If you’re getting tired of hearing this, I’m sorry, in multiple ways. In 2016, Earth’s average surface temperature was the hottest on record. The globally averaged temperature was 1.78 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the mid-20th century mean.

Before this, the hottest year was 2015. Before that, it was 2014. Before that, it was 2010. For the record, 2013 now ranks as the fifth-hottest year, 2012 as the ninth-hottest year, 2011 as the 14th-hottest year. The sixth-hottest year was 2005, and the seventh-hottest years were 2009 and 1998. That’s since records started being kept in 1880 — 137 years ago.

These facts conflict with Sen. Ted Cruz’s alternative statement last year that satellites “have recorded no significant warming whatsoever for the last 18 years.” And, of course, not only do they conflict with Cruz’s statement, they negate it. Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are rising. The more carbon dioxide there is, the more heat is held in the air. The more heat there is, the more ice melts, weather patterns change, water sources dry up or overflow, seas rise, ecologies change, lobsters vacate habitat for colder water, etc. Humans pour more than 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air every year. Virtually all scientists who study these things agree this heavily contributes to the warming.

The trouble for your backyard, as already mentioned (Backyard Naturalist, Dec. 8 and Dec. 22), is that the freshly sworn-in congressional and executive branch leaders of the federal government heavily favor Cruz’s alternative, fantasy reality. Here’s a rundown of some of what’s gone on in recent weeks, some of it specifically intended to disabuse us of knowledge.

• President Donald Trump ordered the climate change page on the White House website taken down. On inauguration day, a new page appeared, “An America First Energy Plan,” “committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule.”

• He ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to take down its climate change web page. A few days later, a White House spokesman amended the intent by saying they were “looking at scrubbing (the site) up a bit, putting a little freshener on it,” meaning, presumably, that alternative facts and/or language would be inserted. On Tuesday, the page was still available, apparently intact.


• Trump ordered a freeze on all EPA grants, involving billions of dollars of funding for research, cleanup of former industrial sites, air quality monitoring, and other programs. A few days later, he lifted the freeze. I wonder what big businesses were going to lose hefty helpings of public money otherwise.

• He ordered the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipeline projects put back on track. The Obama administration had halted them because of undue threats to the environment and people.

• Trump ordered EPA personnel to stop using social media.

• He ordered National Park Service personnel to stop using Twitter. Some of them continued to tweet, on their own accounts, scientifically verified facts about the Earth’s climate.

• The federal Centers for Disease Control suddenly canceled a conference on health and climate change that had been scheduled to be held this month. It did not say why.

• Trump’s transition team leader for the EPA, Myron Ebell, awhile back suggested the EPA’s workforce should be reduced by about two-thirds in the next four years and the agency’s budget should be cut in half to about $4 billion. These are his ideas, not Trump’s, necessarily. Trump himself has called the EPA’s activities “a disgrace.” (Republican President Richard Nixon created the EPA in 1970, in response to mounting scientific evidence that human activities harm the environment.)


• On Feb. 3, Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida introduced to Congress the bill HR 861 — To Terminate the Environmental Protection Agency.

• Scott Pruitt, the attorney general of Oklahoma who has called global warming a hoax and has taken part in 14 lawsuits against the EPA, was expected to be confirmed this week as the director of the EPA. More than 400 former EPA officials sent a letter to Senate Republicans explaining that Pruitt is unsuitable for the job.

• Republicans in Congress introduced a bill to turn over to state control 3.3 million acres in the West that are currently under supervision of the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah said the land serves “no purpose for taxpayers.” After hunting, fishing and other outdoors groups — comprising taxpayers — loudly objected to the plan, Chaffetz withdrew the bill.

• Congressional Republicans passed a law to repeal regulations that protect waterways from coal mining debris. They say the regulations hurt employment in the coal industry, which is an alternative fact to the actual fact that the coal industry and its jobs have been declining for years. When Trump signs it, mining companies will be free to poison water supplies.

• Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources in December changed language on its website from “Earth’s climate is changing. Human activities that increase heat-trapping (‘greenhouse’) gases are the main cause” to “as it has done throughout the centuries, the earth is going through a change. The reasons for this change at this particular time in the earth’s long history are being debated and researched by academic entities outside the Department of Natural Resources.” The Wisconsin Public Utilities Commission deleted its climate change information completely.

• Meanwhile, “one of the largest icebergs ever recorded” — around the size of Delaware — is about to break off the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica. Researchers say the break is not directly attributable to global warming, but is probably accelerated by it.

Hotter and hotter. While most other governments — including China’s — are developing laws and projects to shield their people from worsening climate change, ours is removing every protection it can. The phrase “hell-bent” comes to mind.

When does money stop trumping reality?

Dana Wilde lives in Troy. His book “Summer to Fall” is available from North Country Press. You can contact him at naturalist1@dwildepress.net. Backyard Naturalist appears the second and fourth Thursdays each month.

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