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How greed and politics are slowing the switch to renewable energy - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

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Photo by Dan Meyers/Unsplash

It is (with apologies to Charles Dickens) the best of times; it is the worst of times.

Thanks to fossil fuels, billions of people in 2022 enjoy lives of wealth, comfort, and material possessions unimaginable before the industrial revolution.

But fossil fuels have their dark side. You might think you understand that, but it’s likely fossil fuels are even worse for the world than you think. Let’s start with climate change. Contrary to what you might hear listening to Fox News, the scientific understanding of climate change is good and it is progressing at exactly the rate predicted decades ago by Exxon.

What you probably don’t realize is how massive these changes may be. In the depths of the last ice age 20,000 years ago, the Earth was only 6 degrees Celsius colder than it is today. That world—with thousands of feet of ice sitting over much of North America, sea level 300 feet lower, and completely different ecosystems—would be unrecognizable to those living on today’s Earth.

This helps us put predictions of future warming into context. The chart below shows predictions for the twenty-first century, but instead of units of temperature, I have plotted units of ice ages, where one ice age unit equals 6 degrees Celsius. Business-as-usual emissions gives us about 3 degrees Celsius of warming in 2100—about half of one ice-age unit. Given how much the Earth has changed since the last ice age, 3 degrees Celsius of warming may well remake the planet, leading to an Earth in 2100 as unrecognizable to us today as the world of the last ice age.

The earth is presently about 1.1 degrees Celsius above preindustrial temperatures, so we have already warmed about 17 percent of an ice age, and the impacts are clear. For example, there is widespread agreement in the scientific community that climate change contributed to the unprecedented rainfall during Hurricane Harvey in 2017, and that the massive heatwave in the Pacific Northwest last year could not have occurred without global warming.

But fossil fuels cause even more insidious damage. Billions of people today live in air polluted by fossil fuel combustion. This harms people in surprisingly numerous ways. One fact that stands out: One in five deaths worldwide is due to air pollution, amounting to more than 8 million deaths every year.

But fossil fuels are even worse than that. As commodities whose price is set on the world market, international politics can cause the price to whipsaw. Oil price spikes associated with Middle East conflicts, oil embargoes, and other political events have often been followed by painful economic recessions. In 2020, the price of oil dropped significantly because of the coronavirus pandemic combined with a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia. This laid waste to the US oil industry, bankrupted oil producers, and increased unemployment.

As a consequence, US foreign policy over the last 70 years has been hyper focused on maintaining stability in the world energy market. This has led the United States, for example, to invade Iraq twice, first in 1990 and then again in 2003, starting wars that cost the United States trillions of dollars; hundreds of thousands of lives of people of many nationalities were lost.

Putting everything together, one conclusion is clear: Fossil fuels are terrible. While many people in 2022 are living much better lives because of fossil fuels, people in 2100 will be much worse off because of them.

The story doesn’t end there. The world needs power. People need it so much, in fact, that as bad as fossil fuels are, people would continue to use them if there were no alternatives. But we do have an alternative: renewable energy. This means primarily wind and solar energy, although other energy sources (e.g., geothermal) will also play a role. Non-renewable energy sources such as nuclear could provide another source of climate-safe energy.

The amount of renewable energy available is almost unfathomable. Human society consumes about 15 terawatts of power. Sunlight falling on the earth provides more than 100,000 terawatts, enough to power 7,000 human civilizations. There are obviously issues with the intermittency of solar and wind. The sun is not always shining everywhere, not at night nor when it is cloudy. Similarly, the wind does not always blow.

However, a huge amount of research has gone into how to build a reliable energy system that relies predominantly on intermittent renewable energy. First, wind and solar power tend to be uncorrelated, so a system combining these energy sources will have more consistent power than a system that is solar- or wind-only. Thus, diversifying your energy portfolio solves a lot of the intermittency problems.

Second, we need to be able to transport power. While the sun may not be shining or the wind blowing where you are, the sun is always shining and the wind is always blowing somewhere. By enhancing our electrical grids, power can be shifted regionally from where it’s generated to where it’s needed, further reducing the impact of intermittency of solar and wind power.

Third, intermittency becomes an even smaller problem if part of the energy mix is dispatchable climate-safe energy. This means power sources that are available at any time and can be dispatched at the request of electric grid operators, including always-on energy sources such as hydroelectric, geothermal, nuclear, or natural gas with carbon capture.

Fourth, we need demand response. At times when supply simply cannot keep up with demand, we need to be able to reduce demand. This can be as simple as asking large industrial consumers to reduce their consumption. Or utilities can change consumption patterns by making power cheaper when it’s abundant and more expensive at times when it’s not. Smart appliances in homes can automatically delay running the dishwasher or drying clothes for a few hours until the utility signals that the supply of power is tight; in return for this, consumers get a break on their electricity bill.

Finally, we need energy storage. This could help the grid equalize supply and demand by storing power from wind and solar energy when there is excess supply and releasing it when there is excess demand. The price of batteries has been dropping rapidly and, as discussed below, we already see plans for more storage on the grid. Much research today is focusing on other technologies to store energy, including compressed air, hydrogen, pumped hydroelectric, and gravity energy.

The upshot of this is that we can largely run our economy on renewable energy. There are some edge cases where decarbonization might be hard (e.g., international airline flights), but this should not stop us from gathering the low-hanging fruit.

This leads me to the other piece of misinformation you’ll often hear: A renewable energy grid will be expensive.

There was a time when that was the case, but today the picture is quite different. Wind and solar are now as cheap as the cheapest fossil fuel power, if not cheaper. And these price comparisons typically do not include the costs of climate change, air pollution, and price variability from fossil fuels. Those costs represent an enormous subsidy for fossil fuels and, if you include them, fossil fuels become far more expensive than renewable energy.

In response to this, the market is decisively moving away from fossil fuels. In Texas, for example, 95 percent of the energy connections to the electrical grid planned for the next four years are for renewable energy (60 percent solar, 16 percent wind, 18 percent battery).

It’s great news that our electricity system is already switching over to renewable energy. But it’s not happening fast enough. On our present trajectory, we will continue to use fossil fuels well into this century, leading to warming of 3 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures by 2100, well above the target that the world has agreed upon, 1.5-2 degrees Celsius. Given that our present warming of 1.1 degrees Celsius is already causing severe and expensive impacts, 3 degrees Celsius would be a planetary disaster.

The transition has been sluggish because the price of fossil fuels is kept artificially low. Consumers and businesses do not pay the full cost of the climate, health, and other related costs of fossil fuel use. This could be largely solved by making consumers pay the full cost of their energy through a carbon tax or cap and trade system. If society had to pay the full costs of energy, fossil fuels would quickly disappear from the energy market.

The climate problem is therefore quite simple: Fossil fuels are terrible for humanity, and we can switch at relatively low cost to an economy largely powered by renewable energy. So why aren’t we doing that?

The blame, in my view, lies with economists. Not all economists, mind you, but a group of influential thinkers in the mid-20th century who pushed governments towards implementing an extreme view of free markets. They also said that the social responsibility of corporations was to make as much money as possible. One of the most influential of these thinkers, Milton Friedman, called this the Friedman Doctrine. It was immortalized by Oliver Stone in the movie Wall Street, when one of the main characters proudly declares, “Greed is good!”

via GIPHY

Beginning in the 1970s and 1980s, the United States saw government oversight shrink while corporations became laser-focused on profits. This deregulation effort delivered benefits like cheaper airline tickets for consumers. But the lack of government oversight combined with the imperative to make profits as large as possible also resulted in some terrible outcomes. These include climate change and the skyrocketing price of lifesaving drugs like insulin.

The fundamental problem is that free markets can’t solve environmental problems. Most environmental problems are externalities, or costs imposed on people who are not part of the transaction. Climate change is a classic externality—if you consume a gallon of gas or a kilowatt of electricity, the resulting carbon dioxide causes climate change everywhere, thereby imposing costs on everyone in the world. The costs of this climate change are not paid by the consumer, so this is a hidden subsidy of fossil fuels.

To corporations, externalities are terrific! If the goal of a corporation is to make as much money as possible, then it wants to push as many of the costs onto society as possible, which increases corporate profit. Because externalities benefit corporations, solving problems that arise from them, like climate change, requires government regulation. If the government is unwilling to regulate in some fashion, then climate change will never be fixed.

Following the Friedman Doctrine, corporations work hard to ensure that our government is not able to regulate. They funnel enormous quantities of money into the political process. This includes lobbying for preferred legislation and working to elect candidates who, once in office, return the favor by passing laws that support continued use of fossil fuels. For example, dozens of state legislatures have passed laws that criminalize protest around oil and gas infrastructure. In Texas, recent laws have forced the state’s investment funds to divest from institutions that boycott fossil fuels and prohibited Texas cities from exercising local control over drilling regulations, after the city of Denton banned fracking.

Fossil fuel corporations have also tried to stifle regulation by spending millions of dollars over the last few decades casting doubt on the science of climate change, despite their own researchers accurately assessing the risk. This closely paralleled what tobacco corporations did decades earlier. This shows the true problem with our version of free-market, profit-maximizing economics: Today’s economy does not create wealth that makes everyone better off, but rather generates enormous benefits for corporations while generating few benefits or even net harms for everyone else.

In the end, climate change is not a scientific or technical problem. The scientific community understands how fossil fuels cause climate change, and technology to solve the problem exists. Rather, climate change is a political problem. We need to return to the 1970s, a time when Republicans and Democrats overwhelmingly passed legislation forming the EPA. We need to understand that a world in which corporations care only about maximizing profits demands that the government protect the interest of the people.

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‘Davos Man,' Marc Benioff and the Covid Pandemic - The New York Times

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Arkansas inmates who were given ivermectin to treat COVID in jail file federal lawsuit: "They used us as an experiment" - CBS News

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'It's ugly out there': Rail theft soars on L.A. tracks - Los Angeles Times

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The scene was a stretch of railroad tracks in Lincoln Heights on Saturday: A blizzard of torn plastic wrappers, cardboard boxes and paper packaging attesting to a wave of rail car thievery that officials say has been on the rise in recent months.

Several scavengers picked through the debris, hoping to find electronics, clothes or whatever valuables thieves left behind.

“Everything comes on the train — cellphones, Louis Vuitton purses, designer clothes, toys, lawnmowers, power equipment, power tools,” said a 37-year-old man who declined to give his name. He said he comes to the tracks regularly and once found a Louis Vuitton purse and a robotic arm worth five figures: “We find things here and there, make some money off of it.”

Thieves are pilfering railroad cars in a crime that harks back to the days of horseback-riding bandits, but is fueled by a host of modern realities, including the rise of e-commerce and Southern California’s role as a hub for the movement of goods.

The images have generated national attention and revealed tension among rail operators, government officials and authorities over what can be done to reduce the thefts.

Later Saturday, approximately 17 cars on a Union Pacific train derailed in “the same area where the vandalism has been occurring,” said Robynn Tysver, a Union Pacific spokesperson. The crew was not hurt and the cause is under investigation, Tysver added.

Union Pacific reported what it claimed was a 160% increase since December 2020 in thefts along the railroad tracks in L.A. County. The railroad didn’t release specific data on what was stolen or the value of what was lost, but it said the increase in crime cost the company at least $5 million last year.

A bottleneck in the supply chain and the presence of homeless encampments near rail lines have contributed to the thefts, officials said.

“Organized and opportunistic criminal rail theft ... impacts our employees, our customers in the overall supply chain industry,” said Adrian Guerrero, a director of public affairs for Union Pacific.

Guerrero estimates that about 90 cargo containers a day are compromised, sometimes by an organized group that has halted trains and recruited people living on the street to ransack the containers.

Union Pacific is deploying more drones, has brought in extra security and enlisted the Los Angeles Police Department, California Highway Patrol and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to combat the thefts, Guerrero said.

But Union Pacific is partly to blame for not deploying more security, said Los Angeles Police Capt. German Hurtado, who works in the Hollenbeck Division.

“We have millions of dollars of items and equipment, but it is unpoliced,” Hurtado said. “There are even sometimes weapons on these trains. Everything goes by train, you learn.”

The problem gained attention last week when KCBS and KCAL photojournalist John Schreiber posted a series of videos and tweets, including one of himself picking through discarded packages strewn along a rail line in Lincoln Heights.

He plucked out a discarded coronavirus test and a box of REI merchandise along tracks plastered with the detritus of packages intercepted and torn into well before reaching their destinations.

“Missing a package? Shipment delayed? Maybe your package is among the thousands we found discarded along the tracks,” Schreiber wrote on Twitter, alongside an aerial shot of the littered tracks. The posts went viral, as others posted their own photos.

Though Los Angeles has seen a significant increase in homicides over the last two years, property crimes like the rail thefts are a different story. According to LAPD data through Nov. 27, property crime was up 2.6% over the same period last year but is down 6.6% from 2019.

Along the tracks Saturday, a couple who said they showed up after seeing an Instagram post scanned the crush of abandoned cartons looking for something valuable. An Xbox package had caught their eye. Another man who had been waiting for a bus stopped to rummage through the debris. He found some car speakers he figured he could sell for $200 to make up for the hours he missed at work that day.

“It’s ugly out there,” the LAPD’s Hurtado said.

In a letter to Dist. Atty. George Gascón, Union Pacific’s Guerrero estimated that more than 100 people have been arrested but they “boast to our officers that charges will be pled down.”

Alex Bastian, an advisor to Gascón, said the district attorney’s office has filed charges in some burglary and grand theft cases, but other cases don’t have enough evidence to prosecute.

Lena Kent, a spokesperson for BNSF Railway, a major operator in Southern California, said somebody is depending on those stolen items. “These are not victimless crimes, particularly when many of these packages include much-needed supplies,” she said.

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach handle about 40% of the nation’s maritime imports. The majority of the nearly $450 billion in goods moved at the ports eventually lands on a train.

Dumping, trash and encampments around railroad tracks last year prompted Los Angeles Councilman Joe Buscaino to call for the city to declare them a public nuisance. But the effort was dropped after Union Pacific cleaned up a swath of tracks, said his spokesperson, Branimir Kvartuc.

Still, Buscaino said, Union Pacific needs to hire more agents to patrol the tracks. “It’s no surprise we are seeing the additional crimes,” he said in a text, adding that the problems had been “unabated for years.”

The biggest problem is around two rail yards where cargo is transferred from trucks onto trains or vice versa. One of those yards is a sprawling rail facility that sits just east of downtown off the 5 Freeway in Lincoln Heights.

Keith Lewis, vice president of operations for CargoNet, a company that tracks cargo thefts, said figuring out just how much is stolen from trains is difficult because much of it is unreported.

Union Pacific operates about 3,200 miles of railway in California and BNSF has 2,100 miles. In Southern California, many of those tracks abut businesses and homes in low-income communities such as Wilmington and Lincoln Heights. In El Sereno, where crime has been increasing, barbed-wire fences line the street-level train tracks.

“It is not like we have given up on it. We do task forces with the sheriff, other agencies along the tracks and make arrests,” Hurtado said.

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MOSE: The Venice flood barriers that might save the city | CNN Travel

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(CNN) — The first thing it resembles -- this private, manmade island, straddling the Adriatic Sea and the Venetian lagoon -- is a Bond villain's lair. The second -- as you dock at the private pontoon, walk past the Brutalist concrete façade, and into a "control room" where staff watch monitors tracking the waters around the island 24/7 -- is something out of "Squid Game."

In fact, as sinister as it sounds, this 144,000 square meter (35.6 acre) island which keeps a silent tab on Venice around the clock isn't a malign force -- it's there to protect one of the world's most fragile cities.

The nameless island -- situated between the peninsula of Cavallino-Treporti (which curls out from the Italian mainland, putting a protective arm around the Venetian lagoon) and the Lido island, a giant sandbar which blocks off most of the historical center of Venice from the Adriatic Sea -- is the beating heart of the MOSE: the system of flood barriers that has, after 1,200 years, allowed the floating city to stand up to rising sea levels.

It has taken its time. The MOSE -- Italian for Moses, and short for Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico, or Experimental Electromechanical Model -- has been in the works since 1984. But it took nearly four decades to build, being beset by delays and corruption to such an extent -- a former mayor went on trial for embezzling money from the project -- that many Venetians believed it would never work.

Their fears were proved groundless on October 3, 2020, however, when, as regularly happens in winter, Venice was hit by an exceptionally high tide.

A tide that was 135 centimeters (53 inches) above normal levels hit Venice. Usually, that would have put around half the city underwater, but this time, the city remained dry. It was the first time the MOSE had been raised in adverse weather conditions. It was, as one Venetian told CNN at the time, "historic... like the first step of Armstrong on the moon."

Fourteen months later, the MOSE has been raised 33 times: 13 in 2020, and 20 so far in 2021. (The flooding period typically runs from October to March.) The naysayers appear to have been proven wrong -- not once has it failed to protect the city when raised.

The yellow fins poking ever so slightly out of the sea tend to look fragile against the raging Adriatic, in footage taken when they're raised -- normally during storms whipped up by rough sirocco winds, which blast the city from the south.

But get up close, and you realize appearances can be deceptive. Each of these enormous barriers is 20-30 meters (66-98 feet) long, and 20 meters wide. They are embedded in the seabed in concrete chests, 40 meters wide, 60 meters long, and 10 meters high.

Oh, and there are 78 of them, spread in four lines, at the three entry points to the Venetian lagoon.

As a piece of infrastructure, the MOSE is a behemoth.

And yet, when the barriers are not in use, you don't see a thing. Unlike flood barriers in northern Europe -- and at much greater expense -- the MOSE was designed to be invisible when the barriers are not needed.

The barriers at the Treporti inlet are split in two by an artificial island HQ.

The barriers at the Treporti inlet are split in two by an artificial island HQ.

Consorzio Venezia Nuova

The hub of the project is the specially constructed island floating in the middle of the northernmost entry point to the lagoon.

Overlooking the bucolic island of Sant'Erasmo, with the snow-tufted Dolomites on the horizon, it's a "no man's land between the sea and lagoon" where the lagoon and Adriatic waters converge, according to engineer and site director Alessandro Soru.

The "bocca di Treporti," or Treporti inlet ("bocca" is Italian for mouth) is an almost mile-wide channel between Punta Sabbioni (the tip of Cavallino-Treporti) and the northernmost point of the Lido island.

There are two more entrypoints to the lagoon: at Malamocco, on the southern tip of the Lido, and another one at Chioggia, a fishing town at the southernmost point of the lagoon.

Treporti is by far the widest channel, though, and the level of the seabed varies from between 20 to 40 feet here. So, rather than create a massive barrier of varying height, the island has been created to divide the inlet into two. It also provides a space for the headquarters of the MOSE, which might otherwise disturb tourists in the campsites and beaches of Punta Sabbioni.

The control room monitors the lagoon from the safety of the artificial island.

The control room monitors the lagoon from the safety of the artificial island.

Julia Buckley/CNN

Inside, a wall of monitors in the control room streams live CCTV footage of boats passing through the three channels. It also feeds in information on weather and tide levels, and monitors the barriers when they are raised.

One screen monitors the level of the lagoon and the sea levels: blue for the former, red for the latter.

On normal days, both blue and red lines rise and fall together like a heartbeat monitor -- spiking at high tide, then hitting a trough at low.

On a recent date, however -- December 8, 2021 -- the lines spectacularly diverged.

The red line, denoting the Adriatic tide level, spiked high at 130 centimeters (51 inches) above the average, while the blue lagoon line followed it for a while, then plunged, then leveled out far below the red line, before eventually descending together.

On that date, at 8.58 p.m., the MOSE was raised as the tide hit 80 centimeters. That quick plunge? Physics -- more specifically, the fluid dynamics of Bernoulli's principle, meaning the lagoon level took a quick dip to 50 centimeters, before stabilizing at 80 centimeters for the next 12 hours. The MOSE was lowered at 8.44 a.m. the following day, when the two lines converged again.

In good weather, there are a couple of people here on day shift, as well as a team of four in the tunnel, 62 feet below, where half-mile tunnels in the concrete cases below the fins connect the island to the Lido and Punta Sabbioni, and the underwater humidity can be felt in your bones.

The underwater tunnel follows the barrier from Punta Sabbioni to the Lido.

The underwater tunnel follows the barrier from Punta Sabbioni to the Lido.

Julia Buckley/CNN

Warrens of pipes carrying the air to fill the barriers run underfoot in the tunnel, while chambers leading off from the side house the valves connecting the fins to the concrete bunkers. Each can be sealed off from the main corridor with the flick of a button, and it can operate even if, in a disaster, water gets in. Soru points to a porthole in the corner of the room: "That's so you can get in via a sub, if it's flooded -- proper James Bond," he says.

But when tides are high, this is the 24/7 hub of the whole operation, with a 100-strong team operating in the control room, in the underwater tunnels, and in the lagoon, as boats zip around to bring workers to the island -- since there's no public transport. There's even accommodation so workers can sleep here between shifts.

In normal weather, the yellow fin sits flush in its concrete case on the seabed.

In normal weather, the yellow fin sits flush in its concrete case on the seabed.

Consorzio Venezia Nuova

After decades of initial controversy, the building of the MOSE began in 2009, with the last "fin" installed in June 2019, on the Lido side of the Treporti island.

The Venice lagoon is notoriously shallow -- the average depth is just 1 meter (3.3 feet). But the inlets from the Adriatic are much deeper -- Malamocco, the entrance to the industrial port is 14 meters (46 feet) deep, for example. Although they didn't alter the depth of the inlets, engineers excavated the seabed along all three to make room for the concrete "cases," which fit flush along the seabed.

The 14,000-ton cases were cast in concrete on the mainland, then floated into position and sunk beneath the water, while the debris removed from the seabed was used to build the island at Treporti -- the "works citadel," as Soru calls it.

Inside the concrete chests sit the metal floodgates, treated every three months with an anti-corrosive -- non-toxic, because of the lagoon ecosystem. Each of the 78 barriers is a uniform 20 meters (65 feet) wide, and varies from 20-30 meters in length, depending on the depth of the water.

They can resist waves of up to 3 meters above normal tide levels -- significantly more even than the record 194 centimeters (76 inches) tide that devastated the city in 1966.

venice flood barrier 20

Air is pumped into the fin, which raises it above the water. To lower it, the air is replaced with water.

Consorzio Venezia Nuova

How they work is down to a surprisingly simple hydraulics method. Lying dormant on the seabed, the hollow barriers are filled with water to weigh them down.

To raise them, air is pumped into the fins, as the water drains out. They float upwards until they emerge above the water -- at which point they form a barrier with the Adriatic surging against them one side, the lagoon relatively calm -- and low -- on the other.

When the tide subsides, water is pumped back into the fins and air expelled, causing them to sink down again and settle in their cases. It takes just 32 minutes to raise them, and about half that to lower them -- that's down from 91 minutes last year, according to Elisabetta Spitz, the "extraordinary commissioner" responsible for the project, who reports to the Italian government.

An underwater tunnel to maintain the fins sits 140 steps below the water.

An underwater tunnel to maintain the fins sits 140 steps below the water.

Julia Buckley/CNN

The process sounds simple, but has been honed to a precise degree. Between each barrier is an almost 3-inch gap, to release some of the intense pressure on the fins as they withstand the Adriatic. For the same reason, they're raised four or five at a time, instead of all at once. They can work independently, too -- so engineers can choose to raise just some of the barriers, to slow down the flow of water into the lagoon, or lower them temporarily at Malamocco to let an industrial ship go through to Venice's port -- Italy's second busiest, and the fifth in the Mediterranean.

That also means, says Soru, that if, as people fear, one barrier ever fails to raise, it won't stop the MOSE working as a whole. Not that that's happened in the year that it's been protecting the city.

The floods of November 2019 caused over $1 billion damage.

The floods of November 2019 caused over $1 billion damage.

Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images

Deciding to raise the barriers is a complicated process. Two establishments study the weather predictions: the Centro Maree di Venezia, which monitors tide levels for the city, and the Sala Operativa Consorzio Venezia Nuova, which is responsible for the MOSE. Both use different modeling, and compare their forecasts.

Spitz calls the process a "series of warnings, from 48 hours before the tide until three hours before."

It's not just the MOSE operatives who receive it. "It informs everyone who operates in the lagoon to get going, because everyone has to do something -- from the guy driving the trash-collecting boat who needs to change course, to ships needing to go in and out," she explains.

Fifteen minutes before that three-hour warning, Spitz and a government representative get an email, "summarizing everything that's happened in the preceding hours and asking for confirmation to proceed.

"For example, if there's a ship running late because it's been caught in bad weather, we can decide to leave a part of the barrier open to let it in.

"We intervene only if there are exceptional events that mean we need to deviate from the procedure. If not the procedure goes ahead without intervention."

It's not just sea level and wind speed that they need to take into account -- rainfall raises the water level around the city, as do swollen rivers disgorging into the lagoon. "Even if a tide of 95cm is predicted, we don't know if the barriers will go up," says Soru.

Last year, on December 8, Venice was hit by a 138cm flood, causing extensive damage to the city, just weeks after the MOSE had shown it never need happen again. The reason? Only 125cm had been predicted, but wind, rain and river water rocketed the sea level up.

The 2019 floods devastated local businesses including hotels.

The 2019 floods devastated local businesses including hotels.

Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images

"I take responsibility for it," says Spitz. "It was one of the first raisings, we had a procedure that was a bit more complicated and as acqua alta [flooding] wasn't predicted, we took the decision to not mobilize it.

"But it was one of the first tries, and we understood the process needed to be made more automatic, so we updated the procedure. It was our fault. But today it wouldn't happen."

"It was disastrous, but we learn from experience -- now we raise the barriers a few centimeters earlier," says Soru.

When the MOSE is fully operational in 2023, the barriers will be raised when the water level hits 110cm (43in) above the regular level. That won't help the lowest areas of the city, such as St. Mark's Square which floods at around 90cm; but it will protect around 86% of Venice, including most residential areas.

In fact, says Soru, the barriers will be raised when it looks like the tide will hit 100cm, to account for wind and rain raising the water levels.

For now, though, with the barriers in a final stage of tests, they're raised when the tide is predicted to hit 130cm.

The barriers raised for the first time in bad weather on October 3, 2020.

The barriers raised for the first time in bad weather on October 3, 2020.

Simone Padovani/Awakening/Getty Images

Of course, projects of this size are rarely without their detractors. One of the main criticisms leveled at the MOSE is that the barriers interfere with the lagoon ecosystem, turning it into a pond rather than a living lagoon.

But, says Spitz, when the barriers were up for 48 hours last year, that was as a trial, to test their resistance. In the future, even in periods when the barriers are up daily, it will only be for a few hours at a time. They have also installed locks at Chioggia and Malamocco to enable some fishing vessels and industrial ships to pass while the barriers are up.

"When it goes up, it's three, four hours maximum," she says. "And then it's not a given that you have to raise all the barriers. There are many possibilities and much flexibility. We're trialing all of them to target choices better to the needs that will gradually show up. Every time we do a raise, we prepare dozens of tests to get the answers we need, understand the function and make it better."

And while St. Mark's Square floods at a level well below that at which the MOSE kicks in, another project -- though delayed -- is due to construct a glass barrier around the famous Byzantine basilica. Protection for the businesses in the square, however -- like historic café Quadri -- is a long way off. Its manager, Roberto Pepe, previously told CNN that the MOSE's cut-off point of 110 centimeters "changes nothing and leaves a sour taste" for those whose livelihoods rely on the piazza.

Spitz insists that she didn't choose the cut-off points -- a committee of local and national governance did. Access to the port was also taken into consideration.

When raised, the barriers cut off the three main entry points to the lagoon.

When raised, the barriers cut off the three main entry points to the lagoon.

Consorzio Venezia Nuova

"We need to save Venice, Chioggia, the islands -- Murano, Burano, and lots of small islands are even worse off in front of high tides," she says.

"But above all we need to find a point of mediation between economic needs -- of those who operate in the lagoon -- and the need to protect. That's the big question we'll need to take forward down the line."

Another criticism of MOSE? The exorbitant overheads. The MOSE cost around $8 billion to build, and accounts from its first year suggest that it costs $328,000 to raise it every time -- nearly double the original estimates.

The fins must be treated with anti-corrosive every three months, and their containers must be dredged twice per season, after a buildup of sand inside them meant that six fins could not be lowered during 2020 trials. The containers will need a thorough clean every five years.

Tourists typically navigate Venice flooding on raised walkways.

Tourists typically navigate Venice flooding on raised walkways.

Stefano Mazzola/Awakening/Getty Images

The big question, of course, is how the MOSE can hold up to climate change.

After the flood of December 2020, Claudio Vernier, president of the Associazione Piazza San Marco, which represents business owners in St. Mark's Square, told CNN that when the MOSE was initially planned, it was estimated that it would hit 110 centimeters only couple of times a year.

"Now with the worsening climate crisis, the water level is always higher, and we see that kind of tide level 20 times a year -- what will happen in 30 years?", he asked.

Spitz and Soru, however, insist that the barriers will last longer than that.

"A study on corrosion we did a few months ago said that it can last for 100 years, but must be maintained every three months," says Soru.

"If in 100 years the barriers aren't enough, and we can't hold off 3-meter tides, I can tell you the problem won't be Venice," adds Spitz.

"The lagoon is closed now. The protection is more than sufficient, the barriers are what they are. But you would need to think about protecting other areas -- the problem would be much more in the Po delta [which covers much of northern Italy].

"If climate change is dramatic, there will be serious problems elsewhere. You'd need to look elsewhere, not at Venice."

In the meantime, plans have been mooted to partially power the MOSE through solar panels. Installing them at Malamocco could provide 20% of power -- but Spitz hopes to make the project carbon neutral within three years, to stand it in good stead for the future.

Spitz arrived in 2019, well after the corruption trials of the MOSE. "I know there were scandals, I've read about them, and it's right that they're stigmatized and the people who did it were punished," she says.

"But despite everything that happened with the MOSE, I say, long live the MOSE. Because it protects Venice."

If she's right, the devastating flood of November 2019 -- which killed two and caused $1 billion damage to local businesses which have yet to recover, might be a thing of the past. And La Serenissima can rest a little more, well, serene.


Page 2

(CNN) — The first thing it resembles -- this private, manmade island, straddling the Adriatic Sea and the Venetian lagoon -- is a Bond villain's lair. The second -- as you dock at the private pontoon, walk past the Brutalist concrete façade, and into a "control room" where staff watch monitors tracking the waters around the island 24/7 -- is something out of "Squid Game."

In fact, as sinister as it sounds, this 144,000 square meter (35.6 acre) island which keeps a silent tab on Venice around the clock isn't a malign force -- it's there to protect one of the world's most fragile cities.

The nameless island -- situated between the peninsula of Cavallino-Treporti (which curls out from the Italian mainland, putting a protective arm around the Venetian lagoon) and the Lido island, a giant sandbar which blocks off most of the historical center of Venice from the Adriatic Sea -- is the beating heart of the MOSE: the system of flood barriers that has, after 1,200 years, allowed the floating city to stand up to rising sea levels.

It has taken its time. The MOSE -- Italian for Moses, and short for Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico, or Experimental Electromechanical Model -- has been in the works since 1984. But it took nearly four decades to build, being beset by delays and corruption to such an extent -- a former mayor went on trial for embezzling money from the project -- that many Venetians believed it would never work.

Their fears were proved groundless on October 3, 2020, however, when, as regularly happens in winter, Venice was hit by an exceptionally high tide.

A tide that was 135 centimeters (53 inches) above normal levels hit Venice. Usually, that would have put around half the city underwater, but this time, the city remained dry. It was the first time the MOSE had been raised in adverse weather conditions. It was, as one Venetian told CNN at the time, "historic... like the first step of Armstrong on the moon."

Fourteen months later, the MOSE has been raised 33 times: 13 in 2020, and 20 so far in 2021. (The flooding period typically runs from October to March.) The naysayers appear to have been proven wrong -- not once has it failed to protect the city when raised.

The yellow fins poking ever so slightly out of the sea tend to look fragile against the raging Adriatic, in footage taken when they're raised -- normally during storms whipped up by rough sirocco winds, which blast the city from the south.

But get up close, and you realize appearances can be deceptive. Each of these enormous barriers is 20-30 meters (66-98 feet) long, and 20 meters wide. They are embedded in the seabed in concrete chests, 40 meters wide, 60 meters long, and 10 meters high.

Oh, and there are 78 of them, spread in four lines, at the three entry points to the Venetian lagoon.

As a piece of infrastructure, the MOSE is a behemoth.

And yet, when the barriers are not in use, you don't see a thing. Unlike flood barriers in northern Europe -- and at much greater expense -- the MOSE was designed to be invisible when the barriers are not needed.

The barriers at the Treporti inlet are split in two by an artificial island HQ.

The barriers at the Treporti inlet are split in two by an artificial island HQ.

Consorzio Venezia Nuova

The hub of the project is the specially constructed island floating in the middle of the northernmost entry point to the lagoon.

Overlooking the bucolic island of Sant'Erasmo, with the snow-tufted Dolomites on the horizon, it's a "no man's land between the sea and lagoon" where the lagoon and Adriatic waters converge, according to engineer and site director Alessandro Soru.

The "bocca di Treporti," or Treporti inlet ("bocca" is Italian for mouth) is an almost mile-wide channel between Punta Sabbioni (the tip of Cavallino-Treporti) and the northernmost point of the Lido island.

There are two more entrypoints to the lagoon: at Malamocco, on the southern tip of the Lido, and another one at Chioggia, a fishing town at the southernmost point of the lagoon.

Treporti is by far the widest channel, though, and the level of the seabed varies from between 20 to 40 feet here. So, rather than create a massive barrier of varying height, the island has been created to divide the inlet into two. It also provides a space for the headquarters of the MOSE, which might otherwise disturb tourists in the campsites and beaches of Punta Sabbioni.

The control room monitors the lagoon from the safety of the artificial island.

The control room monitors the lagoon from the safety of the artificial island.

Julia Buckley/CNN

Inside, a wall of monitors in the control room streams live CCTV footage of boats passing through the three channels. It also feeds in information on weather and tide levels, and monitors the barriers when they are raised.

One screen monitors the level of the lagoon and the sea levels: blue for the former, red for the latter.

On normal days, both blue and red lines rise and fall together like a heartbeat monitor -- spiking at high tide, then hitting a trough at low.

On a recent date, however -- December 8, 2021 -- the lines spectacularly diverged.

The red line, denoting the Adriatic tide level, spiked high at 130 centimeters (51 inches) above the average, while the blue lagoon line followed it for a while, then plunged, then leveled out far below the red line, before eventually descending together.

On that date, at 8.58 p.m., the MOSE was raised as the tide hit 80 centimeters. That quick plunge? Physics -- more specifically, the fluid dynamics of Bernoulli's principle, meaning the lagoon level took a quick dip to 50 centimeters, before stabilizing at 80 centimeters for the next 12 hours. The MOSE was lowered at 8.44 a.m. the following day, when the two lines converged again.

In good weather, there are a couple of people here on day shift, as well as a team of four in the tunnel, 62 feet below, where half-mile tunnels in the concrete cases below the fins connect the island to the Lido and Punta Sabbioni, and the underwater humidity can be felt in your bones.

The underwater tunnel follows the barrier from Punta Sabbioni to the Lido.

The underwater tunnel follows the barrier from Punta Sabbioni to the Lido.

Julia Buckley/CNN

Warrens of pipes carrying the air to fill the barriers run underfoot in the tunnel, while chambers leading off from the side house the valves connecting the fins to the concrete bunkers. Each can be sealed off from the main corridor with the flick of a button, and it can operate even if, in a disaster, water gets in. Soru points to a porthole in the corner of the room: "That's so you can get in via a sub, if it's flooded -- proper James Bond," he says.

But when tides are high, this is the 24/7 hub of the whole operation, with a 100-strong team operating in the control room, in the underwater tunnels, and in the lagoon, as boats zip around to bring workers to the island -- since there's no public transport. There's even accommodation so workers can sleep here between shifts.

In normal weather, the yellow fin sits flush in its concrete case on the seabed.

In normal weather, the yellow fin sits flush in its concrete case on the seabed.

Consorzio Venezia Nuova

After decades of initial controversy, the building of the MOSE began in 2009, with the last "fin" installed in June 2019, on the Lido side of the Treporti island.

The Venice lagoon is notoriously shallow -- the average depth is just 1 meter (3.3 feet). But the inlets from the Adriatic are much deeper -- Malamocco, the entrance to the industrial port is 14 meters (46 feet) deep, for example. Although they didn't alter the depth of the inlets, engineers excavated the seabed along all three to make room for the concrete "cases," which fit flush along the seabed.

The 14,000-ton cases were cast in concrete on the mainland, then floated into position and sunk beneath the water, while the debris removed from the seabed was used to build the island at Treporti -- the "works citadel," as Soru calls it.

Inside the concrete chests sit the metal floodgates, treated every three months with an anti-corrosive -- non-toxic, because of the lagoon ecosystem. Each of the 78 barriers is a uniform 20 meters (65 feet) wide, and varies from 20-30 meters in length, depending on the depth of the water.

They can resist waves of up to 3 meters above normal tide levels -- significantly more even than the record 194 centimeters (76 inches) tide that devastated the city in 1966.

venice flood barrier 20

Air is pumped into the fin, which raises it above the water. To lower it, the air is replaced with water.

Consorzio Venezia Nuova

How they work is down to a surprisingly simple hydraulics method. Lying dormant on the seabed, the hollow barriers are filled with water to weigh them down.

To raise them, air is pumped into the fins, as the water drains out. They float upwards until they emerge above the water -- at which point they form a barrier with the Adriatic surging against them one side, the lagoon relatively calm -- and low -- on the other.

When the tide subsides, water is pumped back into the fins and air expelled, causing them to sink down again and settle in their cases. It takes just 32 minutes to raise them, and about half that to lower them -- that's down from 91 minutes last year, according to Elisabetta Spitz, the "extraordinary commissioner" responsible for the project, who reports to the Italian government.

An underwater tunnel to maintain the fins sits 140 steps below the water.

An underwater tunnel to maintain the fins sits 140 steps below the water.

Julia Buckley/CNN

The process sounds simple, but has been honed to a precise degree. Between each barrier is an almost 3-inch gap, to release some of the intense pressure on the fins as they withstand the Adriatic. For the same reason, they're raised four or five at a time, instead of all at once. They can work independently, too -- so engineers can choose to raise just some of the barriers, to slow down the flow of water into the lagoon, or lower them temporarily at Malamocco to let an industrial ship go through to Venice's port -- Italy's second busiest, and the fifth in the Mediterranean.

That also means, says Soru, that if, as people fear, one barrier ever fails to raise, it won't stop the MOSE working as a whole. Not that that's happened in the year that it's been protecting the city.

The floods of November 2019 caused over $1 billion damage.

The floods of November 2019 caused over $1 billion damage.

Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images

Deciding to raise the barriers is a complicated process. Two establishments study the weather predictions: the Centro Maree di Venezia, which monitors tide levels for the city, and the Sala Operativa Consorzio Venezia Nuova, which is responsible for the MOSE. Both use different modeling, and compare their forecasts.

Spitz calls the process a "series of warnings, from 48 hours before the tide until three hours before."

It's not just the MOSE operatives who receive it. "It informs everyone who operates in the lagoon to get going, because everyone has to do something -- from the guy driving the trash-collecting boat who needs to change course, to ships needing to go in and out," she explains.

Fifteen minutes before that three-hour warning, Spitz and a government representative get an email, "summarizing everything that's happened in the preceding hours and asking for confirmation to proceed.

"For example, if there's a ship running late because it's been caught in bad weather, we can decide to leave a part of the barrier open to let it in.

"We intervene only if there are exceptional events that mean we need to deviate from the procedure. If not the procedure goes ahead without intervention."

It's not just sea level and wind speed that they need to take into account -- rainfall raises the water level around the city, as do swollen rivers disgorging into the lagoon. "Even if a tide of 95cm is predicted, we don't know if the barriers will go up," says Soru.

Last year, on December 8, Venice was hit by a 138cm flood, causing extensive damage to the city, just weeks after the MOSE had shown it never need happen again. The reason? Only 125cm had been predicted, but wind, rain and river water rocketed the sea level up.

The 2019 floods devastated local businesses including hotels.

The 2019 floods devastated local businesses including hotels.

Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images

"I take responsibility for it," says Spitz. "It was one of the first raisings, we had a procedure that was a bit more complicated and as acqua alta [flooding] wasn't predicted, we took the decision to not mobilize it.

"But it was one of the first tries, and we understood the process needed to be made more automatic, so we updated the procedure. It was our fault. But today it wouldn't happen."

"It was disastrous, but we learn from experience -- now we raise the barriers a few centimeters earlier," says Soru.

When the MOSE is fully operational in 2023, the barriers will be raised when the water level hits 110cm (43in) above the regular level. That won't help the lowest areas of the city, such as St. Mark's Square which floods at around 90cm; but it will protect around 86% of Venice, including most residential areas.

In fact, says Soru, the barriers will be raised when it looks like the tide will hit 100cm, to account for wind and rain raising the water levels.

For now, though, with the barriers in a final stage of tests, they're raised when the tide is predicted to hit 130cm.

The barriers raised for the first time in bad weather on October 3, 2020.

The barriers raised for the first time in bad weather on October 3, 2020.

Simone Padovani/Awakening/Getty Images

Of course, projects of this size are rarely without their detractors. One of the main criticisms leveled at the MOSE is that the barriers interfere with the lagoon ecosystem, turning it into a pond rather than a living lagoon.

But, says Spitz, when the barriers were up for 48 hours last year, that was as a trial, to test their resistance. In the future, even in periods when the barriers are up daily, it will only be for a few hours at a time. They have also installed locks at Chioggia and Malamocco to enable some fishing vessels and industrial ships to pass while the barriers are up.

"When it goes up, it's three, four hours maximum," she says. "And then it's not a given that you have to raise all the barriers. There are many possibilities and much flexibility. We're trialing all of them to target choices better to the needs that will gradually show up. Every time we do a raise, we prepare dozens of tests to get the answers we need, understand the function and make it better."

And while St. Mark's Square floods at a level well below that at which the MOSE kicks in, another project -- though delayed -- is due to construct a glass barrier around the famous Byzantine basilica. Protection for the businesses in the square, however -- like historic café Quadri -- is a long way off. Its manager, Roberto Pepe, previously told CNN that the MOSE's cut-off point of 110 centimeters "changes nothing and leaves a sour taste" for those whose livelihoods rely on the piazza.

Spitz insists that she didn't choose the cut-off points -- a committee of local and national governance did. Access to the port was also taken into consideration.

When raised, the barriers cut off the three main entry points to the lagoon.

When raised, the barriers cut off the three main entry points to the lagoon.

Consorzio Venezia Nuova

"We need to save Venice, Chioggia, the islands -- Murano, Burano, and lots of small islands are even worse off in front of high tides," she says.

"But above all we need to find a point of mediation between economic needs -- of those who operate in the lagoon -- and the need to protect. That's the big question we'll need to take forward down the line."

Another criticism of MOSE? The exorbitant overheads. The MOSE cost around $8 billion to build, and accounts from its first year suggest that it costs $328,000 to raise it every time -- nearly double the original estimates.

The fins must be treated with anti-corrosive every three months, and their containers must be dredged twice per season, after a buildup of sand inside them meant that six fins could not be lowered during 2020 trials. The containers will need a thorough clean every five years.

Tourists typically navigate Venice flooding on raised walkways.

Tourists typically navigate Venice flooding on raised walkways.

Stefano Mazzola/Awakening/Getty Images

The big question, of course, is how the MOSE can hold up to climate change.

After the flood of December 2020, Claudio Vernier, president of the Associazione Piazza San Marco, which represents business owners in St. Mark's Square, told CNN that when the MOSE was initially planned, it was estimated that it would hit 110 centimeters only couple of times a year.

"Now with the worsening climate crisis, the water level is always higher, and we see that kind of tide level 20 times a year -- what will happen in 30 years?", he asked.

Spitz and Soru, however, insist that the barriers will last longer than that.

"A study on corrosion we did a few months ago said that it can last for 100 years, but must be maintained every three months," says Soru.

"If in 100 years the barriers aren't enough, and we can't hold off 3-meter tides, I can tell you the problem won't be Venice," adds Spitz.

"The lagoon is closed now. The protection is more than sufficient, the barriers are what they are. But you would need to think about protecting other areas -- the problem would be much more in the Po delta [which covers much of northern Italy].

"If climate change is dramatic, there will be serious problems elsewhere. You'd need to look elsewhere, not at Venice."

In the meantime, plans have been mooted to partially power the MOSE through solar panels. Installing them at Malamocco could provide 20% of power -- but Spitz hopes to make the project carbon neutral within three years, to stand it in good stead for the future.

Spitz arrived in 2019, well after the corruption trials of the MOSE. "I know there were scandals, I've read about them, and it's right that they're stigmatized and the people who did it were punished," she says.

"But despite everything that happened with the MOSE, I say, long live the MOSE. Because it protects Venice."

If she's right, the devastating flood of November 2019 -- which killed two and caused $1 billion damage to local businesses which have yet to recover, might be a thing of the past. And La Serenissima can rest a little more, well, serene.

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Census interference by Trump administration detailed in email : NPR

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Former President Donald Trump's administration alarmed career civil servants at the Census Bureau by not only ending the 2020 national head count early, but also pressuring them to alter plans for protecting people's privacy and producing accurate data, a newly released email shows.

Trump's political appointees at the Commerce Department, which oversees the bureau, demonstrated an "unusually" high level of "engagement in technical matters, which is unprecedented relative to the previous censuses," according to a September 2020 email that Ron Jarmin — the bureau's deputy director — sent to two other top civil servants.

At the time, the administration was faced with the reality that if Trump lost the November election he could also lose a chance to change the census numbers used to redistribute political representation. The window of opportunity was closing for his administration to attempt to radically reshape the futures of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Electoral College.

Despite the 14th Amendment's requirement to include the "whole number of persons in each state," Trump wanted to exclude unauthorized immigrants from the census counts used to reallocate each state's share of congressional seats and electoral votes.

While the former president's unprecedented push did not reach its ultimate goal, it wreaked havoc at the federal government's largest statistical agency, which was also contending with the coronavirus pandemic upending most of its plans for the once-a-decade tally. The delays stemming from COVID-19 forced the bureau to conclude that it could no longer meet the legal reporting deadline for the first set of results and needed more time.

The administration's last-minute decision to cut the counting short sparked public outcries, including a federal lawsuit that reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

But its interference in other areas related to the 2020 census largely flew under most radars. The newly released email — first reported by The New York Times and obtained by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School through an ongoing public records lawsuit — details the wide scope of its attempts to buck the bureau's experts and tamper with the count.

According to the document, the agency's career civil servants saw when to end counting as a "policy decision that political leadership should make."

But the methodologies and procedures for filling in data gaps, reviewing the counts for errors and protecting the confidentiality of people's information should strictly stay in the lane of civil servants at "an independent statistical agency," the email says.

Trump officials — including Wilbur Ross, who served as commerce secretary — however, "expressed interest" in many technical areas, including exactly how the bureau could produce a state-by-state count of unauthorized immigrants and citizenship data that could have politically benefited Republicans when voting districts are redrawn.

The email suggests that the bureau's civil servants were planning to discuss their concerns with Ross through the end of 2020.

The bureau's public information office did not immediately respond to NPR's questions about whether those discussions took place.

The Census Bureau's civil servants tried to be transparent

Other internal government documents the Brennan Center released Saturday show that bureau officials were wary of carrying out Trump's July 2020 presidential memorandum.

Before President Biden reversed the directive last year, it called for information that would allow the president to leave out the numbers of immigrants living in the U.S. without authorization from the congressional apportionment count.

According to an August 2020 email by Jarmin — the bureau's highest-ranking civil servant — the agency had received, months before the memorandum, "asks" for information related to a federal lawsuit focused on the same topic. Like Trump, the challengers in the lawsuit — the state of Alabama and Republican Rep. Mo Brooks — wanted undocumented immigrants excluded from the numbers used to reallocate House seats and electoral votes.

The bureau, however, was "consistently pessimistic" on the feasibility of "removing undocs from the apportionment count," Jarmin warned in the email to two Trump appointees – then-Director Steven Dillingham, who ultimately resigned following whistleblower complaints, and Nathaniel Cogley, who served in the newly created, controversial role of deputy director for policy.

Still, civil servants attempted to be transparent about how they tried to create the data ordered by the former administration.

"We recommend that we do a federal register notice on the methodology because transparency requires that the American public understand how we derived the counts of unauthorized immigrants and have the opportunity to comment on that methodology," said a slide titled "Communication Strategy Decision" for an August 2020 briefing.

No such notice appeared in the federal government's official journal of record.

There are concerns of future interference with the census

In response to the newly disclosed documents, Arturo Vargas — a longtime census advocate and CEO of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund — said in a statement that the efforts of the bureau's career professionals to resist Trump officials' pressure and "protect the integrity of census operations were nothing short of heroic."

On Tuesday, the Biden administration's Scientific Integrity Task Force, which includes Jarmin, issued a report warning that the bureau and other federal statistical agencies "must protect against interference in their efforts to create and release data that provide a set of common facts to inform policymakers, researchers, and the public."

The report presented the Trump administration's decision to end 2020 census counting early as a case study, noting that the bureau's internal watchdog, the Commerce Department inspector general's office, concluded that the rushed schedule put the quality of the results at risk.

"To date," the report added, "no individuals have been held accountable for these allegations."

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