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Archive for the ‘politics and government’ Category

“This is the way the world ends…”

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climate-change_janGet set for a rough ride on climate change policies and inactions under Trump. Actually it will be a full-on climate disaster, with all of the progress of the past eight years—which wasn’t all that great in any case, but at least were crucial steps in the right direction—almost certainly reversed, undone, scrapped.

This is what is likely to happen, post-Jan. 20, based on reporting by various news outlets including Newsweek, the New York Times, The New Yorker, and the statements from DJT:

During the campaign, DJT vowed to withdraw from the Paris treaty on climate change negotiated last year. He said he would remove regulations that curb carbon emissions and permit oil drilling and mining on federal lands in the seas. He would approve the Keystone XL pipeline, and weaken—a better word is eviscerate—the Environmental Protection Agency. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by William DiBenedetto

21 November, 2016 at 7:01 am

“Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and caldron bubble”

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donald-trump_portrait_donkeyhoteyI don’t think we –by “we” I mean writers, journalists, editors, bloggers, etc.–understand the disaster facing the country with respect to many issues – most importantly (to me) on climate change, renewable energy, sustainability, the Supreme Court, free speech, civil and gender rights, corporate power and influence, democratic institutions and equal justice.

Here is what David Remnick wrote last week in The New Yorker: “The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency is nothing less than a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism…It is impossible to react to this moment with anything less than revulsion and profound anxiety.”

In the early going Trump was a media novelty; he was “good copy,” as they say in newsrooms. He was not taken seriously until it became—too late—really serious, even deadly serious. Trump also tapped into a vein of discontent, anger and fear that was largely under-reported or ignored—again until it was too late.

So the reasoned and rational “what do we do now?” arguments and suggestions for going forward strike me as somewhat naive and not very useful because this is not a “business as usual” or “return to normalcy” situation. It’s not a rational and normal transfer of power, no matter how it is dressed up as such. This a new, different, uncertain, dangerous and even absurd universe—so new, different and radical thinking about the way we report and approach whatever horrors await us from the Trump/Pence cabal is needed. It means telling the truth with clarity and accuracy no matter how inconvenient or costly, both to ourselves and to the powerful.

Remnick concluded: “To combat authoritarianism, to call out lies, to struggle honorably and fiercely in the name of American ideals—that is what is left to do. That is all there is to do.”

That is what I promise to do. I hope you will join me.

Image: Donald Trump – Portrait by DonkeyHotey viaFlickr CC

Climate change (pt. 2): a world at war

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dana-glacier_350-orgA New Republic article in August from Bill McKibben, environmentalist, author, journalist, and founder of 350.org, put climate change and its challenge in the starkest terms: it’s a world war.

While the national political discourse descends ever further into the gutter, the true crisis that must be addressed—climate change– is getting lost in the sleaze, ignorance and obfuscation.

McKibben puts it succinctly: “It’s not that global warming is like a world war. It is a world war. And we are losing.” Read the rest of this entry »

Written by William DiBenedetto

10 October, 2016 at 7:00 am

Trump Opting for Big Oil and Climate Change Denial

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Donald Trump_caricatureAnother reason — among many — not to vote for Donald Trump, the likely Republican nominee for president. (Those words still sound absurd and bizarre, the world according to Dali or Pirandello.)

Reuters reported that Trump has chosen Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, one of the country’s most ardent oil and gas drilling advocates and climate change skeptics, to advise him on energy policy. North Dakota of course, has long been in bed with the U.S. shale oil and gas industries.

The Reuters report says Trump’s team asked Cramer, who has endorsed Trump, to prepare some white papers on his energy policy ideas, according to Cramer and sources familiar with the matter. “Cramer said in an interview that his white paper would emphasize the dangers of foreign ownership of U.S. energy assets, as well as what he characterized as burdensome taxes and over-regulation. Trump will have an opportunity to float some of the ideas at an energy summit in Bismarck, North Dakota on May 26, Cramer said,” according to Reuters.

The article also said the congressman is among a group of Trump advisers who recently met with lawmakers from Western energy states, who hope Trump will open more federal land for drilling, a lawmaker who took part in the meeting said.

“Kevin Cramer has consistently backed reckless and dangerous schemes to put the profits of fossil fuel executives before the health of the public, so he and Trump are a match made in polluter heaven,” Sierra Club Legislative Director Melinda Pierce said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

“Donald Trump’s choice of outspoken climate (change) denier Kevin Cramer to advise him on energy policy is just the latest piece of evidence that letting him get near the White House would put our children’s health and futures at risk,” said Jesse Ferguson, spokesman for the Hillary Clinton campaign.

“Trump might find that Cramer occupies gray spaces on energy and climate policy,” according to a Scientific American article. “The former utility regulator acknowledges that the world is on a path to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but he calls himself skeptical of the broadly held view by scientists and Democrats that warming could cause severe economic and physical damage.”

“I’ve been skeptical, but I don’t resist the reality that we’re heading toward or our goal is a more carbon-constrained world,” Cramer was quoted in the SA article. For example, he would tell Trump that the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s regulatory effort to decrease power plant emissions, should be rolled back. But Cramer seems to acknowledge that something else might have to take its place.

Image: Donald Trump – Caricature by DonkeyHotey via Flickr CC

Written by William DiBenedetto

16 May, 2016 at 8:30 am

Obama’s mixed message on climate change and arctic drilling

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sHell No Nighttime Action _Backbone CampaignPresident Obama is traveling to Arctic Alaska this week to call for urgent action on climate change, but—and there’s always a but these days—his journey also comes in the context of his recent decision permitting offshore oil and gas drilling by Shell Oil in the same region.

As Julie Hirschfield Davis wrote in yesterday’s New York Times, While the Arctic is a fitting backdrop for the president’s call to action, it is also a place where the conflicting threads of his environmental policy collide, and where the bracing public debate over how to address the warming of the planet is particularly animated.” Read the rest of this entry »

Written by William DiBenedetto

31 August, 2015 at 5:24 am

EPA takes big step to regulate aircraft GHGs

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Pulpolux_20secondsThe Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) intends to issue a scientific finding that greenhouse gases from aircraft pose a risk to human health, paving the way for regulating emissions from the U.S. aviation industry.

Touching off what is likely to be a long and contentious regulatory process, the EPA on Wednesday said it is “proposing to find under the Clean Air Act that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from commercial aircraft contribute to the pollution that causes climate change endangering the health and welfare of Americans.”

At the same time, the agency released information about the international process underway by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) for developing carbon dioxide (CO2) standards for aircraft and EPA’s participation in that process. EPA is seeking public input to inform future steps by the agency. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by William DiBenedetto

10 June, 2015 at 11:27 am

International law is quiet on climate change responsibility

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globe_with_flags_4m8p_1hus-235x236If global climate change increasingly affects everything from public health to species extinction to infrastructure and property destruction to migration patterns—and it does—well, who can I sue about this?

No one apparently. If you think the international community’s struggles on what to do about climate change is pretty much a fragmented, inadequate mess, then international law on the subject is even messier and more inadequate.

A recent article in the Guardian notes that international law “stays silent on the responsibility for climate change.” This is not much of a surprise actually, but it’s actually important because if there were serious legal ramifications regarding climate change, faster action to mitigate its effects might occur.

“The global economy is underpinned by law, but you would think it had nothing to do with climate change,” Stephen Humphreys writes. “Climate-related cases have been absent from international courts – even from disputes involving human rights, investment or the environment. While there have been cases heard in some national courts, particularly in the US, they do not progress far.”

This weak legal response and virtually nonexistent regime means that “big polluters are getting off lightly.”

The article continues: “It is clear that 60% of proven oil reserves must be left in the ground if we are to have even a remote chance of limiting global warming to two degrees. Yet oil companies and exporters continue to drill and explore, to enjoy their assets and hedge against future losses, as though climate change were a mere financial risk rather than an existential threat to peoples’ lives and livelihoods.

“The world of international law is behaving as though the problem of climate change does not exist.”Look at one aspect, international trade law. An obvious policy for a country that’s serious about dealing with climate change would be to impose low carbon standards on the production of various everyday goods such as meat, mobile phones and plastics. “Does international trade law allow states to impose low-carbon standards on imported goods? The answer is yes and no,” Humphreys writes. “A low or zero-carbon import policy is almost certain to violate World Trade Organization (WTO) law. There may be viable policies but they will be time consuming and expensive to design, and there is no guarantee the WTO’s principal court won’t slap down any such policy on a technicality. No country has yet tried.“Why has the WTO not taken more proactive steps to tackle climate change? And why has the estimated $600 billion (£382 billion) in annual subsidies to fossil fuels never been challenged, while paltry subsidies to support renewable energy technologies have been stopped?”

These are unanswerable questions; and the questions become just as complex with respect to other international regimes, such as investment law and human rights law. A 2008 paper, “Global Climate Change and the Fragmentation of International Law” addressed this issue in highly academic terms, highlighting the challenges for international lawyers and policymakers “in navigating the relationship between the climate regime and the biodiversity regime, and the relationship between the climate regime and the multilateral trading system.”The authors concluded that a “narrow focus on conflicts misrepresents the multifaceted nature of climate change and precludes an adequate jurisprudential understanding of the relationship between the climate regime and other regimes.” They called for “improved understanding” and a “broadening of the debate.”

Seven years later, the needle has barely moved on any of this, but what is gaining some traction is the notion that it might be wise for international agreements to recognize national laws. Countries around the world are taking actions domestically to help cope with climate change. Columbia Law School’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law has conveniently collected the relevant laws and policies of various countries into a database.

So is it too much to ask that an international agreement on climate change include legally binding enforcement mechanisms with teeth. Hey, you know the answer.

Image: From the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law website.

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