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One Hundred Years Of Hyperactive Disaster

The Biden administration fires a climate scientist for climate activism.


“To do my job, I dissociated the data I was working with from the terrifying future it represented. But in the field, smelling the dense rot of New England hemlock trees that were being eaten by a pest that now survives the warming winters, I felt loss and dread.”
— Dr. Rose Abramoff

To be a climate scientist in the year 2023 is to document death beyond imagining but without mystery as to its cause. In the past year, Oak Ridge National Laboratory mathematical ecologist Rose Abramoff’s work led her to protest, inspired by the growing Scientist Rebellion movement. Her actions included chaining herself alongside other scientists to the White House gates in April. In December, she unfurled a banner reading “Out of the lab & into the streets” with fellow scientist Peter Kalmus at a plenary of the American Geophysical Union annual meeting. In retaliation, AGU withdrew her research presentation, launched a misconduct investigation, and complained to her employer. Last week, Oak Ridge fired Abramoff for “engaging in a personal activity on a work trip.”

This isn’t terribly surprising from AGU. The giant society aggressively resisted calls from its members to stop taking money from ExxonMobil, which sponsored a student breakfast at its annual meeting for years; in 2016, the board voted against plans to drop the sponsorship. ExxonMobil, stung by member protests supported by ClimateTruth and the Natural History Museum, dropped out anyway, but AGU kept Chevron as a sponsor for years.

Without admitting wrongdoing, AGU has quietly changed its policies, burying a November 2021 decision to divest its investment portfolio from fossil-fuel holdings in a video presentation labeled only “AGU announces change in its investment strategy.” The decision holds out the possibility of future investment in fossil-fuel companies that engage in carbon capture.

The flooding catastrophe in California continues to mount, as the fossil-fueled ARkstorm pumping wave after wave of torrential water across the state shows no sign of relenting. President Joe Biden declared the floods a federal emergency on Monday. Tuesday night brought a waterlogged Golden Globes. Tens of thousands of Californians are without power and at least 17 people have died. The search for a 5-year-old boy swept away by the floodwaters of the San Marcos Creek continues. California storm victims won’t have to file their federal taxes until May 15th, though.

In the United Kingdom, Wales is also under water as a result of a dull, dreary deluge. In positive news, international donors pledged more than $9 billion to help Pakistan recover from its catastrophic floods; the United States pledged $200 million.

A message from Ellen:

A post shared by Ellen DeGeneres (@ellendegeneres)

Climate disasters caused by the unregulated burning of fossil fuels caused $165 billion in damages in the United States last year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Globally, insured losses from disasters, mostly climate, hit about $120 billion in 2022, according to Munich Re. This is “part of a trend of hyperactive disaster years,” said Adam Smith, an applied climatologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “It does not seem likely that these trends will reverse. Perhaps we need to be more prepared for a future that has rapidly become our present.”

Scientists are pleased to announce they’re getting better at confirming that the disasters gripping the globe are, in fact, caused by the unregulated burning of fossil fuels.

In research funded in part by ExxonMobil,1 scientists have found that global warming has triggered both extreme events and long-term trends responsible for the 70-percent collapse of Magellanic penguins at Punta Tombo, Argentina, their largest breeding site, since the 1980s. The researchers—T. J. Clark-Wolf, P. Dee Boersma, Ginger Rebstock, and Briana Abrahms—are confident the penguins will go extinct.

“Taken together, these effects led to predicted population extirpation under all future climate scenarios.”

Unlike the AGU, Hill Heat isn’t sponsored by the fossil-fuel industry—this work is supported by paid subscribers. Please chip in today.

Maybe the EPA’s new $100 million environmental justice program will fund a Permian Basin environmental-justice group to help the people the EPA won’t protect.

Jerome Powell took pains on Tuesday to explain that the Federal Reserve is only interested in increasing unemployment, not fighting climate change.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) wants a review of the permit for the dangerously leaky Keystone tar-sands pipeline.

MOVEMENT MOVES: Lula has named Sonia Guajarara Brazil’s first-ever Minister of Indigenous Affairs, and Amazon defender Mariana Silva was named Minister of the Environment. Daniela Lapidous is the new chief of strategy at the Green New Deal Network. Martha Pskowski has joined Inside Climate News as their Texas reporter. Environmental lawyer Elizabeth Klein, now a senior advisor to Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, was named the new director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, a position that does not require Senate confirmation, which Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) would block.

The U.S. Climate Action Network is seeking a successor to retiring executive director Keya Chatterjee.

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1 I’m not kidding, this time.

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