Climate change

Lisa Gillespie

During a House Budget Committee hearing on Tuesday climate scientists and expert witnesses warned Congress that climate change could cost the American economy trillions of dollars.

Kentucky Democratic Congressman and budget chair John Yarmuth held the hearing to raise awareness of the fiscal impacts, in addition to the environmental, health and security consequences of a warming world.

In his latest effort to boost the coal business — and in the process help a major supporter — President Trump has called on the Tennessee Valley Authority to, essentially, ignore the advice of its staff and keep a large coal-fired power plant operating.

The move has drawn extra scrutiny because that plant buys coal from a company headed by a large campaign donor to Trump, Murray Energy Corp. Chairman, President and CEO Robert Murray.

Becca Schimmel, Ohio Valley Resource

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin says closing the last coal-fired unit at the Paradise Fossil Plant in Muhlenberg County would be a "huge mistake."  Bevin outlined his concerns this month in a letter to the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The TVA is considering closing the last remaining coal-powered unit after an environmental assessment projected it to have high future maintenance and environmental compliance costs.

The Paradise power plant in Drakesboro has been in operation since 1970.  Units 1 and 2 were replaced with natural gas generation in 2017.

Associated Press

Thursday is the first official day of summer in theory, but in practice Kentuckians have already been feeling the heat.

Warmer days and longer summers are a symptom of rising temperatures across the planet and Kentucky too, is hotter than it used to be.

Kentucky’s average temperature increased 1.41 degrees over the last 30 years, according to the latest climate data analyzed by the Associated Press.

Hurricane Irma is hovering somewhere between being the most- and second-most powerful hurricane recorded in the Atlantic. It follows Harvey, which dumped trillions of gallons of water on South Texas. And now, Hurricane Jose is falling into step behind Irma, and gathering strength.

Is this what climate change scientists predicted?

In a word, yes. Climate scientists such as Michael Mann at Penn State says, "The science is now fairly clear that climate change will make stronger storms stronger." Or wetter.

Kentucky Mesonet

The Kentucky state climatologist said scientists must continue to provide updated climate information to U.S. decision makers.  

The comments come after President Donald Trump’s decision to remove the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement. 

State Climatologist Stuart Foster oversees the Kentucky Mesonet with weather and climate monitoring stations across the state. Foster is director of the Kentucky Climate Center and said Mesonet provides extensive data that’s available to state policy makers. 

Foster said there are natural climate variations from year-to-year.

President Trump announced Thursday that the U.S. will leave the Paris climate deal.

Here are five things that could be affected by the decision.

1. The coal industry

Even coal companies had lobbied the Trump administration to stay in the agreement.

Kenn W. Kiser, morgueFile.com

Many political leaders in the Ohio Valley approve of President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement. But surveys indicate that public opinion across the region varies, with a slight majority saying they’d like the country to stay the course on climate change.

According to a Yale University survey, the majority of people in every state — including coal-friendly Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia — support U.S. participation in the Paris agreement.

  

The livelihoods of farmers and ranchers are intimately tied to weather and the environment. But they may not be able to depend on research conducted by the government to help them adapt to climate change if the Trump administration follows through on campaign promises to shift federal resources away from studying the climate.

LG&E/KU

Capturing carbon dioxide from power plants is, at least theoretically, a good way to reduce one of the top gases that contributes to climate change.

But in reality, it’s hard – and so far, inefficient.

Carbon capture pilot projects across the country have come and gone. But even though it’s technically over, the pilot project at one power plant in Central Kentucky remains. There, University of Kentucky researchers continue to test technology they say is cheaper and more efficient than others being tested around the country.

At Louisville Gas & Electric and Kentucky Utilities’ E.W. Brown Plant, near Danville, there’s a six-story open structure attached to one of the plant’s units. It’s a scaffolding-like maze of yellow, blue and silver metal.

Kunlei Liu stands under it, wearing a hardhat and safety glasses, ready to explain the intricate workings of the device.

Bowling Green organizers are planning a local March for Science in support of the national event on April 22, which is Earth Day.

Scientists from around the country are planning the March for Science in Washington, D.C. The national event is a grassroots response to some of President Trump’s policies that threaten to cut funding for research and restrict the ability of scientists to publish their findings.

Environmentalists are also concerned because Trump appointed some leaders in his administration who deny that humans have a substantial impact on climate change.

The national and local marches are intended to spotlight the ways science is critical in daily life and for the future.

Erica Peterson

President-Elect Donald Trump has said he will revoke numerous federal regulations when he takes office, including the Obama administration’s rules to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. But while Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency may choose to turn a blind eye when it comes to enforcing the standard, getting rid of the Clean Power Plan entirely may be easier said than done.

More than two dozen other states and state agencies are already suing to overturn the regulation, which regulates carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

Erica Peterson

Overall, Kentucky is getting drier. Droughts are becoming a more common occurrence — affecting everything from agriculture to the frequency of forest fires.

But despite the fact that we’re seeing overall less rain, there’s more coming all at once.

“You can already see this in observational records, that the downpours are getting more extreme,” said Andreas Prein.

He’s a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and his new study released Monday quantifies how much regions across the country can expect storm intensity and frequency to increase by the end of the century, due to climate change.

There are significant implications for urban areas when lots of rain comes all at once, overflowing sewers, flooding and stormwater runoff. But intense rainfall is also a real problem for Kentucky’s farmers.

Kara Lofton, WVPB

People in West Virginia are still recovering from floods that tore through communities like vengeful gods. When you look at the pictures and videos of the June flood – thick, brown, furious, unrelenting – it’s not hard to imagine how our ancestors believed supernatural beings were behind the devastation.

Today, of course, we have better insight into the natural forces at work, and science shows us that the damage from nature’s wrath has a lot to do with human behavior.

The National Weather Service described the West Virginia disaster as a 1000-year event, a term meteorologists use to describe the rare probability of such extreme rains. Many scientists who study the climate, however, warn that our warming atmosphere is increasing the likelihood and severity of flooding disasters. Further, a review of emergency planning shows that while risk of extreme rainfall is on the rise in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia, the states are not doing enough to prepare for the rising waters.

J. Tyler Franklin

A survey has found some interesting takeaways about Kentuckians’ attitudes toward climate change, including that the biggest influence on beliefs may be political affiliation rather than scientific knowledge.

There have been numerous studies about attitudes toward climate change around the country, but very few have looked at Kentucky specifically. For her master’s thesis at Kentucky State University, Jennifer Hubbard-Sanchez surveyed 229 Kentuckians about their climate change beliefs and knowledge.

Climate scientists overwhelmingly agree that the earth’s climate is changing, and humans are contributing to that change. And Hubbard-Sanchez found that the majority of Kentuckians (about 70 percent) agree. But she also found some unexpected relationships between climate change beliefs and climate science knowledge.

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