Eyes on Washington week ending 09.15.17


Shhhhh! Climate change may be related to historic 2017 hurricane season

Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, says it is insensitive to discuss climate change in the midst of deadly storms.

Tomás Regalado, the Republican mayor of Miami whose citizens raced to evacuate before Hurricane Irma, says if not now, when?

“This is the time to talk about climate change. This is the time that the president and the EPA and whoever makes decisions needs to talk about climate change,” Mr. Regalado told the Miami Herald. “If this isn’t climate change, I don’t know what is. This is a truly, truly poster child for what is to come.”

“To have any kind of focus on the cause and effect of the storm versus helping people, or actually facing the effect of the storm, is misplaced,” Mr. Pruitt said to CNN in an interview ahead of Hurricane Irma, echoing similar sentiments he made when Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas two weeks earlier. “To use time and effort to address it at this point is very, very insensitive to this people in Florida,” he added.

Ben Kirtman, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, said he believes failing to discuss climate change hurts Florida and the entire country.

“It’s precisely the conversation that we should be having right now. I’m not sure what’s insensitive about that,” said Dr. Kirtman, who evacuated from Florida on Wednesday. “It’s really important to direct resources and funds to the crisis on the ground at the moment, of course. But I don’t see why what’s causing these storms and what’s contributing to making it worse is necessarily mutually exclusive.”

An article posted on The Conversation, points out that one should not naively deny any claim that the extreme impacts of Hurricane Harvey or Irma are symptoms of climate changes.

Some research has indicated that the change in global climate could lead to a shift of the jet stream behaviors over North America. Flooding related to Harvey was unusual in part because the storm stalled over Texas for much longer than any other hurricane. So while our current knowledge does not allow us to connect Harvey’s intensity to any specific changes in climate, the abnormality of the Harvey stalling for a long period over land could be a manifestation of the shift in global circulation in a warmer climate.

Flooding in Texas post Hurricane Harvey

Likewise, the emergence of triple hurricanes in the Atlantic basin during September 2017 could be another potential signal of the more favorable conditions for hurricane formation from climate change.

From the climatological perspective, it is the frequency and magnitude of these abnormal extremes, such as the prolonged period over land of Hurricane Harvey or the extreme intensity of Hurricane Irma, that are often of utmost interest to researchers. This is because these extremes are signals of climate changes that can be distinguished from day-to-day variations.


Reminder: USDA Seeks Public Input on Updates to Animal Welfare Act Licensing

The USDA announced the agency is seeking input from the public to help determine potential updates to the Animal Welfare Act’s (AWA) licensing requirements. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), is tasked with upholding and enforcing the AWA.

Each year, USDA issues nearly 6,000 licenses to people who breed, sell, or exhibit animals for commercial purposes. The department is responsible for ensuring that these licensees comply with the AWA’s humane standards of care, which enables the American public to confidently purchase pets and view animals on public display.

The full list of potential changes was published on August 24, 2017 in the Federal Register. Comments will be accepted by the agency through October 23, 2017 on the Regulations.gov website and in writing.


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