The problem: The story was not breaking news. Far from it. Ever since announcing his intent to end U.S. participation in the Paris climate pact in a June speech in the White House Rose Garden, President Trump (or occasionally one of his deputies) will again and again signal a willingness to reconsider the U.S. decision to pull out of the Paris deal, a landmark agreement brokered by President Obama.
And again and again, nothing comes of the rhetoric, except a new round of media coverage light on interrogating the earnestness with which Trump wishes to reengage the Paris deal. This year, Groundhog Day came early.
Here’s the recent history:
--In July, shortly after that Rose Garden speech, Trump flew to France and celebrated Bastille Day with French President Emmanuel Macron. The French leader used the state visit to ply Trump about the international climate agreement brokered there. “Donald Trump listened to me,” Macron told a French newspaper. “He understood the reason for my position, notably the link between climate change and terrorism.” Macron added that Trump “said he would try to find a solution in the coming months.”
Credulous headline at the time: “I’ve won Trump over on climate change, says Macron.” (Times of London)
--In September, the European Union’s climate chief, Miguel Arias Cañete, told reporters during a climate-change meeting in Montreal that the “Trump administration is considering staying in the Paris agreement to fight climate change.” The media jumped on the possible policy shift. Quickly, however, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, along other White House officials, shot down any policy shift as a “false report.”
Credulous headline: “Trump Administration Seeks to Avoid Withdrawal From Paris Climate Accord.” (The Wall Street Journal)
--And just this month, Trump said the United States could “conceivably” reconsider its Paris decision. “Frankly, it's an agreement that I have no problem with,” Trump cryptically said at a news conference, “but I had a problem with the agreement that they signed, because, as usual, they made a bad deal.”
Credulous headline: “U.S. could 'conceivably' re-join Paris climate agreement, Trump says.” (USA Today)
The truth: Since he ditched the deal, Trump has insisted he is willing to renegotiate it. “We will start to negotiate,” Trump said in June, “and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. And if we can, that’s great. And if we can’t, that’s fine." Trump saying so again is not news.
That stance, however, has always been confusing. The Paris deal was designed to let nations set their own emissions targets — a feature some environmentalists saw as a flaw of the pact, but one its negotiators thought would allow the agreement to withstand a Republican president and avoid U.S. Senate ratification. The Trump White House could have just set less ambitious targets going forward. And the targets themselves were always voluntary — meaning there would be no real legal consequence if Trump stayed in the agreement but missed them.
Trump has a well-documented history of telling people what they want to hear. When talking to Europeans — whether it is Macron or Morgan — the president has tried to paint himself as a pragmatist, sometimes by describing the details of an agreement or climate science in general inaccurately, and then carping about the invented provisions of the deal or scope of the problem.
Trump did it again in the Morgan interview on climate change. “There is a cooling, and there’s a heating,” he said. “I mean, look, it used to not be climate change, it used to be global warming. That wasn’t working too well because it was getting too cold all over the place.” In fact, two science agencies Trump oversees as president — NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — have independently concluded this month that Earth just had its four hottest years on record.
Meanwhile, the unquestioning headlines trumpeting the idea that Trump could reeinter the Paris accord — such as the Guardian's “Donald Trump says US could re-enter Paris climate deal” — continue. We're waiting to see if the president actually makes good on his words.
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— It’s been a long January for Zinke: Between weathering criticism...
- from coastal lawmakers of both parties for rushing to exempt Florida from the Interior Department's offshore drilling plan and
- from inland governors (again, both parties) for undoing a delicately negotiated protection plan for the sage grouse in the Western United States
The Post's Darryl Fears runs it down here.
— EPA at SOTU: Among the guests invited to Tuesday’s State of the Union address are several victims of last years spate of hurricanes, as well as people who helped with the relief effort, per CNN. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) has invited Sarah Miller, a woman who reached out to the congresswoman following reports that Galesburg, Ill., had exceeded the federal "action level" in Environmental Protection Agency tests for lead content in water.
Another guest Trump is unlikely to be pleased about is San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, who has publicly sparred with Trump over what she believes is the administration's inadequate response to Hurricane Maria's devastation in Puerto Rico. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), a possible 2020 contender, will escort Yulin Cruz to the speech Tuesday night.
Also happening today: EPA chief Scott Pruitt makes a rare appearance before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Expect to see some at least some fireworks between Pruitt and Democrats on the panel.
— Climate change, scrubbed: Pruitt may have been personally involved with the effort to remove information about climate change from the agency’s website, according to records obtained by the nonprofit agency Environmental Defense Fund. "The emails center on a website purge at EPA in April 2017. Along with webpages about climate change and climate science, the purge removed the webpage about the Clean Power Plan — the most significant action that the U.S. has ever taken to address climate change, and one that Pruitt is now attempting to repeal."
The Hill has more: “In one April email to colleagues in the EPA’s communications office, Lincoln Ferguson, an adviser to Pruitt, asks how close they are to removing and replacing the Clean Power Plan section... Ferguson then asked if the change could happen that day: ‘Just asking because he is asking.’"
— What’s the holdup?: Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) is placing a hold on President Trump’s pick to lead the Energy Department’s environmental cleanup program. Barrasso is holding up Anne White’s nomination until the department vows to end the practice of selling government-owned uranium, per The Hill.
— Post-Christie plans for New Jersey: New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) ordered the state to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the carbon exchange that former Chris Christie (R) chose to exit before while he was governor. “New Jersey has not been a partner to our neighbor states in advancing the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Murphy said in a statement Monday, per Bloomberg News. “Climate change is real, and a real threat to our state.”
— California pressures would-be Alaska miner: California State Treasurer John Chiang sent a letter urging Canadian mining company First Quantum Minerals to “sever any connections – financial or otherwise” with the Pebble Mine project in Bristol Bay, Alaska. “I cannot ignore the far-reaching economic implications and sustainability risks at play here. In my view, investment in the Pebble Project presents undue risk not only to the long-term sustainability of the Bristol Bay region, but also to the value of our long-term investments in First Quantum Minerals, Ltd.,” Chiang wrote in the letter.
Last week in a surprise move, EPA chief Pruitt put the brakes on scrapping the agency’s determination under Obama that a large-scale mining operation could irreparably harm the bay.
— FEMA ending aid to Puerto Rico: On Wednesday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will “officially shut off” the aid effort to Puerto Rico following the devastation of Hurricane Maria, NPR reports, noting it’s a “sign that FEMA thinks the immediate humanitarian emergency has subsided.” Any remaining food and water supplies will be given to the local government to finish distributing.
Meanwhile, some Puerto Rican school children have had to learn to learn in the dark after Maria devastated one of the nation’s largest and poorest school systems, The Post's Moriah Balingit reports.
— Little hands, big machines: The New York Times takes a deep look at farm injuries that hurt thousands of kids and teens and kill about 100 children each year. “But here and on other family-operated farms, children as young as 5 grow up in the driver’s seat of machines many times their size, doing work that is deeply embedded in rural traditions,” reporter Jack Healy writes. “The toll has stirred a debate among farm safety groups and in rural communities about whether young children should be allowed to tackle such risky jobs.”
Meanwhile, Ariel Ramchandani writes in The Atlantic about undocumented workers within the agricultural industry who are “particularly vulnerable to exploitation.”
— Who is the “they?" According to Trump, "they" changed the term “global warming” to “climate change” because the planet is not actually warming. It's a talking point Trump has spouted before on Twitter, and mentioned again during his interview with Piers Morgan.
So what actually happened? The evolution in terminology began gradually about a decade ago, writes The Post's Jason Samenow, "because that's what scientific community and governmental institutions called for." The term "climate change” was deemed to be more scientifically comprehensive description of what was happening to the planet. Also included in the "they" that preferred "climate change" was the George W. Bush White House.
— About all that salt on the road: The road salt used as an anti-icing agent across the nation can harm waterways as it increases the salinity in lakes, and can potentially affect species living in and around the bodies of water. So some are turning to alternative mixtures involving beet juice, molasses, beer waste, pickle or cheese brine, the Associated Press reports.
— Climate combatants: A new survey from the Defense Department says 50 percent of military installations at home and abroad are vulnerable to flooding, wind, drought and other climate-related risks. "Given that rapid climate change is projected to exacerbate each of the above categories of risks throughout this century, the reasonable expectation is that vulnerabilities to military sites will increase unless significant resources are devoted to adapting DoD assets" the Center for Climate & Security said of the survey.
— ExxonMobil’s tax windfall: The company's chief executive announced Monday ExxonMobil plans to invest $50 billion in the United States in the next five years, in part because of the Republicans’ tax overhaul. "These positive developments will mean more jobs and economic expansion across the United States in a myriad of industries,” company spokesman Darren Woods wrote in a blog post.
However: That uptick is a return for the oil giant to spending levels seen “before crude suffered its worst price rout in a generation,” Bloomberg News notes.
- President Trump delivers his first State of the Union address.
- EPA chief Scott Pruitt is scheduled to testify before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
- The House Science, Space and Technology Committee holds a hearing on the Energy Department’s management and priorities.
- The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a business meeting on various nominations in the Energy and Interior Departments.
- The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on natural hazards.
- The S&P Global Market Intelligence’s 31st annual Power and Gas M&A Symposium begins.
- The World Resources Institute holds a discussion on energy sector reform and political
economy of energy access.
- George Washington University’s Sustainability Collaborative and Goethe Institut discussion on "Creating the Paris Path on Climate Change" on Wednesday.
- MIT hosts a discussion on water management for future climate scenarios on Wednesday.
- FERC Commissioner Neil Chatterjee is scheduled to speak at the 31st annual Power and Gas M&A Symposium on Thursday.
- Columbia University’s Energy Symposium begins on Thursday.
- Bloomberg New Energy Finance holds its Future of Mobility Summit in Palo Alto, Calif. on Thursday and Friday.
- George Mason University’s holds its 14th annual Symposium of the Journal of Law, Economics and Policy on Friday.
— “Hurricane ridge" lives up to its name: Storms blasted Olympic National Park over the weekend: