris climate deal, which 200 nations unanimously agreed to in December 2015 — a last-ditch effort to preserve the stable climate that made large-scale agriculture and modern civilization possible.

Greed Leads

What the Trump administration’s policies will do is create wealth for the already wealthy. And maybe kill a few of the rest of us along the way.

Here’s Senator Chuck Schumer, via the Guardian:

Chuck Schumer, the minority leader in the Senate, said: “If there was any doubt that big oil was back in charge under the Trump administration, today’s executive order lays that to rest. It reads as if it was written in an Exxon boardroom, with no regard for the health and safety of the American people, or the planet.

“This executive order is nothing more than a giveaway to big oil at the expense of the health and safety of our children and the bank accounts of hard-working middle-class families. Simply put, the Trump administration has put the health of the American people and the future of our planet on the back burner all for the sake of lining the pockets of big oil and extreme-right special interests.”

More Pollution, Please

Schumer may be right about the giveaway, but if the story in Politico is right, the looting is just beginning.

It seems as though the Trump administration’s executive orders on the environment didn’t go far enough for some conservatives. Citing a lengthy legal battle, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt successfully argued against including language revoking the agency’s 2009 “endangerment finding.”

Now some conservatives are calling for Pruitt’s ouster, saying the present path will lead to a ‘Trump Clean Power plan.’

The conservative criticism of Pruitt a marks a major shift. Pruitt, a skeptic of mainstream climate science himself, was hailed by Republicans as a top-notch choice to lead the agency. “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,” Pruitt said in a recent interview.

Reopening the endangerment finding is much easier said than done.

Any decision to revoke it would require a lengthy notice-and-comment rulemaking, which would lead to certain litigation brought by environmentalists and states like California and New York. To survive a court challenge, Trump officials would have to prove to a court that greenhouse gases no longer pose a danger — something most observers say would not fly before any judge given the depth of scientific evidence on climate change.

Not So Fast, Say the States

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has already announced a coalition of 23 states, cities and counties opposing President Trump’s executive order.

The coalition—which includes the Attorneys General of New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia, as well as the chief legal officers of the cities of Boulder, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, South Miami and Broward County, Florida says it will go to court if needed to oppose “President Trump’s actions that ignore both the law and the critical importance of confronting the very real threat of climate change.”

More than the Tourist Economy

Finally, let’s return to the Union-Tribune’s for a quote on the local consequences of the Trump administration’s actions:

“The effect of California losing its beaches is not just a matter of affecting the tourism economy,” said Vitousek, who is now a professor in the Department of Civil & Materials Engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “Losing the protecting swath of beach sand between us and the pounding surf exposes critical infrastructure, businesses and homes to damage.”

It’s too bad there won’t be any money left in the Trump budget over from building the border wall for coastal communities. But, hey, we’ll have clean coal and rich dirty energy company executives.

Activism Matters

Progressive ActivistIf science matters to you, and the future of our planet is more important the higher quarterly corporate profits, I encourage you to consider participating in:

March For Science (April 22)

The March for Science is a celebration of our passion for science and a call to support and safeguard the scientific community. Recent policy changes have caused heightened worry among scientists, and the incredible and immediate outpouring of support has made clear that these concerns are also shared by hundreds of thousands of people around the world. The politicization of science, which has given policymakers permission to reject overwhelming evidence, is a critical and urgent matter. It is time for people who support scientific research and evidence-based policies to take a public stand and be counted. On April 22, 2017 hundreds of thousands of people will walk out of their lab coats and into the streets.

National People’s Climate March (April 29)

The Sierra Club and other environmental organizations have announced demonstrations in Washington DC and other cities for April 29, the 99th day of the Trump administration.

SanDiego350 is the lead organizer locally, with many partners including Sierra Club San Diego, Labor Council, Climate Action Campaign, Fight for $15, Greenpeace.

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