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Climate Change

Published on April 7th, 2017 | by Tina Casey


Pantsed! US Senate To Discuss Climate Change Risks Thisclose To Trump’s “Winter White House”

April 7th, 2017 by  

The hits just keep on coming for US President Donald Trump. Energy industry stakeholders have consistently exposed his pledge to bring back coal jobs as an empty promise, and now his position on climate change is getting the Bronx cheer from the Florida community of West Palm Beach, which happens to be home to the A-list Trump International Golf Course. That’s just few minutes’ drive away from Trump’s exclusive Mar-a-Lago resort club in Palm Beach, aka the “Winter White House.”

West Palm Beach has agreed to host a hearing on climate change for the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation this coming Monday, so fasten your seatbelts…

Wait, What? US Senate Admits Climate Change?

For those of you familiar with the political breakdown in US governance, it’s somewhat odd that the Senate would engage in the rather dramatic maneuver of engineering a field hearing on climate change right in President Trump’s own backyard.

After all, Trump is a Republican and his party has the majority in the US Senate (and the House of Representatives, for that matter), which means they control chairmanship of all the committees, so why would the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation go out of its way to embarrass Trump?

Well, consider that the Committee Chairman is Senator John Thune of South Dakota, and things start to fall into logical place.

Thune was the first Republican Senator to go on record demanding Trump to withdraw from the presidential race in October 2016, when audio of Trump’s notorious “pussy” comments surfaced.

Thune’s overall voting record on environmental issues is nothing to cheer about, but in 2014 he was among the first leading Republican legislators to confirm — kind of, sort of — the scientific consensus that human activity is the leading cause of climate change.

That should not be much of a surprise. In 2007 Thune emerged as a cheerleader for new transmission projects that would enable South Dakota to tap into its wind energy potential. For those of you keeping score at home, that would be during the Bush Administration, before former President Obama began promoting the US wind industry.

In 2015 Thune followed through with support for the new $225 Capx 2020 “game changer,” “electric super highway” $225 million wind transmission line. The project was designed to break open a wind energy bottleneck in South Dakota and Thune was not shy about pushing for it.

Here he is, cited by ABC affiliate KSFY:

“We could become a big producer of wind energy but we gotta be able to move it.” South Dakota Senator John Thune says adding these types of lines puts South Dakota in line to produce more energy which means more jobs. “So having these types of transmission lines built is just absolutely critical.”

I know, right?

Anyways, all this pretty much explains why a Republican senator would go out of his way to embarrass his own Commander-in-Chief.

Not for nothing, but Trump’s own Energy Secretary Rick Perry seems perfectly happy to let the Department of Energy continue touting renewable energy at the expense of coal.

Climate Change In The Crosshairs

So, what’s going to happen this Monday?

To be clear, Senator Thune is not lending his name to the effort. The baton has been handed off to Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, who holds the minority leadership position on the committee.

Here’s the official word from the US Senate:

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the ranking member of Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will convene a full committee field hearing titled “Extreme Weather and Coastal Flooding: What is Happening Now, What is the Future Risk, and What Can We Do About It?”on Monday, April 10, 2017 at 1:30 p.m. EDT in West Palm Beach, Florida.

The words “climate” and “change” don’t appear anywhere in the press release announcing the hearing, but it’s pretty clear that climate change is involved:

…Since 2006, sea level rise in southeast Florida has tripled, averaging about nine millimeters a year.  The resulting impacts of coastal flooding, saltwater intrusion, storm surge, and land erosion on Florida’s coastal communities have prompted local governments to act…

West Palm Beach certainly isn’t shy about naming names. Here’s a snippet from the city’s website under the heading “Climate Change Is Everyone’s Concern:”

In Florida, we are especially vulnerable to rising seas and higher temperatures. It is vitally important to our state and our City to take responsible measures to adapt and mitigate the effects of Climate Change…


With the March for Science coming up in just a few weeks, it’s worth noting that the hearing will feature some scientists and other expert witnesses:

  • Dr. Ben Kirtman, PhD, Director of the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Sciences; and Director of the Center for Computational Science, Climate, and Environmental Hazards at the University of Miami
  • Dr. Leonard “Len” Berry, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Geosciences at Florida Atlantic University; and Vice President of Government Programs at Coastal Risk Consulting, LLC
  • Mr. Carl G. Hedde, CPCU,  Senior Vice President; and Head of Risk Accumulation and Munich Reinsurance Company of America
  • Dr. Jennifer Jurado, PhD, Chief Resiliency Officer; and Director of Environmental Planning and Community Resilience at Broward County

 The hearing is slated to begin at 1:30 p.m EDT, and if you happen to be in the West Palm Beach area you can catch all the action at the City of West Palm Beach Commission Chambers, at 401 Clematis Street.

Coal Jobs Are Not Going To Come Back

Speaking of Florida, that state happens to be home to one of the biggest utilities in the entire US, Florida Power and Light.

FPL has gotten the stinkeye from distributed energy generation fans for lobbying against legislation that would favor small scale solar, but the company has just announced an ambitious solar development plan.

Combined with an efficiency upgrade at an existing gas fired power plant, the new solar investments will enable FPL to continue transitioning out of coal.

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Image: Map of Florida at 5 feet of sea level rise by 2100, via City of West Palm Beach, Florida (the city is located on the east coast of Florida, north of Fort Lauderdale).

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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