Overnight Energy: Last year was second-hottest on record | Keystone XL hits milestone | GOP lawmaker to bring Bill Nye to State of the Union

Overnight Energy: Last year was second-hottest on record | Keystone XL hits milestone | GOP lawmaker to bring Bill Nye to State of the Union
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2017 WAS HOT: Last year was the second-hottest year on record in terms of global average surface temperatures, NASA said Thursday.

The finding follows three years in a row in which global temperature hit a new record. Last year's average temperature was eclipsed only by 2016's.

The heat average is part of a trend of more than four decades of rising global temperatures, which researchers say is nearly certain to be a sign of climate change, attributable primarily to greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity.


"We are in a long-term warming trend, despite the ups and downs that we sometimes get on an annual basis," Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told reporters.

NASA released its research jointly Thursday with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). But NOAA uses slightly different methodology, so it concluded that 2017 was only the third-hottest year on record. Records go back to 1880 for both agencies.

NASA concluded that 2017's average was 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit above the 1880 to 1951 average. NOAA said the temperature was 1.51 degrees above the 20th-century average.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight South Korea leader: North Korea agrees to take steps toward denuclearization Graham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' MORE and many in his administration are skeptical of the role human activity plays in climate change, and have expressed doubt about the scientific consensus that human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are the main cause of global warming.

The administration has worked to undo nearly every climate change policy from the Obama administration.

Nevertheless, Schmidt and NOAA's Deke Arndt said the process of compiling the report was no different than it was in previous administrations: without political interference.

"The analysis we conducted this year was conducted in the exact same way, the exact same amount of rigor, as it has been every year," Arndt, chief of NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, told reporters, noting he's been there nine years.

Read more here.


Markey cites report to press Pruitt on climate: Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyOvernight Defense: Mattis dismisses talk he may be leaving | Polish president floats 'Fort Trump' | Dem bill would ban low-yield nukes Dems introduce bill to ban low-yield nukes Some employees' personal data revealed in State Department email breach: report MORE (D-Mass.) quickly used NASA's report to press Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Trump rolls back methane pollution rule | EPA watchdog to step down | China puts tariffs on US gas EPA inspector general to resign Overnight Energy: EPA watchdog says agency failed to properly monitor asbestos at schools| Watchdog won’t investigate former Superfund head’s qualifications| Florence causes toxic coal ash spill in North Carolina MORE on his climate change policies.

Markey sent Pruitt a letter in advance of his planned Jan. 31 testimony in front of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, asking specific questions not just on Pruitt's climate policies but on other concerns like Superfund, fuel efficiency standards and scientific integrity.

"NASA has declared 2017 the second-hottest year in history, and Administrator Pruitt is in the hot seat to explain the EPA's refusal to act on climate change," said Markey, who sits on the panel.

"Administrator Pruitt is not only abdicating his responsibility to the American people, he seems to be showing willful neglect of the EPA's mission. It is past time to explain to the American people why he continues to endanger public health and give corporate polluters a free pass."

Read the letter here.


KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE, A STEP CLOSER TO REALITY: TransCanada Corp. announced Thursday it has received enough customer interest to continue with construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The company announced they secured about 500,000 barrels per day of 20-year commitments from customers, a strong vote of confidence that will allow them to proceed with the proposed project.

"Over the past 12 months, the Keystone XL project has achieved several milestones that move us significantly closer to constructing this critical energy infrastructure for North America," Russ Girling, TransCanada's president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

TransCanada was previously unsure whether it would continue with its plan to build the Keystone XL pipeline due to concern about lacking customer interest in the oil. But the yearlong study rendered the fear obsolete.

Read more here.


GOP CONGRESSMAN TO BRING BILL NYE 'THE SCIENCE GUY' TO SOTU: Celebrated children's TV show host and outspoken environmentalist Bill Nye "The Science Guy" will attend this year's State of the Union address in Washington, D.C., as a guest of Rep. Jim BridenstineJames (Jim) Frederick BridenstineNASA looking into selling naming rights for rockets to corporate brands: report NASA administrator says he always thought humans caused climate change We really are going back to the moon and then on to Mars MORE (R-Okla.).

"Bill Nye has been inspiring countless young people to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math since before we used STEM as an acronym. Our country needs these disciplines now more than ever," Bridenstine said in a statement.

Nye has been an outspoken critic of the Trump administration, calling it the "anti-science movement."

"If we were talking about climate change the way we discuss whatever happened in Niger or the president's extraordinary tweet of today, we would be doing something about it," Nye told Time magazine in October.

Bridenstine's pick of Nye may also be sending a message about his own ambitions. The congressman is Trump's nominee to head NASA. Bridenstine's nomination was sent after a narrow committee vote to the full Senate in the fall, but a vote has not yet occurred.

Read more here.


WHITE HOUSE ABANDONING SCIENCE ADVICE: A report released by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) on Thursday provides a stark portrayal of how the federal government's relationship with scientists has deteriorated since President Trump took office.

According to the report by UCS, a nonprofit group of independent scientists, the administration's skeptical view of science advisers is represented by diminished staffing at the White House and across various government agencies.

Trump is the first president in four decades to not appoint a presidential science adviser, the report said. Less than a third of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is full, with only 38 of 130 total positions filled.

In terms of government posts at the National Academies of Science that are designated as "scientist appointees," Trump has only filled 20 out of 77 positions. Comparatively, at the same point in their respective administrations, President Obama had 62 roles filled and President George W. Bush had filled 51.

Looking at science advisory boards and committees across the various government agencies, the UCS study found that membership dropped 14 percent due to factors such as freezing of membership and disbanding of committees altogether. Examples include the Food and Drug Administration's disbanded Food Advisory Committee and the Department of the Interior's (DOI) disbanded climate science advisory committee.

Read more here.


ON TAP FRIDAY I: The House Natural Resources Committee's panel on energy and mineral resources will hold a hearing on the federal government's management of seismic research for offshore oil and natural gas drilling.


ON TAP FRIDAY II: The House Energy and Commerce Committee's energy panel will hold a hearing on three bills to overhaul how the federal government regulates liquefied natural gas exports and state electric utility agencies.



Federal researchers found that sea lion populations off the West Coast have tripled over the last four decades, the Mercury News reports.

Pope Francis is planning to visit a Peru town that's been harmed by gold mining, the Miami Herald reports.

Venezuela's oil production fell last year to its lowest point in decades, Reuters reports.



Three nuclear non-proliferation experts argue that the world owes it to future generations to put an end to the age of nuclear weapons.



Check out Thursday's stories ...

Keystone XL has sufficient customer demand to build, developer says

- House Republican to bring Bill Nye to Trump's State of the Union

- 2017 was world's second-hottest year on record, federal scientists say

Study: White House abandoning science advice at unprecedented levels

- Dem senator puts hold on Trump nominees over offshore drilling plan

- Trump may keep national parks, monuments open without staff if government shuts down: report