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As Polar Vortex Hits The U.S, Donald Trump Questions Climate Change

A member of Congress from Utah, as government employees began packing up early in the afternoon, on Tuesday threw his own virtual snowball at the threat of another approaching winter storm appearing to panic politicians

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A commuter arrives at Metra Western Avenue station, in Chicago, Illinois, Jan. 29, 2019, as extreme cold and record-breaking temperatures are moving into the region. VOA

A Tuesday tweet from a U.S. government scientific agency seems relatively innocuous: “Winter storms do not prove global warming is not happening.”

The message from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is devoted to climate science and information, includes a link citing research that severe snowstorms may be even more likely in a global warming climate because higher ocean temperatures appear to create more moisture.

Many are viewing Tuesday’s post as a rebuttal to President Trump’s tweet late Monday noting an approaching deep freeze for the American Midwest and asking “What the hell is going on with Global Warming (sic). Please come back fast, we need you.”

A polar vortex has returned this week to the Midwest bringing extremely low temperatures that could break records.

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Pedestrians gather at a bus stop during snowfall along Lexington Avenue, Jan. 21, 2014 in New York. VOA

NOAA denies any connection between the president’s comment and its social media posting.

“We routinely put this story out at these times,” the agency said in a statement. “Our scientists weren’t responding to a tweet.”

Most scientists say there is little valid research to counter the prevailing view climate change is real and note research also demonstrates that with global warming there will be more frequently extreme temperatures at both ends of the thermometer.

With a forecast of icy roads around the nation’s capital, one item of unanimous consent throughout the Trump administration Tuesday is non-emergency federal workers – just two days back on the job after a record-long shutdown – could leave early because of the weather.

“Employees of Federal offices in the Washington, D.C., area are authorized for early departure,” according to a notice from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. “Employees should depart 2 hours earlier than their normal departure times and may request unscheduled leave to depart prior to their staggered departure times.”

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U.S. Postal Service letter carrier Jamie Jasmon struggles through snow and below zero temperatures while delivering the mail, Jan. 6, 2014, Springfield, Illinois. VOA

The notification is intended, in part, to alleviate congestion on streets that could soon become hazardous.

The ability of a mere dusting of snow or sheets of ice on roadways and sidewalks to create pandemonium in the U.S. center of power frequently puzzles those who have migrated to this part of the country from harsher winter climates.

A January 2016 snowstorm paralyzed the region, although only 2.5 centimeters of snow fell on Washington, D.C. roadways. There were hundreds of traffic accidents and many motorists abandoned their vehicles on highways after untreated roads became impassible with black ice.

The mess and lack of preparedness prompted a public apology by the mayor of Washington, D.C.

Muriel Bowser was taking no such chances on Tuesday, three years after the so-called Snowzilla (not to be confused with the area’s December 2009 Snowpocalypse).

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Ice forms as waves crash along the Lake Michigan shore in Chicago, Illinois, Jan. 27, 2014. VOA

Mayor Bowser, on Tuesday announced she had requested an additional $1 million from the city’s contingency fund “to cover higher costs than anticipated for salt/de-icing as a result of Winter Storm Gia.”

The city also issued a hypothermia alert, which will keep shelters open during daylight hours so the estimated 7,000 homeless people in Washington will have a warm and safe place to stay.

Also Read: Antarctica’s Ice Melting Six Times Faster: Study

A member of Congress from Utah, as government employees began packing up early in the afternoon, on Tuesday threw his own virtual snowball at the threat of another approaching winter storm appearing to panic politicians, bureaucrats and lobbyists inside the Beltway.

“People in DC love to show how tough they are and call their opponents ‘snowflake,’” wrote Congressman Ben McAdams on Twitter. “Unless the weather forecast includes snowflakes, and then they cancel meetings, leave work early and buy all of the bottled water at the grocery store. Snowflakes.” He then tossed a promotional hashtag for a top winter recreational activity in his state that includes the Wasatch Mountain range: #SkiUtah. (VOA)

Next Story

Students Worldwide Skip School to Protest Government’s Failure against Global Warming

They're angry at their elders, and they're not taking it sitting down

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Students from different institutions hold placards and banners as they participate in a climate protest in New Delhi, India, March 15, 2019. VOA

They’re angry at their elders, and they’re not taking it sitting down.

Students worldwide are skipping class Friday to take to the streets to protest their governments’ failure to take sufficient action against global warming.

The coordinated “school strikes,” being held from the South Pacific to the edge of the Arctic Circle, were inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who began holding solitary demonstrations outside the Swedish parliament last year.

Since then, the weekly protests have snowballed from a handful of cities to hundreds, driven by social media-savvy students and dramatic headlines about the impact of climate change.

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Students attend a protest ralley of the “Friday For Future Movement” in Berlin, Germany, March 15, 2019. VOA

Thunberg, who was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, was cheered for her blunt message to leaders at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland this year, when she told them: “I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day.”

Friday’s rallies are expected to be one of the biggest international actions yet. Protests were under way or planned in cities in more than 100 countries, including Hong Kong; New Delhi; Wellington, New Zealand; and Oulo, Finland.

In Berlin some 10,000 protesters, most of them young students, gathered in a downtown square, waving signs with slogans such as “There is no planet B” and “Climate Protection Report Card: F” before a march through the capital’s government quarter. The march was to end with a demonstration outside Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office.

Organizer Carla Reemtsma, a 20-year-old university student, said social media had been key in reaching people directly to coordinate the massive protests in so many different locations, noting that she was in 50 WhatsApp groups and fielding some 30,000 messages a day.

“It’s really important that people are getting together all over the world, because it’s affecting us all,” she said.

Critics, supporters

Some politicians have criticized the students, suggesting they should be spending their time in school, not on the streets.

“One can’t expect children and young people to see all of the global connections, what’s technically reasonable and economically possible,” said the head of Germany’s pro-business Free Democratic Party, Christian Lindner. “That’s a matter for professionals.”

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Students hold signs during a rally for global climate strike for future in Seoul, South Korea, March 15, 2019. VOA

But scientists have backed the protests, with thousands signing petitions in support of the students in Britain, Finland and Germany.

“We are the professionals and we’re saying the young generation is right,” said Volker Quaschning, a professor of engineering at Berlin’s University of Applied Sciences.

“We should be incredibly grateful and appreciative of their bravery,” said Quaschning, one of more than 23,000 German-speaking scientists to sign a letter of support this week. “Because in a sense, it’s incredibly brave not to go to school for once.”

Scientists have warned for decades that current levels of greenhouse gas emissions are unsustainable, so far with little effect. In 2015, world leaders agreed in Paris to a goal of keeping the Earth’s global temperature rise by the end of the century well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

Yet at present, the world is on track for an increase of 4 degrees Celsius, which experts say would have far-reaching consequences for life on the planet.

“As a doctor, I can say it makes a big difference whether you’ve got a fever of 41 degrees Celsius (105.8 Fahrenheit) or 43 C (109.4 F),” said Eckart von Hirschhausen, a German scientist who signed the call supporting striking students. “One of those is compatible with life, the other isn’t.”

Other action

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have publicly welcomed the student protests, even as their policies have been criticized as too limited by environmental activists.

In France, activist groups launched legal action this week for failing to do enough to fight climate change, citing a similar successful effort in the Netherlands.

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Hundreds of schoolchildren take part in a climate protest in Hong Kong, March 15, 2019. VOA

In Germany, environmental groups and experts have attacked government plans to continue using coal and natural gas for decades to come. Activists say that countries like Germany should fully “decarbonize” by 2040, giving less-advanced nations a bit more time to wean themselves off fossil fuels while still meeting the Paris goal globally.

Other changes needed to curb greenhouse gas emissions include ramping up renewable energy production, reining in over-consumption culture now spreading beyond the industrialized West and changing diets, experts say.

“The fight against climate change is going to be uncomfortable, in parts, and we need to have a society-wide discussion about this,” said Quaschning.

ALSO READ: The Flamboyant Plastic Waste Boat Reminds The Global Policy-Makers The Urgency To Address Impact Of Plastics on The World’s Marine Environment

That conversation is likely to get louder, with several U.S. presidential hopefuls planning to campaign on climate change.

Luisa Neubauer, one of the Berlin group organizing Fridays for Future, said politicians should take note of the young.

“For the European elections in May, we’re urging everyone to think about whether they want to give their vote to a party that doesn’t have a plan for the future and the climate,” she said. (VOA)