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Trump’s Plan to Eliminate NASA Climate Research Is Ill-Informed and Dangerous? [Stoat]


Ah, excellent. I was looking for a post to hang my musings off, and Phil Plait’s rant is a splendid peg. Not only that, but via fb I find this charming astronomer fox in Discarding Images; it is clear that the stars have aligned so I’ll proceed.

PP is not just sad but outraged that

In an interview with the Guardian, Bob Walker, a senior Trump adviser, said that Trump will eliminate NASA’s Earth science research. This is the mission directorate of NASA that, among other important issues, studies climate change

and so on. And if you read the Graun’s headline Trump to scrap Nasa climate research in crackdown on ‘politicized science’ you might get much the same idea. Or even if you read the Graun “paraphrasing” what Bob Walker said, you get Donald Trump is poised to eliminate all climate change research conducted by Nasa as part of a crackdown on “politicized science”, his senior adviser on issues relating to the space agency has said. However, if you read what he actually said you find something rather different:

“We see Nasa in an exploration role, in deep space research,” Walker told the Guardian. “Earth-centric science is better placed at other agencies where it is their prime mission. My guess is that it would be difficult to stop all ongoing Nasa programs but future programs should definitely be placed with other agencies.”

[Note that I have deliberately truncated that quote to remove all the goo and dribble about “politicised science” because whilst it is undoubtedly part of their motive, it is also deeply stupid, and not really relevant to what I want to talk about.]

I doubt that were such a shakeup to occur, all that would happen is that the funding would transfer to other agencies. Almost inevitably the sort of folk that DT would select would choose to cut some science in the process. And perhaps you might like the idea of climate science being mingled into NASA, and thus hard to cut cleanly, rather than being in some clearly labelled and easily attackable or defundable agaency. But that’s a political or bureaucratic defence, and obviously not one that can be put openly, so let’s not discuss it.

Regrettably PP (and everyone else I’ve seen commenting on this) is so utterly and blindly outraged (The motivation behind this is clear: Utter and complete denial of science… the modern day Joseph McCarthy… the Earth is a planet, and studying it, studying its climate and our effect on it, is absolutely part of NASA’s mission) that he doesn’t even pause for a moment to wonder if DT’s people have a point.

Why does NASA do climate research?

NASA is a large organisation and doubtless does lots of things. Some of which probably connected together in sensible ways in the past; but that’s no reason they should continue that way in the future. Sending probes to Pluto has very little to do with running GCMs (notice: I said very little, not none. Please don’t bother point out that people run GCMs of Mars and Jupiter and so on).

One upon a time NASA knew lots about launching rockets, which was useful for putting climate-type satellites into orbit. But more and more (just today: SpaceX wins contract to launch NASA Earth science mission; also ULA in general) other people can do that. So the need for a tight connection to NASA is much less obvious now.

I did the smallest amount of legwork consistent with my elastic conscience and found which is nominally NASA Earth science. But it doesn’t even mention modelling, so clearly isn’t the full story.

Anyway, the question I wanted to ask my readership is the title of this section. Why should NASA do this stuff, rather than someone else? Answers of the nature of “well, it grew up this way, and would be painful to disentangle” won’t get you any points.

I wandered over to WUWT, confident that I’d find myself on the same side as them and then having to desperately explain why that’s all right. But instead I found State of the art weather satellite launched over the weekend promises huge gains in many areas by Anthony Watts / 2 days ago November 21, 2016: NOAA’s GOES-R satellite launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida this weekend at 6;42pm on November 19, 2016 wherein they’re being positively enthusiastic about NASA. But, there’s just now an Eric Worrall rant about “Trump Crackdown on “Politicized Science”: NASA Climate Division to be Stripped of Funding”. EW is a nutter, of course.

Update: Gavin – oddly enough – has some interesting things to say. Although he doesn’t address my question so loses prescience points. Doesn’t he look smug in the picture though? Just the sort of liberal elitist to wind up the rednecks.

Update: via Gavin – it’s him again! On Twitter I find, and it is kinda interesting: When NASA was first created by the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, it was given the role of developing technology for “space observations,” but it wasn’t given a role in Earth science… Other agencies of the federal government were responsible for carrying out Earth science research… cross-agency research failed during the 1970s, though, due to the bad economy and… congressional leaders wanted to see NASA doing more research toward “national needs.” These needs included things like energy efficiency, pollution, ozone depletion and climate change. In 1976, Congress revised the Space Act to give NASA authority to carry out stratospheric ozone research, formalizing the agency’s movement into the Earth sciences… Declining planetary funding and growing scientific interest in the Earth’s climate caused planetary scientists to start studying the Earth. It was closer, and much less expensive, to do research on. And NASA followed suit, starting to plan for an Earth observing system aimed at questions of “global change.” This phrase included climate change as well as changes in land use, ocean productivity and pollution. But the Earth science program that it established was modeled on NASA’s space and planetary science programs, not the old Applications program. NASA developed the technology and funded the science. In 1984, Congress again revised the Space Act, broadening NASA’s Earth science authority from the stratosphere to “the expansion of human knowledge of the Earth.”

And so on. So you can try replying to the question with the answer “because Congress told it to!” (the Tweet does this) which is true, but of course is then vulnerable to the answer “fine. But now we’re telling you to stop.”


* The Real Climate Catastrophe – Gavin (again!)

Butterball turkey plant: an “injury-free” workplace yet plenty of walking wounded [The Pump Handle]


The Butterball turkey plant in Huntsville, Arkansas ramps up production beginning in October to meet the demand for fresh (not frozen) Thanksgiving turkeys. The working conditions are already dismal. The bad situation is magnified during this peak season as workers on the production line try to keep up with turkey carcasses moving passed at 51 per minute.

Just in time for this week’s holiday, Gabriel Thompson reports on the experiences of Butterball workers in an article appearing today in Slate. One worker, a former prison guard from Puerto Rico named Lisandro Vega spoke to Thompson. Vega described the relentless line speed in which he uses a knife to trim the raw turkeys. The worker explained his efforts to deal with his hands cramping up because of the repetitive, hand-tool intensive work:

“He began submerging them in a container of hot bleached water, perched nearby to disinfect dropped knives. During brief moments between birds, he’d stretch out his fingers, which tended to harden, clawlike, around his knife.”

Vega, like other workers, also suffers back pain from moving containers of turkeys and from slips and falls on the icy floors.

The poultry industry is always quick to make assertions about its workplace safety record. Earlier this month the industry announced:

“Perhaps more than any other industry, the poultry industry has focused its energies on the prevention of workplace injuries and illnesses, especially musculoskeletal disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome…”

The industry touts that its injury rate is at an all-time low and lower than the rate in other food manufacturing sectors. But Lisandro Vega tells a different story. As he explained to Thompson:

“One day, while signing in at the nurse’s station, he noticed a posting on the wall. It listed an impressive number of hours that workers had gone without suffering injuries causing them to miss shifts. According to Butterball, the plant was one of the safest worksites in the country; in 2013, the company announced that Huntsville employees had worked 8 million hours without what is called a lost-time injury. That’s a remarkable figure—the equivalent of a single person working full-time for 3,835 consecutive years.”

“Vega looked around the nurse’s station. He saw three people whose swollen hands were being iced. Another man had his shoulder wrapped in ice. On the walk over from the debone line, sharp pains had shot through Vega’s back with each step. If none of us are hurt, he asked himself, then what are we all doing in the nurse’s station?”

Thompson’s piece “Dark Meat” is set in northwest Arkansas. The Butterball plant is located in Huntsville and nearby Springdale is the headquarters of Tyson Foods and a poultry plant owned by Cargill.

Thompson writes:

“Turkey is big business in Arkansas. …On the short drive from my Springfield motel to the Cargill plant, I pass three chicken plants, two hatcheries, and a dead turkey on the side of the road.”

His reporting for Slate is part of the magazine’s year-long series The Grind. They’ve been investigating the working conditions of those who support some of the U.S.’s annual traditions.

Are you eating turkey on Thanksgiving? Do you know anything about the working conditions for those who processed the bird you will eat?


A response to a response to a proportionate response [Stoat]


13680412_1143628295702102_1239075109939584992_o In A proportionate response to Trump’s climate plans?” I reported RT’s opinion that WTO rules only permit border taxes if there is an equivalent domestic tax. VV, no great fan of Tol, replied

William, a scientific article published this May came by on Twitter. It states: “The implementation of such measures is likely to be technically possible under WTO rules (Veel, 2009 Veel, P.-E. (2009). Carbon tariffs and the WTO: An evaluation of feasible policies. Journal of International Economic Law, 12(3), 749–800. doi: 10.1093/jiel/jgp031; Zhang, 2009 Zhang, Z. (2009). Multilateral trade measures in a post-2012 climate change regime? What can be taken from the Montreal Protocol and the WTO? Energy Policy, 37(12), 5105–5112. doi: 10.1016/j.enpol.2009.07.020) and a credible threat.”

Veel is a good reference, and also the top Google hit for “are carbon tariffs permissible under WTO rules”. You need to be very careful with words like “technically possible” because that includes vast wads of not easily digestible verbiage and legalese about whether the idea would be in principle even possible, before then going on to even more words to consider under what specific conditions that “technically” might be satisfied by. As far as I can see, the end result of all that is tht RT is broadly correct and VV’s hopes will be dashed, as will Chris Hope’s, even more than I previously though.

If there is anyone out there who can actually be bothered to wade through all of Veel in detail, or who has other more easily digested refs available, I’d be very grateful for pointers.

Reading Veel shows that this stuff isn’t new (which is interesting; I don’t see the meeja reports on the present proposals (note, BTW, that Sarko is out so all this stuff is probably dust until the next pol wants to say something populist aanywaay) having pointed that out); see e.g. NYT from 2006.

Perhaps more amusingly, it also points to a José Manuel Durão Barroso speech from 2008 which sayeth

We are however conscious of the need to allow the industrial sector to adapt. Energy intensive industries face a particular challenge during the transition, and especially those exposed to international competition from countries without low carbon measures. There would be no point in pushing EU companies to cut emissions if the only result is that production and indeed pollution shifts to countries with no carbon disciplines at all. Of course, an international agreement would reduce, or even remove, this risk. Sectoral agreements would also help. But in case of need, I think we should also be ready to continue to give the energy intensive industries their ETS allowances free of charge, or to require importers to obtain allowances alongside European competitors, as long as such a system is compatible with WTO requirements.

Note that JMDB isn’t sure that the WTO would be happy. Note also that he does think domestic and international “tariffs” would have to match.

The obvious implication from this would therefore not be to tax imports at the social cost of carbon type price which Chris Hope proposed – around $150 / tonne CO2e – but instead at the ETS trading rate – around €5 per tonne CO2e (whether you tax them at that rate or require them to buy ETS credits at that rate I’m not sure). $150 versus €5 is dramatically different. Continuing reading from Veel I find (skipping over vast mountains of legalese I was not very interested in):

1. The types of taxes amenable to border tax adjustment. As noted above, the essence of carbon tariffs — particularly those being examined by the EU and the USA—is that they are measures which are designed to force importers of goods to bear the same charge for emitting a given quantity of CO2 in the course of production of those goods as do domestic producers.

Which again looks to be the same conclusion: you can’t tax the US at the full social cost, whilst taxing your own people at the very much lower ETS cost.

Sea ice: wossup? [Stoat]


turn Sea ice, having been rather dull this summer – though it was also briefly interesting in April / May – has suddenly become really quite interesting. Which is odd; the minimum is usually the only time anyone pays attention.

Tamino has a nice post as does Mark Brandon and so does every man and his rabbit. What does that leave me to say? I have to fill in quite a few lines before I get to the bottom of my inset image, after all.

While NH ice is clearly low – indeed, a record for the time of year – it will look much less exciting if it recovers (duh!); just as in summer the April / May excursion became less exciting. MB does a better job, by actually analysing the patterns to some extent, from which you might begin to attribute why it is behaving as it is, which is after all the interesting bit; few people care about the ice for its own sake.

Speaking of which, what about the Antarctic, and by extension the global ice extent? The Antarctic is much more interesting that the Arctic, after all.

The downside of the Antarctic stuff, of course, is that we’ve spent years explaining why the growth of ice there isn’t terribly surprising oh no not at all. Browsing my past, I discover that just in August I was less than convinced by Antarctica’s sea ice said to be vulnerable to sudden retreat? (OTOH I’m happy to say that the DEVM is now looking pretty good even for 8DPSK). However, I don’t think that was intended to apply on the interannual timescale. But how time flies! It looks like it was way back in 2012 that I was waving away the increase based on Paul Holland’s analysis (wind driven). Eli (bizarrely, IMO, because he’s quoting a Curry paper that I didn’t like) attributed the increase to snowfall; SKS seem to go for “its complicated” but what all these analyses have in common is that they didn’t predict the change, and – at least at the moment – don’t provide any explanation for the sudden decrease.

Quite possibly the lack of prediction or explanation is because the answer is “its weather”, but in that case its also dull. Vastly more interesting would be if the retreat that “should” be there in the Antarctic but has been “masked” for years has finally kicked in. Only time will tell.

Two reports profile low-wages, grim conditions for workers in the food industry [The Pump Handle]


Two new reports describe the working conditions for some of the 21 million workers in the U.S. food industry. Food workers constitute 14 percent of the U.S. workforce. They are employed across the system from those who work on farms and in canning plants, to meat packers, grocery store clerks and restaurant dishwashers.

No Piece of the Pie: U.S. Food Workers in 2016 was released this week by the Food Chain Workers Alliance. The report examines employment trends, wages, advancement opportunities, discrimination, and work-related injuries. The authors use government and industry data, but enhance the report with findings based on worker interviews. The report paints a grim picture of employment at all points along the food chain:

“Enrique and his family work at a dairy farm and wake up in the middle of the night and work for five to six hours, take a short break, and then go back to work for another five hours. He told us that exhaustion and long-term sleep deprivation are ‘the ugliest experiences [he has] endured in the milk industry.’”


“Catalina, a farmworker, recalled conditions at a tomato farm. ‘The way they treated you, it was as if you were an animal. They didn’t treat you like a human being… We lived in trailers, like 20 or 30 people in a trailer. They punished us if we missed any work, treated us like we were slaves.’”

And more:

“Sara, who worked at a catfish processing plant in Mississippi for many years, mentioned that when there were not any more fish to clean for a period of time, the company would require them to clock out and wait around for up to two hours, without pay, for another shipment to come in.”

And this:

“I’ve had a lot of sexual harassment issues with work… This older guy, he came to the restaurant
all the time. He always would say things… I poured him his coffee. He was like, ‘Hey, little Black
girl, you got enough milk in those jugs for my coffee?’ I was like, ‘What!?’ And I looked straight
to my boss, so [my boss] is like, ‘Oh, don’t worry about it, you know he’s a regular.’”

No Piece of the Pie notes that the annual median wage for food chain workers is $16,000 and the hourly median wage is $10. In addition, 13 percent of food workers (nearly 2.8 million workers) relied in 2016 on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (food stamps) to feed their families.

No Piece of the Pie makes nine recommendations to consumers and policy makers to improve the situation for workers in the food industry. The Food Chain Alliance is a coalition of worker-based organizations whose members plant, harvest, process, pack, transport, prepare, serve, and sell food. The coalition is engaged in efforts to improve wages and working conditions for all workers along the food chain.

Last month, the global anti-poverty group Oxfam released another report as part of its campaign: The Human Cost of Cheap Chicken. Its latest is a review of gender issues in the U.S. poultry industry. As described by women who work in the U.S. poultry industry, Women on the Line focuses on issues that adversely affect their health.

Most poultry processing workers are at significant risk of musculoskeletal injuries because of repetitive and fast-paced design of cutting, deboning, and trimming chicken parts. Women often represent a larger share of the poultry processing jobs in a plant, yet the production lines are not designed to accommodate a woman’s body. The report says:

“Most production lines are one-size-fits-all, and that size is usually the average male. The height of lines, work surfaces, and tools are oriented to accommodate larger people. Many women struggle to reach further and higher, and end up in awkward positions.”

The tools used to break-down chicken into wings, thighs, drumsticks, breasts and tenders, are not necessarily designed with a woman’s grip and hand strength in mind. “On average, women need to work harder to accomplish the same strength-based tasks as men,” the report notes.

The topic of bathroom breaks was examined in Oxfam’s May 2016 report “No Relief: Denial of Bathroom Breaks in the U.S. Poultry Industry.“  It is a dominant subject as well in Women on the Live.

“Throughout almost every interview, survey, or workshop that has profiled poultry workers, limited and restricted bathroom breaks are a clear issue. Supervisors often deny breaks; they are under pressure to meet daily quotas, and the poultry plants regularly do not hire enough “floaters” who could be called on to stand in for workers for a few minutes so they can use the bathroom.”

Whether a man or a woman, not all bladders are created equal. Moreover, when women are menstruating or are pregnant, being able to use a bathroom on their schedule (not the boss’) is particularly important.

The new Oxfam report and the one released this week by the Food Chain Alliance are particularly timely. One week from today will be Thanksgiving, the U.S.’s biggest holiday involving food. These reports remind me of the millions of skilled hands that belong to the low-wage laborers who grow, deliver, and prepare my food.  It’s a nice gesture for us to give them thanks. But what they deserve are consumers demanding that food companies give them a raise and respect.