Trump delivers bizarre speech in Baltimore during Democratic debate

While the Democratic presidential candidates debated in Houston on Thursday night about environmental policy, the role of racism in American society, health care access, and other issues, President Donald Trump gave a speech to a House Republican retreat in Baltimore. The contrast between the president and the Democrats who are vying to take his job was remarkable.

Perhaps the clearest distinction came as Trump resurrected his fake middle-class tax cuts while Democrats had a detailed conversation about how to provide affordable health care to more people without dramatically raising taxes — within minutes of each other.

“We’re now working on a tax cut for middle-income people that is going to be very, very inspirational,” he told House Republicans, bringing up an idea he hyped just before last November’s midterm elections, only to forget about it as soon as it came and went. “It’s going to be something that I think it’s what everybody is looking for. We’ll be announcing it sometime in the next year.”

While one can pick holes in the tax plans offered by Democrats, at least they’re coherent plans. Trump, on the other hand, is offering soundbites that he thinks will play well with voters without seemingly having any intention of following through.

But Trump has a long history of this sort of thing. On Tuesday, for instance, he vowed that Republicans “will always protect patients with preexisting conditions,” despite the fact that two years ago he wholeheartedly embraced health care legislation that would’ve resulted in millions of people losing coverage. Trump even mocked the late Sen. John McCain during his speech for voting against it.

That was par for the course in Trump’s more than hour-long speech, during which he made a number of outlandish and self-refuting claims. He began by bragging about the move his administration made earlier in the day to repeal an Obama-era rule meant to limit pollution in America’s rivers, lakes, streams, and wetlands. But a short time later, he seemed to accidentally admit that rules of that sort have helped the country’s water remain relatively clean.

“The Clean Waters act didn’t give you clean waters — by the way, today we have the cleanest air, we have the cleanest water that we’ve ever had in the history of our country,” Trump said, falsely, combining two statements that directly contradict each other.

When he wasn’t contradicting himself or gaslighting, Trump offered hyperbolic commentary about MS-13 (“They take young women. They slice them up with a knife. They slice them up — beautiful, young.”), Democratic presidential candidates (“They’re gonna take your money, they’re gonna take — and very much hurt — your families.), and expressed his now-familiar ignorance about wind energy.

“If you happen to be watching the Democrat debate and the wind isn’t blowing, you’re not going to see the debate … ‘the goddamn windmill stopped!’” he said.

Trump even took aim at the city that was hosting the House Republican retreat, characterizing Baltimore as a city that has “been destroyed by decades of failed and corrupt rule.” He closed by promising some sort of major federal action unless Los Angeles and San Francisco take quick action to clean up homelessness.

The spectacle was dark, and at times brutal. Republicans, as they have mostly done since Trump became the Republican nominee for president in 2016, cheered.

Meanwhile, in Houston, Democratic presidential candidates took a few potshots at each other and, of course, at Trump — but they also got deep into the weeds of policy and outlined their respective visions of an America where immigrants are treated with respect, the climate crisis is taken seriously, and claims about health care proposals are backed up with actual plans.

The difference couldn’t have been clearer. Then again, it was just as clear in 2016.

[Vox]

Trump Administration to Finalize Rollback of Clean Water Protections

The Trump administration on Thursday is expected to complete the legal repeal of a major Obama-era clean water regulation, which had placed limits on polluting chemicals that could be used near streams, wetlands and water bodies.

The rollback of the 2015 measure, known as the Waters of the United States rule, has been widely expected since the early days of the Trump administration, when President Trump signed an executive order directing federal agencies to begin the work of repealing and replacing it.

Weakening the Obama-era water rule had been a central campaign pledge for Mr. Trump, who characterized it as a federal land-grab that impinged on the rights of farmers, rural landowners and real estate developers to use their property as they see fit.

Environmentalists say Mr. Trump’s push to loosen rules on clean water regulations represents an assault on protecting the nation’s streams and wetlands at a moment when Mr. Trump has repeatedly declared his commitment to “crystal-clean water.

The repeal of the water rule, which is scheduled to be announced at the headquarters of the National Association of Manufacturers, will take effect in a matter of weeks.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers, which had worked together to write the original Obama rule, are expected to issue a new, looser replacement rule by the end of this year.

The clean water rollback is the latest in a series of actions by the Trump administration to weaken or undo major environmental rules, including proposals to weaken regulations on planet-warming emissions from carspower plants and oil and gas drilling rigs, a series of moves designed to push new drilling in the vast Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and efforts to weaken protections under the Endangered Species Act.

Environmentalists assailed the move.

“With many of our cities and towns living with unsafe drinking water, now is not the time to cut back on clean water enforcement,” said Laura Rubin, director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “We need more, not less, protection for clean water.”

But farming groups, a key political constituency for Mr. Trump, praised the repeal of a regulation that they said had severely restricted how farmers could use their land.

“The rule that was developed in 2015 was a significant overreach,” said Don Parrish, director of regulatory relations with the American Farm Bureau Federation, which has lobbied for the repeal and replacement of the rule. “It overstepped the limit of protecting clean water and tried to regulate land use. It created liabilities that can end up putting farmers in jail.” He was referring to actions like using pesticides, he said.

The Obama rule, developed under the authority of the 1972 Clean Water Act, was designed to limit pollution in about 60 percent of the nation’s bodies of water, protecting sources of drinking water for about a third of the United States. It extended existing federal authority to limit pollution in large bodies of water, like the Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound, to smaller bodies that drain into them, such as tributaries, streams and wetlands.

Under the rule, farmers using land near streams and wetlands were restricted from doing certain kinds of plowing and planting certain crops and would have been required E.P.A. permits in order to use chemical pesticides and fertilizers that could have run off into those water bodies.

[The New York Times]

White House Pressed Agency to Repudiate Weather Forecasters Who Contradicted Trump


Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, told Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, to have the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration publicly disavow the forecasters’ position that Alabama was not at risk. NOAA, which is part of the Commerce Department, issued an unsigned statement last Friday in response, saying that the Birmingham, Ala., office was wrong to dispute the president’s warning.

In pressing NOAA’s acting administrator to take action, Mr. Ross warned that top employees at the agency could be fired if the situation was not addressed, The New York Times previously reported. Mr. Ross’s spokesman has denied that he threatened to fire anyone, and a senior administration official on Wednesday said Mr. Mulvaney did not tell the commerce secretary to make such a threat.

The release of the NOAA statement provoked complaints that the Trump administration was improperly intervening in the professional weather forecasting system to justify the president’s mistaken assertion. The Commerce Department’s inspector general is investigating how that statement came to be issued, saying it could call into question scientific independence.

The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, which is controlled by Democrats, announced on Wednesday that it too has opened an investigation into Mr. Ross’s actions.

The White House had no immediate comment on Wednesday, but the senior administration official said Mr. Mulvaney was interested in having the record corrected because, in his view, the Birmingham forecasters had gone too far and the president was right to suggest there had been forecasts showing possible impact on Alabama.

Mr. Trump was furious at being contradicted by the forecasters in Alabama. On Sept. 1, the president wrote on Twitter that Alabama “will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.” A few minutes later, the National Weather Service in Birmingham posted on Twitter that “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane Dorian will be felt across Alabama.”

For nearly a week, Mr. Trump kept insisting he was right, displaying outdated maps, including one that had been apparently altered with a Sharpie pen to make it look like Alabama might be in the path of the storm. He had his homeland security adviser release a statement backing him up.

Mr. Ross called Neil Jacobs, the acting administrator of NOAA, from Greece where the secretary was traveling for meetings, and instructed Dr. Jacobs to fix the agency’s perceived contradiction of the president, according to three people informed about the discussions.

Dr. Jacobs objected to the demand and was told that the political appointees at NOAA would be fired if the situation was not fixed, according to the three individuals, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the episode.

The political staff at an agency typically includes a handful of top officials, such as Dr. Jacobs, and their aides. They are appointed to their jobs by the administration currently in power, as opposed to career government employees, who remain in their jobs as administrations come and go.

The statement NOAA ultimately issued later on Friday called the Birmingham office’s statement “inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time.”

Dr. Jacobs has since sought to reassure his work force and the broader scientific community concerned about political interference.

“This administration is committed to the important mission of weather forecasting,” Dr. Jacobs told a weather conference in Huntsville, Ala., on Tuesday. “There is no pressure to change the way you communicate or forecast risk in the future.”

In the speech, Dr. Jacobs praised Mr. Trump, calling him “genuinely interested in improving weather forecasts,” and echoed the president’s position that Dorian initially threatened Alabama. “At one point, Alabama was in the mix, as was the rest of the Southeast.”

He also said he still had faith in the Birmingham office. “The purpose of the NOAA statement was to clarify the technical aspects of the potential impacts of Dorian,” Dr. Jacobs said. “What it did not say, however, is that we understand and fully support the good intent of the Birmingham weather forecast office, which was to calm fears in support of public safety.”

[The New York Times]

NOAA backs Trump on Alabama hurricane forecast, rebukes Weather Service for accurately contradicting him

The federal agency that oversees the National Weather Service has sided with President Trump over its own scientists in the ongoing controversy over whether Alabama was at risk of a direct hit from Hurricane Dorian.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) stated Alabama was in fact threatened by the storm at the time Trump tweeted Alabama would “most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.”

Referencing archived hurricane advisories, the NOAA statement said that information provided to the president and the public between Aug. 28 and Sept. 2 “demonstrated that tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama.”

In an unusual move, the statement also admonished the National Weather Service office in Birmingham, Ala., which had released a tweet contradicting Trump’s claim and stating, “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian.”

The NOAA statement said: “The Birmingham National Weather Service’s Sunday morning tweet spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time.”

Released six days after Trump’s first tweet on the matter, the NOAA statement was unsigned, neither from the acting head of the agency nor any particular spokesman. It also came a day after the president’s homeland security and counterterrorism adviser released a statement justifying Trump’s claims of the Alabama threat.

The NOAA statement Friday makes no reference to the fact that when Trump tweeted that Alabama was at risk, it was not in the National Hurricane Center’s “cone of uncertainty,” which is where forecasters determine the storm is most likely to track. Alabama also had not appeared in the cone in days earlier, and no Hurricane Center text product ever mentioned the state.

Trump’s tweet that Alabama would be affected by the storm gained national attention Wednesday when he presented a modified version of the forecast cone from Aug. 29, extended into Alabama — hand-drawn using a Sharpie. The crudely altered map appeared to represent an effort to retroactively justify the original Alabama tweet.

The doctored map went viral, becoming a source of ridicule among political pundits and late-night talk show hosts, who accused the president of dishonesty.

[The Washington Post]

Trump administration warns California its tailpipe deal could violate federal law

The Trump administration sent a warning to California officials Friday, stating that a recent agreement the state made with automakers over tailpipe pollution could violate the law.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation offered the warning in a joint letter to the head of the California Air and Resources Board (CARB) that said its “framework” agreement with four car manufacturers could be a problem.

“The purpose of this letter is to put California on notice that this framework agreement appears to be inconsistent with federal law,” the letter from DOT and EPA’s chief counsels wrote.

The administration is arguing that the state lacked authority under the Clean Air Act to set fuel economy standards in conjunction with the car makers.

“Congress has squarely vested the authority to set fuel economy standards for new motor vehicles, and nationwide standards for [greenhouse gas] vehicle emissions, with the federal government, not with California or any other state,” the letter read.

Mary Nichols, the CARB chairwoman, announced in July that the state had reached an agreement with BMW, Ford, Volkswagen and Honda over the emissions standards for future cars. The news came as the Trump administration is working to finalize a national fuel economy standard that is expected to weaken tailpipe emissions standards.

California has long argued that under the Clean Air Act, it has an exemption to set higher emissions standards due to the state’s history of poor air quality. More than a dozen other states have adopted California’s heightened standards.

CARB did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom compared the Trump administration’s tactics to those of a bully.

“The Trump Administration has been attempting and failing to bully car companies for months now. We remain undeterred. California stands up to bullies and will keep fighting for stronger clean car protections that protect the health and safety of our children and families,” Newsom said in a statement provided to The Hill.

Trump administration officials argue in the letter that the deal with automakers likely goes beyond the scope of those rights.

“CARB’s actions in furtherance of the framework appear to be unlawful and invalid. We recognize California’s disagreements with the Federal government’s policy proposals in this area, but those policy disagreements cannot justify CARB’s pursuit of a regulatory approach that would violate federal law,” reads the letter.

The administration’s warning comes amidst reports that the White House is considering splitting its forthcoming emissions rule into two parts in order to finalize it more quickly. The first part of the rule would include stripping California of its waiver, according to sources with knowledge of the administration’s plans. Any rule put forward by the administration is likely to be challenged in court by California and environmentalist groups that argue the law forbids agencies from weakening pollution standards.

President Trump has made no secret of his frustration with the Golden State over its negotiations with the four automakers.

“Henry Ford would be very disappointed if he saw his modern-day descendants wanting to build a much more expensive car, that is far less safe and doesn’t work as well, because execs don’t want to fight California regulators. Car companies should know that when this Administration’s alternative is no longer available, California will squeeze them to a point of business ruin. Only reason California is now talking to them is because the Feds are giving a far better alternative, which is much better for consumers!” Trump tweeted late last month.

[The Hill]

Trump Administration Reverses Standards For Energy-Efficient Lightbulbs

The Trump administration is rolling back requirements for new, energy-efficient lightbulbs. The Energy Department announced the move on Wednesday, withdrawing standards that were to be put in place to make commonly used bulbs more efficient. 

The new standards were included in energy legislation implemented under President George W. Bush and finalized under the Obama administration. They were set to go into effect in January 2020 and gradually phase out incandescent and halogen bulbs. This includes the everyday pear-shaped bulbs as well as bulbs used for items such as bathroom vanities, recessed lighting and candle-shape lights, to be replaced with energy-efficient, LED versions, which are illuminated by light-emitting diodes. 

In its announcement of the rollback, the Energy Department says the new lightbulb standards were established in 2017 “in a manner that is not consistent with the best reading of the statute.” 

Last March, NPR’s Jeff Brady reported, “Thanks to a 2007 law signed by President George W. Bush, shelves these days are largely stocked with LED bulbs that look more like the traditional pear-shape incandescent version but use just one-fifth the energy. A second wave of lightbulb changes was set to happen. But now the Trump administration wants to undo an Obama-era regulation designed to make a wide array of specialty lightbulbs more energy-efficient.”

Critics of the reversal say it will mean higher energy bills and more pollution. “The rollback will eliminate energy-efficient standards for lightbulbs that were slated to take effect in January that would save consumers billions of dollars and reduce millions of tons of climate change carbon dioxide emissions,” says Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project.

“The Trump administration is trying to protect technology that was first invented in the 1800s. It’s like trying to protect the horse and buggy from the automobile technology. It makes no sense to go back to technology from two centuries ago, when we have new technology today which saves consumers money and helps protect the environment by reducing the amount of power that we need,” deLaski said. 

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the affected bulbs account for billions of light sockets that are currently in use in the U.S. 

“The rollback will lead to higher energy bills for homes and businesses, plus significantly more pollution harming our health and the environment due to all the extra electricity that will need to be generated,” the NRDC said in a statement.

Some companies that manufacture lightbulbs opposed the expansion to higher standards of energy efficiency. 

DeLaski says, “Every time a consumer shifts to an LED, that lightbulb is going to last 10 years or longer. So the lightbulb manufacturers are trying to save technology that keeps the consumer coming back to buy another bulb every year, but still wastes a lot of energy.” 

The rollback is likely to face legal challenges from environmental groups, which said they would sue if the standards were reversed.

[NPR]

Trump blasts CNN for ignoring ‘facts’ on climate ahead of 2020 forum

President Donald Trump blasted CNN Wednesday afternoon just ahead of its climate-focused Democratic presidential forum, arguing it would likely ignore key “facts.”

“8 FACTS that #FakeNewsCNN will ignore in tonight’s ‘Climate Forum,'” Trump said in a series of tweets.

The president went on to list points defending the role his administration has played in cleaning the country’s air and reducing emissions, echoing similar talking points he made during his July White House speech on America’s energy leadership.

“1. Which country has the largest carbon emission reduction? AMERICA! 2. Who has dumped the most carbon into the air? CHINA! 3. 91% of the world’s population are exposed to air pollution above the World Health Organization’s suggested level. NONE ARE IN THE U.S.A.!” he said in the thread.

Trump touted America’s leadership in “world energy production” and claimed the U.S. leads on clean air and water.

He also warned that the Democrats’ various climate plans would all lead to increases in energy bills and gasoline costs.

The U.S. last year became the top global producer of natural gas, a point Trump has routinely boasted as he compared the country’s energy dominance with its environmental cleanliness.

However, recent federal reports show that carbon emissions cuts are slowing down under Trump and that bad air days have increased.

Many of the Democratic candidates say their climate plans would provide support to households, especially in low-income communities, to help with the clean energy transition. Some note that cost increases are necessary in the face of the looming climate crisis.

Trump’s tweets come as CNN hosts the country’s first town hall focused entirely on climate change. The seven-hour event will host the top 10 highest-polling Democratic presidential hopefuls, all of whom have rolled out their own plans to fight climate change.

Many of those plans run directly counter to Trump’s policies, including placing moratoriums on drilling on public land, ending fracking, and transitioning away from coal and natural gas.

[The Hill]

Trump backs Brazilian president as he rejects aid for fighting Amazon fires

President Donald Trump gave Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro his full backing Tuesday as South America struggles to contain wildfires wreaking havoc in the Amazon rainforest and as Bolsonaro rejected a pot of international aid to fight the blazes.

“I have gotten to know President @jairbolsonaro well in our dealings with Brazil,” Trump tweeted. “He is working very hard on the Amazon fires and in all respects doing a great job for the people of Brazil – Not easy. He and his country have the full and complete support of the USA!”

Brazil on Tuesday said it would reject$20 million in aid money offered Monday by G-7 nations to battle the massive fires that have threatened one of the world’s greatest sources of biodiversity.

“The Amazon are the lungs of the planet, and the consequences are dire for the planet,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in announcing the aid fund earlier this week. The assistance was not intended solely for Brazil, but for the nearly dozen states that make up the Amazon region in South America, including French Guiana. Canada and Britain pledged an additional $11 million and $12 million in aid, respectively, during the G-7 summit.

Bolsonaro’s decision to spurn the aid money from France and other economic giants comes amid a public spat with Macron that resulted Monday in the French president openly wishing Brazil would soon have a new leader. Bolsonaro insisted Macron had called him a liar and insulted him by questioning his handling of the crisis. The Brazilian president said that once Macron retracted some of those comments, “then we can speak,” according to The Associated Press.

Critics have accused Bolsonaro, a right-wing populist dubbed the “Trump of the tropics,” of facilitating the fires and of taking a lax approach to preventing mass deforestation of the rainforest while also being too slow to respond to the fires. Macron last week threatened to upend a major trade deal between the European Union and the South American Mercosur trade bloc over the issue, claiming Bolsonaro was not living up to environmental commitments that had been made under the deal.

Brazil’s ambassador to France, Luís Fernando Serra, said on French TV on Tuesday that his country is rejecting the aid because the decision was made without involving his country and the “language is ambiguous.”

“We refuse because we see interference,” he said, calling the aid “help we didn’t ask for.”

Bolsonaro’s chief of staff went further, taking personal shots at Macron and suggesting the aid might be better spent reforesting his own backyard. And he knocked the massive blaze earlier this year at Paris’ historic Notre Dame Cathedral, adding, “Macron cannot even avoid a predictable fire in a church that is part of the world’s heritage, and he wants to give us lessons for our country?”

[Politico]

Trump claims to be an ‘environmentalist’ despite skipping G-7 session on climate change

President Donald Trump sought to defend his environmental record on Monday after skipping a meeting on climate change with world leaders at the G-7.

Asked in a news conference at the close of the annual gathering whether he still harbors skepticism toward science that shows global temperatures rising at a dangerous pace, Trump insisted that he was an “environmentalist,” even as he talked up his administration’s support for fossil fuels.

“I feel that the United States has tremendous wealth. The wealth is under its feet. I’ve made that wealth come alive,” he said, pointing to the United States’ rise to a global leader in oil exports and his efforts to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska for oil drilling, an initiative that has hit a number of roadblocks.

But he again dismissed sources of renewable energy like wind power, referring to power generating wind turbines as “windmills” and telling reporters he didn’t want to waste America’s “tremendous” energy wealth on “dreams.”

Trump caused a commotion Monday when he skipped a session at the G-7 devoted to climate change, biodiversity and oceans, unlike every other leader from the group of leading industrialized nations. Following a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Trump told reporters of the session that “we’re having it in a little while,” according to a pool report, and did not acknowledge when a reporter informed him that the session had in fact already happened.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham later said that Trump missed the session due to “scheduled meetings and bilaterals” with the leaders of Germany and India, adding that “a senior member of the administration attended in his stead.” Both Merkel and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the session, however.

Trump later told journalists Monday that “I want the cleanest water on Earth, I want the cleanest air on Earth and that’s what we’re doing — and I’m an environmentalist.” But he did not answer a reporter’s question about what he thought the world should be doing to address the growing climate crisis.

The president has repeatedly minimized the threat of climate change, pledging during his candidacy — and making efforts during his presidency — to revive the coal industry, expand offshore drilling, and open up public lands for onshore drilling as well as approving controversial pipeline projects and pushing a massive deregulation campaign.

During his first year in office, Trump controversially withdrew from the Paris climate agreement, making the U.S. one of the only industrialized countries not in the pact to reduce carbon emissions and make drastic changes to mitigate the climate crisis. He has also derided the Green New Deal that has become a de facto benchmark of environmental policy on the left, calling it socialist and saying he can’t wait to run against the idea in next year’s election.

“I want to be very careful,” Trump said of his environmental policy. “At the same time it’s very important to me, we have to maintain this incredible place that we’ve all built. We’ve become a much richer country and that’s a good thing, not a bad thing. Because that great wealth allows us to take care of people. We can take care of people that we couldn’t have taken care of in the past because of the great wealth. We can’t let that wealth be taken away. Clean air, clean water.”

Trump subsequently wrapped up the news conference, not allowing any follow-up questions on the topic. 

[Politico]

Reality

Donald Trump, the most anti-environmental president in U.S. history… period, labeled himself “an environmentalist.”

From withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, installing a coal lobbyist to the EPA who is rolling back clean air and water regulations, to rolling back Obama MPG standards for automobiles, allowing companies to pollute our streams, denying the fact that humans are warming the planet at rates never before seen, etc…

Trump suggested nuking hurricanes to stop them from hitting U.S.

President Trump has suggested multiple times to senior Homeland Security and national security officials that they explore using nuclear bombs to stop hurricanes from hitting the United States, according to sources who have heard the president’s private remarks and been briefed on a National Security Council memorandum that recorded those comments.

Behind the scenes: During one hurricane briefing at the White House, Trump said, “I got it. I got it. Why don’t we nuke them?” according to one source who was there. “They start forming off the coast of Africa, as they’re moving across the Atlantic, we drop a bomb inside the eye of the hurricane and it disrupts it. Why can’t we do that?” the source added, paraphrasing the president’s remarks.

  • Asked how the briefer reacted, the source recalled he said something to the effect of, “Sir, we’ll look into that.”
  • Trump replied by asking incredulously how many hurricanes the U.S. could handle and reiterating his suggestion that the government intervene before they make landfall. 
  • The briefer “was knocked back on his heels,” the source in the room added. “You could hear a gnat fart in that meeting. People were astonished. After the meeting ended, we thought, ‘What the f—? What do we do with this?'”

Trump also raised the idea in another conversation with a senior administration official. A 2017 NSC memo describes that second conversation, in which Trump asked whether the administration should bomb hurricanes to stop them from hitting the homeland. A source briefed on the NSC memo said it does not contain the word “nuclear”; it just says the president talked about bombing hurricanes.

  • The source added that this NSC memo captured “multiple topics, not just hurricanes. … It wasn’t that somebody was so terrified of the bombing idea that they wrote it down. They just captured the president’s comments.”
  • The sources said that Trump’s “bomb the hurricanes” idea — which he floated early in the first year and a bit of his presidency before John Bolton took over as national security adviser — went nowhere and never entered a formal policy process.

White House response: A senior administration official said, “We don’t comment on private discussions that the president may or may not have had with his national security team.”

  • A different senior administration official, who has been briefed on the president’s hurricane bombing suggestion, defended Trump’s idea and said it was no cause for alarm. “His goal — to keep a catastrophic hurricane from hitting the mainland — is not bad,” the official said. “His objective is not bad.”
  • “What people near the president do is they say ‘I love a president who asks questions like that, who’s willing to ask tough questions.’ … It takes strong people to respond to him in the right way when stuff like this comes up. For me, alarm bells weren’t going off when I heard about it, but I did think somebody is going to use this to feed into ‘the president is crazy’ narrative.”

The big picture: Trump didn’t invent this idea. The notion that detonating a nuclear bomb over the eye of a hurricane could be used to counteract convection currents dates to the Eisenhower era, when it was floated by a government scientist.

  • The idea keeps resurfacing in the public even though scientists agree it won’t work. The myth has been so persistent that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. government agency that predicts changes in weather and the oceans, published an online fact sheet for the public under the heading “Tropical Cyclone Myths Page.”
  • The page states: “Apart from the fact that this might not even alter the storm, this approach neglects the problem that the released radioactive fallout would fairly quickly move with the tradewinds to affect land areas and cause devastating environmental problems. Needless to say, this is not a good idea.”

About 3 weeks after Trump’s 2016 election, National Geographic published an article titled, “Nuking Hurricanes: The Surprising History of a Really Bad Idea.” It found, among other problems, that:

  • Dropping a nuclear bomb into a hurricane would be banned under the terms of the Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union. So that could stave off any experiments, as long as the U.S. observes the terms of the treaty.

Atlantic hurricane season runs until Nov. 30.

[Axios]

Reality

The main difficulty with using explosives to modify hurricanes is the amount of energy required. A fully developed hurricane can release heat energy at a rate of 5 to 20×1013 watts and converts less than 10% of the heat into the mechanical energy of the wind. The heat release is equivalent to a 10-megaton nuclear bomb exploding every 20 minutes. According to the 1993 World Almanac, the entire human race used energy at a rate of 1013 watts in 1990, a rate less than 20% of the power of a hurricane.

If we think about mechanical energy, the energy at humanity’s disposal is closer to the storm’s, but the task of focusing even half of the energy on a spot in the middle of a remote ocean would still be formidable. Brute force interference with hurricanes doesn’t seem promising.

In addition, an explosive, even a nuclear explosive, produces a shock wave, or pulse of high pressure, that propagates away from the site of the explosion somewhat faster than the speed of sound. Such an event doesn’t raise the barometric pressure after the shock has passed because barometric pressure in the atmosphere reflects the weight of the air above the ground. For normal atmospheric pressure, there are about ten metric tons (1000 kilograms per ton) of air bearing down on each square meter of surface. In the strongest hurricanes there are nine. To change a Category 5 hurricane into a Category 2 hurricane you would have to add about a half ton of air for each square meter inside the eye, or a total of a bit more than half a billion (500,000,000) tons for a 20 km radius eye. It’s difficult to envision a practical way of moving that much air around.

Attacking weak tropical waves or depressions before they have a chance to grow into hurricanes isn’t promising either. About 80 of these disturbances form every year in the Atlantic basin, but only about 5 become hurricanes in a typical year. There is no way to tell in advance which ones will develop. If the energy released in a tropical disturbance were only 10% of that released in a hurricane, it’s still a lot of power, so that the hurricane police would need to dim the whole world’s lights many times a year.

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