Category Archives: environmental news

Climate change will bring more storms

A report came to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk that delivers a stern message without actually saying the words it needs to say.

The Gulf Coast is going to experience more severe storms with increasing frequency, the report states. Why? Earth’s climate is changing. However, the report doesn’t use the words “climate change” to explain what is patently obvious.

Gov. Abbott won’t accept climate change as a contributing factor, but the report does contain some stern and dire warnings.

According to the Austin American-Statesman: “The enormous toll on individuals, businesses and public infrastructure should provide a wake-up call underlining the urgent need to ‘future proof’ the Gulf Coast — and indeed all of Texas — against future disasters,” according to “Eye of the Storm,’ the report released Thursday by . . . Abbott’s Commission to Rebuild Texas.”

But as the American-Statesman notes, “future proof” has become Abbott’s favorite term as it relates to what the state is experiencing.

Earlier reports note that storms as savage and sweeping as Hurricane Harvey are going to pound the coast with increasing frequency and savagery. Again, our climate is changing. Sea levels along the coast are rising. The rising levels put our fragile coastal wetlands in peril. Other reports note the shrinking Arctic and Antarctic ice caps that could cause sea levels to increase by more than four feet by 2100.

Also, according to the American-Statesman: “The current scientific consensus points to increasing amounts of intense rainfall coupled with the likelihood of more intense hurricanes,” the report states.

The president of the United States says climate change is a “hoax.” I believe he is wrong to say such a thing knowing that he is making a false declaration.

As for the Texas governor, it is long past time for him to climb aboard the climate change wagon. The evidence is there, even if a thorough report doesn’t say it in so many words.

Time of My Life, Part 4: Staring down a volcano

I long have been proud to say that my career allowed me to do things that most folks don’t get to do . . . such as fly over an erupting volcano!

But in late March 1980, I had that singular honor thrust on me.

You’ve heard of the cataclysm that occurred on May 18, 1980 when Mount St. Helens exploded, wiping roughly 1,400 feet off dirt, ash and rock off its summit. It killed about 65 individuals and wiped out Spirit Lake, Wash., and thousands of acres of virgin timberland.

What you might not recall is that the eruption began two months earlier.

I was editor of the Oregon City (Ore.) Enterprise-Courier at the time. I had written a feature story about a father and son in Clackamas County who restored vintage aircraft; the son gave me a ride in a biplane, which was a thrill in itself.

I got back to the office and a day or two later we got word of Mount St. Helens rumbling; the earth was trembling under the mountain. The U.S. Geological Survey sent teams to the region to monitor the quakes. The USGS then determined quickly that the mountain was entering a pre-eruptive phase. It could blow at any minute.

I called my young friend who gave me the biplane ride and said something like this: “If Mount St. Helens starts to erupt, can I call on you to fly me to the mountain to take pictures?” He agreed.

Then came the pre-cataclysm. St. Helens began to “erupt,” meaning that the quakes began creating craters along the summit. I called my friend. I drove out to his airfield. We boarded a two-seat single-engine prop airplane and took off. In the meantime, a colleague of mine at the newspaper, David Peters, drove about 75 miles to the USGS station near the foot of Mount St. Helens, where he would interview a young man who became a legendary figure in the Pacific Northwest; more on him in a moment.

My pilot friend and I arrived at the mountain and buzzed the summit repeatedly. I threw open the window on the passengers side of the plane and snapped hundreds of pictures of the summit as ice and snow began caving into newly created craters on top of the 9,600-foot peak.

Now, full disclosure time: The plane had no working radio. We were unable to hear any warnings from the FAA or the USGS about the “stunt” we were pulling off in the moment. I would learn upon returning to the airfield that the FAA had placed a no-fly zone around the summit. We were unaware. The statute of limitations ran out long ago, so I won’t be prosecuted for this admission.

As for Dave Peters’s assignment, he interviewed a USGS volcanologist by the name of David Johnston. On May 18, 1980, it was Johnston who radioed to his headquarters in Vancouver, Wash., from a ridge north of the mountain as the peak exploded.

He yelled: Vancouver, Vancouver. This is it! The pyroclastic flow of white-hot ash and rock that sped across the ridge vaporized Johnston in an instant. He was gone. The spot where he told the world of what was occurring now carries the name Johnston Ridge.

I was enabled because of the work I did to have more fun in pursuit of that job than I really deserved. That event in March 1980 pretty much tops the list of unique experiences.

I caught my breath. We published some pictures in the newspaper. Dave Peters wrote a wonderful feature on Johnston.

My wife shared with me the thrilling experience I had on that fateful day. I told Mom and Dad about it the next day.

They, um, were not pleased.

Oh, how I hate trophy hunting

I am not a hunter. Yes, I’ve gone hunting a time or two in my life. It’s not my bag, man.

Having declared that, I want to add that I detest trophy hunting, the idea of going into the wild and killing animals for the purpose of displaying their stuffed carcasses as trophies.

A social media acquaintance of mine has been posting pictures of trophy hunters that show up on my Facebook timeline. I won’t reproduce them here, because they disgust me in the extreme.

I just feel the need to vent for a moment about the ridiculousness of shooting big game, depriving Mother Nature of a prized creature and then displaying the remains in one’s “game room,” or “trophy room” or even in one’s living room.

Although I do not hunt wild animals, I do understand the idea of hunting them for, say, food. Deer provide venison. Elk can be consumed as well. I once had a stew prepared with black bear meat; it was quite tasty, if you want to know the truth.

However, I cannot pull the trigger on those creatures.

I especially cannot do so when it involves an animal I won’t eat at the dinner table.

Thus, trophy hunting disgusts me. So do the pictures I keep seeing of those hunters and their sh**-eatin’ grins sitting behind one of God’s magnificent creatures.

If you are a trophy hunter and you take offense at my remarks . . . that’s just too damn bad.

As long as we’re talking about what we ‘believe’ . . .

Donald John Trump says he has read “some” of the much-discussed National Climate Assessment, says it is “fine,” but then adds quickly that he doesn’t “believe it.”

What doesn’t he believe? He doesn’t believe the projection from the government-ordered analysis of the impact of climate change on our economy. The Assessment projects a 10 percent decline in our Gross Domestic Product if we fail or refuse to do anything about climate change.

This report comes from the government. Donald Trump is the president of the United States. Connect the dots here. OK?

So, as long as we’re talking about what we “believe,” I happen to believe that Donald Trump shouldn’t be president of the United States. What’s more, I want to suggest that more people share my belief in his unfitness for public office than share Donald Trump’s belief as it regards the National Climate Assessment.

Trump buries report that disagrees with climate-change screed

Donald John Trump won’t admit this, but he doesn’t know anything about science. For that matter, neither do I. Thus, I am left to heed the analyses given by actual scientists, people trained to study things that go far above my level of understanding.

Climate change, for example.

The federal government itself has issued a report that says the hazards presented by Earth’s changing climate are going to accelerate. The National Climate Assessment is done by living, breathing experts on this stuff.

What’s the president’s response? He doesn’t believe them. He has buried the report because it disagrees with his own “belief” that climate change is a hoax. He’s said so repeatedly. He stands by his view about climate change. It’s made up. Fabricated. A product of “fake news.”

He tweets idiotic messages that take note of a cold spell and asks, “Where’s global warming?” As CNN’s Chris Cillizza has declaredA warming planet doesn’t mean there won’t be cold days. Or even cold weeks! Or months! It means that, in the long seep of history, the planet is getting hotter and hotter. And that those changes in the climate produce more wild and unpredictable weather events, like tornadoes and fires.

Scientific agencies such as, oh, NASA, take note of the evidence they have witnessed over time: ice caps are shrinking, sea levels are rising, Earth’s annual mean temperatures are increasing.

Humankind is burning too many fossil fuels that are spewing carbon gases into the air; we human beings are encroaching on natural habitat, level vast expanses of forest, taking down trees that replace carbon dioxide with oxygen.

The president doesn’t get it. He doesn’t understand what’s happening. He continues to repeat the lie that climate change is a hoax, that it’s not actually happening.

His own National Climate Assessment says the exact opposite.

Who do you believe, a politician/serial liar or the experts who study these matters intensely? I’m all in with the experts.

National Climate Assessment: Harvey wasn’t a one-time event

Get ready, my fellow Texans. It’s quite likely, according to the National Climate Assessment, that Hurricane Harvey wasn’t a one-time catastrophe; there might more of them perhaps in the near future.

Hurricane Harvey delivered in the late summer of 2017 a one-two punch never seen before along the Gulf Coast. It roared in as a monstrous hurricane at Corpus Christi and Rockport, delivering huge storm surges off the Gulf of Mexico along with heavy wind.

It backed out over the water, then meandered up the coast and came in — again! — as a tropical storm. The second hit delivered 50 inches of rain over Houston and the Golden Triangle, putting vast stretches of the upper Texas coast under water.

Well, the National Climate Assessment says we can expect more of the same, or perhaps even worse. Why? Earth’s climate is changing. And, yes, the assessment delivered by the federal government is in direct contradiction to the half-baked pronouncements delivered by the president of the United States, Donald John “Stable Genius” Trump.

Trump says climate change is a “hoax.” He doesn’t accept the scientific community’s findings about the changing climate and the warming of the planet.

What’s more, scientists are concluding that human activity is a significant contributor to these changes.

According to the Texas TribuneThe White House downplayed the findings of the report, saying in a statement that it was “largely based on the most extreme scenario.”

But the report makes a compelling case for the reality of disastrous climate change impacts — in large part because they are already occurring. The report highlights Hurricane Harvey, wildfires in California and other recent extreme weather events, describing them as consistent with what might be expected as the planet warms. It also details the crippling impact a multi-year drought had on Texas agriculture from 2010 to 2015, thanks not only to less direct rainfall but to the reduction of water released to farmers for irrigation.

Who are you going to believe, a politician — Trump — with no background in science, let alone public service or scientists who make their living studying and determining these things?

I’m going to stand with the scientists.

Climate change: dangers are everywhere and are mounting

Donald John Trump keeps reminding us of how smart he is, how he knows more than the experts about anything under the sun.

He calls climate a “hoax.” He says it’s not real. He blames the Chinese for igniting the rumor about the warming temperatures around Earth.

Along comes an assessment from a panel of actual experts, commissioned by the same federal government Trump was elected to lead that says something quite different. It’s chilling, if you’ll pardon the weird metaphor.

The National Climate Assessment says the following: “With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century — more than the current Gross Domestic Produce of many U.S. states.”

I want to add with emphasis that this comes from the federal government. It’s not a hunch or a “belief” or something pulled out of (polluted) thin air. It’s an analysis done by experts who get paid good money to tell us the truth about the state of our planet.

Will the president heed it? Will his allies in Congress take heed as well? Will the president’s 38-percent “base” believe a word of it? No, no and hell no.

The report said that “Future risks from climate change depend primarily on decisions made today.” That means, to me, that human beings who have contributed to this environmental cataclysm must now take ownership of the remedies we need to forestall what many believe is the inevitable destruction of the only planet we have.

The president took office and immediately began issuing executive orders rescinding environmental rules and regs enacted by his predecessors. He called them “job killers.” The consequences of this new hands-off policy have yet to be felt, but I believe they will be felt over time.

The very idea that the president of the United States would even deny the existence of a crisis that damn near every credible scientist on Earth says is happening is mind-boggling in the extreme. But this one does.

I am acutely aware that a report such as this might be tough to swallow given the bitter cold that has swept across the country. I simply urge us all to look at the bigger, global picture and assess the evidence that our average annual temperature worldwide is increasing; that increase is having a demonstrable impact on our fragile world.

Donald Trump doesn’t get it.

Yep, this guy scares the bejabbers out of me.

What’s with this ‘MBS’ crap?

Hey, what gives with the TV news talking heads and their various “contributors” and their casual reference to a guy who ordered the murder and alleged dismemberment of a U.S.-based Saudi journalist?

The individual to whom I refer is Mohammad bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. The CIA says this monster issued the order to kill Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

He’s a bad dude, man!

The talking heads, though, are calling him “MBS.” MBS? I always thought we reserved that kind of reference — call it an endearment, if you wish — for public figures we held in much greater esteem.

You know who I mean. MLK Jr., JFK, RFK, LBJ, FDR. That’s all you need with these folks. No full names are necessary. We assign nicknames to others. Such as Ike, The Gipper, Give ‘Em Hell Harry, Dubya.

Mohammad bin Salman does not deserve this level of familiarity from our talking heads. I hereby call on them to knock it off.

Call the guy what he is: a cold-blooded murderer.

MBS. My keister.

Energy prices up, then down, then up . . .

Donald Trump is cheering the drop in oil prices. So am I. I don’t like paying more for gasoline than I can afford. So, I am enjoying watching the price of crude take a tumble.

But wait a second! Didn’t the president come into office declaring his intention to shore up the fossil fuel industry? He tossed some of the environmental regulations approved during the Obama administration, claiming they hurt drillers’ ability to explore for oil.

The other thing that hurt drillers was, um, the price of oil. Back when it was around $100 per barrel, pump jacks all over Texas and the rest of the Oil Patch that had gone silent when the prices fell were restarted. They began pumping the “Texas Tea” out of the ground.

Why, then, does the president say this in a Twitter message:

Oil prices getting lower. Great! Like a big Tax Cut for America and the World. Enjoy! $54, was just $82. Thank you Saudi Arabia, but let’s go lower!

His Pennsylvania Avenue cheering section seems to suggest now that he wants the price to keep falling. A lot of West Texas wildcatters are unhappy with the trend. They don’t want to see it continue. They want it to go the other way.

I happen to hope it doesn’t, just like the president.

But why didn’t the president say anything in that tweet about developing alternative energy sources? President Obama made quite a push to do so during his two terms in office. The result was that we became effectively “energy independent.” The U.S. of A. became the world’s leading oil producer. Meanwhile, we invested in wind, solar and hydropower to take the burden off those wildcatters and Big Oil to keep producing.

Which is it now? Are we going to cheer the plunging oil prices or wish them to increase?

Donald Trump, per usual, is sending a mixed — or perhaps confused — message to the world.

***

And of course, the bouquet the president tossed to Saudi Arabia — in light of his hideous acceptance of the Saudis’ denial in the murder of a U.S.-based journalist — sends another chilling message altogether. More on that one to come.

The presidential lies keep piling up

This is what I would call a gratuitous, needless lie by the president of the United States.

Donald J. Trump toured the site of the California wildfires and said he discussed Finnish forest management practices with Finland’s president, Sauli Niinistö.

Except . . .

President Niinistö says the conversation never occurred. He did not, as Trump said, discuss a forest management policy that involves raking underbrush from forest floors to prevent wildfires.

What is it with this president of ours? Can’t he just keep his yap shut so as to avoid saying something that can be denied, disproved or discounted with a simple question to the other party he mentions?

The men met briefly in Paris, Niinistö said, adding that he did tell Trump that “we take care of our forests.”

That’s it, the Finnish president said. No discussion of raking underbrush.

The pile of lies is getting mighty tall. I realize this isn’t a big deal in and of itself. Still, it does reveal something terribly flawed about a president who cannot tell the truth if the future of Planet Earth depended on it.

Hey, come to think of it . . . maybe it does with this one.