While you were busy the last couple of months wondering how the news media missed a porn film star’s story that she had a fling with the guy who would become president of the U.S. in a few years and got paid to keep quiet about it, or how a congressman who wrote a memo summarizing security information from documents he never read could be taken seriously at any level, or how a bad joke by an FBI agent could imply the whole FBI is plotting to overthrow the U.S. government, or how top-level presidential advisers can work for more than a year without security clearances, or the possible ways Russia is going to disrupt our elections this year …

… While you were scratching your head over these different issues, the Earth continued to overheat and the U.S. government’s determination to ignore it continued to ramp up.

Here is the latest enumeration of stuff that’s happened that will have a bearing on the condition of the woods, fields, streams and shoreline in your backyard over the next five to 50 years.

• The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that 2017 was the third-hottest globally since records started being kept in 1880. NASA’s calculations showed a tiny fraction higher temperature that made 2017 the second-hottest year on record. “The planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 2 degrees Fahrenheit … during the last century or so, a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere,” NASA said.

• To date, the three hottest years since 1880 are 2015, 2016 and 2017, according to NOAA, NASA, the United Kingdom Met Office and the World Meteorological Organization.

• Arctic sea ice in 2017 reached its second-smallest extent (4.01 million square miles) since records started being kept in 1979, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

• Antarctic sea ice reached its smallest extent in 2017 since records started being kept.

• Sea level rise is accelerating, not just increasing, according to researchers with the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. At the current rate of acceleration, sea levels by 2100 would be more than 2 feet higher than they are now.

• The U.S. Energy Information Agency reported this month that after several years of declines, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions are expected to rise 1.8 percent in 2018 and stay there in 2019.

• President Donald Trump announced in December that the U.S. no longer regards climate change as a national security issue.

• The U.S. is no longer interpreting the Migratory Bird Treaty Act as a protection against birds being killed by wind turbines and power lines. More than 20 U.S. presidential administrations had interpreted the act to cover these incidents, until this year.

• In January, 10 of 12 members of the National Park System Advisory Board resigned, in part because Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke disregarded their requests to meet with him.

• EPA Director Scott Pruitt said recently: “We know that humans have most flourished during times of what? Warming trends. So I think there’s assumptions made that because the climate is warming, that that necessarily is a bad thing.” This disregards the view of virtually all climate and environmental experts that heat waves, droughts, stronger storms, increased flooding and air quality deterioration, among other things triggered by climate change, will adversely affect far more people than warmer winters will help others.

• In January, Pruitt filed documents to suspend the Clean Water Rule for two years. The Clean Water Rule clarifies how the Clean Water Act of 1972 protects smaller bodies of water. Suspending the rule, among other things, allows farms to drain chemical runoff into rivers, lakes, ponds and streams.

• In fiscal year 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency levied fines for emissions rules violations that amounted to about 20 percent of the fines levied in 2016.

• This month the EPA set aside tighter restrictions on methane flares from oil and gas drilling operations on federal land. Methane is a greenhouse gas. It has been estimated that the methane blown into the atmosphere could power about 5 million homes every year.

• The president’s 2019 budget plan would cut funding for the EPA by about one-third. This would include a 90 percent reduction in funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which is the front line against environmental catastrophe in the Great Lakes.

Good bad news:

• France persuaded the EU to take the position that no trade agreements will be made with the U.S. unless it participates in the Paris Climate Accord.

• Thirty-five Republicans and 35 Democrats have joined the congressional Climate Solutions Caucus. So far neither Bruce Poliquin nor Chellie Pingree of Maine has joined. Why not, given the coastal erosion and fisheries problems looming in Maine because of climate change, is as perplexing as it gets.

OK, now you can go back to watching news reports about the president allegedly having sex with a porn star.

Dana Wilde lives in Troy. You can contact him at [email protected] His recent book is “Summer to Fall: Notes and Numina from the Maine Woods” available from North Country Press. Backyard Naturalist appears the second and fourth Thursdays each month.

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