Saturday March 28th… Dear Diary. The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track United States extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials)😉
Main Topic: How COVID-19 Is Detrimentally Affecting The Environment
Dear Diary. As I keep stating over and over on this blog, every thing in this universe is connected. When one big event occurs it’s likely affecting other things in our lives. The big proverbial elephant in the room during 2020 is the coronavirus outbreak, which has put the environment and the climate crisis on the back burner (pun intended) of national news. The climate crisis is no longer making headlines as the globe is having to scramble with more pressing health issues. Today, as promised from Friday, we will explore how COVID-19 is detrimentally affecting how we are dealing with the much longer term issue of global warming.
First, the Trump Administration has used coronavirus as an excuse to loosen environmental regulations to keep oil spigots flowing. Read these articles from The Hill and Common Dreams:
EPA suspends enforcement of environmental laws indefinitely at request of petroleum industry – “The EPA uses this global pandemic to create loopholes for destroying the environment”
By Rebecca Beitsch
26 March 2020
(The Hill) – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a sweeping suspension of its enforcement of environmental laws Thursday, telling companies they would not need to meet environmental standards during the coronavirus outbreak.
The temporary policy, for which EPA has set no end date, would allow any number of industries to skirt environmental laws, with the agency saying it will not “seek penalties for noncompliance with routine monitoring and reporting obligations.”
Cynthia Giles, who headed EPA’s Office of Enforcement during the Obama administration, called it a moratorium on enforcing the nation’s environmental laws and an abdication of EPA’s duty.
“This EPA statement is essentially a nationwide waiver of environmental rules for the indefinite future. It tells companies across the country that they will not face enforcement even if they emit unlawful air and water pollution in violation of environmental laws, so long as they claim that those failures are in some way ’caused’ by the virus pandemic. And it allows them an out on monitoring too, so we may never know how bad the violating pollution was,” she wrote in a statement to The Hill.
The EPA has been under pressure from a number of industries, including the oil industry, to suspend enforcement of a number of environmental regulations due to the pandemic. […]
In a 10-page letter to EPA earlier this week, the American Petroleum Institute (API) asked for a suspension of rules that require repairing leaky equipment as well as monitoring to make sure pollution doesn’t seep into nearby water.
But Giles and others say the memo signed Thursday goes beyond that request, giving industries board authority to pollute with little overnight from the agency.
“Incredibly, the EPA statement does not even reserve EPA’s right to act in the event of an imminent threat to public health,” Giles said.
“Instead, EPA says it will defer to states, and ‘work with the facility’ to minimize or prevent the threat. EPA should never relinquish its right and its obligation to act immediately and decisively when there is threat to public health, no matter what the reason is. I am not aware of any instance when EPA ever relinquished this fundamental authority as it does in this memo.” [more]
“Holy crap this is insane”: Citing coronavirus pandemic, EPA indefinitely suspends environmental rules
By Jake Johnson
27 March 2020
(Common Dreams) – The Environmental Protection Agency, headed by former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, announced on Thursday a sweeping and indefinite suspension of environmental rules amid the worsening coronavirus pandemic, a move green groups warned gives the fossil fuel industry a “green light to pollute with impunity.”
Under the new policy (pdf), which the EPA insisted is temporary while providing no timeframe, big polluters will effectively be trusted to regulate themselves and will not be punished for failing to comply with reporting rules and other requirements. The order—applied retroactively beginning March 13, 2020—requests that companies “act responsibly” to avoid violations. […]
Critics, such as youth climate leader Greta Thunberg, accused the Trump administration of exploiting the coronavirus crisis to advance its longstanding goal of drastically rolling back environmental protections.
“The EPA uses this global pandemic to create loopholes for destroying the environment,” tweeted Thunberg. “This is a schoolbook example for what we need to start looking out for.”
Cynthia Giles, former head of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement under the Obama administration, told The Hill that the new policy is “essentially a nationwide waiver of environmental rules for the indefinite future.”
“It tells companies across the country that they will not face enforcement even if they emit unlawful air and water pollution in violation of environmental laws, so long as they claim that those failures are in some way ’caused’ by the virus pandemic,” said Giles. “And it allows them an out on monitoring too, so we may never know how bad the violating pollution was.”
The EPA’s order, for which the oil industry aggressively lobbied, represents the latest effort by the Trump administration to usethe coronavirus pandemic to advance right-wing policies that would likely not be permitted—or would at least face greater scrutiny—under normal circumstances.
As Common Dreams reported last week, the White House is advancing an assault on public-sector unions, xenophobic border policies, and other objectives amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has officially infected more than 85,000 people in the United States as of Friday morning. [more]
Next, as individuals take protective measures to socially isolate, work on climate is being affected. Research is either being shelved or delayed, particularly in the Arctic. Climate activists are adjusting to this new normal with most doing what they can for the environment from their homes like yours truly. Here is more in this from Inside Climate News:
Coronavirus Already Hindering Climate Science, But the Worst Disruptions Are Likely Yet to Come
Early fallout includes canceled science missions and potential gaps in long-running climate records, while research budgets could take a hit in the long run.
By Bob Berwyn, InsideClimate News
Mar 27, 2020
Along with temporarily reducing greenhouse gas emissions and forcing climate activists to rethink how to sustain a movement built on street protests, the global response to the coronavirus pandemic is also disrupting climate science.
Many research missions and conferences scheduled for the next few months have been canceled, while the work of scientists already in the field has been complicated by travel restrictions, quarantines and other efforts to protect field researchers and remote indigenous populations from the pandemic.
The field research season in Greenland and the Arctic, which normally starts ramping up this time of year, has been particularly hard hit. Last week, leaders of MOSAiC, the largest polar research expedition in history, were forced to cancel research flights scheduled for the coming month after Norway imposed travel restrictions that could have quarantined the flights’ crews and prevented them from using airfields in the Arctic islands of Svalbard. Border closures are also hindering scheduled rotations of scientists on and off the expedition’s centerpiece, a research icebreaker that has been frozen into the Arctic sea ice near the North Pole for six months and will be drifting with it for six more.
But while the MOSAiC vessel has been able to continue its research on the ice, the coronavirus has prompted the cancellation of other Arctic expeditions, including this year’s EastGRIP field season, an annual mission to measure glacier flows in East Greenland.
Greenland reported its first case of coronavirus March 16, and subsequently shut down all air travel, including domestic flights, for at least two weeks to protect its mostly indigenous population of 57,000 people from the pandemic. About 1,000 researchers visit Greenland each year, most of them arriving via regular air service from Denmark, which has reported more than 1,200 coronavirus infections, including four deaths. Nuuk, Greenland’s administrative capital, has been sealed off from the rest of the country due to concern about the spread of coronavirus and the devastating impacts previous outbreaks of respiratory diseases have had on the region’s indigenous peoples, Arctic Today reports.
Some scientists are hopeful that research planned for later in the summer will be able to proceed if the virus subsides. At the same time, they worry that if the economic disruption lasts for several months, it would probably have a long-term effect on science budgets.
Despite these concerns, Brooks Hanson, executive vice president of science at the American Geophysical Union, said public and personal health and safety are the highest priority for its 62,000 members.
To keep researchers working, the AGU has set up a learning exchange webpage, where members and educators can share resources and knowledge about online education in the classroom, field and lab.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the European Geosciences Union canceled its annual Vienna assembly “due to the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation.” Instead, the EGU will host a week-long series of online activities during the first week of May. For now, no final decision has been made on the COP 26 global climate talks scheduled for November in Glasgow, Scotland.
Some Researchers Continue, Others ‘Wait and See’
For climate researchers, losing a season’s worth of field data means that some long-running observations of temperature, precipitation and ice sheet changes from the Arctic to Antarctica could be interrupted. Some important instruments won’t be replaced or repaired in time to gather snow and ice data during the upcoming melt season.
Continuous records of the ongoing research are important at a time when climate impacts are accelerating, especially in the Arctic. Such studies provide real-time details of how warming at the poles is disrupting global life support systems, with impacts that will be felt long after the coronavirus pandemic fades.
At this point, the final impacts of the disruption can’t be fully assessed, and some federal research is proceeding, at least for the time being.
“At this time NOAA’s research continues and our scientists are adapting,” NOAA Spokeswoman Keli Pirtle said, noting that the agency is minimizing social contact and incorporating procedures to isolate staff when needed. “Field researchers on NOAA vessels are still doing their data collection. Fortunately, technology allows many of the observations we use in our research to continue automatically.”
For instance, she said, although researchers are no longer visiting Mauna Loa, the Hawaiian station where key carbon dioxide measurements are made, they continue to remotely monitor automated data collection there.
How much the pandemic disrupts climate research depends on how long it lasts, said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder. The economic impacts could have long-term effects on science budgets, but it’s too early to know for sure, he said.
“We have no idea right now how long before this thing passes,” he said. “The great unknown lies ahead of us. As far as August fieldwork, it’s all wait and see right now.”
Unavoidable Complications and Unacceptable Risks
If the pandemic and responses to it persist for several months, most upcoming field research will likely be canceled. Restrictions on non-essential air travel makes the logistics of climate research more difficult, and there are also concerns about researchers potentially spreading the virus to relatively unaffected areas, and about how to treat scientists sickened by the virus in remote locations.
Dorthe Dahl-Jensen, a climate and ice researcher at the University of Copenhagen, said the cancellation of the 2020 EastGRIP field campaign means the world loses a bit of time in the race to figure out how fast and high sea level will surge in the coming decades. The drilling mission is aimed at understanding how global warming affects swift streams of ice that cut through slower-moving ice sheets, carrying icebergs and meltwater to the sea. The ice streams are responsible for 50 percent of the loss of mass from the Greenland Ice Sheet, Dahl-Jensen said.
“The uncertainty of predicted sea level rise is the world’s most dangerous climate change uncertainty,” Dahl-Jensen wrote in an email. “By canceling now, we can afford an extra season later to finish the project.”
But, she said, the postponement will have consequences for the science and the researchers.
“This will delay results a year and be terrible for the [master’s] and Ph.D. students with limited time,” she said.
Read more of this article here:
I’ll be reporting on more how the COVID-19 pandemic is interacting with the climate issue as we move through 2020. The next item I’ll be discussing will be how the pandemic will be affecting U.S. politics. How might coronavirus sickness affect our election? Could Trump be reelected due to the pandemic, killing most if not all hope to reign in carbon pollution before 2030? On the other hand, could the pandemic produce a Democratic landslide in November leading to sweeping Green New Deal change, or something in between these two diverse election outcomes? Please keep these questions in mind as we continue to explore how this horrendous new viral plague interacts with environmental issues.
Now, here are some of todays articles on the horrendous coronavirus pandemic:
Here is more climate and weather news from Saturday:
(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article.)
Here are some of Friday and Saturday’s “ET’s:”
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Guy Walton “The Climate Guy”