Tag Archives: donald trump

Blind creature that buries its head in the sand named after Donald Trump

The unusual amphibian’s behavior was compared to Trump’s approach to global warming.

When you add the hair, the resemblance is uncanny. Image credits: Envirobuild.

Trump the caecilian

Dermophis donaldtrumpi was discovered in Panama. It is a caecilian — a group of limbless, serpentine amphibians which mostly live underground or hidden around streams. As it so often happens in modern times, its scientific name was auctioned, with the money going to charity (in this case, the Rainforest Trust charity).

The naming rights were purchased by EnviroBuild, a sustainable building materials company, who paid $25,000 (£19,800) at an auction for the right. The company said it wants to raise awareness about climate change, likening the creature’s behavior of burying its head underground to Donald Trump’s refusal to accept man-made climate change, although its effects are already affecting American people.

“[Dermophis donaldtrumpi] is particularly susceptible to the impacts of climate change and is therefore in danger of becoming extinct as a direct result of its namesake’s climate policies,” said EnviroBuild co-founder Aidan Bell in a statement.

“Burrowing [his] head underground helps Donald Trump when avoiding scientific consensus on anthropomorphic climate change,” he wrote.

Amphibians are indeed some of the most vulnerable creatures in the face of climate change and habitat destruction. In addition to expressing his intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, Trump has also consistently pushed policies that support the fossil fuel industry — the main contributor to man-made global warming. However, Trump has consistently denied the fact that man-made global warming is happening.

“I don’t know that it’s manmade,” he said in an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes in October. “I’m not denying climate change but [temperatures] could very well go back,” he added, without offering evidence.

Just last month, Trump questioned a report which concluded that climate change would cost the US hundreds of billions of dollars annually and damage health. That report was carried out by his very own government and federal scientists.

“I don’t believe it,” he told reporters at the time.

This is exactly why the new, blind amphibian has been named after Trump, Bell explains.

“It is the perfect name. Caecilian is taken from the Latin caecus, meaning ‘blind’, perfectly mirroring the strategic vision President Trump has consistently shown towards climate change.”

This isn’t the first animal to be named after Donald Trump. A recently-discovered moth species was also named after him by biologist Vazrick Nazari. Nazari said the moth’s “hairstyle” reminded him of Trump. However, Barack Obama holds the record for most species named after a US President: 14.

Very few Americans are aware that 97% of climate scientists agree climate change is real

Virtually all climate scientists agree that climate change is happening right this instant and that human activity is the main cause of it. But according to a survey carried out by Yale and George Mason University, just 15% of Americans are aware of this fact.

Credit: Pixabay.

The most recent report compiled by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — the leading international body for the assessment of climate change — concludes that 100% of all warming experienced since 1950 is due to human activity. Multiple studies also show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are due to greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere by human activity.

Retorting to authority does not prove that climate change itself is real but this consensus is actually based on peer-reviewed published, verifiable science. If anything, the fact that thousands of professionals and experts in their field agree in such a staggering majority that climate change is real should make any person of another opinion think twice, at the very least. After all, the vast majority of doctors agree that smoking causes cancer — this is an undisputed scientific fact — and the public seems to be fully aware of this and trusts the consensus.

So then why is the public in the United States so divided on the issue?

According to a 2017 Yale study,  only 53% of Americans believe climate change is caused by human activity. In other words, one in two people thinks the direction climate is heading is completely natural or impossible to influence by human hand.

The reason for this polarization is manifold. On one hand, the media is playing an active part in making climate change sound like a debatable issue. The biggest broadcast networks collectively aired shows or news covering climate change for no more than 50 minutes for the whole year of 2016. That’s how much time the planet and the livelihoods of millions of species are worth to them. When they do talk about climate change or events under a climate change lens, often there are no real scientists invited to the discussion or, worse, they air climate denialism. On the other hand, you have politicians who are (baselessly) very vocal about climate change being an unsettled scientific issue or outright deny the fact.

The country’s President, for instance, is one of the most outspoken climate change denialists, saying that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive,” and later that “global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!” According to a list compiled by Vox, Donald Trump has tweeted climate change skepticism 115 times (as of June 2017). Last week, on CBS’s ’60 Minutes’, Donald Trump — who claims to have “a natural instinct for science” — had this to say:

“We have scientists that disagree with [human-caused global warming] … You’d have to show me the [mainstream] scientists because they have a very big political agenda.”

With such statements bombarding the public, it’s no wonder that people are divided on the issue, even though many would listen to reason if they were more aware of the expert consensus. According to a survey carried out by the Yale program on Climate Change Communication, only about 15% of Americans are aware that the expert climate consensus exceeds 90%. Based on the public’s perceived expert consensus, the authors ended up with a ‘Six Americas’ categorization, as follows:

“The Alarmed are fully convinced of the reality and seriousness of climate change and are already taking individual, consumer, and political action to address it. The Concerned are also convinced that global warming is happening and a serious problem, but have not yet engaged the issue personally.”

“Three other Americas – the Cautious, the Disengaged, and the Doubtful – represent different stages of understanding and acceptance of the problem, and none are actively involved. The final America – the Dismissive are very sure it is not happening and are actively involved as opponents of a national effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Even the Americans who are ‘Alarmed’ and ‘Concerned’ aren’t completely educated on the expert consensus. Only 84% of people in the Alarmed group and 73% of those in the Concerned category say they know 97% of scientists agree that climate change is caused by humans.

According to The Guardian, which cited a 2017 study, Americans who learned of the 97% consensus were far more likely to accept the reality of climate change — and this was particularly true for conservatives. This shows that, despite the many smoke screens cast out by Trump and acolytes, people still trust experts. The important thing now is getting this message across.

If you think the climate and our future is worth fighting for, share this article to a friend or colleague.

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Credit: Pixabay.

The 2016 election was so traumatic it caused PTSD symptoms in 1 in 4 young adults

The 2016 Presidential election, which saw Donald Trump rise to power, was marked by some of the most divisive campaigns in American history. So much so that for some young adults, the experience was genuinely traumatic. According to psychologists, one in four young adults experienced symptoms similar to those seen in post-traumatic stress disorder.

Credit: Pixabay.

Credit: Pixabay.

Melissa Hagan, an assistant professor of psychology at San Francisco State University, noticed that in the months following the election, her students appeared significantly affected. Surveys conducted at the time also confirmed some part of the population experienced psychological stress in the aftermath of the election.

Looking to put a finger on how much stress the 2016 election caused, Hagan and colleagues, enlisted 769 students who were taking a psychology course at Arizona State University. The participants included a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds, as well as religious and political identities.

Using a standard psychological assessment tool called the Impact of Event Scale (IES), researchers surveyed how many of the students were impacted by the election in such a way that it might lead to diagnosable PTSD.

According to the results, 25% of the students crossed the PTSD threshold. Another frightening result was that the average score of students was comparable to those obtained by witnesses of a mass shooting seven months after the event.

“What we were interested in seeing was, did the election for some people constitute a traumatic experience? And we found that it did for 25 percent of young adults,” Hagan said in a statement.

Researchers also determined that 37.2% of students were completely dissatisfied with the election results and 18.5% were completely satisfied — everyone else was in the middle. When the researchers gauged the extent to which the students were upset by the results, they found that 39% of students were extremely upset, while 28.5% reported not feeling upset at all. About 24.2% of the students said their relationships were impacted negatively by the election, 10.4% said there was some negative impact, and 65% experienced no impact at all.

Some students were more affected than others. Black and nonwhite Hispanic participants scored higher on the PTSD assessment than their white counterparts. Females scored nearly 45% higher than males, and Democrats scored more than two and a half times higher than Republicans, the authors reported in the Journal of American College Health.

It’s not clear whether the traumatic effects of the 2016 elections will carry on over the long-term, as the psychological assessment of the students only happened once. The high prevalence of PTSD symptoms, however, should warrant school mental health staff to be more mindful of the political environment which their students are experiencing, apart from the usual stressors. And given the level of stress measured by the researchers, it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see some of the negative effects on people’s mental health last for years.

As to what made this election particularly traumatic, the shock of Donald Trump’s win and the hate-centered divisive narrative seem to have played important roles.

“There was a lot of discourse around race, identity and what makes a valuable American. I think that really heightened stress for a lot of people,” said Hagan.

Angela Merkel, German Chancellor: ‘We cannot wait to act until the [climate] science has convinced every last doubter’

The world’s largest economies will continue implementing the Paris Agreement, despite US President Donald Trump announcing his intention to exit the pact. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, who presides this year’s G20 summit, directly referenced Trump, saying that we can’t wait for the science to convince “the last doubter.” It’s interesting to note that Merkel has a PhD in Physical Chemistry and this seems to show in her attitude towards science.

G20: We’ll go forth with Paris

The G20 is an international forum for the governments and central bank governors from 20 major economies. The countries represented account for around 85% of the gross world product (GWP), 80% of world trade (or, if excluding EU intra-trade, 75%), and two-thirds of the world population. It would be an oversimplification to say that the G20 shapes the direction for the planet, but it’s without a doubt the world’s most influential forum. Of course, the US is part of it, as is the European Union.

It would be incorrect to say that it’s the first time a large gap emerges between one nation and the rest of the countries — Russia has often been at the center of many controversies and scandals. But barring Russia, there has never been a major open divide between the countries. Now, the US seems to go one way, while everyone else maintains a different course. It makes for some unpleasant discussions, but these are discussions that need to be carried out.

“We cannot expect easy discussions on climate change at the G20 summit,” she said. “Our differences with the US are clear.” She added that “the Paris agreement is irreversible and it is not negotiable,” directly responding to Donald Trump, who has stated that he would like to renegotiate the Paris Agreement, but if that’s not possible “it’s also fine.”

It’s not like this is a US vs Germany kind of deal — the EU President Donald Tusk said: “We will speak with one voice at the G20 summit”. European countries have spoken in support of the Paris Agreement, with newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron being a staunch opponent of Trump in all matters science and climate. It’s not a US vs Europe kind of thing either — China has expressed willingness to assume leadership in combating climate change. South America supports even stronger action than is required by the Paris Agreement. Australia re-expressed its commitment to the agreement. As bizarre as it may seem, even North Korea has expressed similar feelings, calling Trump’s behavior ‘the height of egotism’. No, this is a US vs world kind of thing. It’s a regrettable and unfortunate situation, but in this sense, it’s how things are. Merkel herself emphasized that point:

“The differences are obvious and it would be dishonest to try to cover that up. That I won’t do,” she said. “The European Union unconditionally stands by its agreement in Paris and will implement it speedily and with determination. More than that: since the decision of the United States to leave the Paris climate agreement, we are more determined than ever to make it a success.”

Trump: “I’m proud of it”


The US is the world’s second largest greenhouse gas emitter, and historically, it is responsible for a third of the CO2 that mankind has emitted in its existence. In more modern times, the US also has done less than other countries to transition to a green economy. Renewable energy in the United States accounted for 11.1 percent of total energy generation in 2015, compared to 16.4 in the European Union and 23% in China. Despite its declared ambitions, the US is just not doing enough. Yet Trump seems content with this.

“In order to protect American jobs, companies and workers, we’ve withdrawn the United States from the one-sided Paris Climate Accord,” Trump said to applause, during a speech on the future of the US energy sector. “I will tell you we’re proud of it,” he said. “And when I go around, there are so many people that say thank you. You saved the sovereignty of our country.”

By this point, the science is pretty much settled. Climate change is the elephant in the room — you can debate how big the ears are or how low the tail hangs, but the elephant is there. The time for discussions has pretty much passed and now is the time for action. As Merkel eloquently put it, we simply don’t have the time to wait for every single doubter.

Donald Trump won the 2016 election by playing a populist hand. He gives the impression that only he can solve people's problems and the other candidates are incapable. Credit: Flickr, Gage Skidmor.

During times of economic uncertainty, citizens prefer dominant leaders rather than prestigious candidates

The psychological threat imposed by our environment can make people not only tolerable but willing to have an external dominant agent take control. One recent study suggests that when the economy is having a turn for the worse, communities are more inclined to embrace dominant leaders even when there are more respectable candidates to choose from.

Donald Trump won the 2016 election by playing a populist hand. He gives the impression that only he can solve people's problems and the other candidates are incapable. Credit: Flickr, Gage Skidmor.

Donald Trump won the 2016 election by playing a populist hand. He gives the impression that only he can solve people’s problems and the other candidates are incapable. Credit: Flickr, Gage Skidmor.

According to the evolutionary theory for leadership emergence, status and power can be achieved by various routes, among them dominance and prestige. When and why a particular type is preferred has always eluded scholars, though. Niro Sivanathan, Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour at the London Business School, and Hemant Kakkar, PhD candidate, investigated what kind of circumstances could lead to one of the two types of leaders coming into power. The pair of researchers used a statistical analysis method to comb through U.S. demographics by zip codes in each of the 50 states.

Populism thrives on fear and uncertainty

When a particular zip code faced economic uncertainty like rising unemployment, a pattern of preference for dominant leaders emerged while prestigious leaders were overtly less desirable.

“While it might not always be consistently true that ‘nice guys finish last’, we maintain that certain communities, when faced with the threat of uncertainty, will prefer assertive over esteemed individuals as their leadership choice,” Hemant Kakkar said.

When the researchers zoomed out to include macroeconomic indicators of economic uncertainty supplied by the World Bank, the findings were replicated over a twenty-year window comprising 138,000 people in 69 countries.

A dominant leader tends to be assertive and controlling, an authoritarian ‘father-like’ figure which appeals to many people. At the same time, dominant leaders often resort to coercion and fear mongering to maintain their status. They generally do not worry about what this might mean for people around them. Their behavior mirrors many psychopathic tendencies.

A prestigious leader tends to be capable, credentialed, accomplished. Prestigious leaders are knowledgeable and skillful. They have a life-long career which earns them respect and gratitude from their peers. However, the general public seems them as lacking the ability to make quick decisions. They’re also less relatable to the general public and give the impression that they follow the interests of their elitist group first and foremost with the common people coming second.

The findings tell us that dominant, authoritarian leaders are typically the go-to choice when the electorate is under economic stress or under threat of terrorism. They seem to explain the election of President Donald Trump in the U.S., Brexit, the rise of politicians such as Nigel Farage in the U.K. and Marine LePen in France, the government of Narendra Modi in India, or even the rise of nationalist Chinese sentiment over the last couple of years.

“We find robust support for our hypothesis that under a situational threat of economic uncertainty (as exemplified by the poverty rate, the housing vacancy rate, and the unemployment rate) people escalate their support for dominant leaders. Further, we find that this phenomenon is mediated by participants’ psychological sense of a lack of personal control,” the authors wrote in their paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

It’s ironic that so many people prefer dominant leaders. After all, most people hate to be told what to do, for instance like in a work setting by their boss. Zooming out, however, the uncertainty can be so frightening that having someone telling us ‘what to do’ or even that ‘everything will be alright’ can mean a lot. That being said, the two researchers weren’t at all surprised by their findings but we’re happy to finally see an empirical confirmation of what had previously been more or less the realm of speculation.

“Make our planet great again” — The world reacts to Trump quitting the Paris Agreement

After Trump’s announcement that he will withdraw from the Paris Agreement, the world’s reaction was swift and scathing. With responses filled with disappointment, anger, or flat out mockery, world leaders have made a common front to defend the planet — regardless of Trump’s reckless decision.

Screw it

The Paris Agreement is basically a last-ditch attempt for the entire planet to come together politically and economically and work together to limit the devastating effects of climate change. It’s not perfect and it’s almost certainly not ambitious enough, but as you’d imagine, it’s never easy to get almost 200 world leaders to agree on something, especially something as complex as global warming. Besides, the idea was only to provide a policy starting point, with the market and other mechanisms doing the rest of the work. If we don’t take action together, globally, everyone will suffer — but Trump said “Screw it,” regardless of the consequences. Well, the entire world (aside from maybe Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who seems pretty happy) said “screw you” right back.

The German press was direct, as it usually is. But some took it further than others.

Not much more to say. The entire German Press criticized Trump, but this Berlin outlet was extremely direct. Image via Twitter.

China, the world’s largest polluter but also the world’s largest renewable energy producer, has expressed extreme disappointment at the fact. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, currently in Berlin discussing with European leaders, stated:

“Fighting climate change is a global consensus, not invented by China,” said Li, referencing a tweet by Trump in 2012, which claimed that China had “invented” global warming to “make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

Still, in a rare instance when the voices of China and Europe leaders perfectly coincide, he reiterated China’s support for the pact and said that with or without the US, China will continue efforts to reduce its own carbon footprint.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated this idea, saying that it will be a challenge for the other countries to assume the leadership formerly held by the US. Merkel called Trump’s withdrawal “highly regrettable, to put it very mildly,” but she too added that this doesn’t change anything for the other countries: “this decision cannot and will not stop those of us who feel obligated to protect our Earth.” Not only did European and Chinese leaders speak together, but the European Union also issued a joint statement with the African Union, in similar terms.

Elsewhere in the world, Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, said that he was “deeply disappointed” by the US decision.

“We are proud that Canada stands united with all the other parties that support the Agreement,” he added.

France: Make the Planet Great Again

But perhaps the most striking response came from France, where the newly elected president Emmanuel Macron rashly criticized Trump’s divisive and isolationist policies. Referring to his “Make America great again” motto, Macron had a different take on things.

Withdrawing from the Paris Agreement is a mistake both for the US, and our planet, Macron said in a touching speech. He went even further, raising an invitation to “all scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, responsible citizens who were disappointed by the decision of the United States,” saying: “I want to say that they will find in France a second homeland.” Previously, unnamed White House aides were quoted as saying that Macron’s words “irritate” Trump.

Bad for America, bad for the planet

Trump’s main motivation (at least the motivation he quoted) was that the deal is bad for the US, and doesn’t make much of a difference globally. Well, as the authors of the study he quoted themselves said, he misunderstood and misquoted the study. In fact, scientists have been even more vocal in their critique of Trump. Speaking to Scientific American, Jane Lubchenco, a marine ecologist at Oregon State University and former administration of the NOAA, said:

“Where to start? President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement shows a blatant disregard for the wishes of most Americans and business leaders, an irresponsible and callous dismissal of the health, safety, and economic well-being of Americans, a moral emptiness in ignoring impacts to the poorest people in the US and around the world, and gross ignorance about overwhelming scientific evidence. Far from “protecting America” as the president stated, withdrawing from Paris will make America more vulnerable and diminish its world leadership. It is terrifying that the individual who should be leading the rest of the world is so arrogant and irresponsible.”

Thomas Stocker, former co-chair of the IPCC and an environmental physicist at the University of Bern, Switzerland, echoed Macron — saying that this is bad for the US, and the planet.

“Trump’s decision to ignore scientific facts of climate disruption and the high risks of climate-change impacts is irresponsible not only towards his own people but to all people and life on this planet. The US administration prefers old technology over innovation and transformation. It is rejecting the enormous benefits and returns that leadership in the next industrial revolution — decarbonization — has to offer.”

These aren’t isolated statements — they represent a greater sentiment existing across all scientists, be they US and international. As for the US population — 70% of all Americans wanted to remain in the Paris Agreement. So if scientists hated it, world leaders hated it, and the people hated it, who does this make happy? Well, the US senators who pushed for an exit from the Paris Agreement are heavily on the payroll of fossil fuel companies — and they’re probably really happy right now.

This sets the stage for a clinched, uncertain future: on one hand, there’s international relations, environmental policies, scientists, and the population; on the other hand, there’s a bunch of US politicians and the fossil fuel companies. For now, in the US, the latter won the battle.

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and Disney CEO Bob Iger resign from Trump Presidential Council after Paris Agreement withdrawal announced

Keeping good on his promise, Elon Musk has announced his resignation from Trump’s advisory team.

You might be surprised Elon was a Trump advisor in the first place — I certainly was when I first heard of this prospect. After all, the Silicon Valley has been anything but friendly to Trump, and their ideals greatly differ from those of the US president. But nevertheless, Musk (and several other tech tycoons, we’ll get to them) said that they can only make a change by sitting at the table. So they tried to make a difference from within. They failed.

It must have gotten Musk very angry, because he proceeded to tweet how India and China (blamed by Trump as the “big polluters,” even though the US is the world’s second largest polluter) are keeping their side of the deal and are much more ambitious than the US.

In fact, pretty much all of Silicon Valley’s tech giants tried to stop Trump from withdrawing from the Paris Agreement (more on that here and here). The CEOs of Google, Facebook, Microsoft, HP and Intel wrote an open letter to Trump, which he ignored.

“As other countries invest in advanced technologies and move forward with the Paris Agreement, we believe the United States can best exercise global leadership and advance US interests by remaining a full partner in this vital global effort,” the letter read.

But it didn’t work — nothing did. Trump made his intentions abundantly clear, and despite the international backlash and national uproar, he did what he wanted. Now, Trump’s inner circle is also starting to thin. Aside from Musk, Disney’s CEO Bob Iger also announced his resignation, and was retweeted by Elon Musk in a show of support.

It’s a matter of principle, Iger says, and he’s right. There is a deeply established scientific consensus on man-made climate change, and it is also becoming increasingly clear that we can protect the planet while also increasing the economy. Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement is not only reckless and unethical, it just doesn’t make any sense.

“Protecting our planet and driving economic growth are critical to our future, and they aren’t mutually exclusive. I deeply disagree with the decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and, as a matter of principle, I’ve resigned from the President’s advisory council.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook, who is also an adviser, slammed the decision and said that no only is climate change real, but each of us has a responsibility to tackle it. However, no talk of resignation.

It’s not unlike Trump to go against what people are advising him to do, but there’s something highly symbolic in the US president shunning the leaders of Earth’s largest innovation center. It’s like he’s turning away from innovation, looking away from the future. Like he’s doing by withdrawing from the Paris Agreement.

Fact checking Donald Trump’s speech — most is simply wrong, some is only misleading

Image credits: Another Believer.

Fact-checking Donald Trump should be a full-time job because the sheer audacity of his claims deserves some extra-explaining. The fact that he decided to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement, the international framework meant to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, is bad enough. But the fact that he did that citing fallacies and misleading arguments is even more disturbing. We won’t go into everything that was wrong with his speech because that would make a small novel, just the blatant things. Let’s take it from the top.

Donald Trump: “Before we discuss the Paris Accord, I’d like to begin with an update on our tremendous, absolutely tremendous, economic progress since election day on Nov. 8.

Indeed, the Commerce Department reported that the economy grew at an annual rate of 1.2 percent in the first quarter of 2017. However, that’s actually a decline from the fourth quarter of 2016 when GDP grew by 2.1 percent.

DT: “We’ve added $3.3 trillion in stock market value to our economy and more than a million private sector jobs.”

According to the Labor Department private sector industries added 697,000 jobs between January and April 2017. This is not only significantly lower than 1 million, but it’s also lower than the previous 6 months, when Barack Obama was president.

He went on to say that he will withdraw from the agreement but is still open to re-negotiate the agreement in a form that suits him or go on with a new accord altogether. World leaders were swift to point out that this is not possible. Jointly, France, Germany, and Italy said that this is simply not possible.

“We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible and we firmly believe that the Paris Agreement cannot be renegotiated since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies,” the leaders of the three countries said in an extremely rare joint statement. “We are convinced that the implementation of the Paris Agreement offers substantial economic opportunities for prosperity and growth in our countries and on a global scale,” the three leaders said.

Of course, forcing the whole world to renegotiate something every time a new president gets elected is not the way international diplomacy works. It took decades of international cooperation to finally settle on one accord — you can’t rewrite it just because someone slams their fist onto the table.

Trump went on to say that US compliance with the Paris accord could “cost America as much as 2.7 million lost jobs by 2025, according to the National Economic Research Associates.”

The report he quotes was written by two groups that have long opposed environmental regulation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Council for Capital Formation. Both groups receive funding from the fossil fuel industry. The report itself analyzes a scenario (40% reduction in greenhouse gas reduction) which was not stipulated under the Paris Agreement and was refuted by several studies, which found that it fails to acknowledge the new jobs brought on by the renewable industry. Several studies of a higher quality have shown that not only it is possible to increase the economy while reducing emissions, but reducing emissions doesn’t have much of an impact on jobs, because lost jobs are offset by new jobs in green technology.

Trump went on to quote another study, but clearly misinterpreted it, as the authors of the study themselves have stated:

“Even if the Paris Agreement were implemented in full, with total compliance from all nations, it is estimated it would only produce a 2/10 of one degree – think of that. This much….Celsius reduction in global temperature by the year 2100. Tiny tiny amount.”

Trump quotes a 2015 MIT report, based on outdated figures, and takes it out of context. More recent estimates put that figure at 1 degree Celsius, or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit. The authors themselves meant to say that if anything, the Paris Agreement isn’t ambitious enough and should be overdrived — not that people should back away from it.

“We certainly do not support the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris agreement,” said Erwan Monier, a lead researcher at the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, and one of the study’s authors.

But Trump didn’t even bother to ask them. No one from the White House did, actually.

“If we don’t do anything, we might shoot over 5 degrees or more and that would be catastrophic,” said John Reilly, the co-director of the program, adding that MIT’s scientists had had no contact with the White House and were not offered a chance to explain their work.

To put things into perspective, even 0.2 degrees globally could make a massive difference. A 1 degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit) can be game changing. Stefan Rahmstorf, a climate scientist at the Potsdam Institute in Germany, says:

“Every tenth of a degree increases the number of unprecedented extreme weather events considerably.”

Trump went on to say that he loves the environment, which, after trying to abolish the EPA, saying that climate change is a “hoax created by the Chinese” and giving free range to fossil fuel companies regardless of environmental concerns, is a blatant lie. But he added that he also love the coal industry (which appears to be true), and the Paris Agreement “would effectively decapitate our coal industry, which now supplies about one-third of our electric power.”

The truth is, the US coal industry has long been in decline (like pretty much everywhere on the planet). The primary cause is, rather ironically, a competing fossil fuel industry — natural gas. Many utilities have been replacing coal plants with gas-fired facilities which are cheaper and easier to maintain, though in recent years, renewables are also taking a cut.

DT: “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Trump said, adding a bit later that “It is time to put Youngstown, Ohio; Detroit, Mich.; and Pittsburgh, Pa.; along with many many other locations in our country, before Paris, France.”

Not technically wrong, this is very ironic. Allegheny County, which encompasses Pittsburgh, overwhelmingly voted for Hillary Clinton in November — 56 percent to 40 percent. According to NPR, Mahoning County, Ohio (which includes Youngstown), narrowly voted for Clinton, 49.8 percent to 46.8 percent. Wayne County, Mich. (Detroit), went heavily for Clinton over Trump, nearly 66.8 percent to 29.5 percent. Furthermore, withdrawing from the Paris Agreement is not something which was demanded by local counties — quite the opposite. 61 U.S. mayors said in a statement on Thursday that they would“adopt, honor, and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement. We will intensify efforts to meet each of our cities’ current climate goals, push for new action to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius target, and work together to create a 21st century clean energy economy.”

Trump went on to say that China and India should pay, not the US, because they are the biggest polluters. Not only is the US the world’s second largest polluter, the country is responsible for a third of all the greenhouse gases emitted in human history. Furthermore, China and India are transitioning towards a clean economy much faster than the US has. Ground zero is not now, ground zero is the start of the industrial age.

DT: “For example, under the agreement, China will be able to increase the emissions by a staggering number of years – 13. They can do whatever they want for 13 years. Not us. India makes its participation contingent on receiving billions and billions and billions of dollars in foreign aid from developed countries.”

China has pledged to halve its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, which is 13 years from now. They are well on track and actually, China is on track to beat that target by many years. Also, Trump conveniently failed to mention that under the same agreement, China will generate more energy from renewables than the US will generate in total.

Again, dissecting the speech sentence by sentence and finding everything that was wrong or misleading would take a very long time and effort — and it would prove much else. Trump quoted two studies, one which was refuted several times, and one which he misunderstood and took out of context. He was way off when he presented figures (ie he said that the US contributed $1 billion to the green climate fund when the real figure is $500 million), and willingly ignored the many economic prospects associated with the accord. The entire speech was riddled with errors and fallacies and this decision could prove to be catastrophic.

Trump puts USA against the world, withdrawing from the Paris Agreement

After Donald Trump announced that he will pull out of the Paris Agreement, the US joins Syria and Nicaragua as the only countries not part of the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Announcement

Image credits: Michael Vadon.

Despite the will of 71% of the American people, despite massive opposition from the corporate sector, despite international pressure, and despite a crushing scientific consensus, Trump took it upon himself to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, the international effort to reduce global warming.

“The bottom line is that the Paris Accord is very unfair at the highest level to the United States,” he said. “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Trump continued. “I promised I would exit or renegotiate any deal which fails to serve America’s interests.”

As always, his speech was riddled with platitudes and hyperbolic adjectives. The agreement is “bad,” he “loves the environment” but he also “loves coal mining,” “billions and billions” — the usual; but at the bottom of it all, Trump coated everything as if the entire world was against the US and the Paris Agreement is just a way for the world to screw up America.

“The bottom line is that the Paris accord is very unfair to the United States. It is transferring coal jobs to foreign countries,” Trump added, reading from a script.

He said that “big polluters” and not the US should lead the way towards reducing emissions — probably not being aware that the US is the world’s second largest emitter and per capita, a much larger emitter than both India and China. The average American emits two times more than the average Chinese, and ten times more than the average Indian.

National and international reaction was swift and ubiquitously damning. China and Europe said that even without Trump, they’re willing to continue the fight on climate change and stick to the accord. Even Israel, perhaps the closest ally of the US, said they will continue working within the Paris framework, no matter what Trump does. The idea is simple: this is an international effort, and victimizing yourself does no favors. Isolating yourself also does no favors. The world is moving in one direction — if you want to move the other way, so be it.

“It will threaten our credibility in the world,” said Nicholas Burns, a former U.S. diplomat and professor of international politics at Harvard University. “It may begin to create the impression that China is a more responsible country than the United States, and it might give a real boost to the Chinese because we will be seen as not doing our part on the biggest global problem.”

Heads of delegations at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, which led to the signign of the agreement. Syria and Nicaragua are the only two countries to not sign the agreement. Image credits: Mexican Presidential Office.

There’s no way to truly enforce the Paris Agreement. Basically, countries agree to reduce their carbon footprint, but if they fail to do it… aside from diplomatic leverage, there’s nothing that can really be done. So if Trump didn’t like the agreement, he could just disregard it and keep up with business as usual. But this is a clear signal, a message of separation and recklessness from the US which is basically saying “it’s not just that we don’t care about the planet, we want everyone to KNOW that we don’t care.”

Why Trump is wrong — on so many levels

If there’s one thing that Trump has done (hats off to him), is unite the rest of the world. It’s extremely rare for Europe, China, Australia, and Russia, for instance, to be on the same page when it comes to anything.

Point in case: Trump also said that he is willing to re-enter the pact, but only if he’s allowed to renegotiate it. “If we can get a deal, that’s great. If not, that’s fine,” he commented. Something like this, world leaders say, is impossible. Italy, Germany, and France have issued a joint statement (an extremely rare occurrence) saying that this just isn’t possible. You can’t renegotiate an agreement with all the countries in the world just like this.

“We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible and we firmly believe that the Paris Agreement cannot be renegotiated since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies,” the leaders of the three countries said in a rare joint statement.

UN officials were also trenchant in their statements, saying that Trump showed that he just doesn’t understand how international treaties work.

“I would call it a vacuous political melodrama,” Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said of President Trump’s speech. “Apparently the White House has no idea how an international treaty works,” she said.

When it comes to the motivation, Trump was also off point. He said that:

  • The Paris Agreement “cost America as much as 2.7 million lost jobs by 2025, according to the National Economic Research Associates.” The report has been widely criticized by scientists, as it doesn’t consider the new jobs in the renewable sector which will emerge as emissions drop. Solar power is already providing more jobs than the coal sector, and the trend only gets sharper and sharper. The study also considers a scenario where the US industrial sector is forced to reduce the country’s overall emissions by nearly 40% in 20 years — which is simply not stipulated in the Paris Agreement.
  • Trump said that even with America’s best efforts, this will only make a “tiny, tiny” difference. He quoted an MIT study, but the very authors of that study said that he misinterpreted their study. Trump didn’t even bother to ask them.

“We certainly do not support the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris agreement,” said Erwan Monier, a lead researcher at the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, and one of the study’s authors.

“If we don’t do anything, we might shoot over 5 degrees or more and that would be catastrophic,” said John Reilly, the co-director of the program, adding that MIT’s scientists had had no contact with the White House and were not offered a chance to explain their work.

  • The idea that this agreement will be bad for the US economy also has no foundation. If anything, the negative effects of climate change outweigh anything proposed by the Paris Agreement, but there is a lot of reason to believe that sticking to the agreement will actually lead to economic growth — in the US, and worldwide.
  • “Billions and billions and billions” — the Paris Agreement also involved help funds, from the more developed countries, to the developing countries. You might think that’s unfair to the US (although all developed countries got a similar deal) until you realize that the US is responsible for one-third of the current carbon dioxide that has been emitted in human history. If that doesn’t carry a big responsibility, I don’t know what does. Also, as per the agreement, developed countries would also receive something in return from this, by gaining access to new markets.

A day history will remember

Although Trump’s announcement sent ripples through the world, the agreement itself didn’t shake. Actually, most world leaders already, in less than a day, reiterated their support for their agreement — with or without the US. Because with or without the US, and whether some people understand it or not, climate change is a scientific reality. We know it because more than 20,000 peer-reviewed papers have been published in scientific journals. We know it through the effect it’s having on wildlife, through extreme weather events, and we know it because we can see it. We monitor it, and we just see the temperatures going up. It’s not a matter of not understanding it, it’s a matter of not wanting to understand it.

The world will move on, as it seems that two turning points have finally been reached. First of all, renewable energy is getting cheap enough. Cheap past the point that it is becoming a viable alternative, whether you’re a fan of coal or not. But perhaps just as importantly, the momentum (both political and social) has reached critical mass. We’re in a race against the clock when it comes to global warming, a race we either have to win or face devastating consequences. The US used to be at the front of the pack, but now they’ve stepped down, willingly. The race, however, will go on, and someone else will lead it.

The statement EU Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete issued illustrates this brilliantly.

“Today’s announcement has galvanised us rather than weakened us, and this vacuum will be filled by new broad committed leadership. Europe and its strong partners all around the world are ready to lead the way. We will work together to face one of the most compelling challenges of our time.

We will do it, together. We are on the right side of history.”

 

Trump to withdraw from Paris Agreement, briefed source claims

President Donald Trump will withdraw the United States from the global Paris Agreement, a source told Reuters.

Image credits: Evan Guest.

A growing rift

The rift between Donald Trump and the rest of the world promises to deepen and widen, as the US president decides to go completely against the environment. Last week, at the G7 summit, world leaders made an unprecedented statement: alone, without the US, they highlighted the importance of the Paris Agreement. Trump was silent on the issue, he said he needed to clear his mind before he can take a decision. Then, after the “covfefe” incident (writing is hard), Trump wrote this tweet:

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/869903459511918592

Well, according to a briefed source, that decision has already been made, and Trump is set to withdraw the US from the agreement. This is still not clear yet, but things don’t bode well. Axios news outlet, which first reported the withdrawal, says that this is now being managed by a team which includes Scott Pruitt — the leader of the EPA who believes climate change is not real, wants to replace scientists with industry reps, and thinks CO2 and global warming have nothing in common.

Already, both internal and international reactions ar starting to flood. The Sierra Club said U.S. withdrawal from the Paris deal would be a “historic mistake,” while Friends of the Earth said that this move would make the US the world’s “foremost climate villain.” European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic said this would be disappointing.

“There is a much stronger expectation from our partners across the world from Africa, Asia and China that Europe should assume leadership in this effort and we are ready to do that,” Sefcovic added.

France’s ambassador to the United States, Gerard Araud, noted that important US corporations also supported the agreement, while Finland’s Prime Minister Juha Sipila said a U.S. said that the rest of the world will have to find “new partners.”

The Paris Agreement

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, with his two-year-old granddaughter Isabelle Dobbs-Higginson on his lap and United Nations Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon looking on, signs the COP21 Climate Change Agreement on behalf of the United States during a ceremony on Earth Day, April 22, 2016. Image credits: State Department.

The Paris Agreement is a formal agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), already ratified by 147 countries and states. The agreement was negotiated by representatives of 195 countries, when a consensus was reached, in December 2015.

The pact deals with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020. It basically aims to limit global warming as much as possible and provide an international framework through which different countries can work together to achieve this goal. Each country has agreed to a national contribution, working in different ways, depending on their own situation. The idea is to achieve this sustainable future while also ensuring economic growth, which is facilitated greatly by the fact that renewable energy is becoming cheaper and cheaper.

Virtually every country on Earth has agreed to the pact, though some have been reluctant to ratify it. Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Qatar, and Russia are on a “select” list of countries which have not ratified the pact — and now, the US is likely to join that list.

The pact has entered into force after 55 countries that produce at least 55% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions ratified it. At the moment, there were concerns that Trump’s election would deter countries from ratifying the pact, but that was not nearly the case. More and more countries joined in, leaving the Trump-led US, which was already starting to fail its part of the deal, at the fringe.

Show must go on, with or without the US

If the US does indeed withdraw from the pact, it would be a major setback. Not only is the US the world’s second largest economy and the world’s second largest polluter, but it was, traditionally, a leader in sustainable development. With Trump in charge, that’s no longer the case. After all, you have to give him credit — he is doing his very best to completely destroy all the environmental policies he can. Despite the obvious threat that is climate change, Trump has not only denied it (and claimed that it is a hoax created by the Chinese), he ordered a complete media blackout at the Environmental Protection Agency as soon as he was in office, moving to cut funds for renewable energy, slash the budget for Earth and climate science, and did pretty much everything the fossil fuel lobby wanted — whether or not it was ethical or financially promising.

At this moment, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the US, under this new leadership, has fallen from its former podium. They’re no longer a reliable ally and international partner. But this isn’t going to be the end of the Paris Agreement. China (now the world’s largest renewable energy producer) has clearly spoken in favor of this pact, and has expressed its determination to step in the shoes of the US. Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, said she confronted Trump about this issue and was happy she did so. She went on to say that Europe will continue in the same footsteps. Basically, aside from Russia and oil-rich Middle East countries, this has been the position of the entire planet.

Losing the US from this pact would be a massive setback, but if they want to isolate themselves, if they want to build a wall — both figuratively and literally — around their country, so be it. The world will carry on, becoming stronger in the process.

World leaders distance themselves from Trump’s environmental policies in unusually frank statement

It basically boils down to this: Trump is the only one not willing to accept global warming as a reality, and not willing to take the necessary action to protect the planet.

Diplomacy is a game, and Trump is not really winning anything. Image credits: Blue Diamond.

Making the entire planet cringe

Diplomacy is a strange thing. There’s usually a lot of disagreement, and compromises are usually the way to go. But when it comes to sticking to the Paris Agreement, all the members of G7 (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States) wanted the same thing — all but one. Everybody wanted to take action except Trump.

Things must have gotten pretty intense because the other six countries issued a separate statement. It might not seem like much, but by diplomacy standards, this is pretty much the strongest thing you can do without going into a direct confrontation.

“The United States of America is in the process of reviewing its policies on climate change and on the Paris Agreement and thus is not in a position to join the consensus on these topics,” the communique read.

“Understanding this process, the heads of state and of government of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom and the presidents of the European Council and of the European Commission reaffirm their strong commitment to swiftly implement the Paris Agreement,” it added.

The allies of the US were firm on their positions, and individually they gave even stronger statements. The newly-elected French president Emmanuel Macron more or less openly challenged Trump’s views, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was unusually vocal expressing her dissatisfaction, and even British Prime Minister Theresa May distanced herself.

“The entire discussion about climate was very difficult, if not to say very dissatisfying,” Merkel said. “There are no indications whether the United States will stay in the Paris Agreement or not.”

Each of the other G7 took turns explaining to Trump why the Paris Agreement exists and why it’s so vital to follow it, but he appeared unconvinced. Trump, who has previously said that global warming is a hoax set up by the Chinese, said he needs some time to reflect before he makes a permanent decision on the issue. It’s not clear what that means, as you’d expect a president of the US would already have a formed opinion on such important issue, but the other world leaders didn’t pressure him into taking an official stance. Still, it was evidently clear that this is not something on which anyone is willing to budge.

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni made this abundantly clear in his statement:

“[We] won’t change our position on climate change one millimeter. The U.S. hasn’t decided yet. I hope they decide in the right way.”

Trump’s honeymoon period is long over, and the cold hard reality starts hitting strong. Image credits: Gage Skidmore.

Trump has vowed to protect the oil and coal industries at all cost, and this is in direct opposition to the ideals agreed upon in Paris.

The positives: at least Trump came

To say that the G7 meeting is a disaster would probably be an overstatement. But to say it went alright would be blatantly wrong. Even looking back and trying to find the positive aspects is difficult — the best thing is that at least Trump attended it, which was questionable at some point.

“There were fears: would he attend the G7?” one senior EU official said, noting that Trump’s election had called into question “the entire Western architecture, post Second World War. Now he’s here,” the official said. “He engages.”

Trump called it a “tremendously productive meeting” that concluded “a truly historic week,” but he seemed to be the only one sharing this opinion. Angela Merkel said discussions were “intense,” “difficult,” and marred by “dissent.”

“Here we have the situation that six members, or even seven if you want to add the EU, stand against one,” she said.

At most, the G7 meeting ended with a fragile and awkward truce, disrupting what used to be a generally consensual group. Now, there’s a big fault line isolating Trump (and implicitly, the US) and threatening the very existence of this group. Still, G7 members have said that the organization will continue, with or without the US.

It’s perhaps highly symbolic that everyone took a stroll, while Trump followed in a golf cart. It could be just fatigue due to his old age and the stress of the first external visit as president. But then again, it’s like a metaphor for the meeting itself: everyone talking and agreeing, with the US isolated by its own decision.

Entertainment television might be partly to blame for the rise of populist politicians

Even if you’re not paying much attention to global politics, it’s quite obvious that we’re witnessing the rise of a new generation of populist politicians. I don’t want to give any names *cough* but it’s definitely a worrying trend, with complex causes and consequences which are hard to foresee. A new intriguing study reports that at least some of that trend can be blamed on low-quality television, believe it or not.

TV makes you dumb

Image via Pixabay.

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London investigated the effect of entertainment television in Italy over the last 30 years, specifically focusing on the phased introduction of Silvio Berlusconi’s commercial TV network Mediaset. Silvio Berlusconi is a media tycoon who also served as prime minister in four different governments in Italy, being widely regarded as one of the most populist politicians in Europe’s recent history. They compared areas in which Mediaset was introduced to areas in which it wasn’t.

What they found is that people who watched Mediaset previous to 1985 (when they only featured light entertainment) were more likely to vote for populist politicians — not just Berlusconi’s party, but others with a similar rhetoric. After that, they started with news, and the bias became even more pronounced. But it gets even more interesting: people who were exposed to the entertainment television as children fared worse at cognitive tests as adults.

“Our results suggest that individuals exposed to entertainment TV as children are less cognitively sophisticated and less socio-politically engaged as adults, and ultimately more vulnerable to Berlusconi’s populist rhetoric.”

The effect was much more pronounced for the less-educated — high school dropouts exposed to entertainment TV voted three percentage points more for Berlusconi’s party than high school dropouts not exposed to it. A similar, even stronger trend was reported in the elder population. For people over 55, exposure to said programs led to 10 percent more support. After being exposed to entertainment from the television, the elderly were much more likely to watch the news on the same channel — news which often times feature biased reports. The entertainment was the “gateway drug” to the hardcore bias in the news.

“Older people, on the other hand, appear to have been hooked by the light entertainment Mediaset provided and were later exposed to biased news content on the same channels.”

Researchers also controlled for local measures of education and economic activity, and they analyzed data that pre-dates their study to show that this is not part of some pre-existing trend.

Complex issues, complex causes

Of course, this is simply a correlation, and no causation has been established (it would be extremely difficult to connect such things in a cause-effect relationship), but it does seem that television — especially entertainment television — has a big impact on people’s political options. Basically, TV can become a breeding ground for misleading, populist opinions to be spread to the world.

“Our results suggest that entertainment content can influence political attitudes, creating a fertile ground for the spread of populist messages. It’s the first major study to investigate the political effect of exposure among voters to a diet of ‘light’ entertainment. The results are timely as the United States adjusts to the Presidency of Donald Trump.”

Trump or no Trump, this is a disturbing trend and one which will no doubt be exploited by power-hungry populists. It’s clear by now that the newly elected US president is a symptom of a much wider issue with manipulation. Berlusconi’s leadership was disastrous for Italy, and you’d think the world has learned from that time; after all, the similarities between Trump and Berlusconi are obvious. Both are businessmen (though Berlusconi is much more successful and didn’t go bankrupt 4 times like Trump did). Both came as outsiders to the whole political scene and used this to their advantage, promising to change the face of politics — “drain the swamp,” as Trump likes to put it. They represent the triumph of image over reality, of alternative facts versus… you know, facts. The thing is, you may get rid of Berlusconi, but a Trump will pop up in a few years time. People might realize that Trump is a house of cards, but someone else will pop up. Pretty much the only defense against populism is education.

Populism can affect all sides of the political spectrum and all countries — I dare you to name one country without prominent populist rhetoric — and there’s not much we can do about that. Also, it’s very common that a specific television (or even several) back up that rhetoric. What we can do is pay attention to our sources of information and entertainment, double check things. You know, spend a little more time before drawing a conclusion. We like to chug information like there’s no tomorrow, but that often comes at the sake of quality and makes us much more prone to manipulation. If there’s anything that this study teaches us is that when you’re dealing with a biased television, nothing is harmless — not even entertainment.

Source: Queen Mary University of London.

French presidential candidate welcomes muzzled US scientists

Emmanuel Macron, one of the frontrunners of the French presidential candidates, has stated that scientists who feel shut down by the Trump administration are welcome to come to France.

Macron when he was economy minister. Image via Le Web.

Although it just barely got into the position of power, the Trump administration has already chopped and diced significant science departments — especially climate science. Trump’s fondness of fossil fuels and disdain of climate scientists should be a secret to no one, but few anticipated the swiftness and voracity of his measures. In just a couple of weeks, Trump has issued a complete media blackout at the Environmental Protection Agency, cut down the “climate change” page from the White House website and the EPA and even waged a Twitter war with National Park employees. As disconcerting as that is, it’s nice to see that in other places of the world, people feel quite differently.

“I want all those who today embody innovation and excellence in the United States to hear what we say: from now on, from next May, you will have a new homeland, France,” he said.

Of course, Macron is just a presidential candidate (and former economy minister), but he represents the voice of a big part of France, and a big part of Europe. Without directly naming Trump, he issued a “solemn call” addressed to all “researchers, academics and companies in the United States fighting obscurantism and who are afraid today”, to join the land of innovation he wants France to be.

I’m not sure why he used quotes for “evil”, but apparently this “evil” also includes scientists. Well, I’m happy that not everyone in the world feels the same way. Now, despite Trump and despite Brexit, we need international scientific more than ever — and this is something that should be kept beyond the realm of politics.

Trump orders media blackout at the EPA, tells employees to ‘cut climate change webpage’

The Trump administration has effectively banned scientists from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from talking to the media.

Trump’s views on climate change should be a secret to no one by now.

In a deeply concerning move, Trump has banned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from talking to reporters or even posting social media updates. Emails sent to EPA staff since President Trump’s inauguration on Friday and reviewed by the Associated Press detail the exact prohibitions.

“Incoming media requests will be carefully screened,” one directive said. “Only send out critical messages, as messages can be shared broadly and end up in the press.”

As a result, the EPA websites and social media accounts, which typically post several updates every day, have remained silent in the past few days.

The Trump administration has also ordered a “temporary suspension” of all new business activities at the department, effective immediately and with a nationwide impact.

Censoring such an important agency is not something to be taken lightly, and needless to say, scientists are not thrilled by this move.

“Any effort to stop a scientific agency from responding to congressional, federal, state and local inquiries has a chilling effect,” Bob Cord, director of public affairs at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, told the Huffington Post.

Then, as Reuters reports, the administration asked the Environmental Protection Agency to remove the climate change page from its website. This is not an isolated move, and it is not a coincidence — it’s part of a larger move to limit the flow of information from US agencies to the public. Valerie Volcovici at Reuters writes:

“The moves have reinforced concerns that Trump, a climate change doubter, could seek to sideline scientific research showing that carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels contributes to global warming, as well as the career staffers at the agencies that conduct much of this research.”

Trump: environmentalism is “out of control”

At a meeting, President Trump told the CEOs of Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler that “Environmentalism is out of control”. Although details are scarce, Trump seems hellbent on cutting down pollution laws and boosting the fossil fuel industry.

“We want regulations but we want real regulations that mean something,” he said. “We’re going to make the process much more simple for the auto companies and everybody else who wants to do business in the United States.”

According to Climate Change News, last week, Trump’s pick for environment chief Scott Pruitt said he will not maintain California’s decades-long ability to enforce its own vehicle emission standards, which are tougher than those at the federal level.

Sadly, the president seems committed to do the opposite of this list. Image credits: John Englart / COP22

With Trump’s war on the environment, it seems like good times are coming for car makers and people in the fossil fuel industry. As for climate and science … well, who cares, really?

Newly discovered moth species features Trump hairdo

A tiny moth species has been named Neopalpa donaldtrumpi, becoming one of the first species to bear the name of the US president elect. The species was named thusly not so much to honor Trump, but rather to raise awareness about the need for species conservation.

Neopalpa donaldtrumpi side by side with Donald Trump. Original images courtesy of Vazrick Nazari.

The species was discovered by Vazrick Nazari, a biologist and researcher from Ottawa, Canada, in southern California.

“The new species is named in honor of Donald J. Trump,” Nazari wrote in a review of the species. “The reason for this choice of name is to bring wider public attention to the need to continue protecting fragile habitats in the U.S. that still contain many undescribed species. The specific epithet is selected because of the resemblance of the scales… of the moth to Mr. Trump’s hairstyle.”

The moth has a wingspan of less than one centimeter, featuring orange-yellow and brown wings, and bright yellow scales on its head.

Image credits: Vazrick Nazari.

It’s not the first time a species has been named after someone famous – in fact, it happens quite a lot. A wasp species was recently named after the singer Shakira, a dinosaur after the poet Georgia O’Keeffe, and a flower fly after Bill Gates.

“Like geographic features (cities, mountains, rivers, etc.), species are sometimes named after prominent people. This species was named after Bill Gates in recognition of his great contributions to the science of Dipterology. Bill’s fly is only found in the high montane cloud forests of Costa Rica,” reads a text fragment explaining the association between Bill Gates’ name and an insect in Costa Rica.

However, species are generally named after people who have a positive impact — and on this end, Trump doesn’t fare too good. Not only is he not linked to biodiversity in any positive way, but his comments on climate change (ie claiming it isn’t happening) have made him extremely unpopular with scientists and conservationists. But hey, a beetle was named after Hitler, so why not?

At the end of the day, the naming is a bit unorthodox and will likely draw criticism but it may just as well achieve its goal of raising awareness. After all, we are talking about it, aren’t we?

EDIT: The article erroneously stated that this was the first species named after Donald Trump. A sea urchin from Texas had been named after Donald Trump in November 2016.

In times of turmoil, academics stand up, develop code of conduct and reaffirm fight against racism, misogyny and climate change denial

In times of political turmoil, academics are often the first to react, and they are often vulnerable. It’s not just that research funding is the first to be cut off, but things can be much more severe, as we’ve recently seen in Turkey. But in tough times, academics have also become leaders. Benjamin Franklin is always a good example, but to a lesser extent, scientists have often played a key role in troubled societies. To this purpose, Rachel Barney, a professor of classics and philosophy at the University of Toronto (and a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen) has proposed what she calls the Anti-Authoritarian Academic Code of Conduct.

This seems absolutely normal to me and should be upheld by all professors everywhere. Even if you’re not an academic these should be words to live by.

  1. I will not aid in the registering, rounding up or internment of students and colleagues on the basis of their religious beliefs.
  2. I will not aid in the marginalization, exclusion or deportation of my undocumented students and colleagues.
  3. I will, as my capacities allow, discourage and defend against the bullying and harassment of vulnerable students and colleagues targeted for important aspects of their identity (such as race, gender, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, etc.).
  4. I will not aid government or law enforcement in activities which violate the U.S. Constitution or other U.S. law.
  5. I will not aid in government surveillance. I will not inform.
  6. As a teacher and researcher, I will not be bought or intimidated. I will present the state of research in my field accurately, whether or not it is what the government wants to hear. I will challenge others when they lie.
  7. I will not be shy about my commitment to academic values: truth, objectivity, free inquiry and rational debate. I will challenge others when they engage in behavior contrary to these values.
  8. As an administrator, I will defend my students, faculty and nonacademic staff. I will not allow the expulsion, firing, disciplining, harassment or marginalization of individuals targeted for being members of disfavored groups or for expressing dangerous opinions. I will speak up for academic freedom. I will insist on the autonomy of my institution.
  9. I will stand with my colleagues at other institutions, and defend their rights and freedoms.
  10. I will be fair and unbiased in the classroom, in grading and in all my dealings with all my students, including those who disagree with me politically.

Other academics have praised this initiative. Dr. Kathleen Nicoll, professor of Geosciences at the University of Utah announced her support for this code on her Facebook page, Geomorphology Rules. In a comment on Facebook, she wrote:

“These are tough times, globally. As an academic, I believe I have to stand up for intellectual freedom and to maintain a voice. That has been difficult during my career, and I do not want matters to get worse. The number of threats and trolling I have received when posting about climate and environmental topics on this page have significantly escalated recently to the point that I am alarmed.”

We at ZME Science are not academics, but we’ve dealt with our fair share of trolling and threats when it comes to climate change. As we wrote several times, climate change is a scientific issue, not a political one, even though some want to make it seem so. Yet despite the overwhelming scientific evidence, we still receive emails saying either that climate change isn’t real, or that we shouldn’t cover political subjects (this being climate change).

Normally, I wouldn’t be to bothered with this. However, it’s gotten to the point where misinformation and fake news are causing too much damage. There’s good reason to believe that the default position of Trump’s White House will be that climate change isn’t real. Trump has called global warming a “hoax,” “mythical,” a “con job,” “nonexistent,” and “bullshit.” But things get even worse. Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, has often spoken about “white superiority,” has said he “didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews” and his website featured a category called “black crime.”

Example of headline on Breitbart news.

Addressing these concerns, 400 faculty members at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have already signed a statement affirming their shared commitment to diversity and inclusion, the free and respectful exchange of ideas, and objective inquiry and the scientific method.

“The president-elect has appointed individuals to positions of power who have endorsed racism, misogyny and religious bigotry, and denied the widespread scientific consensus on climate change,” reads the MIT statement. “Regardless of our political views, these endorsements violate principles at the core of MIT’s mission. At this time, it is important to reaffirm the values we hold in common.”

“For any member of our community who may feel fear or oppression, our doors are open and we are ready to help,” pledged some of the world’s most respected researchers. “We pledge to work with all members of the community — students, faculty, staff, postdoctoral researchers and administrators — to defend these principles today and in the times ahead.”

Normally, I’d say things like these aren’t necessary. Why should academics reaffirm a fight against misogyny and religious bigotry? Why should professors pledge to not be bought or intimidated? Well, it’s because they feel threatened. The political rhetoric has grown so virulent that science and scientists feel like the need to realign to ideals which should be normal in this day and age. For starters, NASA’s climate studies seem to be threatened, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Things are not looking great, but I’m glad to see academics standing up. This is absolutely necessary.

Former French president Sarkozy says Europe should impose carbon tax on US if Trump pulls out of Paris Pact

More than 100 countries in the world have already ratified the Paris Pact, pledging to reduce emissions and keep climate change to less than 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels. But president-elect Trump has been very vocal about how he doesn’t believe in climate change and he is now reportedly trying to back away from the pact.

“Donald Trump has said – we’ll see if he keeps this promise – that he won’t respect the conclusions of the Paris climate agreement,” Sarkozy, who is a French presidential candidate told the TF1 television channel on Sunday.

Current US president Barack Obama has been a great supporter of the Paris agreement, constantly pushing for sustainable measures. But Donald Trump has called global warming a hoax and has promised to quit the Paris Agreement. Under these circumstances, Sarkozy believes we should impose a carbon tax on the United States. Kind of like how Trump wants to build a wall, but instead of a physical wall stopping Mexicans, this would be an economic wall fighting climate change.

“Well, I will demand that Europe put in place a carbon tax at its border, a tax of 1-3 per cent, for all products coming from the United States, if the United States doesn’t apply environmental rules that we are imposing on our companies,” he added.

Sarkozy was president in France and he is running again. Image credits: Guillaume Paumier.

Trump’s election has caused uproar in the scientific world and he has repeatedly taken anti-science positions, causing extreme worry at the UN summit in Marrakech, Morocco, where world leaders are discussing ways through which emissions could be kept to a minimum.

“Trump will be the first anti-science president we have ever had,” says Michael Lubell, director of public affairs for the American Physical Society in Washington DC. “The consequences are going to be very, very severe.”

As a global leader in innovation and one of the planet’s biggest carbon emitters and polluters, the US has a responsibility to clean up its act and ensure that at the very least, it is taking concrete steps to reduce its negative impact. But as Sarkozy points out, pretty much the only way to make sure that a country is holding up its end of the deal is a carbon tax.

It’s also interesting that he proposed this, considering Sarkozy himself is often labeled as a climate skeptic.

“Climate has been changing for four billion years,” the former president told a panel of business leaders in September, the weekly Marianne reported. “Sahara has become a desert, it isn’t because of industry. You need to be as arrogant as men are to believe we changed the climate.”

But beyond the potential hypocrisy in his statement, he does have a valid point, echoing reasoning that’s popular in many parts of the developed world. We need leaders that address global concerns and have the ability to grasp the greater picture on vital issues such as climate change. The science is in, it’s time for politics to act.

Here’s how Donald Trump might bring the U.S. back to the climate ‘dark ages’

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Seemingly against all odds, Republican Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States on Tuesday. This was the culmination of perhaps the most polarizing, populist, and downright nasty campaign in the history of the nation. Now that he’s been elected, Trump has a pretty long list of campaign promises that he needs to address once he takes the seat of the Oval Office. Some of these are pretty worrisome like enforcing strict immigration and deportation policies for Muslims and Mexicans, repealing Obama Care or — his most famous campaign promise — build a ‘big, beautiful’ wall between the U.S. and Mexico. But right now, here in Marrakech, Morroco, where the 22nd Conference of the Parties on climate change is held, there are other reasons to be concerned.

Trump has made it very clear that he is no friend of the fight against climate change. Actually, he has gone as far as calling climate change ‘a hoax’ and ‘a Chinese invention.’ That’s in stark contrast to the eight years of Obama’s presidency, characterized by initiative, diplomacy and energetic efforts to unite the world under the common good of reducing greenhouse emissions, smarter energy use, and a push for renewable energy. But Trump simply called Obama’s remarks that climate change is a pressing issue “one of the dumbest statements I’ve ever heard in politics”.

That being said, Trump and his cabinet risk pulling America back into the ‘dark ages of climate awareness’, reverting to a situation similar to the pre-Obama days, which is making everyone in Marrakech rightfully depressed. Here are just a couple of ways this could happen.

Canceling America’s involvement in the landmark Paris Agreement

Last year in Paris for COP21, the United States was one of the leaders of the talks pushing for ambitious targets. At the end of the event, more than 190 countries signed climate pledges that will see them reduce or cap their emissions on a case by case basis to limit global warming to around 1.5 degrees Celsius and no more than 2 degrees Celsius. As part of the pact, the United States vowed to reduce emissions by 26–28% of 2005 levels by 2025.

The Paris Agreement is not legally binding, however, which means there is no ‘climate police’ to enforce these targets. Instead, there’s a sort of diplomatic agreement that pressures each country to carry its own weight. So, it’s critical to have a couple of leaders, like the United States, China or the European Union, to inspire everyone else.

For COP22, held during the third consecutive year of record-breaking heat, the aim of the conference is to prepare for action by drawing the necessary measurable frameworks. Ironically, one of the most important players of Paris, the United States, might actually retire from this action plan after the event is over.

Congress, which is mostly made of Republicans who have committed to blocking any climate legislation, was never asked for permission for the U.S. to join the Paris pact. Instead, the Obama Administration used executive orders. These same executive orders could be canceled by the next President, Donald Trump, who publically said he would do so. He also said he would cut payments to the United Nations intended for climate change mitigation efforts.

Before Tuesday’s elections, leaders from China, Brazil, and France all publically urged Donald Trump to support the Paris agreement. There’s still no word out about Trump’s cabinet will do on the matter once they come to power, but many fear for the worse. Nevertheless, countries like China or the European Union block have reiterated that despite an eventual lack of U.S. support, they will continue their march towards carbon neutrality.

Killing the Clear Power Plan

The Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan is at the heart of the country’s commitment to the Paris agreement. It involves mandating power plants to reduce their carbon emissions and fosters renewable energy development. Trump, however, vowed to ‘kill’ the Clean Power Plan.

Following Trump’s win, the market took a plunge, among those hurt the most being solar companies like First Solar, Sun Power, and SunEdison.

We continue to highlight the negative industry background on solar, and the election results should weigh even more on solar stocks. The Clean Power Plan (CPP) would have been a strong growth driver for the industry, but we believe it is unlikely to be implemented under a Republican White House. Importantly, we do not expect the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) to be rolled back, as the tax credit is unlikely to be changed retroactively. We expect a significant overhang on solar stocks due to negative sentiment trades and the oversupply in the industry. SPWR reports today after the close and we are cautious heading into quarter,” said  R. W. Baird’s Ben Kallo. 

It seems likely that Myron Ebell, who is the director of the Centre for Energy and Environment at the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute and a critic of CPP calling it ‘illegal’, will likely lead the EPA transition team. As one of his first duties, Ebell is expected to scrape the CPP. Ebell is also an avowed climate change denier. 

The investment tax credit (ITC) extension that is set to last until 2020 but may not fare much better, PV Tech reports.

“The Trump Presidency and GOP-controlled Senate & House are meaningful negatives for US solar. Although the Trump team has indicated to our sources that it has no plans to roll back the ITC extension, our checks suggest the ITC could very well be on the chopping block at some point. The CPP is effectively dead. All in, tens of gigawatts of solar demand are at risk. We see another leg down for all solar stocks in our coverage universe,” according to fellow equity research firm Roth Capital Partners.

“One of Trump’s goals is to pursue tax reform and reduce the corporate tax rate to 15%. With the GOP controlling the executive and legislative branches, there is a meaningful probability that this develops momentum. One of our DC contacts suggested that when the Bush administration estimated the impact of eliminating all incentives and accelerated depreciation from the tax code, it could only get to a corporate tax rate of 29%. As a result, the Trump team will likely have to dig even deeper to get to 15%. We estimate that the value of the ITC is US$40-50bn, which is a large number that could pay for a corporate tax cut.”

Stopping the ‘war on coal’

The coal industry all over the world is tanking, but nowhere else as bad as in the United States. Coal companies, which spent $114m obstructing climate news in 2015 alone, are in a very, very bad shape. Thousands have been laid off, losses have amounted to billions and stocks have plummeted. For instance, Peabody Energy, the world’s biggest coal company, traded stocks below $1 when it used to be $72 in 2011.

One of Trump’s campaign promises is to unleash an energy revolution. He never mentioned renewable energy will be part of this strategy. Instead, coal seems to be on the menu.

Some bullet points from Trump’s energy campaign include.

  • Unleash America’s $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in clean coal reserves.
  • Open onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands, eliminate moratorium on coal leasing, and open shale energy deposits.
  • Rescind all job-destroying Obama executive actions. Mr. Trump will reduce and eliminate all barriers to responsible energy production, creating at least a half million jobs a year, $30 billion in higher wages, and cheaper energy.

Repealing federal spending on clean energy

It’s not clear year who will lead the Department of Energy under Trump’s leadership, but experts believe finding fresh talent to work with the agency will become difficult simply because no serious scientist wants to work in an Administration that doesn’t believe climate change is real. R&D for wind, solar, nuclear power, and electric vehicles  are all now under question since Trump vowed to “cancel all wasteful climate change spending.” His staff claims these amount to $100 billion over eight years.

“The figure combined an estimate of what the Obama administration had spent on climate-related programs, the amount of U.S. contributions to an international climate fund that Trump would cancel, and a calculation of what Trump believes would be savings to the economy if Obama’s and Clinton’s climate policies were reversed,” according to Bloomber BNA. 

And all of this adds up to a lot of additional greenhouse emissions — not less as was ‘the plan’

Trump’s energy plan will emit 3.4 billion more tons of carbon than Clinton’s proposals, according to energy analytics firm, Lux Research.

“It is quite possible that a Trump administration will spell devastation for environmental and climate regulation in the U.S., and to the public health and well-being of people, ecosystems and biodiversity around the world,” said Michael Burger, the executive director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. “It is also possible that it won’t. Let’s hope that the responsibility of the office takes hold, and his obligations to current and future generations register once he has power.”

All in all, the election of Donal Trump, now a harsh reality for all of us who think climate change is an urgent priority for any leader, could be devastating for the planet’s future. But even if Trump is genuinely intended on setting ablaze everything good that came out of the Obama Administration in terms of climate, all is not lost. It is our duty, now more than ever, to be vigilant.

donald trump

Chinese leader pressures Trump to uphold milestone climate change pact if he’s elected

donald trump

Credit: Flickr / Michael Vadon

‘The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive,’ Donald Trump twitted in 2012, a time when such lunacies were not taken very seriously. But now Trump is actually the Republican Presidential nominee with a fair shot of winning the seat in the Oval Office. Naturally, Trump, who is a long-time critic of China (among other things), got a lot of people in Beijing nervous.

This summer, the United States and China, two of the biggest emitters in the world, signed a pact in which the U.S. pledged to cut net greenhouse gas emissions by 26%-28% below 2005 levels by 2025 while China promised to peak emissions by 2030. The deal, which was initiated by the Obama administration, kicked off an avalanche of ratifications of the Paris Agreement — an international pact signed last year in France which draws guidelines on a country by country basis in order to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius past Industrial Age levels.

The Paris text was ratified earlier last month and next week in Marrakech, Morroco, world leaders will convene again for COP22 to outline the specifics or action plans of the agreement.

Hillary Clinton said that she will continue on the path of the Obama administration as far as Paris is concerned or climate change action, in general. The mercurial Trump, on the other hand, has been very upfront about not supporting such a deal. If he wins the Nov. 8 elections, Trump publically committed he would “cancel” any deals that will see the U.S. limit its greenhouse emissions in any way. Moreover, though he said renewable energy is important, Trump vowed to boost the dying coal industry, as well as the domestic oil&gas sector.

China, which has been ‘bad mouthed’ by both Trump and Clinton, is not indifferent to the results of these elections. Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, Xie Zhenhua, China’s special representative for climate change affairs, called out Trump to uphold the deal which took so much effort to negotiate. He also warned Trump, who hasn’t commented yet, that canceling climate change deals in a time when all the world bands together to limit emissions is unwise and difficult to pull off in the first place.

“I don’t think ordinary people would agree if you were to reject that trend,” Mr. Xie said. “I’m convinced, if it’s a wise leader—especially a political leader—he ought to know that all his policies should conform to the trends of global development.”

China seems well on track to keep its end of the bargain. The nation’s coal consumption dropped by 3% last year, a decline which has been happening three years in a row. China also has installed copious amounts of wind and solar energy capacity — it is now the leading producer of non-hydro renewable energy in the world.

Perhaps the most anticipated measure in China’s greenhouse limiting strategy is the upcoming national carbon trading scheme slated for 2017. Pilot programs have already traded 120 million carbon allowances which amount to 3.2 billion yuan ($472.29 million), Xie told reporters gathered at the news conference.

“It will take time for the market to be fully operational, but once it’s operational, it’ll be the largest carbon trading market in the world,” China’s climate chief said.

Some fact checking from last night’s Presidential Debate

A major US presidential debate took place last night, between the two main candidates: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. We’re not going to discuss any politics but what we are going to do is a bit of fact checking, especially on aspects where science can chip in. NPR has done a full fact-checking on the entire debate – if you want to get a comprehensive view of what the candidates said, I recommend reading it.

Climate change is a hoax

Hillary Clinton: Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. I think it’s real.

Donald Trump: I did not — I do not say that.

In fact, he did, several times. Most notably and easy to check, in a Tweet from 2012:

Furthermore, as  As PolitiFact noted: “On Dec. 30, 2015, Trump told the crowd at a rally in Hilton Head, S.C., ‘Obama’s talking about all of this with the global warming and … a lot of it’s a hoax. It’s a hoax. I mean, it’s a moneymaking industry, OK? It’s a hoax, a lot of it.'”

The US energy policy

Donald Trump: Our energy policies are disaster. Our country is losing so much in terms of energy, in terms of paying off our debt.

Ironically, the US has increased its oil and gas production during President Obama’s time in office. The U.S. has been the world’s leading producer of natural gas since 2011 and the top producer of oil since 2013. Oil is also cheaper than it was during the Bush administration, though arguably that doesn’t have much to do with the US administration.

Debt-free college

Hillary Clinton: So let’s have paid family leave, earned sick, days let’s be sure we have affordable childcare and debt-free college.

The last part was a central aspect of Hillary’s presidential run. She has announced a plan for tuition-free public college for working families.

First of all, this applies only to in-state students who go to a public college or university and second of all, even if the government would pay for the tuition, that would still leave the student to deal with boarding and accommodation costs, which make up more than half of the average $18,943 sticker price at a four-year public university, according to the College Board. So tuition free does not equal debt free.

Stop and frisk

Donald Trump: Now, whether or not in a place like Chicago, you do stop and frisk which worked very well Mayor Giuliani is here worked very well in New York.

An analysis by the NYCLU revealed that New Yorkers have been subjected to police stops and street interrogations more than 5 million times since 2002, and that black and Latino communities continue to be the overwhelming target of these tactics. Nearly nine out of 10 stopped-and-frisked New Yorkers have been completely innocent.

Also, studies by researchers at Columbia University and elsewhere say the widespread use of stop-and-frisk resulted in relatively few arrests or illegal gun recoveries. Lester Holt, the moderator, also added that stop-and-frisk was ruled unconstitutional specifically because it overwhelmingly targeted black and Hispanic people.

Donald Trump: No, you’re wrong. It went before a judge who was a very against police judge.

Lester Holt was, in fact, right. Stop-and-frisk was ruled unconstitutional by a federal district judge.

Crime

Hillary Clinton: Now I believe in community policing and in fact violent crime is one half of what it was in 1991; property crime is down 40 percent. We just don’t want to see it creep back up.

While it is true that crime has reduced significantly since 1991 and has almost reached historic lows, things aren’t all rosy. An FBI report shows that violent crime increased by nearly 4 percent between 2014 and 2015, with murders rising by nearly 11 percent. A few major cities in the US are largely responsible for the rise.

 

All in all, the topic of science wasn’t brought up at all, aside for the remark on climate change. There were many more dubious statements from both candidates, as well as some which were outright false (most of them on Trump’s side). If you want to learn more about the validity of their claims, again – NPR has a great article up.