A Creationist Wants Rocks to Study. The Grand Canyon Says No.


Officials at the Grand Canyon are in a dispute with a geologist who is a creationist and wants rocks from the canyon to study. Credit Richard Perry/The New York Times

PHOENIX — Did Noah’s flood create the Grand Canyon? Not a chance, say mainstream scientists, who maintain that the canyon’s layers of rocks were carved and chiseled by a persistent flow of water beginning some five million years ago. But Andrew A. Snelling — a geologist by training, a creationist by conviction — has a minority view, and he hoped to prove himself right.

In November 2013, Dr. Snelling — he has a doctorate in geology from the University of Sydney, in Australia, where he was born — asked administrators of Grand Canyon National Park for permission to remove some 60 half-pound rocks from certain areas along the edges of the Colorado River, which snakes through the canyon.

Last July, the administrators denied his request. This month, Dr. Snelling sued them, the National Park Service and the Interior Department, claiming the denial amounted to discrimination against his religious beliefs.

In an interview on Thursday, Gary McCaleb, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, the conservative Christian legal defense group that is representing Dr. Snelling, said, “It’s one thing to debate the science, but to deny access to the data not based on the quality of a proposal or the nature of the inquiry, but on what you might do with it is an abuse of government power.”

Heather Swift, a spokeswoman for the Interior Department, referred questions about the lawsuit to the Justice Department, which did not respond to a request for comment. Mr. McCaleb said that Parks Service officials reached out to him recently and that both sides would meet soon.

As a young-Earth creationist, Dr. Snelling embraces a literal interpretation of the Bible’s Book of Genesis: God created the universe, Earth and all life in it in six days, and the flood caused rapid geological transformations. By these measures, Earth is not billions of years old, but only several thousand.

His beliefs did not come up in his permit request, but he was no stranger to park officials, as he had guided many Biblical-themed rafting trips through the canyon and done research there. According to the lawsuit, the officials subjected him to cumbersome requirements, such as providing coordinates and photographs of each of the places from which he planned to collect rocks and submitting his proposal to peer reviews.

Continue reading the main story

Хостинг сайтов Joinder.Pro

The Getaway: Greening Your Summer Vacation

Sustainability is a big-umbrella term that addresses the economy, communities and the environment. Here are three aspects to consider as you plan.


According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, transportation accounts for 27 percent of annual greenhouse gas emissions, the kind that trap heat and warm the planet. Transportation, which includes everything from food trucked across the country to car commuting, is second only to electricity production in those emissions. Since 1990, total emissions are up about 4 percent, and the agency attributes the increase in transportation emissions to the growth in travel.

The remedy isn’t to stop traveling, which is a major economic driver, particularly in emerging countries, but “to do it smarter,” said Ms. Honey of Crest. “Look for larger, more fuel-efficient engines. Try to travel on nonstops. Going down and coming up creates more emissions. And where there are alternatives like trains and buses, do those. Try not to do short-haul flights.”

Carriers like United Airlines and tour companies such as AdventureSmith Explorations offer carbon calculators on their websites that allow travelers to determine the impact of travel and make a commensurate donation to carbon reduction projects such as wind farming and reforestation. The adventure travel company Wild Frontiers includes the offset fee in its airfare.

Costs depend on the programs supported. At United, the nearly 10,000-mile round trip between Newark and Honolulu could recently be offset with a $14.78 donation to a wind farm, or $17.74 to help protect a forest in Peru.

Natural Habitat Adventures, which specializes in wildlife trips, includes the cost of offsetting travel on the ground — everything from airport transfers to electricity used at a hotel — in its pricing. Offsetting international airfare is encouraged but optional.

“When it comes down to it, carbon offsetting is a creative way to drive funding toward great conservation projects that help the earth,” said Ted Martens, the vice president of marketing and sustainability for Natural Habitat.

Green Operations

Like Natural Habitat, the tour company Intrepid Travel also carbon-offsets its operations both on trips and in its offices. But for independent travelers, selecting sustainable accommodations and activities remains a task of wading through certifications and evaluating eco-claims.

Costa Rica and Australia are among countries that certify the eco-strength of hotels, tour companies and attractions. Costa Rica, for example, has awarded one green leaf, the minimum, to a dolphin swim program and five, the maximum, to the green tour operator Osa Wild. States such as Wisconsin also run certification programs.

To evaluate a certification program, check to see if it has been reviewed by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, an independent nonprofit that has established standards for sustainability in travel.

“They’re sort of like policemen for the sustainable tourism industry,” Ms. Honey said.

Responsible Travel, an English agency that specializes in sustainable holidays, hands out World Responsible Tourism Awards that are another good source for finding eco-friendly operators.

When shopping for a hotel, travelers should ask about environmental practices. Alila Hotels & Resorts in Bali aims to be waste-free by July. Inkaterra offsets the impact of its lodges in Peru by investing in the protection of 42,000 acres of forest, among other programs. Cayuga Collection, which runs eight lodges in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, offers back-of-the-house sustainability tours. At Lapa Rios in Costa Rica, pigs are fed restaurant scraps and produce the biogas that fuels some of the cooking stoves.

“Recycling is the last thing you want to do and only if you haven’t been able to avoid creating waste,” said Hans Pfister, an owner of the Cayuga Collection, which bans plastic bottles and drinking straws from its properties. “Remote places are not capable of dealing with plastic trash because they don’t have the infrastructure.”

Social Impact

Increasingly, green tourism operators are focusing on the human factor, or the impact on local people. Is the tour company staffed by locals? Is the hotel locally owned, and therefore keeping the money within the community rather than shipping it to a foreign headquarters? Do tourism businesses support environmental or educational projects? Do employees earn a living wage? Can travelers learn from the locals and vice versa?

“We are used to talking about what your carbon footprint is, but what is your handprint?” Mr. Pfister asked. “Your handprint is spending two hours interacting with a community or buying art directly from the person producing it, not in a gift shop, which has a carved toucan made in China. Your handprint could be going on a local fishing tour and leaving a positive impression. It’s all about creating relationships.”

On the social side, eco-tourism operators hope travelers will return home not just with gorgeous photographs, but also with new waste-reduction practices, a zeal for conservation to share with friends and a determination to support organizations like the World Wildlife Fund.

“Our biggest opportunity is through this influence that we have with travelers and using these experiences to inspire them,” said Mr. Martens of Natural Habitat Adventures.

Continue reading the main story

Хостинг сайтов Joinder.Pro

Can the Paris Climate Deal Survive a Trump-Style Renegotiation?

So what would it mean for the Trump administration to remain in but try to reshape the Paris deal?

The broad outlines of the accord, agreed to by 195 countries in 2015, are no longer up for revision. Every country is required to submit a voluntary pledge to curb its greenhouse-gas emissions over time. Nations will then meet regularly to assess their progress and pressure each other to intensify action in an attempt to keep the overall global temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. They will also haggle over issues like aid to poorer countries or how to compensate nations for “loss and damage” caused by a rise in sea level and other climate impacts.

If Mr. Trump decides to keep the United States in, however, he will have leeway to scale back its commitments, because those pledges are largely nonbinding. President Barack Obama vowed to cut domestic greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. With the Trump administration repealing domestic regulations like the Clean Power Plan, it is highly unlikely the United States will meet that goal, and the White House can either ignore the pledge or submit a new, less stringent one.

Mr. Obama also pledged $3 billion in aid to help poorer countries scale up clean energy and adapt to global warming under the United Nations-based Green Climate Fund — and $1 billion was paid in before he left office. That promise, too, is most likely dead: Mr. Trump’s recent budget proposal would eliminate any further payments to the fund.

One potential risk is that these rollbacks could sap any momentum for stronger global climate action. “Developing countries were counting on that aid as a condition of participating,” said David G. Victor, professor of international relations at the University of California, San Diego. “The concern is that they’d become less amenable to working together in the future and the whole machinery gets gummed up.”

But Mr. Cramer argues that the United States could play a constructive role in future talks, just on different terms. Rather than emphasizing the importance of pollution restrictions for tackling climate change, the Trump administration might work with China and other nations to promote certain low-carbon technologies, like nuclear power or more efficient coal plants. Or the United States could push to export more natural gas to China to displace its coal. A similar substitution has helped lower emissions in the United States.

OPEN Graphic

Graphic: How 2016 Became Earth’s Hottest Year on Record

“If we’re at the table, we have a much better chance of being able to partner with other countries or export U.S. technologies that could help provide solutions,” Mr. Cramer said. He argued that by staying in the Paris accord, the United States could provide a counterweight to European countries that place a greater emphasis on promoting renewable energy. A number of American coal and oil companies have asked the Trump administration to stick with the Paris deal for just these reasons.

Outside experts say it is at least possible to imagine situations in which the Trump administration works to make headway on emissions within the Paris deal. Paul Bledsoe, a former Clinton White House aide, points out that the Trump administration could, in theory, work more closely with China to develop carbon capture technology for its large number of coal plants, something in which some Trump aides have signaled an interest.

The United States could also try to pressure China to further bolster its national goal on greenhouse gases. China’s current pledge aims for the country to reach peak emissions by 2030, but many analysts now believe it can easily beat that target as demand for new coal wanes.

“There are definitely opportunities for the United States to try to improve international climate efforts,” Mr. Bledsoe said. “The question is whether they actually care.” As reason for skepticism on that score, he pointed out that Mr. Trump’s latest budget proposal would make deep cuts to research funding for nuclear energy and carbon capture. “That’s hard to square with the idea that they’re really serious about a more technology-focused approach.”

Others, like Mr. Kemp, fear that the Trump administration, which frequently plays down the threat of global warming, has no interest in assuming a constructive role in climate talks and could bog down future discussions on things like how to review and strengthen individual national pledges.

By contrast, he argues, other countries could actually be galvanized into taking even stronger action if the United States left altogether.

“I worry that letting the United States just stay in the agreement and do whatever it wants could show how weak Paris is,” Mr. Kemp said. “It sends the message that the agreement is more about symbolism than action.”

Continue reading the main story

Хостинг сайтов Joinder.Pro

Looking for Trump’s Climate Policy? Try the Energy Department


The Trump administration’s deepest impact on domestic climate policy might have little to do with its efforts to dismantle the Clean Power Plan or its decision on the Paris accord.

Instead, the coming battle over the future of the Energy Department could prove far more significant for the United States’ long-term efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Among energy experts, there is broad agreement that the world still needs major technological advances to halt global warming, like better batteries to integrate larger shares of solar and wind power into the grid, or carbon capture to curb pollution from cement plants.

Historically, the Energy Department has nurtured these kinds of innovations, conducting basic research in its network of 17 national laboratories and aiding private firms struggling to bring risky technologies to market. But those efforts would be drastically scaled back under President Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal, released on Tuesday, which proposes to cut the agency’s energy programs by $3.1 billion, or 18 percent below last year’s levels.

The agency’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which has helped nudge down the cost of solar power, faces a 69 percent cut. The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, a program that funds research into long-shot energy technologies, like algae biofuels or advanced batteries, would face elimination. And, despite Mr. Trump’s stated desire to promote “clean coal,” the Office of Fossil Energy, which invests in techniques to scrub carbon dioxide from coal plants and bury it underground, faces an 85 percent cut to its carbon-capture efforts.

Even if members of Congress, who have indicated they will resist many of these changes, shield the agency from cuts, observers worry about the broader effects of an administration skeptical of federal energy research. Political appointees can still thwart approval of new programs internally — and already appear to be doing so. Uncertainty over funding could disrupt plans for research at the national labs. Many career staff members are now contemplating leaving, raising fears of a talent drain.

“Companies need a degree of certainty from the agency,” said Jeff Navin, a former acting chief of staff at the Energy Department. “The worry is that if someone has a game-changing technology and is looking to the government to help them commercialize it, maybe Europe or China starts to look more attractive.”

How the Energy Department tackles climate change

Only one-fifth of the department’s $30 billion budget is devoted to energy programs. The rest goes toward maintaining the nation’s nuclear weapons arsenal, cleaning up environmental messes from the Cold War and conducting scientific research in areas like high-energy physics.

But that slice of energy spending plays an outsize role in helping commercialize new technologies — particularly since private investors often lack patience for bankrolling large-scale energy infrastructure that may take decades to pan out. The agency’s investments in shale-gas technology in the 1970s laid the groundwork for the fracking boom now revolutionizing the domestic energy landscape.

Under the Obama administration, the department focused on reducing the costs of clean-energy technologies to help combat global warming. That included programs like the SunShot Initiative, which helped drive down the price of utility-scale solar more than 70 percent from 2010 to 2016. The department also provided financial support to start-ups like Tesla, Elon Musk’s electric-vehicle venture, and, less successfully, Solyndra, a failed solar company.

Yet many analysts argue that the United States is still underfunding energy research, which has declined since the 1970s after adjusting for inflation. “It’s risky to say that we already have all the technologies we need to tackle climate change,” said David M. Hart, who studies energy and innovation policy at George Mason University. “The more bets we’re making now, the better positioned we’ll be to meet those challenges.”

What happens if the agency pulls back on energy research?

The Trump administration’s budget makes clear that it does not consider climate change a priority. Its proposed cuts to the Energy Department were heavily influenced by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that argues that the federal government should fund only very basic research and leave commercialization entirely to the private sector.

That thinking is reflected clearly in places like the budget for the agency’s Office of Nuclear Energy, which faces a 31 percent cut. Although the proposal would preserve some basic lab research into advanced nuclear fuels, it would cancel cost-sharing agreements with firms like TerraPower and X-energy working on new designs for reactors that might produce less radioactive waste than today’s models.

Few experts believe the private sector can fill the void if the Energy Department pulls back.

“We’re already seeing private-sector investment in energy research diminish,” said Shannon Angielski, executive director of the Coal Utilization Research Council, a coalition of electric utilities and coal companies promoting research into carbon capture technologies for coal and gas power plants. “My concern is that if we cut federal investment here, we simply won’t have these technologies available.”

Even if Congress shields the agency’s budget for next year, as it did for fiscal year 2017, current and former staff members fear that the department may be reluctant to tackle big energy challenges.

In public, Rick Perry, the energy secretary, has disagreed with the Heritage Foundation’s position. “I’m a big believer that we have a role to play in applied R. & D. and technology commercialization,” he told senators at his confirmation hearing in January. Yet inside the department, Mr. Perry has struggled to articulate a clear direction for the agency, and a number of initiatives have slowed to a crawl.

In recent months, the secretary’s office has demanded to review all new and pending grants and contracts, creating a bottleneck that did not exist previously and that has bogged down agency work, employees say. Recently, Democrats on the House appropriations committee wrote a letter to Mr. Perry criticizing him for delaying funding for renewable energy and other programs that Congress mandated in its 2017 budget.

One sign of how adrift the agency has become: The previous secretary, Ernest J. Moniz, set up an Office of the Under Secretary for Science and Energy to break down walls between basic research at the national labs and applied energy programs. That office had 15 employees last year. Today, it has just two.


Хостинг сайтов Joinder.Pro

Q. AND A.: For a Hotel Beekeeper, Honey Is Just the Beginning


Noel Patterson, the beekeeper at Miraval Resort & Spa in Tucson, harvests honey from hives for the spa and the kitchens. Credit Miraval Resort & Spa

A wine distributor and sommelier by trade, Noel Patterson, the resident beekeeper at Miraval Resort & Spa in Tucson, parlayed his experience with terroir to capture time and place in a bottle. His latest medium? Honey.

In his role, Mr. Patterson harvests honey from hives on the property for spa treatments and for Miraval’s kitchens; educates guests on the role they play in bees’ ecosystems; teaches them how to set up their own backyard beehives; and, with tastings, helps them discover the unique flavors of honey.

He leads a workshop called “Honey: A Sensual Journey,” which teaches guests that, like wine, honey reflects the region where it’s produced. He also talks to guests about the bee population’s dire situation, and teaches them how to help contribute to their survival. (Properties like St. Ermin’s Hotel in London and the Mandarin Oriental in Paris and the W in Taipei also have on-site beekeeping.)

Following are edited excerpts from a conversation with Mr. Patterson.

How were you introduced to beekeeping?

I never intended to be a professional beekeeper, but for my birthday, my girlfriend at the time unexpectedly got me a beehive. She’s a talented organic farmer and built me a hive herself. I have a large property in downtown Tucson, and I grow as much of my own food as I can, but the one thing I was never able to produce myself was sweetener. I had my veggies and chicken, but not honey.

Beyond honey production, how do bees enhance our travel experience?

Beehives at hotels increase the overall bee population in the area and can play a major role in combating colony collapse. They play an integral role in the development of the food we eat and the natural habitats we explore. Now, more than ever, travelers are concerned with where their food comes from and make a conscious effort to eat organic, locally sourced foods. And bee pollination is key in growing healthy crops without the use of pesticides.

Continue reading the main story

Хостинг сайтов Joinder.Pro

A Strong Case Against a Pesticide Does Not Faze E.P.A. Under Trump

Yet chlorpyrifos is still widely used in agriculture and routinely sprayed on crops like apples, oranges, strawberries and broccoli. Whether it remains available may become an early test of the Trump administration’s determination to pare back environmental regulations frowned on by the industry and to retreat from food-safety laws, possibly provoking another clash with the courts.

In March, the new chief of the E.P.A., Scott Pruitt, denied a 10-year-old petition brought by environmental groups seeking a complete ban on chlorpyrifos. In a statement accompanying his decision, Mr. Pruitt said there “continue to be considerable areas of uncertainty” about the neurodevelopmental effects of early life exposure to the pesticide.

Even though a court last year denied the agency’s request for more time to review the scientific evidence, Mr. Pruitt said the agency would postpone a final determination on the pesticide until 2022. The agency was “returning to using sound science in decision-making — rather than predetermined results,” he added.

Agency officials have declined repeated requests for information detailing the scientific rationale for Mr. Pruitt’s decision.

Lawyers representing Dow and other pesticide manufacturers have also been pressing federal agencies to ignore E.P.A. studies that have found chlorpyrifos and other pesticides are harmful to endangered plants and animals.

A statement issued by Dow Chemical, which manufactures the pesticide, said: “No pest control product has been more thoroughly evaluated, with more than 4,000 studies and reports examining chlorpyrifos in terms of health, safety and environment.”

A Baffling Order

Mr. Pruitt’s decision has confounded environmentalists and research scientists convinced that the pesticide is harmful.

Farm workers and their families are routinely exposed to chlorpyrifos, which leaches into ground water and persists in residues on fruits and vegetables, even after washing and peeling, they say.

Mr. Pruitt’s order contradicted the E.P.A.’s own exhaustive scientific analyses, which had been reviewed by industry experts and modified in response to their concerns.

In 2015, an agency report concluded that infants and children in some parts of the country were being exposed to unsafe amounts of the chemical in drinking water, and to a dangerous byproduct. Agency researchers could not determine any level of exposure that was safe.


In March, Scott Pruitt, the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, denied a petition brought by environmental groups seeking a complete ban on chlorpyrifos. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

An updated human health risk assessment compiled by the E.P.A. in November found that health problems were occurring at lower levels of exposure than had previously been believed harmful.

Infants, children, young girls and women are exposed to dangerous levels of chlorpyrifos through diet alone, the agency said. Children are exposed to levels up to 140 times the safety limit.

“The science was very complicated, and it took the E.P.A. a long time to figure out how to deal with what the Columbia study was saying,” said Jim Jones, who ran the chemical safety unit at the agency for five years, leaving after President Trump took office.

The evidence that the pesticide causes neurodevelopmental damage to children “is not a slam dunk, the way it is for some of the most well-understood chemicals,” Mr. Jones conceded. Still, he added, “very few chemicals fall into that category.”

But the law governing the regulation of pesticides used on foods doesn’t require conclusive evidence for regulators to prohibit potentially dangerous chemicals. It errs on the side of caution.

The Food Quality Protection Act set a new safety standard for pesticides and fungicides when it was passed in 1996, requiring the E.P.A. to determine that a chemical can be used with “a reasonable certainty of no harm.”

The act also required the agency to take the unique vulnerabilities of young children into account and to use a wide margin of safety when setting tolerance levels.

Children may be exposed to multiple pesticides that have the same toxic mechanism of action at the same time, the law noted. They’re also exposed through routes other than food, like drinking water.

Environmental groups returned last month to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, asking that the E.P.A. be ordered to ban the pesticide. The court has already admonished the agency for what it called “egregious” delays in responding to a petition filed by the groups in 2007.

The E.P.A. responded on April 28, saying it had met its deadline when Mr. Pruitt denied the petition.

Erik D. Olson, director of the health program at Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the groups petitioning the E.P.A. to ban chlorpyrifos, disagreed.

“The E.P.A. has twice made a formal determination that this chemical is not safe,” Mr. Olson said. “The agency cannot just decide not to act on that. They have not put out a new finding of safety, which is what they would have to do to allow it to continue to be used.”

Devastating Effects

Chlorpyrifos belongs to a class of pesticides called organophosphates, a diverse group of compounds that includes nerve agents like sarin gas.

It acts by blocking an enzyme called cholinesterase, which causes a toxic buildup of acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter that carries signals from nerve cells to their targets.

Acute poisoning with the pesticide can cause nausea, dizziness, convulsions and even death in humans, as well as animals.


The use of chlorpyrifos has been declining in California, where farmers have responded to rising demand for organic produce and to concerns about organophosphates. Credit Lucy Nicholson/Reuters, via Newscom

But the scientific question has been whether humans, and especially small children, are affected by chronic low-level exposures that don’t cause any obvious immediate effects — and if so, at what threshold these exposures cause harm.

Scientists have been studying the impact of chlorpyrifos on brain development in young rats under controlled laboratory conditions for decades. These studies have shown that the chemical has devastating effects on the brain.

“Even at exquisitely low doses, this compound would stop cells from dividing and push them instead into programmed cell death,” said Theodore Slotkin, a scientist at Duke University Medical Center, who has published dozens of studies on rats exposed to chlorpyrifos shortly after birth.

In the animal studies, Dr. Slotkin was able to demonstrate a clear cause-and effect relationship. It didn’t matter when the young rats were exposed; their developing brains were vulnerable to its effects throughout gestation and early childhood, and exposure led to structural abnormalities, behavioral problems, impaired cognitive performance and depressive-like symptoms.

And there was no safe window for exposure. “There doesn’t appear to be any period of brain development that is safe from its effects,” Dr. Slotkin said.

Manufacturers say there is no proof low-level exposures to chlorpyrifos causes similar effects in humans. Carol Burns, a consultant to Dow Chemical, said the Columbia study pointed to an association between exposure just before birth and poor outcomes, but did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

Studies of children exposed to other organophosphate pesticides, however, have also found lower IQ scores and attention problems after prenatal exposure, as well as abnormal reflexes in infants and poor lung function in early childhood.

“When you weigh the evidence across the different studies that have looked at this, it really does pretty strongly point the finger that organophosphate pesticides as a class are of significant concern to child neurodevelopment,” said Stephanie M. Engel, an associate professor of epidemiology at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Dr. Engel has published research showing that exposure to organophosphates during pregnancy may impair cognitive development in children.

But Dr. Burns argues that other factors may be responsible for cognitive impairment, and that it is impossible to control for the myriad factors in children’s lives that affect health outcomes. “It’s not a criticism of a study — that’s the reality of observational studies in human beings,” she said. “Poverty, inadequate housing, poor social support, maternal depression, not reading to your children — all these kinds of things also ultimately impact the development of the child, and are interrelated.”

While animal studies can determine causality, it’s difficult to do so in human studies, said Brenda Eskenazi, director of the Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health at the University of California, Berkeley.

“The human literature will never be as strong as the animal literature, because of the problems inherent in doing research on humans,” she said.

With regard to organophosphates, she added, “the animal literature is very strong, and the human literature is consistent, but not as strong.”

If the E.P.A. will not end use of the pesticide, consumer preferences may.

In California, the nation’s breadbasket, use of chlorpyrifos has been declining, Dr. Eskenazi said. Farmers have responded to rising demand for organic produce and to concerns about organophosphate pesticides.

She is already concerned about what chemicals will replace it. While organophosphates and chlorpyrifos in particular have been scrutinized, newer pesticides have not been studied so closely, she said.

“We know more about chlorpyrifos than any other organophosphate; that doesn’t mean it’s the most toxic;” she said, adding, “There may be others that are worse offenders.”

Correction: May 18, 2017

An article on Tuesday about the pesticide chlorpyrifos described acetylcholine incorrectly. It is an ester of choline and acetic acid, not a protein. The article also misstated part of the name of a court that was asked to ban the pesticide. It is the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, not the Ninth District.

Continue reading the main story

Хостинг сайтов Joinder.Pro

In Win for Environmentalists, Senate Keeps an Obama-Era Climate Change Rule

In anticipation of Republican defections, President Trump sent Vice President Mike Pence to the Senate floor to break a tie vote. But with three members of his own party breaking away, Mr. Pence could do nothing.

“We were surprised and thrilled to win on this,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president of the League of Conservation Voters, which, along with other environmental groups, has been lobbying Republicans for weeks to vote against the repeal of the methane rule. “This is clearly a huge win for our health and our climate.”

While Ms. Collins and Mr. Graham had publicly announced their opposition to the measure, Mr. McCain’s vote was a surprise.

It came as Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, was advancing the nomination of the trade lawyer Robert Lighthizer to be the United States trade representative. Mr. Lighthizer harshly criticized Mr. McCain during the senator’s 2008 presidential campaign, saying his free-trade views were not in the best traditions of American conservatism. Mr. McCain has since sought to block Mr. Lighthizer’s nomination, objecting to a waiver granted to him to skirt the president’s prohibition on lobbyists serving in his cabinet.

Mr. McCain also was the target of significant lobbying on the climate issue. Last week, a group of retired generals from the liberal Vet Voice Foundation sent a letter to all senators, framing the rollback of the methane regulation as a national security threat. The group said the venting of the emissions from fuel wells could diminish the natural gas supply. Mr. McCain, who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has spoken of climate change and the energy supply as a national security issue.


We’ve tracked the major environmental policies and decisions the Trump administration and Congress have rolled back so far.

OPEN Graphic

Oil lobbyists pressed their case that the methane rule was onerous and duplicative, since many oil-producing states already have state-level methane regulations.

On Tuesday, Gwen Lachelt, a county commissioner from La Plata County, Colo., which sits near the Four Corners where the state abuts New Mexico, Utah and Arizona, buttonholed Mr. McCain in a Senate elevator to tell him that county residents have suffered from methane pollution drifting over from New Mexico, and she noted that the same pollution could affect his state.

“I’m not taking credit for swaying Senator McCain’s vote, but I told him that right across the state line from my county are 35,000 oil and gas wells in New Mexico,” she said. “We all share an airshed and the winds that bring methane pollution our way, and without this federal rule, I have no way as a county commissioner to protect the people in my county. In the Four Corners, we all live under the largest methane cloud.”

Mr. McCain made a similar point in a statement on the reasons for his vote.

“Improving the control of methane emissions is an important public health and air quality issue, which is why some states are moving forward with their own regulations requiring greater investment in recapture technology,” he wrote. “I join the call for strong action to reduce pollution from venting, flaring and leaks associated with oil and gas production operations on public and Indian land.”

Nevertheless, Mr. McCain did say he would support an effort by the Trump administration to rewrite the Obama rule. Had Congress repealed the Obama-era rule entirely, the administration would have been precluded from issuing any similar regulation under the terms of the Congressional Review Act.

The Independent Petroleum Association of America, which represents smaller oil and gas producers, criticized the vote. “We’re disappointed the Senate wasn’t able to stop President Obama’s unworkable rule by a federal agency that does not have the congressionally granted authority to regulate air quality,” said Barry Russell, the group’s president.

Oil-state Republican lawmakers vowed to push Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to act on his own.

“I call on Interior Secretary Zinke to withdraw the rule immediately,” said Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, who is chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. “If left in place, this regulation will only discourage energy production, job creation and economic opportunity across the West.”

The failure of the effort to roll back the methane rule is a small but significant victory for environmentalists in the Trump era, as the president has pushed aggressively to dismantle most of his predecessor’s environmental legacy.

The methane rule was one of a suite of environmental regulations put in place by Mr. Obama as he sought to use his executive authority to tackle climate change across the economy. While methane vented from oil and gas wells accounts for only a small portion of the nation’s greenhouse gas pollution, environmental advocates urged Mr. Obama to tackle the emissions, because methane is over 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the earth’s atmosphere.

The failure to repeal the methane rule, which required a simple majority of 51 votes to pass, comes as the Senate nears the end of its window to use the Congressional Review Act to undo major regulations. Under that law, which was used successfully only once before this year, Congress can vote to erase new executive-branch regulations within 60 legislative days of their completion. Since Mr. Trump’s inauguration, the White House has successfully pushed Congress to roll back more than a dozen Obama-era rules.

Included in those rollbacks were regulations that would have limited the way coal mining companies could dump debris into streams after blowing up mountaintops to gain access to coal deposits, and a requirement for oil, gas and mining companies to disclose payments made to foreign governments in exchange for access to drilling or mining rights.

Correction: May 10, 2017

An earlier version of this story misstated a figure in a quotation from Gwen Lachelt, a county commissioner in Colorado. She said there were 35,000 oil and gas wells across the state line in New Mexico, not 35.

Continue reading the main story

Хостинг сайтов Joinder.Pro

Laurie Garrett: Republicans’ message to Americans — You’re on your own

Beware the Ides of September, which could find everything from your cancer surgery to HIV treatment for Africans sliced to smithereens. As Republicans cheered passage of their Obamacare repeal in the House on Thursday, the Democrats chided them that America will vote the GOP out of power in 2018, singing, «Sha-na-na-na! Na-na-na! Hey! Hey! Goodbye!»

Хостинг сайтов Joinder.Pro

By Degrees: A Parable From Down Under for U.S. Climate Scientists

In effect, this small country is keeping an eye on half the planet for the rest of us.

Much of the necessary work is done by scientists on the payroll of the country’s principal research agency, known as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. It was within that agency that last year’s controversy unfolded.

Budgets at the agency had been under pressure for years, much as scientific budgets have been in the United States. Then in 2015, a new boss, Larry R. Marshall, took over at the behest of the conservative government, controlled by a party known here, oddly, as the Liberals, and led now by Malcolm Turnbull. (Actual liberals join the Labor Party.)

The issue can be overwhelming. The science is complicated. We get it. This is your cheat sheet.

Though Dr. Marshall is Australian, he made his name as a scientific researcher and entrepreneur in the United States. He went back to Australia with the goal of sprinkling some Silicon Valley pixie dust on the agency, doing more to turn its fundamental research into jobs and start-up companies to benefit the economy.

Studying the agency’s costs, Dr. Marshall and his aides decided that too many people were working on basic questions about the climate. If he laid off scores of them, he reasoned, he would have money to reinvest in other priorities. Those would include looking for ways to reduce emissions, and to adapt to climate changes that could no longer be avoided.

When they found out about the plan, though, the agency’s scientists were dumbfounded. They were entirely in favor of research on solutions, but the notion that basic climate monitoring and analysis could be scaled back struck them as preposterous.

While the world’s scientists have established that the planet is warming, that human activity is the main cause and that continued high emissions will pose profound risks, they are still far from having a complete understanding of the planetary climate.

When Dr. Marshall’s plan was unveiled, Australian researchers hit the panic button. Among those who swung into action was Dr. Church.

He is an oceanographer and climate scientist with decades of experience. Working from one of the research agency’s offices in Hobart, the capital of Australia’s island state of Tasmania, he had become known internationally for helping to bring statistical and analytical rigor to longstanding questions about sea level rise. With a colleague, Dr. Church was the first to establish that the rise had accelerated during the 20th century, a strong indication that the pace is linked to emissions of greenhouse gases.

He also had extensive contacts in the Australian press. Dr. Church said that by the time he reached Peter Hannam, a top environmental journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald, Mr. Hannam was already sniffing out the story of the cutbacks. Once he broke it, the situation developed into an international brouhaha.

A flood of internal documents leaked. Thousands of scientists weighed in from abroad, pleading with the Australian government to reconsider. People marched in the streets. Hearings were convened.

Dr. Church stuck his neck out farther than his colleagues. In an open letter to Dr. Marshall, he urged that the cuts be rolled back and accused his boss of being “disrespectful and insulting” toward the agency’s employees.

Trying to allay suspicion about his motives, Dr. Marshall took pains to make clear that he accepted the basic findings of climate research. The climate “absolutely is changing,” he declared before a committee of the Australian Senate. “It is changing, and we have to do something about it.”

Explaining the origins of the controversy, Dr. Marshall said in a recent telephone interview from Canberra, the national capital, “Unfortunately, with a finite funding envelope, you’ve got to make choices where you fund.”

Despite the government’s efforts to quell the controversy, the proposed layoffs became an issue last summer in a hard-fought election campaign, part of a larger argument about the perceived weakness of Australia’s climate policies.

The Liberal-led conservative coalition narrowly beat Labor, but lost seats in Parliament and returned to Canberra in a weakened position. Almost as soon as the election was over, the government partly backed down, with a new science minister, Greg Hunt, declaring that climate analysis would be a “bedrock function” of the research agency.

Originally, scores of scientists and staff members at a research center outside Melbourne had been marked for layoffs, but in the end only 20 or so left, many of them near or past retirement age. The center is now recruiting additional scientists, and may wind up larger than before the fight.

In the interview, Dr. Marshall said he wished he had communicated more effectively with the agency’s employees about the reasons for the shift in priorities. “We are a learning organization, and there are definitely things we’d do differently,” he said.

As the controversy unfolded, Dr. Church was implacable in public, but he said in our interview that he had wrestled with major doubts.

More Reporting on Climate Change

“I had sleepless nights for months,” he said. “I thought, am I doing the right thing by my colleagues? Am I looking after their positions, or am I making it worse for them and for the Australian public?”

The end, he said, came as no great shock. He was on a research ship in the middle of the Southern Ocean when the word came down that his job would not be one of those being saved.

“I’m still angry, in some sense,” he said, citing certain colleagues in the agency who he felt had not defended the integrity of science at a critical moment.

But he was able to take full retirement benefits. His reputation as a man of honor was burnished by the episode, and the University of New South Wales offered him a position that will allow him to continue his work. He expressed gratitude to that institution.

As Dr. Church and I were finishing our coffees, I noted that President Trump had offered a budget outline for the United States that, if enacted, would almost certainly require huge cuts in the basic scientific enterprise of monitoring and analyzing the climate.

Congress will have the last word after Mr. Trump presents a more detailed outline, so there is no way to know how that fight will end. But over two weekends in April, tens of thousands of Americans marched in the streets to defend science and to demand action on climate change.

That means the citizenry in the United States, just as in Australia, is alert and watching. You can bet a lot of American scientists are thinking these days about how they will respond if the government starts gutting climate research.

“I guess somebody in the United States,” Dr. Church said, “has to step out into the public and do what I did.”

Continue reading the main story

Хостинг сайтов Joinder.Pro