Category Archives: Climate activists

Green New Deal: Details, framework and growing support

Repost from The Intercept
[See also: Thompson Cosponsors Green New Deal and The Green New Deal – a primer.  – R.S.]

The Green New Deal Takes its First Congressional Baby Step, as Pelosi Mocks “Green Dream or Whatever”

By Kate Aronoff, February 7 2019, 10:03 a.m.
WASHINGTON, DC, UNITED STATES - 2018/12/10: Protesters seen holding placards during the Sunrise Movement protest inside the office of US Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to advocate that Democrats support the Green New Deal, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo by Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Sunrise Movement protesters advocate that Democrats support the Green New Deal inside the office of Rep. Nancy Pelosi in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 10, 2018. Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

THE FIRST HAND of the Green New Deal has been dealt. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., on Thursday unveiled a five-page, nonbinding resolution that frames a 10-year “national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization” to confront the climate crisis.

The plan envisions the creation of millions of “good, high-wage jobs” and will serve to “counteract systemic injustices.”

The resolution sets a framework for legislation to be hashed out over the next two years, and gives Ocasio-Cortez, Markey, and climate groups something to organize around.

Their goal is to meet 100 percent of the demand for power in the U.S. with “clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources,” in line with the scientific consensus on climate change, as well as to provide “all people of the United States” with clean air and water, “healthy and affordable food,” high-quality health care, “affordable, safe, and adequate housing,” and economic security.

As part and parcel of this transition, the resolution calls for a federal jobs guarantee, a massive infrastructure build-out, building efficiency upgrades and robust investment in public transit, to name just a few of the measures listed. It would ensure a dignified quality of life for workers and communities that rely on coal, oil, and natural gas jobs (“a fair and just transition”), and says that steps toward reaching zero-emissions — such as building new wind turbines — should not impose on indigenous peoples’ land rights or abuse the power of eminent domain. A full plan, the resolution states, will be developed “in transparent and inclusive consultation, collaboration, and partnership with frontline and vulnerable communities, labor unions, worker cooperatives, civil society groups, academia, and businesses.”

The resolution provides the most detail yet of what Ocasio-Cortez and company mean by a Green New Deal, but it does not map out precisely what a Green New Deal will entail. If the House had created a Select Committee on a Green New Deal, per Ocasio-Cortez’s original resolution, that would have been the two-yearlong mandate of a team of policymakers and experts. In laying the groundwork for an eventual legislative package, the document will create pressure on the select panel created by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in lieu of the one called for by Ocasio-Cortez. Dubbed the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, it will be chaired by Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla.

Pelosi on Thursday morning announced Ocasio-Cortez would not be on that select committee, though she was approached for a seat and declined to join. In a separate interview with Politico, Pelosi mocked the notion of a Green New Deal. “It will be one of several or maybe many suggestions that we receive,” she said. “The green dream or whatever they call it — nobody knows what it is but they’re for it right?”

Ocasio-Cortez, at a press conference unveiling the resolution, was asked repeatedly about Pelosi’s dig, but declined to hit back, saying that Pelosi has long been a climate champion and the term “dream” is a compliment, accurately capturing the scale of the vision, which she compared to the New Deal and Great Society.

A number of powerful Democrats were on hand for the resolution’s announcement, including the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, Ron Wyden of Oregon, whose committee has jurisdiction over swaths of a Green New Deal. He pledged to “throw the dirty energy tax relics of yesteryear into the garbage can.”

Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., was also there to show support. The Rules Committee controls what legislation hits the House floor.

Over the last few months, support for the Green New Deal has become a litmus test for 2020 Democratic hopefuls, and the resolution serves dual purposes: to unite lawmakers around the idea of a Green New Deal, and to offer a basic definition of what that means. For 2020 contenders who have conceptually supported the Green New Deal, the resolution makes clear that the phrase isn’t just a talking point, but connected to a specific set of policy priorities. Confirmed and rumored presidential hopefuls Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, and Bernie Sanders will be among the nine senators co-sponsoring the resolution. Sixty-four House Democrats will also be co-sponsoring the legislation, including Reps. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Joe Neguse, D-Colo.

“We’re going to be pressuring all of the 2020 contenders to back this resolution,” said Stephen O’Hanlon, a spokesperson for the Sunrise Movement, which helped launched the Green New Deal into the national spotlight with its sit-in at Pelosi’s office last November. “That’ll make it clear who’s using the Green New Deal as a buzzword and who’s actually serious about what it entails. For our generation, the difference between the Green New Deal as a buzzword and substantive policy is life and death.” Indeed, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned last year that if massive changes to limit global warming are not undertaken by 2030, the planet will face widespread, catastrophic changes.

On Tuesday, the Sunrise Movement hosted some 500 watch parties around the country for a livestream laying out its next steps to support the resolution. As of Wednesday, the group was in the process of organizing visits to 600 congressional offices nationwide, for constituents to demand that their representatives co-sponsor Ocasio-Cortez and Markey’s measure. Supported by Justice Democrats — the group that backed Ocasio-Cortez’s primary run — Sunrise will also be launching a 15-city campaign tour through early primary states.

THE RESOLUTION’S PREAMBLE lays out both the existential threat and expected cost in dollars and lives to the U.S. posed by climate change, as well as “several related crises” facing the United States, including “a 4-decade trend of wage stagnation, deindustrialization” and “a large racial wealth divide amounting to a difference of 20 times more wealth between the average white family and the average black family.”

Unlike the original resolution calling for a Select Committee on a Green New Deal — which called for 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 — this one calls for the U.S. to reach net-zero emissions by 2030. The difference is more than semantic, and energy wonks have hotly debated it since Ocasio-Cortez, Sunrise, and other groups began pushing the call for the latter in November. While full reliance on renewables would have all energy come from sources such as wind and solar, net-zero entails an openness to so-called negative emissions technologies, a suite of measures ranging from the experimental — like carbon capture and storage, machines to extract carbon from industrial processes and put it underground — to the conventional, like afforestation, or planting trees that suck up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The phrasing is also a recognition of the fact that certain “hard-to-abate” industries, including steel, transportation, and agriculture, are more difficult to decarbonize than others. Negative emissions are ubiquitous in pathways to capping warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius created by climate modelers and compiled in the IPCC’s report from last year on reaching that goal. While many negative emissions technologies remain unproven at scale, the resolution states that a Green New Deal will pursue negative emissions “through proven low-tech solutions that increase soil carbon storage, such as land preservation and afforestation.” The resolution further refers broadly to greenhouse gas emissions, not just carbon.

The sheer scale of investment laid out by the Green New Deal also makes it possible to imagine eliminating emissions from those hard-to-abate industries altogether, which the Energy Transitions Commission predicts would cost just 0.5 percent of global GDP by 2050.

Though carefully worded, net-zero by 2030 is a hugely ambitious target — although still the only one remotely consistent with something known as equity pathways pursuant to the amount of carbon the world can continue to emit under a “carbon budget.” That is, the world only has so much carbon left to burn before we cross a certain threshold of warming. The U.S. is what’s called a historical emitter, meaning that we’ve both spewed more greenhouse gasses into the air over time, and as a result have developed more economic capacity to mitigate and adapt to climate change. In equity pathways, historical emitters carry a responsibility to peak and drive down their emissions quicker than the rest of the world, effectively leaving room in the global carbon budget for countries that haven’t collected massive amounts of wealth off coal, oil, and natural gas room to develop — a process that, at least for now, means emitting more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. In the U.N. Framework Conventions on Climate Change, this is known as “common but differentiated responsibility,” although historical emitters — including the U.S. — have consistently tried to contest the meaning of that phrase.

“Global CO2 emissions need to go down about 10 percent per year to meet a 1.5 degree target,” said Peter Erickson, senior scientist at the Stockholm Environmental Institute. “If you take into account that the U.S. is more responsible than any other country for historic emissions, and also one of the wealthiest countries in the world, U.S. emissions need to go down even faster than that.”

The resolution also references the fact that the U.S. — because of its vast resources and contribution to the problem — has a role to play in speeding along the transition off fossil fuels for the rest of the world. Indeed, President Donald Trump bragged in his State of the Union address this week that the United States has become a net-exporter of oil and gas. Fossil fuel companies are continuing to explore for new reserves — mostly for export — in places like the Permian and Appalachian basins, which could have a catastrophic climate impact. Companies being able to exploit those reserves hinges on their ability to build new infrastructure like Liquid National Gas terminals that allow for exports and on continuing to receive generous subsidies. The resolution notes that any Green New Deal in the U.S. will promote “the international exchange of technology, expertise, products, funding, and services, with the aim of making the United States the international leader on climate action, and to help other countries achieve a Green New Deal.”

There’s room for interpretation as to what getting to net-zero could mean for a Green New Deal, and the resolution doesn’t reference any specific regulatory measures, like a ban on new oil and gas exploration or a renewable portfolio standard, a tool states like California have in order to bring down their emissions by requiring utilities to procure a certain amount of their power from renewable sources. Much of the action detailed in the resolution is focused on getting to net-zero by building up the country’s supply of renewable energy, with comparatively less focus on explicitly phasing out fossil fuels — a phrase that, to the chagrin of some environmental activists, does not appear in the resolution’s text.

“We already have an international climate agreement that fails to include the words ‘fossil fuels’; we can’t afford a Green New Deal that does the same,” Oil Change International’s David Turnbull wrote in a statement about the resolution Thursday morning, referencing the Paris Climate Agreement. While generally supportive of the resolution and its goals, Turnbull noted that “the science is clear: If the oil, gas, and coal in currently operating wells and mines is dug up and burned, we will blow well past our climate goals.” Erickson cautioned that any Green New Deal legislation that is eventually produced should seek to explicitly limit fossil fuel production and oversee a managed decline of the industry. “Even if the U.S. was successful at reducing its own emissions but still went on being a fossil fuel producer and exporter, that’s going to flood the global market with coal, oil, and gas. That’s going to undermine global targets and has real emissions consequences,” he said.

A list of frequently asked questions about the resolution provided by Ocasio-Cortez’s office clarified that it “calls for any infrastructure measures before Congress to address climate change and additionally calls for an end to the transfer of pollution overseas.” “This provision goes farther than just calling for a ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure,” the document says, instead tackling “all greenhouse gas emitting and pollution emitting sources in our economy and global trade.”

However the details of legislation eventually shake out, the Green New Deal represents a massive departure from the landmark bill Markey introduced back in 2009 with former Sen. Henry Waxman to create an elaborate cap-and-trade system. That bill passed the House but not the Senate, and the version that was voted on ended up making several compromises to accommodate Republicans and fossil fuel interest groups — including dramatic limitations on the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory authority. With the clock running out to rein in emissions, Green New Deal advocates are eager not to repeat history.

“There’s pieces of the GND that are yet to be defined, and they’ll be defined as the policy is developed,” O’Hanlon said. “The way that we’re ensuring that the legislation is as science and justice demand is by building a grassroots movement all across the country that can make sure that we’re holding all politicians’ feet to the fire.”

Update: February 7, 2019: This story has been updated to include reporting from the resolution’s unveiling outside the Capitol.

    These Teens Just Won a Victory Over the Trump Administration in Court

    Repost from Mother Jones
    [Editor: For more on this story, see Our Children’s Trust, and Climate Liability News.  – RS]

    The plaintiffs are arguing that the government’s actions have caused climate change which violates their constitutional rights.

    By Amy Thomson, Apr.  13, 2018 3:44 PM
    Eighteen of the 21 kids and young adults suing Trump, their lawyers, and supporters pose for a photo outside the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco. | Amy Thomson

    “We the people are ready to leave,” sang a small choir of climate activists in downtown San Francisco, “’cause the White House makin’ it hard to breathe.” 

    That was the rallying cry in support of the 21 plaintiffs, ages 22 and younger, who are suing the federal government for causing climate change damages and thereby violating their constitutional rights. Last year, on December 11, a crowd of around 100 people gathered across the street from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco where oral arguments were being heard as the government defendants tried to argue the case should not go to trial.

    But the court ruled in favor of the young plaintiffs last month, and on Thursday, a US magistrate judge set a trial date for October 29 in Eugene, Ore.   Continue reading These Teens Just Won a Victory Over the Trump Administration in Court

      GOP Establishment ties to the stalkers harassing Bill McKibben and Tom Steyer

      Repost from DeSmogBlog

      How America Rising Ties the GOP Establishment to the Stalkers Harassing Bill McKibben and Tom Steyer

      By Ben Jervey • Saturday, August 6, 2016 – 02:58

      For the past few months, when they dare venture out to the supermarket, to church, or to a climate rally, Bill McKibben, Tom Steyer, and other climate activists are being stalked by a team of GOP-trained camera operators. The so-called “trackers” with the cameras are working for a group called America Rising Squared (aka America Rising Advanced Research or AR2), and publishing the occasional “embarrassing” display of alleged hypocrisy on a website called CoreNews.org.

      DeSmog first covered this new “creepy” campaign back in May, and since then, the harrassment has only gotten worse, as Bill McKibben writes in Sunday’s New York Times. In his op-ed, “My Right Wing Stalkers” (the web headline is: “Embarrassing Photos of Me, Thanks to My Right-Wing Stalkers”), McKibben describes what it’s like to live under surveillance, and the psychological toll that it takes on him and his family. (One particularly infuriating detail: McKibben’s daughter believes that she, too, is being filmed in public.)

      McKibben writes:

      To be watched so much is a kind of never-ending nightmare. And sometimes it’s just infuriating. I skipped the funeral this summer of Patrick Sorrento, an important mentor to me at my college newspaper, because I didn’t want my minder to follow me and cause a distracting spectacle. When my daughter reports someone taking pictures of her at the airport, it drives me nuts. I have no idea if it’s actually this outfit; common decency would suggest otherwise, but that seems an increasingly rare commodity.

      Almost as startling as the tactics of the campaign is how closely it is tied to the mainstream Republican establishment. Core News (and by extension, America Rising Squared) might have the look and feel of a Right Wing lunatic fringe campaign funded by the darkest of oil and gas money. But in actuality it’s a foundational block of a prominent GOP opposition research firm, the heads of which have collectively spent decades working for big name Republicans like Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio, John McCain, and even the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Republican National Committee itself.

      Check out this network map (built on LittleSis) to see for yourself how Core News is directly tied to the Republican establishment’s leading opposition researchers. And for good measure, here is DeSmog’s profile of the entire America Rising family tree, with branches including America Rising LLC, America Rising PAC, America Rising Squared, Definers Public Affairs, and Core News.

      As you can see, the founders of America Rising are both longtime GOP establishment insiders. Matt Rhoades has worked on presidential campaigns going back to Bush-Cheney in 2004, and was Mitt Romney’s campaign director for his failed 2012 bid. Joe Pounder was Research Director for the Republican National Committee at the time, and it was out of the ashes of that campaign that the idea of America Rising was born.

      Brian Rogers, the Executive Director of America Rising Squared, was a longtime staffer with Senator John McCain and—oddly enough—briefly served as research director for Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection.

      Of the “trackers” campaign and Core News, Rogers has said his group will “hold Steyer and the Environmentalist Left accountable for their epic hypocrisy and extreme positions which threaten America’s future prosperity.” Though there’s no indication yet that Rogers’ trackers will be following his old boss, former Vice President Gore, around with cameras.

      Who is paying America Rising Squared to stalk McKibben, Steyer, and others?

      It’s hard to say, as donations to America Rising Squared needn’t be declared, as the entity is incorporated as a nonprofit 501(c)4. In fact, the various entities under the America Rising umbrella give the enterprise a flexible structure that can serve different purposes. The PAC can purchase research from the LLC and can sell or disseminate it to other organizations. The nonprofit AR2 doesn’t have to declare its donors. America Rising LLC is a business that can sell its services with no disclosures necessary.

      According to OpenSecrets.org, the Republican National Committee spent at least $183,900 on America Rising in the 2016 election cycle, with an additional $45,000 from the National Republican Congressional Committee. All told, America Rising had a budget of $8 million for the 2014 elections and is seeking to nearly double this.

      Again, for a whole lot more background on America Rising, including a list of known leadership and staff and reported funding, check out DeSmog’s profile of the entire America Rising enterprise.

      As Bill McKibben sums up in his op-ed, these stalkers aren’t fooling anyone, and the truth is that the entrenched special interests who hired them are the ones running scared:

      Merely having someone with a camera follow you somehow makes you feel as if you’re doing something wrong. My house is covered in solar panels, and I plug my car into a socket those panels power. But environmentalists also live in the world we’re trying to change: We take airplanes and rent buses for rallies; we make a living, shop for groceries. None of this should demand an apology. Changing the system, not perfecting our own lives, is the point. “Hypocrisy” is the price of admission in this battle.

      And despite what the industry and its advocates insist, that does not make us all equally responsible for the climate crisis.

      We’re fighting for policy changes that will make it possible for us to have better choices: utilities that offer us renewable options, electric trains that make short-haul flights obsolete, public transit. Exxon and its ilk have been fighting for decades to keep these choices out of our reach, and then claim that we are voting with our dollars every time we sit in traffic or heat our homes with fossil fuels supplied by a utility that has a monopoly. They can play gotcha as much as they want, but all it proves is how badly we need better options. And we are still going to fight like heck to make sure options are available to everyone.

      The fossil-fuel industry may threaten us as a planet, as a nation, and as individuals, but when we rise up together we’ve got a fighting chance against the powers that be.

      And perhaps that realization is just a little bit scary for them.