Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), one of the premier climate research institutions in the world, has signed deals to assist foreign oil companies seek deep-sea carbon reserves, the Boston Globe reports.
In the coming days, according to officials at Woods Hole, the institution is set to sign agreements with Saudi Aramco, the primary oil company owned by the Saudi government, to study the potential for “hydrocarbons” in the Red Sea. It is also preparing to ink a deal for a “simulation study” on behalf of the Italian oil company Eni, while it has half a dozen other proposals in the works with unnamed corporations, the officials said.
Woods Hole’s new Center for Marine Robotics is the vessel for the petrodollars. As the center’s industry sponsorship page notes, benefits for funding companies include the ability to “establish a portfolio of sponsored research projects or define an engineering research program tailored to your company’s needs, with negotiated IP rights.”
The center’s interim director, marine robotics expert Dana Yoerger, is on the board of BP’s Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, a project established by the oil giant following the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Before joining the BP-funded project, Yoerger had participated in a NSF-funded effort to map the undersea hydrocarbon plume from the gushing wellhead.
This new deal with Saudi Aramco follows Woods Hole’s $25 million 2008 partnership for Red Sea research with Saudi Aramco’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). That research partnership conducted research global warming and ocean acidification to Red Sea coral reefs. James Luyten, a former director of Woods Hole, joined KAUST in 2008 to direct its Red Sea Science and Engineering Research Center. According to Luyten, academic freedom at KAUST is curtailed by Saudi Arabia’s petrostate interests, directing research towards biofuels and away from the impacts of climate change caused by fossil fuels.
“Woods Hole has historically received most of its funding from federal research grants, which has helped ensure its independence,” the Globe’s Bryan Bender notes. “But cutbacks at a variety of agencies — and a near-halving of its Pentagon research dollars in the last three years — has prompted it to seek new sources of funding.”
Woods Hole recently touted its involvement in the National Climate Assessment, which found that the burning of fossil fuels is responsible for the global warming and ocean acidification that is dramatically altering the oceans.
Update: Woods Hole has issued a response. “Climate research tells us that human society should wean itself quickly from fossil fuels,” the webpage states. “But the hard fact is that our society still relies on oil, and oil companies are looking for it in ever-deeper and more remote waters where they have limited experience.” The response does not deny that Woods Hole will assist Saudi Aramco’s search for oil in the Red Sea.
The leading contender for the Republican nomination to compete for Sen. Tom Harkin’s (D-Iowa) seat doubts the science of climate change and rejects any response that calls for more than voluntary actions. In a May 9, 2014 interview with the Des Moines Register editorial board, Iowa state senator Joni Ernst, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, expressed her disbelief in the science of anthropogenic climate change.
Yes, we do see climates change but I have not seen proven proof that it is entirely man-made. I think we do have cyclic changes in weather, and I think that’s been throughout the course of history. What impact is man-made. . . but I do think we can educate people to make good choices.
In reality, the carbon-dioxide greenhouse effect is a physical fact known since the 1800s. The only scientifically plausible systematic explanation for the rapid and continuing warming of the planetary climate since 1950 is industrial greenhouse pollution.
When asked how she believes the nation should respond to “our current climate situation,” her first recommendation was “encouraging people to, obviously, recycle.” She repeatedly and adamantly opposed “cap and trade” as a “tax on energy” and a “mandate.” She then argued the renewable fuel standard, which mandates the use of ethanol in gasoline, was not a mandate.
During the interview, Ernst expressed the similarly contrarian and evidence-less belief that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction before the United States invaded in 2003.
Ernst has been endorsed for the June 3 Republican primary by the Register, Sarah Palin, the National Rifle Association, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. If she wins, she will face Rep. Bruce Braley in the general election.
Sen. Marco Rubio: "I Do Not Believe That Human Activity Is Causing These Dramatic Changes to Our Climate"
During an interview in which he expressed his readiness to be President of the United States, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) rejected the science of climate change. Rubio told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl on Sunday’s “This Week” that he does not accept the findings of the National Climate Assessment which warned of the damages already occurring in Florida because of human-caused global warming. He went on to claim that “these scientists” are proposing laws to “destroy our economy.”
I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it. That’s what I do not—and I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it. Except it will destroy our economy.
This post collects statements from environmental and progressive organizations in response to the Third National Climate Assessment of the U.S. Global Change Research Program.Joint statement from Earthjustice, Environmental Defense Fund, Center for American Progress, Natural Resources Defense Council, League of Conservation Voters, League of Women Voters, National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club:
The National Climate Assessment provides more stark evidence that climate change is happening now and threatening our health, homes, businesses and communities. It must be addressed immediately. The NCA comes only weeks after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report reaffirmed the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is underway and that carbon pollution from human activity is responsible for it. The message from the NCA is blunt. Without action, the damage from climate change on our communities will worsen, including: more asthma attacks and respiratory disease; threats to our food and water supplies as well as our outdoor heritage; and, more violent and deadly storms that shutter businesses and cost billions of dollars in recovery. Next month, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to unveil an ambitious proposal to set the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants — the largest U.S. contributor to climate change. We applaud the administration for its commitment to protecting our communities and our economy through the National Climate Action Plan, and call on other public officials to support the plan and these life-saving safeguards.
Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune:
Today’s landmark report is a wake-up call that we simply cannot afford to sleep through yet again. American families are already paying the costs of the extreme weather and health risks fueled by the climate crisis. Now, the nation’s most comprehensive study of climate threats shows the toll on our health, our communities, and our economy will only skyrocket across the country if we do not act. We applaud the Obama Administration for listening to these alarm bells, and urge them to continue to take critical, common-sense steps, including the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants. We don’t just have an obligation to future generations to take action now—we will seize an enormous opportunity as we do. By leaving dirty fossil fuels in the ground and continuing the transition to clean energy solutions like wind and solar, we can create good American jobs and power homes and businesses nationwide without polluting our air, water, or climate.
The pipeline is intended to ship upwards of 830,000 barrels of tar-sands crude a day for a 40-year lifespan. The pipeline will add 120-200 million tons of carbon-dioxide-equivalent to the atmosphere annually, with a lifetime footprint of 6 to 8 billion tons CO2e. That’s as much greenhouse pollution as 40 to 50 average U.S. coal-fired power plants. Furthermore the Keystone XL pipeline is recognized by the tar-sands industry as a key spigot for the future development of the Alberta tar sands, which would emit 840 billion tons CO2e if fully exploited.
Interviewing Washington insiders who have offered various forms of support for the Keystone XL project, Davenport claims instead that “Keystone’s political symbolism vastly outweighs its policy substance.” To support the claim, Davenport then erroneously underestimates the global warming footprint of the pipeline by a factor of ten. Davenport’s crucial error is to contrast the actual carbon footprint of existing fossil-fuel projects — such as US electric power plants (2.8 billion tons) and tailpipe emissions (1.9 billion) — to the impact of the pipeline’s oil being dirtier than traditional petroleum, without explaining that she was switching measurements:
Consider the numbers: In 2011, the most recent year for which comprehensive international data is available, the global economy emitted 32.6 billion metric tons of carbon [dioxide] pollution. The United States was responsible for 5.5 billion tons of that (coming in second to China, which emitted 8.7 billion tons). Within the United States, electric power plants produced 2.8 billion tons of those greenhouse gases, while vehicle tailpipe emissions from burning gasoline produced 1.9 billion tons.
By comparison, the oil that would move through the Keystone pipeline would add 18.7 million metric tons of carbon [dioxide] to the atmosphere annually, the E.P.A. estimated.
[There are two side errors in the passage: Davenport uses “tons of carbon” where she means “tons of carbon dioxide equivalent”. One ton of carbon is the equivalent of 3.67 tons of carbon dioxide. All of her numbers refer to tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent. Secondly, the estimate was not made by the E.P.A. but by a State Department contractor hired by TransCanada; the E.P.A. cited that analysis but did not make the calculations.]
What the oil-industry contractor for the State Department actually calculated is that the oil that would move through the Keystone pipeline would add 147-168 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere annually, 1.3 to 27.4 million of which (central estimate 18.7 million from the draft assessment) are because tar-sands crude is dirtier than other petroleum sources. Those 18.7 million tons are the “incremental” or “additional” footprint of the pipeline, not the full 160 million-ton footprint.
Based on this order-of-magnitude measurement-switching error, Davenport incorrectly concludes that “the carbon emissions produced by oil that would be moved in the Keystone pipeline would amount to less than 1 percent of United States greenhouse gas emissions, and an infinitesimal slice of the global total.”
In fact, the carbon dioxide emissions produced by oil that would be moved in this single pipeline would amount to 3 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and half a percent of the global carbon footprint. Only thirty-two countries have larger annual footprints than this single tar-sands project.
Climate scientist John Abraham made this point in The Guardian last week. “People who think Keystone is a minor issue don’t understand science and they sure don’t understand economics,” he wrote.
Putting aside any possible political and economic motivations to support the intentions of the global petroleum industry, the intellectual failure rests on an obvious error made subtle through convolution.
Whether one is looking at actual or incremental footprints of carbon-infrastructure projects, the results should be equivalent from a policy standpoint, although the numbers would be different. Why, then, does the incremental analysis used by the EPA and the State Department’s oil-industry contractors appear to give the absurd result that the Keystone XL impact is “infinitesimal”?
The methodology of incremental footprint analysis assumes a baseline of future projected carbon pollution, and then looks whether a given project would increase or decrease the baseline. The validity of incremental-footprint analysis thus depends on the baseline.
In line with scientific warnings, President Barack Obama and the U.S. State Department have committed to limiting global warming to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. In the International Energy Agency’s 2°C scenario, global oil consumption would fall by 50 percent from current levels by 2050, within the intended operating lifetime of the Keystone XL pipeline.
The Keystone XL final environmental impact statement instead assumes that global oil demand will increase over that time period. The baseline used is the Energy Information Administration’s 2013 Annual Energy Outlook, which projects that global oil consumption will increase by 30 to 40 percent by 2040. In that scenario, the world would be on a pathway for rapid and catastrophic global warming of 4 to 6°C (or greater) by 2100.
No matter the analysis, the Keystone XL pipeline is incompatible with climate security. The global-warming impact of constructing Keystone XL is only “infinitesimal” if you assume catastrophic global warming is inevitable and that the signed climate pledges of the United States government are worthless.
Perhaps Ms. Davenport should ask Levi, Book, Bordoff, Morris, and Goldwyn if that is their assumption.
Update May 2: The Times has posted a correction:
Correction: May 2, 2014
An article and an accompanying chart on April 22 comparing the projected Keystone XL pipeline with other sources of carbon emissions referred imprecisely to projected emissions from tar-sands oil moving through the pipeline. Producing and burning that oil would emit 18.7 million more metric tons annually than would conventional oil, or far less than 1 percent of United States emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The tar-sands oil would not emit 18.7 million tons total, but about 150 million tons, or less than 3 percent of United States emissions.
The correction itself is in error; the estimate of 18.7 million metric tons is not from the E.P.A., but is from the draft assessment prepared by TransCanada contractor Environmental Resources Management for the State Department.
In a letter to the Harvard University community, president Drew Faust has announced the globally influential institution’s endowment will commit to sustainable investment practices. Harvard University has become the first educational institution to become a signatory to the United Nations’ Principles for Responsible Investment, and to the Carbon Disclosure Project’s climate program.
After increasing pressure from students, faculty, and alumni in support of the climate divestment movement, Faust reversed her previous stance opposing action, recognizing that the “special obligation and accountability to the future” held by Harvard requires action not just in research and policy but also “as a long-term investor.”
Harvard’s actions should not be interpreted as explicit acceptance of the principle that sustainable investment requires divestment from the fossil-fuel industry. However, looking at the “systemic risks presented by or created by companies” is part of the Principles of Responsible of Investment. Faust has now applied that assessment to the fossil-fuel industry, saying that the Harvard community “must devote ourselves to enabling and accelerating that transition” — “to chart the path from societies and economies fundamentally dependent on fossil fuels to a system of sustainable and renewable energy.”
The full text of the announcement letter is below:
Tony Strickland, Republican Candidate for California's 20th District, Believes Global Warming a 'Hoax'
Former California state senator Tony Strickland, vying for the Republican nomination to unseat Democratic Rep. Sam Farr in California’s 20th district, rejects the science of manmade global warming. Speaking at a candidate forum at the University of Southern California on Wednesday, Strickland told students that “there are a lot of scientists that say it’s a hoax.”
When I was a kid it was global cooling — I got a little older and it’s called global warming, and now it’s called climate change. The problem with that is scientists will be on both sides. There are a lot of scientists that say it’s a hoax.
In reality, the carbon-dioxide greenhouse effect is a physical fact known since the 1800s. The only scientifically plausible systematic explanation for the rapid and continuing warming of the planetary climate since 1950 is industrial greenhouse pollution. The world’s national scientific societies and the world’s practicing climate scientists are in overwhelming agreement about this fact.
Strickland’s primary opponent, former Assemblyman and USC visiting fellow Anthony Portantino, also does not seem to understand the science of global warming. “It is hotter in places where it used to be cooler and is it cooler in places where it used to be hotter,” he was quoted as saying by the USC Daily Trojan.
Portantino is incorrect. Although there are regional variations in global warming, there is almost nowhere on the planet that is cooler than it was in the middle of the 20th century.
At Science Hearing, Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas) Expresses Confusion on Global Warming and Scientific Method
At today’s Science Committee hearing to review the President’s proposed science budget, freshman member Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas) dismissed climate science before expressing his support for the Keystone XL pipeline, which terminates in his district.
“You scientists start with what they call a postulate or theory and you work forward from that direction, is that right?” Weber asked White House Science Advisor John Holdren, before jesting about the science of manmade global warming.
I was wondering how that related to like, for example, global warming and eventually global cooling. I may want to get your cell phone number because if we do go through a couple of cycles, global warming and then back to global cooling, I need to know when to buy my long coat on sale. You know, so I just don’t know how y’all prove those hypotheses going back fifty, hundred, you know, what you might say is thousands or if not even millions of years and then postulate those forward.
According to Center for Responsive Politics data, Weber has received $45,000 from the energy sector in campaign contributions, the vast majority — $39,000 — coming from the oil and gas industry. Koch Industries has contributed $10,000 to his campaign coffers.
Despite Environmental Endorsements, Sen. Susan Collins Has Spotty Record on Confronting Climate Change
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), facing reelection this year in a strongly Democratic state, has garnered the support of national environmental organizations despite a conflicted record on climate policy. In September 2013, the League of Conservation Voters launched an ad campaign praising Collins’ “environmental leadership.” A new advertisement from the Environmental Defense Fund and Moms Clean Air Force praises Collins for “confronting climate change” in marked contrast to the majority of her Republican colleagues. The organizations have not formally endorsed a candidate in the rate.
The EDF ad cites Collins’ vote on “S. Amdt 359 to SCon Res 8, Roll Call #76, 3/22/13.” That day Collins broke with the Republican caucus to vote against an amendment introduced by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) prohibiting further greenhouse gas regulations for the purposes of addressing climate change.
She cast a similar vote on April 6, 2011, when she broke the Republican ranks to vote against the McConnell amendment prohibiting EPA regulation of greenhouse gases.
On December 11, 2009, Collins and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) introduced climate legislation (S. 2877) in competition with Kerry-Boxer (S. 1733), the Senate version of the Waxman-Markey bill. Cantwell-Collins offered a simpler cap-and-trade system and weaker emissions targets than Kerry-Boxer.
However, a broader review of her voting record finds that Collins repeatedly acted to help Republicans prevent the passage of climate legislation during the Obama presidency and to weaken executive action on climate rules:
- On April 1, 2009, Collins allied with Republicans and conservative Democrats in key votes to preserve the ability of Republicans to filibuster climate legislation during Obama’s first term. She voted against non-filibusterable budget reconciliation for green economy legislation, if “the Senate finds that public health, the economy and national security of the United States are jeopardized by inaction on global warming” (Roll Call Vote #125). She then voted to prohibit the use of reconciliation in the Senate for climate change legislation involving a cap and trade system (Roll Call #126. She voted for Sen. Kit Bond’s amendment establishing a point of order against climate change or similar legislation that would increase federal revenues (Roll Call #142).
These votes arguably made the future demise of climate legislation in the Senate inevitable, in contrast to health care legislation, which became law through the reconciliation process despite unified Republican opposition.
- On April 6, 2011, Collins voted for Rockefeller’s bill to delay greenhouse-gas regulations for two years (Roll Call #53).
- On March 21 and 22, 2013, Collins voted for Sen. Roy Blunt’s amendment to create a point of order against legislation that would create a federal tax or fee on carbon emissions (Roll Call #59) and against Sen. Whitehouse’s amendment that would support the creation of a carbon fee (Roll Call #58).
Moreover, Collins has been a consistent supporter of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, voting that “that no additional safety or environmental analysis of the pipeline was necessary” in 2012 (Roll Call #34) and in 2013 (Roll Call #61). Collins is also “the only member of Maine’s congressional delegation that has not called upon the State Department to do a full environmental review” of the possibility of the Portland Montreal Pipeline being used to carry tar sands crude, as the Canadian government opens the route from Alberta to Quebec for the carbon-intensive fossil fuel.
Although Collins has expressed a desire for “limiting the worst effects of climate change,” when the opportunity has come to display true climate leadership, she has supported her caucus instead more often than not.
At today’s Science Committee hearing to review the President’s proposed science budget, Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) dismissed human influence on the climate. “We’ve had climate change since the day the earth was formed, whenever that was, depending on whatever it is you believe,” he said with a nod to young-earth creationists, “and we’ll have climate change until the earth implodes, whenever that is.”
Posey questioned White House Science Advisor John Holdren in depth, clearly skeptical that there could be both natural climate changes over the billions of years the earth has existed and human-induced climate change.
Obviously we’ve had global warming for a long time. You can’t have one seamless ice age that encompasses three ice ages. We had to have warming periods between each of those. And so that is a natural phenomenon. Just because we’re alive now, the tectonics plate shifts aren’t going to stop, the hurricanes tsunamis aren’t going to stop, the asteroid strikes aren’t going to stop, they’ve been going on for eons and they’re going to continue to go on for eons.
“The difference between the circumstances you’re describing and the circumstance we’re in now is the changes imposed on the climate in large part due to human activity are faster than the ability of ecosystems to adapt,” Dr. Holdren responded, “and maybe even more importantly, faster than the ability of human society to adapt.”
“There are a lot of stresses, as you point out, we can’t control, but the stresses we can control that are placing burdens on our society we ought to think about controlling,” Holdren continued.
“No doubt about that,” Posey quickly interjected before challenging Holdren on how much of present-day climate change is due to human behavior.
“The natural changes, which we understand, and which are underway on a long term basis as we speak, would be if they were the only influences, be cooling the planet rather than warming it,” Holdren replied. “We would be in a long-term cooling trend as a result of the natural forces affecting climate which we understand. We are instead in a warming trend which suggests that human activity is overwhelmingly responsible for the difference. We would be having cooling based on natural forces, we’re having warming.”
Interrupting Holdren, Posey latched on to the mention of “cooling” to make a stammering joke about global cooling and Al Gore. “I remember the ‘70s,” he said. “That was the threat, we’re going to have a cooling that’s going to eventually freeze the planet. And that was the fear before Gore intervented—invented the Internet, you know, or uh, the other terms.”
Posey, who represents the coastal Florida district that includes the Kennedy Space Center, had previously expressed similar views on ice ages and global warming in a 2011 interview with conservative activist Victoria Jackson.