Frozen in Time
May 13, 2014
The amount of nonsense in public debate on extreme events and climate change remains at a high level

Roger Pielke Jr.

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The amount of nonsense in public debate on extreme events and climate change remains at a high level. This is great news for me because it provides plenty of opportunities to discuss what the actual science says and how we think we know what we know. As I have long argued, accurate representations of the state of science of extremes is far more important as a matter of scientific integrity than to the hyper-politiczed debate over climate change. Put another way, it is highly unlikely that misrepresentations of the state of science will do much to move action on energy policies, but they could damage the integrity of leading institutions of science.

This is a short post about drought, which simply summarizes the bottom-line conclusions of two of the most recent major scientific assessments of extreme events and climate change, one by the US government, released in 2008 under the Bush administration (PDF, and then reaffirmed in the CCSP Unified Synthesis under the Obama Administration, here) and the second from the IPCC.

First, from the US government’s assessment of extreme events in the US, here is what it concluded about drought (here in PDF, at p. 42):

The most widespread and severe drought conditions occurred in the 1930s and 1950s (Andreadis et al., 2005). The early 2000s were also characterized by severe droughts in some areas, notably in the western United States. When averaged across the entire United States (Figure 2.6), there is no clear tendency for a trend based on the PDSI. Similarly, long-term trends (1925-2003) of hydrologic droughts based on model derived soil moisture and runoff show that droughts have, for the most part, become shorter, less frequent, and cover a smaller portion of the U. S. over the last century (Andreadis and Lettenmaier, 2006). The main exception is the Southwest and parts of the interior of the West, where increased temperature has led to rising drought trends (Groisman et al., 2004; Andreadis and Lettenmaier, 2006). The trends averaged over all of North America since 1950 (Figure 2.6) are similar to U.S. trends for the same period, indicating no overall trend.

Got that? Over the climate time scales “droughts have, for the most part, become shorter, less frequent, and cover a smaller portion of the U. S. over the last century.” At the top of this post is Figure 2.6 from that report, showing drought incidence in the US (red) and North America (blue) from 1900.

The IPCC in 2012 conducted a survey of drought globally, and concluded with the following (here in PDF, at p. 171):

There is not enough evidence at present to suggest high confidence in observed trends in dryness due to lack of direct observations, some geographical inconsistencies in the trends, and some dependencies of inferred trends on the index choice. There is medium confidence that since the 1950s some regions of the world have experienced more intense and longer droughts (e.g., southern Europe, west Africa) but also opposite trends exist in other regions (e.g., central North America, northwestern Australia).

Got that? Some places have become dryer, others wetter, and not much confidence in asserting the presence of any trends at the global scale.

Now it is of course true that the recent assessments of the US government and IPCC are not the last words on these subjects. They represents attempts by governments to have scientists systematically arbitrate questions that can resolved empirically, such as “has drought increased or decreased?”

Anyone who shows up in public debate (or the scientific literature) with an alternative view (e.g., droughts have become worse in the US or there is more certainty at the global level) had better come with some strong evidence. The need for strong evidence comes not simply from the authority of these assessments, but because they represent a condensation of a large amount of literature. To overturn the conventional wisdom expressed in the assessments requires overturning the arguments found in the literature on which the assessment is based. The same logic goes for people who would challenge other findings from such assessments, such as in making a claim that the globe is not warming.

The findings of assessments are not however received truth. As we have seen, those leading and participating in such assessments can err egregiously—where an error means a failure to accurately reflect in the assessment the underlying scientific literature. Here overturning the assessment is relatively easy, as it does not require over turning the literature, but simply representing it accurately. This is why the IPCC SREX came to different conclusions on extremes than did AR4.

Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts here to reliable knowledge - just because the IPCC erred on one subject does not mean that it necessarily erred on others. Each knowledge claim must be evaluated on its merits. Shortfalls in an assessment process may cause you (or me) to lose confidence in the integrity of that process, but it does not eliminate the need to evaluate knowledge claims on their merits using the methods of science.

The good news is that for extreme events and climate change there is a well-developed scientific literature on this topic, and it does not always jibe with what you might read in the news or hear from experts. Given the politicization of the climate debate, and the penetration of that politicization into academia, I don’t expect this to change anytime soon, if ever.

May 08, 2014
Joe Bastardi on NCA and John Coleman on ‘600 page litany of doom’

Joe Bastardi on the NCA.

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‘600 page litany of doom’

Weather Channel Co-Founder John Coleman slams Federal climate report: A ‘total distortion of the data and agenda driven, destructive episode of bad science gone berserk’

Coleman: ‘When the temperature data could no longer be bent to support global warming, they switched to climate change and now blame every weather and climate event on CO2 despite the hard, cold fact that the “radiative forcing” theory they built their claims on has totally failed to verify.’

‘The current bad science is all based on a theory that the increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from the exhaust of the burning of fossil fuels leads to a dramatic increase in “the greenhouse effect” causing temperatures to skyrocket uncontrollably. This theory has failed to verify and is obviously dead wrong. But the politically funded and agenda driven scientists who have built their careers on this theory and live well on the 2.6 billion dollars of year of Federal grants for global warming/climate change research cling to this theory and bend the data spread to support the glorified claims in their reports and papers.’

John Coleman’s Blog for Wednesday, May 7th

The sky is falling. “Climate Change” is running wild and disaster is certain unless we immediately stop burning coal and oil and move quickly to “green energy” to eliminate use of fossil fuels. Heat waves, huge floods, powerful storms, droughts and rising seas are on the verge of killing millions of us and destroying our civilization. That is my summary of the new Federal Assessment of Climate Change issued by a Obama administration team of more than 300 specialists guided by a 60-member federal advisory committee produced the report. It was reviewed by federal agencies and a panel of the National Academy of Sciences.
This 600 page litany of doom and gloom has received extensive coverage by the panting anchors of the national media who feel important when tell their audience that “the sky is falling.” Horrible pictures of storms, floods, drought and heat waves leaped out of the TV sets as the New York and Washington DC headquartered media was particularly excited to tell us how the huge increases in floods and storms was the worst in that part of the nation.

If you accept the picture painted by this report, the weather was just right, steady and nice in the historic past but because our industrialized society has powered its heating and air conditioning, its transportation by train, plane, cars and trucks, generated it’s electric power to run our lights, computers, television and smart phones with fossil fuels it has triggered this nightmare of awful storms, droughts and heat waves.

I am deeply disturbed to have to suffer through this total distortion of the data and agenda driven, destructive episode of bad science gone berserk. The only good news is that I least where I am and on the channels and websites I saw I was not further insulted by fawning TV Weathercasters visiting the White House and interviewing the President. I best I can tell, on a national level, that turned out to be a non-event (thank goodness).

Please allow me to hold your attention for a few minutes to explain why I don’t buy into this Climate Change alarmism. The climate of Earth has never been “normal” or stable. It has continuously changed through this planet’s 4.5 billion year history. Powerful storms, floods, droughts, heat waves and ice and snow storms have come and gone as long as Earth has existed.

The current bad science is all based on a theory that the increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from the exhaust of the burning of fossil fuels leads to a dramatic increase in “the greenhouse effect” causing temperatures to skyrocket uncontrollably. This theory has failed to verify and is obviously dead wrong. But the politically funded and agenda driven scientists who have built their careers on this theory and live well on the 2.6 billion dollars of year of Federal grants for global warming/climate change research cling to this theory and bend the data spread to support the glorified claims in their reports and papers.

When the temperature data could no longer be bent to support global warming, they switched to climate change and now blame every weather and climate event on CO2 despite the hard, cold fact that the “radiative forcing” theory they built their claims on has totally failed to verify.

They call people such as me who debunk their non-scientific silliness as “deniers” and claim we are flat-earthers and shills for “big oil”. It is insulting and maddening. But I will not be silenced. And neither will the thousand others, many of them with Ph.D.’s and on the faculties of major universities who are working to stop this bad science that labels CO2 as a pollutant and blames it for every shift in the weather.

We will be gathering, we global warming skeptics, at Heartland Institutes 9th International Conference on Climate Change, July 7 - 9, 2014 in Las Vegas. You can learn about that conference at http://climateconference.heartland.org/. I will be one of the speakers at the breakfast session on Tuesday July 8th. Look at the list of speakers on the website and you will see an impressive group.

A group of the powerful Ph.D.’s in the group have recently published a complete scientific document that totaling destroys the climate change alarmism of the US Democrat Party and the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. You can find that publication on line at http://climatechangereconsidered.org/.

In the meantime, through blogs, and radio and television interviews whenever any of us can get on the air we will continue to try to debunk this way of climate alarmism. For instance, I will be on the air on WLS Radio in Chicago with Bruce Wolf & Dan Proft on Wednesday morning (today) at 8:45 AM Chicago time (6:45 AM San Diego time) and do my best to tell the real story of climate and weather. You can listen to that broadcast on line here.

All of this not withstanding, my life is sooo good. Every day is fun and relaxed since I have ended the tread mill life of grinding out all those TV weathercasts a day. I now do my dancing for fun only. LOL

May 06, 2014
Climate Change Mass Hysteria Grips the U.S.

Dr. Roy Spencer

WASHINGTON (AP) In what many experts are calling one of the most serious cases of mass hysteria in modern times, the U.S. government today released its National Climate Assessment, a sobering 840 page summary of a wide variety of normal climate occurrences which are leading to physical symptoms such as adolescent psychiatric problems, great wailing, and gnashing of teeth.

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The report is gripping the nation like a global warming polar vortex trapped in place by the swirling toxic vapors emitted by a swarm of possessed SUVs.

The report contains claims of U.S. floods, droughts, severe weather, and heat waves, all of which are not unprecedented compared to centuries past, but are nevertheless known to be the fault of humans.

Ronald Wobbles, the report’s lead author, was quoted as saying (I am not making this up), “We’re already seeing extreme weather and it’s happening now”. This finding stands in stark contrast to 100 years ago, when ‘we saw extreme weather that was happening then’.

Climate deniers, known to be the same paid shills who once worked for the tobacco industry, were quick to pounce on the report’s findings, claiming that there is no evidence supporting either the view that U.S. climate has gotten worse, or that Elvis Presley had finally returned to Earth with a great new diet plan.

The report received a warm welcome from many politicians, lobbyists, government-funded scientists, insurance companies, media personalities, and Hollywood. “I can even see climate change in my back yard!” was a common refrain voiced by astute observers, presumably relying upon many decades of precise temperature measurements capturing the fraction of a degree temperature rise around their back patio on a NIST-calibrated Wal Mart thermometer.

Experts familiar with the mass hysteria outbreak have little hope that an antidote would be forthcoming any time soon. Said one psychologist who declined to be identified, “All we can hope is that the hysteria will run its course in the next several years as higher energy prices, brownouts, and blackouts set in.”

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Roger Cohen adds:

“This is pure hogwash, of course, and that is being kind. The agent that is harming the economy is the US central government with its excessive regulations, its policies of failed excessive spending for no purpose other than to reward its constituencies, its fetish with class warfare and taxation, and its failure to permit federal lands to be accessed for its abundant resources.

As for its claims of more extreme weather, they are pure fabrication. The central government has reached the point where it expects us to believe that every storm, drought, flood, or whatever is due to driving your SUV. Like astrology their so called “science” is made to fit everything that happens after the fact, but they predict nothing that actually happens. Indeed the world has not warmed at all for more than 15 years, despite their predictions that it would. For those who want to see the real facts, consult for example the Congressional testimony of Dr. John Christy, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science, Alabama’s State Climatologist and Director of the Earth System Science Center at The University of Alabama in Huntsville.

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The real deniers and dangerous characters are the authors of the report, the mainstream media that treats it most the words carried down on the tablets by Moses, and the administration which have led the politicization of science through billions in funding. You don’t need to read the science fiction that they are promoting. These three videos summarize it quite well.

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What the National Climate Assessment Doesn’t Tell You

By PAUL C. “CHIP” KNAPPENBERGER and PATRICK J. MICHAELS

Global Science Report is a feature from the Center for the Study of Science, where we highlight one or two important new items in the scientific literature or the popular media. For broader and more technical perspectives, consult our monthly “Current Wisdom.”

The Obama Administration this week is set to release the latest version of the National Climate Assessment, a report which is supposed to detail the potential impacts that climate change will have on the United States.  The report overly focuses on the supposed negative impacts from climate change while largely dismissing or ignoring the positives from climate change.

The bias in the National Climate Assessment (NCA) towards pessimism (which we have previously detailed here) has implications throughout the federal regulatory process because the NCA is cited (either directly or indirectly) as a primary source for the science of climate change for justifying federal regulation aimed towards mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. Since the NCA gets it wrong, so does everyone else.

A good example of this can be found in how climate change is effecting the human response during heat waves.  The NCA foresees an increasing frequency and magnitude of heat waves leading to growing numbers of heat-related deaths. The leading science suggests just the opposite.

Case and point. Last week, we had an article published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature Climate Change that showed how the impacts of extreme heat are often overplayed while the impacts of adaptation to the heat are underplayed.  And a new paper has just been published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives that finds that the risk of dying from heat waves in the U.S. has been on the decline for the past several decades.

By now, this should be rather unsurprising as it has been demonstrated over and over again. Not only in the U.S. but in Europe (and yes, Stockholm) and other major global cities as well.

The idea that human-caused global warming is going to increase heat-related mortality is simply outdated and wrong. In fact, the opposite is more likely the case that is, a warming climate will decrease the population’s sensitivity to heat events as it induces adaptation.  We described it this way in our Nature Climate Change piece:

Some portion of this response [the decline in the risk of dying from heat waves] probably reflects the temporal increase in the frequency of extreme-heat events, an increase that elevates public consciousness and spurs adaptive response. In this manner, climate change itself leads to adaptation.

...Our analysis highlights one of the many often overlooked intricacies of the human response to climate change.

But this information often falls on deaf ears - especially those ears responsible for developing the NCA.

Here is what the Executive Summary of the draft version had to say about heat-related mortality:

Climate change will influence human health in many ways; some existing health threats will intensify, and new health threats will emerge. Some of the key drivers of health impacts include: increasingly frequent and intense extreme heat, which causes heat-related illnesses and deaths and over time, worsens drought and wildfire risks, and intensifies air pollution.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency takes the same outlook (of course since it is based heavily on the National Climate Assessment).  The EPA leaned heavily on heat-related mortality as one the “threats” to public health and welfare in its justification for pursuing greenhouse gas emissions restrictions. From the EPA’s Technical Support Document for its greenhouse gas “Endangerment Finding”:

Severe heat waves are projected to intensify in magnitude and duration over the portions of the United States where these events already occur, with potential increases in mortality and morbidity, especially among the elderly, young, and frail. [emphasis in original]

Now compare the Administration’s take with the latest findings on the trend in heat-related mortality across the United States as published by a research team led by Harvard School of Public Health’s Jennifer Bobb.  Bobb and colleagues found that the risk of dying from excessive heat events was declining across the U.S. And further, that most of the overall decline was coming from declines in the sensitivity to extreme heat shown by the elderly population (75 and older).  In fact, the Bobb team found that the risk in the older population has dropped so far that it is now indistinguishable from the risk to the younger populations. Adaptation is a beautiful thing!

From Bobb et al.:

While heat-related mortality risk for the ≥75 age group was greater than for the <65 group at the beginning of the study period, by 2005 they had converged to similar levels.

In other words, all the EPA’s talk about an increasing threat from heat waves and a growing elderly population combining to negatively impact the public health and welfare has been wrong up to now and almost assuredly will be so into the future as we continually look for ways to avoid dying avoidable deaths (e.g., those from heat waves).

Bobb and colleagues summarize this way:

This study provides strong evidence that acute (e.g., same-day) heat-related mortality risk has declined over time in the US, even in more recent years. This evidence complements findings from US studies using earlier data from the 1960s through mid-1990s on community-specific mortality rates (Davis et al. 2003a; Davis et al. 2003b), as well as European studies that found temporal declines in heat-related mortality risk (Carson et al. 2006; Donaldson et al. 2003; Kysely and Plavcova 2011; Schifano et al. 2012), and supports the hypothesis that the population is continually adapting to heat.

As a note, we (Knappenberger and Michaels) were co-authors on the two Davis et al. studies cited in the above paragraph. Our work, first published more than a decade ago, was some of the first research into the declining trends in heat-related mortality across the U.S.

Clearly we have been saying all this stuff for a long time and even more clearly, the federal government hasn’t been listening for a long time. It is not what they want to hear.

References:

Bobb, J.F., R.D. Peng, M.L. Bell, and F. Dominici, 2014. Heat-related mortality and adaptation in the United States, Environmental Health Perspectives, http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.130739.

Davis, R.E., P.C. Knappenberger, P.J. Michaels, and W.M. Novicoff, 2003a, Changing heat-related mortality in the United States. Environmental Health Perspectives, 111, 1712 to 1718.

Davis, R.E., P.C. Knappenberger, P.J. Michaels, and W.M. Novicoff, 2003b, Decadal changes in summer mortality in U.S. cities. International Journal of Biometeorology, 47, 166 to 175.

Knappenberger, P.C., P.J. Michaels, and A.W. Watts, 2014. Adaptation to extreme heat in Stockholm County, Sweden. Nature Climate Change, 4, 302 to 303.

Apr 27, 2014
Lead author claims U.N. climate change report was rewritten for political reasons

John Hayward

If the Church of Global Warming still had any real credibility, the bombshell revelations by Harvard professor Robert Stavins in an open letter published Friday would be devastating.  As it is, the fanatics will probably scream that Stavins has become a Nazi-like “climate denier” or tool of Big Oil or something.

It was already known that the summary of the latest U.N. climate report was substantially edited by political interests.  Very few media figures or politicians are going to read the full report, they generally make do with the summary.  In this case, the summary wasn’t merely “sexed up” to fool gullible reporters and politicians; it actually direct contradicts the full U.N report in places.  For example, media reports of the summary yelled that global warming was going to cause more wars; the actual report summary says global warming might increase the chances of violent conflict; the report itself says there’s no reason to believe climate change has much to do with violent conflict.  It’s more likely that sustained conflict leads to poor environmental stewardship than the reverse.

These hijinks already led one of the report’s contributors, Professor Richard Tol of Sussex University, to refuse to sign the final product, because he was uncomfortable with the tone of hysteria in the report summary.  Now the UK Daily Mail reports on an online letter published by lead author Robert Stavins, in which he alleges an astonishing three quarters of the original document were deleted or revised after a late-night meeting in Berlin:

Prof Stavins claimed the intervention amounted to a serious ‘conflict of interest’ between scientists and governments. His revelation is significant because it is rare for climate change experts to publicly question the process behind the compilation of reports on the subject.

[...] Prof Stavins said the government officials in Berlin fought to make big changes to the full report’s ‘summary for policymakers’. This is the condensed version usually cited by the world’s media and politicians. He said their goal was to protect their ‘negotiating stances’ at forthcoming talks over a new greenhouse gas reduction treaty.

Prof Stavins told The Mail on Sunday yesterday that he had been especially concerned by what happened at a special ‘contact group’. He was one of only two scientists present, surrounded by ‘45 or 50’ government officials.

He said almost all of them made clear that ‘any text that was considered inconsistent with their interests and positions in multilateral negotiations was treated as unacceptable.’

Many of the officials were themselves climate negotiators, facing the task of devising a new treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol in negotiations set to conclude next year.

Prof Stavins said: ‘This created an irreconcilable conflict of interest. It has got to the point where it would be reasonable to call the document a summary by policymakers, not a summary for them, and it certainly affects the credibility of the IPCC. The process ought to be reformed.

“Science” was bludgeoned into submission with a hockey stick graph long ago; the Church of Global Warming is pure politics now.  Climate change hysteria provides a perfect excuse for higher taxes and more regulations, combined with a pseudo-religious cause around which left-wingers can rally with a sense of supreme righteousness.  They even feel confident in trying to outlaw dissent, because if you try to debate the latest climate-change fatwa, you’re threatening the very survival of the Earth.  Sure, every single one of their doomsday predictions has been wrong thus far, but we can’t take the chance they’ll be wrong with the next twenty predictions, so shut up and pay up.

This United Nations report is a purely political document that has only a tangential connection to “science.” It’s a desperate bid for the movement to stay relevant as the number of questions it cannot answer keeps growing.  If you do take the time to read the full report, not just the politically doctored summary, you’ll find the thing absolutely riddled with pure speculation, things that “might” or “could” or “may” happen over the coming century, or maybe not.  Obviously the hucksters who use climate hysteria to screw over their taxpayers didn’t think that was good enough, so they wrote some science fiction instead.

Apr 22, 2014
Massachusetts Ocean Wind Turbine Fiasco

By AUDRA PARKER

April 21, 2014

There are good reasons Cape Wind has struggled to get off the ground for the past 13 years. Not only is the project outdated, but its location in the heart of Nantucket Sound has now been determined to pose significant risks to a variety of endangered and threatened species. These environmental impacts are the basis of a recent federal court decision that sent both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service back to the drawing board to conduct more scientific reviews.

But Cape Wind’s impacts extend far beyond the environment. The controversial project would also jeopardize public safety, put fishermen’s livelihoods at risk and desecrate sacred tribal lands. As a result of these impacts and the choice of a highly conflicted location, Cape Wind continues to face litigation and opposition.

Likely the single biggest reason Cape Wind is no closer to being built today than it was 13 years ago is simple economics: Its cost is exorbitantly high. Any electricity Cape Wind would produce is guaranteed to be some of the most expensive in New England and the nation.

Cape Wind’s contracted electricity prices start at roughly 20 cents per kilowatt-hour and would increase by 3.5 percent each year to reach an exorbitant 34 cents per kwh in the final contract year. To put these numbers in perspective, Cape Wind would cost $3 billion more than electricity bought at market rates. It would also be more than three times as expensive as competing land-based wind projects that sell electricity at a flat 8 cents per kwh with no annual increase. Cape Wind’s high rates would burden families, businesses and communities throughout the commonwealth.

Leading business groups in Massachusetts organizations that clearly support renewable energy have sounded the alarm about the high cost of Cape Wind. Groups such as the Associated Industries of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership have warned that the state’s energy costs, already far higher than those in most other states, would become even less competitive. Cape Wind’s billions of dollars in added costs would make a difference on where businesses choose to locate and expand.

While Massachusetts businesses and residents would get saddled with the bills, the commonwealth wouldn’t have any new jobs to show for it. Middleboro’s Mass Tank worked tirelessly for two years meeting milestones for Cape Wind after being promised the job to manufacture its turbine foundations. The result? Cape Wind spurned Mass Tank in favor of a European competitor in Germany.

And after years of touting the economic benefits of the project for the commonwealth, Cape Wind signed a contract with a Maine-based company for an electrical service platform, breaking another promise, according to the National Electrical Contractors Association of Greater Boston, and leaving thousands of Massachusetts electricians and contractors out in the cold.

At the end of last year, in an attempt to qualify for $800 million of expiring tax credits, Cape Wind signed a contract with Siemens to manufacture its turbines in Denmark, meaning the outsourcing of even more jobs.

Cape Wind’s longtime struggle to secure financing even with overpriced power contracts in hand, is another strong indicator of just how much of a financial boondoggle the project is. For years the developer has asked the Department of Energy for help by having U.S. taxpayers guarantee its loans. In 2011, Cape Wind was denied a $2 billion loan guarantee from the Energy Department, an amount nearly four times that lost on the now-bankrupt Solyndra. Today, Cape Wind continues to seek hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars from the same agency under a different loan program. And while promises of Danish employment may have helped Cape Wind attract conditional foreign investments from groups like EKF, Denmark’s export credit agency, Cape Wind has yet to receive financing from a single U.S. entity.

Massachusetts is a hub for energy innovation. With all of this talent and creativity, the commonwealth could do so much better than be saddled by an industrial relic with high costs and few benefits. After 13 years, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Cape Wind shouldn’t be built, and it won’t be.

Audra Parker is the president of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound.

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