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“The Id That Ate The Planet”: At This Point Donald Trump’s Personality Endangers The Whole Planet

On Tuesday the political arm of the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of America’s most influential environmentalist groups, made its first presidential endorsement ever, giving the nod to Hillary Clinton. This meant jumping the gun by a week on her inevitable designation as the presumptive Democratic nominee, but the NRDC Action Fund is obviously eager to get on with the general election.

And it’s not hard to see why: At this point Donald Trump’s personality endangers the whole planet.

We’re at a peculiar moment when it comes to the environment — a moment of both fear and hope. The outlook for climate change if current policies continue has never looked worse, but the prospects for turning away from the path of destruction have never looked better. Everything depends on who ends up sitting in the White House for the next few years.

On climate: Remember claims by climate denialists that global warming had paused, that temperatures hadn’t risen since 1998? That was always a garbage argument, but in any case it has now been blown away by a series of new temperature records and a proliferation of other indicators that, taken together, tell a terrifying story of looming disaster.

At the same time, however, rapid technological progress in renewable energy is making nonsense — or maybe I should say, further nonsense — of another bad argument against climate action, the claim that nothing can be done about greenhouse gas emissions without crippling the economy. Solar and wind power are getting cheaper each year, and growing quickly even without much in the way of incentives to switch away from fossil fuels. Provide those incentives, and an energy revolution would be just around the corner.

So we’re in a state where terrible things are in prospect, but can be avoided with fairly modest, politically feasible steps. You may want a revolution, but we don’t need one to save the planet. Right now all it would take is for America to implement the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan and other actions — which don’t even require new legislation, just a Supreme Court that won’t stand in their way — to let the U.S. continue the role it took in last year’s Paris agreement, guiding the world as a whole toward sharp reductions in emissions.

But what happens if the next president is a man who doesn’t believe in climate science, or indeed in inconvenient facts of any kind?

Republican hostility to climate science and climate action is usually attributed to ideology and the power of special interests, and both of these surely play important roles. Free-market fundamentalists prefer rejecting science to admitting that there are ever cases when government regulation is necessary. Meanwhile, buying politicians is a pretty good business investment for fossil-fuel magnates like the Koch brothers.

But I’ve always had the sense that there was a third factor, which is basically psychological. There are some men — it’s almost always men — who become enraged at any suggestion that they must give up something they want for the common good. Often, the rage is disproportionate to the sacrifice: for example, prominent conservatives suggesting violence against government officials because they don’t like the performance of phosphate-free detergent. But polluter’s rage isn’t about rational thought.

Which brings us to the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, who embodies the modern conservative id in its most naked form, stripped of the disguises politicians usually use to cloak their prejudices and make them seem respectable.

No doubt Donald Trump hates environmental protection in part for the usual reasons. But there’s an extra layer of venom to his pro-pollution stances that is both personal and mind-bogglingly petty.

For example, he has repeatedly denounced restrictions intended to protect the ozone layer — one of the great success stories of global environmental policy — because, he claims, they’re the reason his hair spray doesn’t work as well as it used to. I am not making this up.

He’s also a bitter foe of wind power. He likes to talk about how wind turbines kill birds, which they sometimes do, but no more so than tall buildings; but his real motivation seems to be ire over unsuccessful attempts to block an offshore wind farm near one of his British golf courses.

And if evidence gets in the way of his self-centeredness, never mind. Recently he assured audiences that there isn’t a drought in California, that officials have just refused to turn on the water.

I know how ridiculous it sounds. Can the planet really be in danger because a rich guy worries about his hairdo? But Republicans are rallying around this guy just as if he were a normal candidate. And if Democrats don’t rally the same way, he just might make it to the White House.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, June 3, 2016

June 4, 2016 Posted by | Climate Change, Donald Trump, Environment, Global Warming | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Ignore It And It Will Go Away”: Gov. Scott’s Unwritten Policy On Climate Change — Don’t Talk About It

Dear Florida Gov. Rick Scott:

So it turns out the experts were mistaken. It turns out the impact of climate change on Florida — and much of the coastal United States — is not going to be anywhere near as bad as had been predicted. Apparently, it’s going to be much worse.

That’s the sobering finding of a study published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change. Previous scenarios, grim as they were, failed to take into account projected population growth. Factor that in, say the researchers, and the number of people likely to be affected by rising sea levels caused by melting polar ice caps explodes to triple the previous most dire estimates.

The brunt of the catastrophe is expected to be felt in the Southeast, cities like Biloxi, Mississippi, Charleston, South Carolina, and an obscure little seaside hamlet called Miami, Florida. Already, tourists in Miami Beach have to slosh through ankle-deep waters when the tide is especially high. By 2100, that might be regarded as the good old days.

The new study projects a future in which as many as 13.1 million Americans, nearly half of them in Florida, find themselves forced to flee or adapt as seawater rises toward their doorsteps. A child born today might be part of the nation’s largest mass exodus since the Great Migration a century ago.

Interestingly enough, governor, those frightful projections come a year almost to the day after a Miami Herald report that revealed your unwritten policy for dealing with climate change: Don’t talk about it. Forbid state officials from using the very words.

Yes, you claimed no such policy exists, but you were contradicted by multiple ex-employees of the state Department of Environmental Protection, and their testimony was compelling. “We were told not to use the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming’ or ‘sustainability,’” said Christopher Byrd, a former state Department of Environmental Protection attorney.

This strategy — essentially a governmental gag order — is one your Republican Party has frequently used in recent years. The apparent idea is that if you forbid discussion of it, a problem resolves itself. We’ve repeatedly seen the great success of this policy. George W. Bush’s ban on U.S. funding to international groups that provide information on pregnancy termination brought abortion to a screeching halt. A congressional ban on research into gun violence helped make mass shootings a thing of the past.

Sorry, governor. Pulling your leg.

Actually, the most recent figures available from the World Health Organization tell us the international abortion rate stands at 28 per 1,000 women of childbearing age, about where it’s been since the turn of the century. And there were at least 10 mass shootings in this country just last week — 40 people wounded, 14 killed.

The truth is, sir, “Ignore it and it will go away” is a policy more suited to children than to adults. And past a certain age, even kids learn the untenability of such thinking. The disastrous report card you stuff down in your backpack is always dug out. The broken vase you sweep under the couch is always discovered.

Similarly, the environmental disaster whose discussion you forbid will flood your streets and put property valued in the tens of billions of dollars at risk, whether it is talked about or not.

Governor, your party is forever taking action to fight “dangers” — mass voter fraud, sharia law — that do not exist. It is beyond unconscionable that it and you stick your fingers in your ears when confronted with a threat that is not only real but, conceivably, existential.

The science is clear, sir. The trend lines are, too. Americans are rushing to the shore. Housing and infrastructure are rising to meet them.

The potential price of silence was already high a year ago. It just rose higher still.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, March 16, 2016

March 17, 2016 Posted by | Climate Change, Global Warming, Rick Scott | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Science Is Settled”: In Spite Of What You See Outside, Global Warming Is Real

Cue the igloos.

The winter blizzard set to paralyze the East Coast has given climate change deniers the perfect opportunity to proclaim, once again, that global warming is a hoax, that several feet of snow prove the planet is as cold as ever, that the Earth is flat: You can tell by looking outside. Common sense.

During a similar snowstorm in 2010, the family of one of the nation’s leading flat-earthers, Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., built an igloo on the National Mall. His daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren deposited a sign across the structure that read “Al Gore’s New Home,” in mockery of one of the saner voices on the risks of climate change.

This latest storm has produced plenty of igloo material but no evidence that Gore is wrong. Sorry, but the Earth is, in fact, a sphere — no matter what you see as you look out your bedroom window. Similarly, the planet is warming — no matter how cold it is outside your bedroom window.

Earlier this month, climate scientists released a report saying that 2015 was the warmest year on record for the planet, shattering the previous record that had been set by a very warm 2014. El Niño’s winds contributed to last year’s heat, but the bulk of it is a consequence of human activity, scientists said.

By now, the science is settled. Shouldn’t we be talking about solutions? Shouldn’t our politicians be leading a national discussion about ways to build on the climate accord that President Obama signed in Paris?

One of the most promising answers is a carbon tax, a way to raise prices on the fossil fuels that create much of the environmental havoc. A price hike would help to discourage use by everyone, from the executives at coal-fired electric plants to motorists who drive alone to and from work.

A carbon tax is even more compelling in this era of rapidly falling petroleum prices. While cheap gas helps the family budget, it simply encourages us to use more of it. And, oddly, it even encourages car buyers to skip the smaller, more efficient models and opt for bigger gas guzzlers. At the end of 2015, fuel economy for new vehicles was falling, likely reflecting more purchases of pickup trucks and SUVs, according to the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute.

It might seem perverse to suggest a carbon tax — or “fee,” as some prefer to call it — just as average households are getting a break from gas prices. After all, the American middle class is still struggling with wage stagnation.

But those households need not be penalized. There are already detailed plans for protecting low- and middle-income households from the budget pinch of a carbon tax, which would affect not only gasoline but also home energy prices.

The bigger problem is that a carbon tax has no chance of passing a recalcitrant Republican Congress, many of whose members still insist that climate change isn’t real. The few GOP moderates who had, in the past, acknowledged human-caused climate change — New Jersey governor Chris Christie and former Florida governor Jeb Bush, for instance — dare not say so anymore.

It hasn’t always been this way inside the Republican Party. As The Wall Street Journal has noted, “Republicans, not Democrats, first championed market-based systems to control pollution.” In 2008, GOP nominee John McCain and his Democratic rival, Obama, had similar proposals for a carbon tax.

Nowadays, though, the carbon tax is anathema to an irrational Republican electorate. Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, has said that any GOP candidate who supported a carbon tax “would be at a severe disadvantage in the Republican nomination process.” That helps explain why not a word has been uttered in support of it.

But that’s no reason to give up. Environmentalists and their allies have to keep plugging away at rational solutions, playing the long game. There really is no choice. Global warming is a crisis, no matter how big a blizzard batters the East Coast, and no matter how many igloos the Inhofe clan builds.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2007; Featured Post, The National Memo, January 23, 2016

January 24, 2016 Posted by | Carbon Emissions, Climate Change, Global Warming | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Indelicate Demands Of Profit”: Exxon’s Weapons Of Mass Confusion On Climate Change

There is a constant flow of headlines these days confirming the mess we’ve made: “Looks Like Rain Again. And Again”; “Alaska Will Keep Melting”; “Climate Change a Worry to Central Bankers, Too”; “Warning on Climate Risk: Worst to Come.”

This is far from a natural phenomenon. A handful of corporate interests are causing these catastrophes. Oil, coal, auto and a few other industrial powers have profited for decades by spewing fossil fuel contaminants into the world’s atmosphere.

Some experts were speaking out about this mess nearly 40 years ago:

“There is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels,” wrote James Black in 1978.

“Over the past several years, a clear scientific consensus has emerged,” said Roger Cohen in September 1982. “There is unanimous agreement in the scientific community that a temperature increase of this magnitude would bring about significant changes in the Earth’s climate, including rainfall distribution and alterations in the biosphere.”

The significance of these early calls to action is that they came from Exxon!

Inside Climate News revealed in an investigative series released this fall that the oil superpower (now infamous for its relentless campaign of lies to discredit climate science) was briefly a paragon of scientific integrity. From 1978 through the ’80s the corporation’s research headquarters were a buzzing hive of farsighted inquiry into the “greenhouse effect,” as the process of climate change was then called.

But in 1988, the elegant space inhabited by principle was suddenly invaded by the indelicate demands of profit. Dr. James Hansen, NASA’s renowned climate expert, testified to Congress that fossil pollution of Earth’s atmosphere had already surpassed the crisis point. “Global warming has begun,” Hanson concluded.

Then the United Nations’ intergovernmental panel on climate change issued an authoritative study in 1990 concluding that the warming was happening and the cause was emissions from fossil fuels.

With that, Exxon dismantled and defunded its research team. Ever since, it’s been the shameful, self-serving leader of a voodoo “science” campaign to keep the world hooked on the fossil fuels that provide its profits.

Their strategy was to create an incessant noise machine, fueled with hundreds of millions of industry dollars, to spread the false narrative that scientists are “uncertain” about climate change. In a confidential 1998 memo, ExxonMobil’s senior environmental lobbyist stated the Orwellian goal of this corporate campaign: “Victory will be achieved when … average citizens ‘understand’ uncertainties in climate science,” and when “recognition of uncertainty becomes part of the ‘conventional wisdom.’”

Their many tactics included: forming a lobbying combine in 1989 to sow doubt among public officials about the need for government action; placing a very costly, decade-long series of essays in newspapers denigrating the very scientists it previously nurtured and the science reports that it published; and trying to get the government’s chief global warming official to decry the uncertainty of climate research (then, when he refused, got the incoming Bush-Cheney regime to fire him). They also made their CEOs into hucksters of bunkum, with such lines as “the earth is cooler today than it was 20 years ago” and “it is highly unlikely that the temperature in the middle of next century will be significantly affected whether policies are enacted now or 20 years from now” and “what if everything we do, it turns out that our (climate) models are lousy, and we don’t get the (rising temperatures) we predict?”

If these denials of reality sound familiar, that’s because they’re exactly the same ones we’re now hearing from such Einsteins as The Donald (who recently tweeted, “I’m in Los Angeles and it’s freezing. Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax”), The Cruzer (who claimed that climate change is a liberal plot for “massive government control of the economy … and every aspect of our lives”) and Jeb (who said, “It’s convoluted. And for the people to say the science is decided on this is just really arrogant”).

The deniers are not only on the wrong side of science and history, but also on the wrong side of most voters. A New York Times poll taken last January found that only 13 percent of our people (and only 24 percent of Repubs) said they would be more likely to vote for 2016 presidential candidates who contend that climate change is a hoax and America should keep burning oil and coal. A September poll by three GOP firms found that 56 percent of Republicans agree that the climate is changing and 72 percent support accelerating the use of renewable fuels.

The real power, and our great hope, is in the People’s rebellion: marches, civil disobedience, trainings, teach-ins and other actions to pressure leaders to put people and the planet over corporate profiteering, while also raising global public awareness about the crucial need to get off of fossil fuels and into renewable energy. As 350.org puts it, “Politicians aren’t the only ones with power.” So the coalition will be in the global streets, on the Internet, in schools, churches and all other available forums, to rally you and me to save ourselves.

 

By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, December 16, 2015

December 24, 2015 Posted by | Climate Change, Exxon Mobil, Global Warming | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Badly In Need Of Some New Talking Points”: Rubio Needs A New Excuse To Ignore The Climate Crisis

As recently as two years ago, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) made his favorite case for doing absolutely nothing about the climate crisis. First, the far-right senator argued “government can’t change the weather,” suggesting the Floridian’s understanding of the issue lacked maturity.

But Rubio then added, “There are other countries that are polluting in the atmosphere much greater than we are at this point. China and India, they’re not going to stop doing what they’re doing.”

This year, the Republican repeated the talking point at a Koch brothers event: “[A]s far as I can see, China and India and other developing countries are going to continue to burn anything they can get their hands on.”

This rationale for simply allowing the crisis to continue with no American leadership at all was always bankrupt, but last week, it started collapsing in new ways. China, for example, announced its first-ever commitment to a cap-and-trade policy – a step Rubio and others on the far-right insisted China would never take.

And now India is taking steps of its own.

Under growing pressure to join in an international accord to battle climate change, India on Thursday announced its long-term plan to reduce its rate of planet-warming greenhouse gas pollution and to aggressively ramp up its production of solar power, hydropower and wind energy.

So, when Rubio said China and India are “not going to stop doing what they’re doing,” he had it largely backwards.

It’s important to emphasize that India’s announcement isn’t nearly as ambitious as it should be, and does not constitute a sweeping plan to curtail carbon emissions. That said, as the New York Times’ report added, “some environmental advocates praised the plan’s commitment to renewable energy and said that, if enacted, it could put India on track to reduced carbon emissions in the long run.”

And given that Republicans have insisted for years that China and India intend to do literally nothing about the crisis – a claim that the GOP has used an excuse to ignore the climate emergency – it seems the right is badly in need of some new talking points.

The Rubio campaign was asked to respond to these developments the other day. A spokesperson for the Republican senator responded, “Marco is opposed to cap-and-trade and other forms of a national energy tax. He has outlined concrete proposals that will help us seize our energy potential without increasing the reach of the E.P.A.”

The answer had nothing to do with the question, and Rubio’s position still doesn’t make sense.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 2, 2015

October 3, 2015 Posted by | Climate Change, Global Warming, Marco Rubio | , , , , , | 1 Comment

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