Archive for the ‘pollution’ Category
A new book by Geoffrey Heal, professor at Columbia Business School, makes a trenchant point that’s ignored by those currently in power: our prosperity depends on protecting the planet.
Heal did a Q&A interview about his book, Endangered Economies, in the current issue of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ magazine Catalyst. (Heal is also UCS board member and an expert on economics and the environment.)
“The natural world provides everything we depend on,” Heal says. “We get our food from the natural world, we get our drinking water and our oxygen from the natural world, and we evolved as part of it. We simply can’t live without it. Plants create food, and they need pollination from insects and they need rain and they need soil. We can’t synthesize these things. So we really are totally dependent on the natural world in the end. Read the rest of this entry »
With Scott Pruitt now installed at the EPA, what is arguably one of the most successful government agencies ever—remember the dousing of the Cuyahoga River fire? Or the reduction of smog in LA?—is now itself gasping, on life support.
Those environmental advances were in large part because the EPA was around to protect the nation’s air, water, ground and health. Now it’s pretty clear that an emasculated EPA under Pruitt will have a tough time merely surviving, rather than continuing its work. For one thing one of Barrack Obama’s boldest environmental legacies, the Clean Power Plan, is going away.
In his first interview (with the Wall Street Journal) as EPA administrator, Pruitt said he wants to refocus the agency on a more narrow role. Pruitt said he expects to quickly withdraw both the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the United States Rule, the Obama administration’s attempt to clarify the EPA’s regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act.
“There’s a very simple reason why this needs to happen: Because the courts have seriously called into question the legality of those rules,” Pruitt said in the interview, as reported by ThinkProgress.
ThinkProgress reported that Pruitt has challenged the mainstream scientific consensus on climate change, arguing that there is significant debate on whether it is happening and whether humans are the primary cause: “in reality there is little to no debate about those questions – 97 percent of actively publishing climate scientists agree that climate change is both happening and that human activity is contributing to it.
“There will be a rule-making process to withdraw those rules, and that will kick off a process,” Pruitt told the Wall Street Journal. “And part of that process is a very careful review of a fundamental question: Does EPA even possess the tools, under the Clean Air Act, to address this? It’s a fair question to ask if we do, or whether there in fact needs to be a congressional response to the climate issue.” In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled in Massachusetts vs. EPA that the EPA does, in fact, possess the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases as air pollutants.
As Oklahoma Attorney General, Pruitt “disbanded the office’s Environmental Protection Unit, dedicated to pursuing environmental law violations, and pursued only three environmental enforcement cases during his six years as Attorney General,” ThinkProgress reported. In addition:
“Pruitt also said that, as EPA administrator, he would focus on creating regulatory certainty that will help industry and spur job growth. Pruitt has long been a friend of the fossil fuel industry — emails revealed during a 2014 investigation by the New York Times showed Pruitt sending a letter of complaint to the EPA, in his role as Oklahoma Attorney General, drafted by Devon Energy, the largest energy company in Oklahoma.
The night before Pruitt was confirmed as EPA administrator by the Senate, a judge in Oklahoma ordered Pruitt’s office to release thousands of emails between the nominee and oil and gas companies. The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) had requested access to those emails two years ago, but Pruitt’s office refused. The office has until Tuesday to release some 3,000 documents, which may reveal more coordination between Pruitt and industry actors.”
Those documents likely will be alarming and reveal much more about Pruitt’s ties to the fossil fuel industry, but will they affect the EPA’s future? Get set for a bumpy four years.
Get 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 »
I 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
Another 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
Environmental Leader reported last week on a Securities and Exchange Commission ruling that ExxonMobil must allow its shareholders to vote on a climate change resolution.
That would be a first for the oil major, which has consistently denied or avoided shareholder votes on resolutions designed to determine the long-term impacts of its business decisions on climate, and perhaps force—or shame—it to make changes. If that all seems rather nebulous and, in the end, pointless—given Exxon’s business model (oil exploration and production)—it’s because it is. But it might be a small step in the right direction for a company that has lied (or covered up) for decades about what it knew about climate change and that continues to fund climate science deniers.
The latest resolution that shareholders will vote on at its annual meeting in May would force the oil giant to disclose how climate change would affect its business. According to the EL report, New York comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli co-filed the shareholder proposal in December, asking Exxon to publish an annual assessment of the long-term portfolio impacts of climate change policies. Read the rest of this entry »
Here’s the next installment of our close reading of Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter on climate change, Laudato Si’.
Chapter One: What Is Happening To Our Common Home
The continued acceleration of changes affecting humanity and the planet is coupled today with a more intensified pace of life and work which might be called “rapidification”. Although change is part of the working of complex systems, the speed with which human activity has developed contrasts with the naturally slow pace of biological evolution. Moreover, the goals of this rapid and constant change are not necessarily geared to the common good or to integral and sustainable human development. Change is something desirable, yet it becomes a source of anxiety when it causes harm to the world and to the quality of life of much of humanity. (Para. 18)
Following a period of irrational confidence in progress and human abilities, some sectors of society are now adopting a more critical approach. We see increasing sensitivity to the environment and the need to protect nature, along with a growing concern, both genuine and distressing, for what is happening to our planet. Let us review, however cursorily, those questions which are troubling us today and which we can no longer sweep under the carpet. Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it. (Para. 19) Read the rest of this entry »