Today’s Blog

Oct 21 2020: Making economic sense out of climate change

Many of us have seen promising signs of economic investment in green energy. We’ve also craved influential policies to curb wasteful energy usage. Well, no lesser economic bastion than the International Monetary Fund in their World Economic Outlook makes the case that “…economic policy tools can pave a road toward net zero emissions by 2050 even as the world seeks to recover from the COVID-19 crisis.

Green infrastructure, carbon taxes, it is all here with the clear directive to build policies to mitigate climate change.

But wait, there’s more. The perspective is that this is not neutral, it is positive, economically speaking—”Our model-based scenario analysis suggests that a comprehensive policy strategy to mitigate climate change could boost global GDP in the first 15 years of the recovery by about 0.7 percent of global GDP on average, and employment for about half of that period leading to about 12 million extra persons being employed globally.” The piece goes on to discuss transition costs, so it won’t be a slam dunk. But the tides are turning towards a world that does not need to be run on economic policies that are aggravating climate change.

Finding the Right Policy Mix to Safeguard our Climate

https://www.theatlantic.com/newsletters/archive/2020/10/the-question-that-haunts-climate-advocates/616785/

Oct 11 2020: Hear Ye, Hear Ye—Ocean Seismic Blasting Halted

Good news for marine mammals in the Atlantic Ocean. Seismic blasts can cause hearing loss in marine mammals that rely on echolocation.

Don’t you love the term  Incidental Harassment Authorizations (IHAs) that allowed for dolphins and whales to be harmed, like “we didn’t mean to do any damage, honest.” All because fossil fuel industry needs to keep going deeper and more dangerously in search of fuels that we need to be moving beyond.

This achievement has been long in the making and the next target is an outright ban on offshore oil and gas drilling

Read more here:

https://www.ecowatch.com/ocean-seismic-blasting-atlantic-2647890796.html?rebelltitem=3#rebelltitem3

https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2020/seismic-blasting-efforts-halted-in-atlantic-ocean#:~:text=A%20status%20conference%20on%20seismic,and%20possibly%20for%20several%20years.

Oct 10 2020: Wildlife Tally by USDA, really sad

You may not want to read about the latest tally of killed wildlife by taxpayer-funded USDA, done to protect farmland and lifestock. One person’s pest is another’s magnificent creature. (Sorry, rats excluded, but that’s just my opinion. I don’t pretend to understand their value.) Somehow we have to do better, we have to get our species’ need for food in balance with the web of all life. It is just too convenient to blame animals when we are the encroachers. Further, one can’t help but feel great sadness that the report reads like “accomplishments.”

Read more here if you want to read the really sad details. https://www.ecowatch.com/trump-usda-sued-wildlife-2648152996.html?rebelltitem=1#rebelltitem1

Marquita Bradshaw, Activist and Organizer

“I want to make sure that working people have a voice in the Senate.”

Marquita Bradshaw

Marquita Bradshaw is an environmental activist, community organizer, and the Democratic candidate for Senate. She is a single mother and native of South Memphis. She grew up living by a military superfund site that created serious health problems for her family and neighbors. When she came to speak at a Blount County really, Bradshaw shared the effect living in a community that was treated as a pollution dumping ground had on her. She spoke about how poor and marginalized areas are treated as less important because it is convenient. The lack of advocacy for vulnerable communities and her personal experiences were what drove her to environmental activism. Bradshaw has spent years as a volunteer, organizer, and board member, advocating for her fellow Tennesseans. Environmental justice is at the heart of all her policies. Ensuring that regardless of finances, Tennesseans will be healthy, educated, and safe is her top priority. Bradshaw wants to support families by making sure that public schools have the funding they need for all students to succeed and that families don’t have to worry about exorbitant medical expenses. She wants to help workers by creating jobs in green energy and increasing the minimum wage. Her lived experience and years of advocacy work will make Bradshaw a voice for the working-class people of Tennessee in the Senate. If she defeats her opponent, Bill Hagerty, Marquita Bradshaw will be the third black woman ever in the Senate and the first black woman ever elected to statewide office in Tennessee.

To learn more about Marquita Bradshaw and her platform go to https://www.marquitabradshaw.com/

Oct 8 2020: Numbing to the numbers of wildfires

Oct 8 2020: California

So, today we read that California has its first “gigafire” in modern history, i.e., one million acres (roughly size of Rhode Island). We read that wildfires are three times more common across the West since the 1970s while wildfire season is more than three months longer. Fires are so frequent and ferocious that we cannot help but feel numbed by the scale of it all. To call this a “new normal” is to diminish the horror of devastation to wild creatures, beautiful trees. To say we are “out of balance” and that forests are not as “well-managed” as they could be is to miss the point. We cannot manage our way out of this. We need a reckoning on climate change or the lament for homes and property will seem quaint in a future where some places will simply be unlivable.

https://earther.gizmodo.com/california-has-its-first-gigafire-in-modern-history-1845275126

Oct 1 2020 It’s National Drive Electric Week

It’s the 10th National Drive Electric Week (through Sunday).

“This Saturday! Register for this FREE Electric Vehicle event on Sat, Oct 3rd from 10-2 pm at Cumberland Mountain State Park, in Crossville, TN
There will be six to seven Electric Vehicles (EVs) available to view and a Ride & Drive.

Read more about this national event here: https://driveelectricweek.org/

A much-cited 2016 white pager (being updated, btw, this year),  “Quantifying the Societal Benefits of Electric Vehicles,” by Ingrid Malmgren, provided convincing quantifiable benefits in these areas: fuel savings, vehicle maintenance, environmental impact, health, national security, economic development, and contribution as grid resource.


Many technological evolutions move from Why to Why Not? EVs seem to have crossed that chasm and we may well soon be asking ourselves why are we not all driving EVs.

Sept 26 2020: Going going Tongass

With a mixture of junk analysis by the Forest Service, disregard for impact statements, and a blind eye for old growth markets the Trump Administration is set on rolling right into Alaska’s Tongass National Forest with plans to open up 9 million acres to logging and roads to allow energy and mineral exploration. Bye-bye roadless rule.

At 17 million acres, the Tongass is America’s largest national forest and the world’s largest remaining temperate rainforest. Pristine is not a word that this President can even begin to comprehend. But, then our system, places no value on nature until it is harvested. Talk about systematic injustice.

Still, there are human-centric reasons to preserve the Tongass. It is one of our largest carbon sinks, absorbing nearly 8 percent of the greenhouse gas pollution that the U.S. emits.

It may not make economic. According to Yale Environment360, “Today, building new roads in the Tongass would cost an estimated$200,00 to $500,000 per mile. It’s madness. Especially considering that the bottom has fallen out of the timber industry in such a huge way that one recent proposed Forest Service sale, in a portion of the forest still open to logging, didn’t receive a single bid.”

Legal fights are coming so all is not lost for the Tongass.

https://www.ecowatch.com/trump-logging-tongass-national-forest-2647822178.html?rebelltitem=4#rebelltitem4

https://e360.yale.edu/features/let-it-be-why-we-must-save-alaskas-pristine-tongass-forest

Sept 23 2020 Wheeler Rebutted

 

I opened a newsletter-email and was forewarned not to read Wheeler’s recent speech to American Enterprise Institute, to read it sitting down. It should have said “don’t read with sharp objects near by.” It was upsetting and I wrote to an environmental group to which I belong and said “where’s the rebuttal?”. Well, here’s a good one reprinted. Do read this sitting, standing, or lying on a beach!

Wheeler seeks to paint EPA regulatory rollbacks as environmentally
 friendly

By Rachel Frazin <https://thehill.com/author/rachel-frazin> – 09/21/20 
12:54 PM EDT

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler 
<https://thehill.com/people/andrew-wheelerr> on Monday sought to portray 
some of the agency’s most significant regulatory rollbacks as 
environmentally friendly.

During a speech at the right-wing think tank American Enterprise 
Institute, the country’s top environmental official touted rules 
governing regulation from power plants, vehicle emissions and methane 
emissions as actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

He also praised the agency’s move to regulate aviation emissions.

“Just at EPA, the Trump administration in its first term has taken four 
concrete actions to reduce greenhouse gases,” Wheeler said.

However, some of the rules are expected to provide significantly fewer 
emissions reductions than the Obama-era rules they replaced.

One rule Wheeler highlighted was the SAFE vehicles rule 
<https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/490318-trump-administration-rolls-back-obama-era-fuel-efficiency-standards>, 
which requires automakers to produce vehicles whose fuel economies 
average 40 mpg by 2026 instead of the Obama administration’s 55 mpg by 2025.

The change is expected to result in an additional 867 million metric 
tons 
<https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/491608-trump-rollback-of-obama-era-mileage-standards-faces-challenges-in>of 
carbon emitted into the atmosphere through 2029.

Another rule touted by Wheeler is the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, 
which replaced 
<https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/449303-trump-admin-submits-final-rule-to-kill-obama-clean-power-plan>the 
Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. The new rule gives states more 
time and authority to decide how to implement the best new technology to 
ease emissions from coal plants and does not set emissions caps.

Wheeler said Monday that the rule would reduce carbon emissions from 34 
percent from 2005 levels by 2030, while the Obama administration said 
its rule would reduce emissions 32 percent.

However, the agency’s analysis of the rule said that, compared to no 
regulation, it would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 11 million tons 
by 2030, while the agency estimated that the Clean Power Plan would 
reduce emissions by 415 million tons.

The Supreme Court issued a decision in 2016 that temporarily halted the 
Obama rule’s implementation.

Wheeler on Monday also touted rules “making it easier and less expensive 
for natural gas companies to capture fugitive methane emissions,” 
referring to emissions that accidentally leak out.

A new agency rule reduces the frequency of monitoring 
<https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/511915-epa-rescinds-methane-emissions-regulations-from-oil-and-gas-sector>for 
fugitive emissions from facilities that help process and transport 
natural gas by half and exempts small wells from monitoring for this.

His comments come as a Rhodium Group analysis estimated that actions 
taken by the Trump administration could cause the release of an extra 
1.8 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions 
<https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/517064-trump-rollbacks-could-add-18-billion-tons-of-greenhouse-gas
by 2035.

However, Wheeler also toed the line between characterizing his actions 
as good for the environment and criticizing the prior administration as 
too focused on climate change.

He criticized what he described as the Obama administration’s 
“overweening focus on climate change took the form of virtue-signaling 
in foreign capitals.”

During the appearance, he also sought to downplay the role of climate 
change on wildfires currently ravaging the West Coast.

“I believe that the forest fires in the west are mostly caused by poor 
forest management and not climate change,” Wheeler said.

Scientists have expressed 
<https://yaleclimateconnections.org/2020/08/climate-change-is-worsening-californias-hellish-wildfires/
concern 
<https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/climate-change-and-wildfires>that 
climate change contributes to heat and dryness that allow fires to 
spread more rapidly.

Many forests in these states are managed by the federal government 
rather than the states.

In a call hosted by the Biden campaign on Monday, former EPA 
administrators including Republicans, criticized Wheeler’s speech.

“All I can say is if he would just substitute ‘delete, destroy’ for the 
word ‘improve’ he’d be right on,” said Christine Todd-Whitman, a former 
New Jersey governor who also served as EPA administrator under the 
George W. Bush administration.”This administration has done more to roll 
back protections for human health and the environment than any I can 
think of.”

“Honestly this reminds me of President Trump 
<https://thehill.com/people/donald-trump>’s claiming to have done more 
for African Americans than Abraham Lincoln,” said former administrator 
Bill Reilly, who served under George H.W. Bush. “You go through these 
specific rules that have been proposed by the administration and an 
invariable characteristic of the defense of those rules is their 
reduction in cost.”

Sept 16 2020: endangered climate models

Wired published a fascinating and disturbing article on the state of climate models from the US Geological Survey. This is some heady stuff, but I urge you to read it. (See link.) What’s at risk if the current Administration prevails is limiting long-term climate models. Simply put (and it isn’t simple, let’s be clear about that), Trump’s appointee has been moving to short-term appraisals as they are more predictive. Rather than exploring many potential outcomes, the 2023 Fifth Assessment would look at near-term dangers. Sounds potentially ok. I mean what’s wrong with being more concrete? Well, the call to curb emissions is based on long-term projections. This is one very good reason to swab out this Administration. https://www.wired.com/story/the-trump-team-has-a-plan-to-not-fight-climate-change/

Sept 15 2020: Climate change accelerates wildfires and that we “know”

So convenient for the President to say science doesn’t know about global warming. We heard the twin engines of the right’s appraisal of wildfires; that science is full of theories (duh!) so doesn’t “know” and that the forests have been mismanaged, like an errant teenager who didn’t do a good enough job raking up the leaves in the yard on an October morning.

On the latter there is truth that our forests have not been managed well. That needs to be said, and is being said by the likes of the Washington Post. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/09/12/bad-forest-policies-political-indifference-kindled-oregons-wildfires/)

However, the scope of these fires is off the charts and that’s where our President is missing the moment.

Don’t you wish we had starting off this big discussion calling it global climate change instead of global warming. Not only do we have to contend with the natural ups and downs and unusual cold/icy events that seem to belie warming, but there is a popular idea among the climate contrarians that global dimming, simplistically due to pollution blocking the sun, is cooling the planet. Again, there is some truth to that, but as we clean up our atmosphere, the heating will accelerate. So, don’t let those dimmers dilute nor the mismanagers mangle the here and present danger of global climate change.

BTW, I rather like that Joe Biden called our President a “climate arsonist”. The description has the quality of a brutal blunt instrument, like a club, that some might better understand, while at the same time being eloquent. Throw “alarmist” at us and we are going to send over “arsonist” and maybe even “assassin,” too.