Category Archives: Climate Change

Trump White House: global catastrophe inevitable, we might as well pollute

Repost from The Rolling Stone
[Editor: thanks to Marilyn Bardet for alerting us to this deep and shocking analysis of Trump’s latest disaster.  – R.S.]

Why Aren’t We Talking More About Trump’s Nihilism?

The White House now says we might as well pollute because global catastrophe is inevitable

By MATT TAIBBI, OCTOBER 1, 2018 12:28PM ET

President Donald Trump pauses while speaking at a campaign rally at WesBanco Arena, in Wheeling, West Virginia. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP/Shutterstock

While America was consumed with the Brett Kavanaugh drama last week, the Washington Post unearthed a crazy tidbit in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) latest environmental impact statement.

The study predicts a rise in global temperatures of about four degrees Celsius, or seven degrees Fahrenheit, by the year 2100. Worse, it asserts global warming is such an inevitable reality, there’s no point in reducing auto emissions, as we’re screwed anyway.

“The emissions reductions necessary to keep global emissions within this carbon budget could not be achieved solely with drastic reductions in emissions from the U.S. passenger car and light truck vehicle fleet,” is how the report put it.

To make a real difference, it adds we’d have to “move away from the use of fossil fuels,” which is “not currently technologically feasible or economically practicable.”

There’s been just a flutter of media attention about this, mostly focusing on the hypocrisy. Trump, as is his wont, has at one point or another occupied basically every inch of territory on the spectrum of global warming opinions.

He went from urging President Obama to act to prevent “catastrophic and irreversible consequences… for our planet” (2009), to calling global warming a Chinese conspiracy (2012), to calling it an “expensive hoax” (2013), and “bullshit” (2014), to switching up again during the election to concede the existence of “naturally occurring” (i.e., not man-made) climate change.

Now comes this Linda Blair-style head turn. The NHTSA report deftly leaps past standard wing-nut climate denial and lands on a new nihilistic construct, in which action is useless precisely because climate change exists and is caused by fossil fuels.

The more you read of this impact statement, the weirder it seems. After the document lays out its argument for doing nothing, it runs a series of bar graphs comparing the impact of various action plans with scenarios in which the entire world did nothing (labeled the “no action” alternative).

These absurd illustrations make Thomas Friedman’s time-traveling efforts to graph the future seem like the work of a Nobel laureate.

“A textbook example of how to lie with statistics,” is how MIT professor John Sterman described it to the Post.

There’s obviously a danger at overinterpreting this paper, which mostly seems like a desperate bureaucratic attempt to square science with Trump’s determination to roll back environmental policies for his business pals.

But even as accidental symbolism, it’s powerful stuff. A policy that not only recognizes but embraces inevitable global catastrophe is the ultimate expression of Trump’s somehow under-reported nihilism.

While the press has focused in the past two years either on the president’s daily lunacies or his various scandals, the really dangerous work of Trump’s administration has gone on behind the scenes, in his systematic wreckage of the state.

Implicit in this campaign of bureaucratic dismantling has been the message that pandemonium is a price Trump is very willing to pay, in service of breaking the “disaster” of government. Many of his top appointees have been distinguished by their screw-it-all mentality.

Remember, he appointed Mick Mulvaney, a man who had once inspired a downgrade of America’s credit rating by threatening to default on the debt, to be his budget director.

He later put Mulvaney in charge of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where he fired his own 25-person advisory board — after requesting a budget of $0 and promising to fulfill the bureau’s mission “no further.”

Trump’s original EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, was best known for having used his time as Oklahoma’s attorney general to sue the EPA repeatedly and zero out the environmental-enforcement budget. Trump made a robotization enthusiast his choice for labor secretary, chose a hockey-team owner to run the Army (he withdrew, thankfully), and so on.

There are still hundreds of top federal jobs left unmanned, and some of the non-appointments seem like Nero-level acts of madness. Trump asked for 25 percent cuts to the whole State Department on the grounds that they were “prioritizing the efficient use of taxpayer resources.” But what country goes without ambassadors for years? Trump fired dozens upon inauguration and to this day still has 34 vacancies. We have no ambassador in South Africa, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, even Mexico. We’re a ghost state with nukes.

All of this is part and parcel of Trump’s doomsday message. He’s been a textbook example of Richard Hofstadter’s famed theory of paranoid politics. See if any of this (especially the line about “barricades”) sounds familiar:

The paranoid spokesman sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms — he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization… Like religious millennialists, he expresses the anxiety of those who are living through the last days…

From Day One of Trump’s campaign, pundits have reached for traditional political explanations to describe both his behavior and his appeal. Because we’re trained to talk in terms of left and right, progress and reaction, we tried to understand him in those terms.

But Trump sold something more primal. His core message was relentless, hounding negativity, lambasting audiences with images of death and disaster.

His first campaign speech was basically a non-denominational end-times sermon, in which America was either kaput or close to it, surrounded on all sides by bloodthirsty enemies. “They kill us,” he preached. “They beat us all the time… We have nothing…”

He ranted about a system befouled by false prophets. “Politicians are all talk, no action,” he howled. “They will not bring us— believe me — to the promised land.”

The “What have you got to lose?” line he pulled out later was supposedly just a pitch to African-American voters, but all of Trump’s audiences picked up on the “it just doesn’t matter” theme. (If you want to be wigged out, check out the similarities between Trump speeches and the famed Bill Murray speech from Meatballs. Just substitute “China” for “Mohawk.”)

Obese and rotting, close enough to the physical end himself (and long ago spiritually dead), Trump essentially told his frustrated, pessimistic crowds that America was doomed anyway, so we might as well stop worrying and floor it to the end.

If that meant a trade war, environmental catastrophe, broken alliances, so be it. “Let’s just get this shit over with,” is how Trump’s unofficial campaign slogan was described in the show Horace and Pete, one of the few outlets to pick up on Trump’s Freudian death-wish rhetoric.

Trump made lots of loony promises to bring us back to the joyous Fifties (literally to Happy Days, if you go by his choice of Scott Baio as a convention speaker). But even his audiences didn’t seem to believe this fable.

The more credible promise of his campaign was a teardown of the international order, which he’s actually begun as president. Trade deals, environmental accords, the EU, NATO, he’s undercut all of them, while ripping government in half like a phone book.

He keeps inviting destruction like it’s a desirable outcome. He even pushed through legislation for “low-yield” nuclear weapons, whose only purpose is to be more theoretically usable than the other kind (although he’s wrong about this, too).

His fans even cheered when he played nuclear chicken with Kim Jong-un, tweeting that his “nuclear button” was “bigger & more powerful” than Kim’s (and “my Button works!”).

It’s easy to understand the nationalist sentiment behind reversing trade deals or backing Brexit. But what’s the populist angle on burning the planet, or nuclear war? How does hating elites explain cheering a guy on for turning nuclear diplomacy into a penis-measuring contest?

On a policy level, this apocalypse politics is pure corporate cynicism, with Trump’s big-business buddies showing a willingness to kill us all for a few dollars now.

The broader electoral pitch is just an evil version of every nuclear-age dance tune ever, “99 Luftballoons” or “1999.” The world is ending, so fuck it, let’s party. As crazy as it is, it’s a seductive message for a country steeped in hate and pessimism. Democrats still don’t understand it. Trump’s turning America into a death cult, with us as involuntary members.

    Climate Action March in San Francisco, Sat. Sept. 8

    Repost from Natural Resources Defense Council – Expert Blog

    Marching for Climate Action Momentum

    Sept. 7, 2018, Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, NRDC Chief Program Officer 
    Keystone XL climate action rally that took place after Trump announced he would be approving the pipelineNRDC/Maria Martinez

    Globally, the public sense of urgency to tackle climate change is strong. We are increasingly overwhelmed by evidence of climate change already happening. The health impacts of air pollution, the rising and warming of our oceans, and damage to our forests, communities and homes paint a bleak picture of what the future will be if we do not shift from our dependence on fossil fuels to a clean energy economy.

    It is often our most vulnerable communities and populations that suffer from these impacts of climate change and fossil fuel dependence. We are already seeing the economic benefits of shifting to clean energy and there is more that we can do to help this shift along and to ensure that no community is left behind.

    This is why on September 8, I’ll be joining the Rise for Climate, Jobs and Justice march in San Francisco. We will show the strong support for bold action from world leaders gathering for the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco September 12 – 14, 2018. The Summit is meant to show how the global community is stepping up action in the fight against dangerous climate change.

    As countries the world over look to further strengthen their commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement by 2020, the summit has the potential to mark a critical turning point. Those who still deny climate change will be held accountable for the damage that today’s climate pollution is already causing. They will be held accountable for their lack of leadership to put the needed clean energy solutions in place.

    In most of the world, the public debate over climate change is not about the reality or urgency but about political commitment to the solutions.

    However, the United States lags behind and climate change is highly politicized as a proxy for the question of whom to trust. More than a year ago, President Trump announced plans to withdraw U.S. participation from the Paris climate agreement and thereby abandon global leadership on the environmental challenge of our time. He also has moved to undermine four major climate change fighting initiatives through gutting the Clean Power Plan, rolling back clean car and fuel efficiency standards, delaying methane control on existing oil and gas wells and blocking the super climate change pollutant HFC controls.

    American federal government action is critical to meeting our domestic global carbon pollution reduction goals and to encouraging climate action progress internationally. Yet, with the U.S. federal government not only sitting this one out, but actively working to reverse progress on climate solutions, we must get as far as we can as fast as we can in the meantime while setting up the framework for when the U.S. again becomes a climate leader in the future.

    It is both necessary and possible for countries around the world to strengthen their commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement as we work to hold down the rising global temperature. The summit will highlight the positive action that is already underway to combat climate change and put clean energy solutions in. Regional, state and local governments, communities, investors and businesses from around the world: that is where we see real reductions in climate pollution and innovative clean energy solutions emerging.

    The Paris climate agreement was an important step toward curbing climate change, but the world needs to go further faster if we are to keep our world habitable in the face of climate change.

    On Saturday, we will march to remind our leaders that we have their backs. Tackling climate change is a matter of survival. It is what is right: environmentally, ethically and economically. The march for climate, jobs and justice is a chance to remind ourselves about how critical it is to honor the connections between our natural world and the well-being of our communities and families. It is a chance to demand climate action.

      If California is so climate friendly, why are Bay Area air regulators allowing increased tar sands oil refining (and offshore drilling)?

      Repost from Red Green and Blue

      If California is so climate friendly, why are they upping tar sands oil refining (and offshore drilling)?

      By Dan Bacher, September 4, 2018

      As thousands get ready to march in the Rise for Climate Day of Action in San Francisco September 8 and the city gears up to host the Governor Jerry Brown co-sponsored Global Climate Action Summit next week, area climate and environmental justice advocates say local air regulators mandated to protect air quality and the climate are taking significant steps to allow increased tar sands refining and creeping refinery emissions in the Bay Area.

      No Fossil Fuels for California
      (Photo by Peg Hunter)

      Major public protest is expected tomorrow, September 5,  at the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) Board of Directors meeting at 9:30 a.m. at the agency’s headquarters at 375 Beal St., San Francisco.

      The event will preceded at 8 a.m. by an Idle No More SF Bay-led prayer circle and teach-in outside BAAQMD headquarters, according to a press release from the Communities for a Better Environment, 350 Bay Area and the Sunflower Alliance.

      The local climate and environmental justice advocates say they plan to “sound the alarm about the widening gap between lofty California climate goals and the reality on the ground here in the Bay Area and other refining centers in the state.”

      A recent public records request reveals that BAAQMD staff issued an administrative permit on August 16, 2018 to increase production capacity at the Phillips 66 refinery by 61.3 million gallons per year.

      “This permit allows for increased heavy oil processing, or hydrocracking, at the Rodeo facility, and will enable the refiner to process the increased amounts of Canadian tar sands oil it proposes to bring in across San Francisco Bay via nearly tripled oil tanker traffic in a wharf expansion project,” the groups said. “ This small but highly significant step actually allows Phillips 66 to begin implementing its goal of switching its San Francisco Refinery over to tar sands.”

      “The Rodeo refinery is connected to its sister refinery in Santa Maria by pipeline; together they make up the larger San Francisco Refinery.  Two years ago, multi-community protest shut down a Phillips 66 proposal to increase tar sands deliveries by oil train to the Santa Maria facility,” the groups said.

      “The company is trying to sneak its expansion past regulators and the public by pretending each little increase is unconnected, but we aren’t fooled,” said Sejal Choksi-Chugh, Executive Director of San Francisco Baykeeper regarding the permit:

      The groups said the permit was issued without any public review or notice while Chief Air Pollution Control Officer Jack Broadbent was meeting with First Nations representatives and touring tar sands mining sites in Alberta, Canada.

      “The fact-finding tour, which included several BAAQMD board members, took place at the urgent request of members of Idle No More SF Bay, who urged local regulators to connect the dots between the destructive impacts of Canadian tar sands mining on carbon-sequestering boreal forest and First Nations peoples, soaring greenhouse gas emissions and local Bay Area air quality and public health,” they said.

      Pennie Opal Plant of Idle No More SF Bay said, “It is wildly irresponsible for Phillips 66 to add to the problems that are causing sick refinery communities and the climate disruption impacting us in California and around the world.  Phillips’ expansion proposal must be stopped and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District is the agency to stop it.”

      Jed Holtzman of 350 Bay Area stated: “BAAQMD has committed to a vision of a fossil-free Bay Area in 2050, starting now with steep reductions of the pollution that causes premature death in our communities and destroys the stable climate.  Yet its action to allow Phillips 66 to expand its refinery infrastructure ensures more local air pollution and more greenhouse gas emissions. Air District permits must be aligned with agency goals.”

      Area climate and environmental justice advocates said news of the secret permit was distressing to many of them.

      “This type of rubber-stamping of refinery permits demonstrates how BAAQMD serves at the pleasure of the fossil fuel industry, not the citizens who live in the Bay Area,” said refinery neighbor Nancy Rieser of C.R.U.D.E., Crockett-Rodeo United in Defense of the Environment.

      Ironically, the permit was issued nearly five years to the day after the Air District board passed a resolution condemning the KXL pipeline, noted Rieser.

      That resolution warned against the more intensive processing required by tar sands oil, which causes enormous quantities of toxic, criteria and greenhouse gas pollutants to spew from refinery smokestacks.  As the 2013 resolution made clear, “any increase” of these pollutants will cause negative impacts on the health of local residents.

      ”Tar sands bitumen is the most carbon-intensive, hazardous and polluting major oil resource on the planet to extract, transport, and refine. Despite this, the Air District staff is intentionally bypassing California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review and refusing to evaluate the climate impacts of its permit, which opens the gates to increased tar sands refining,” the groups said.

      “Staff argues that it must bypass CEQA, one of California’s greatest environmental protections, because the revised cap-and-trade program (AB 398) that Governor Brown so aggressively pushed for last summer has withdrawn the authority of all regional Air Districts to directly regulate refinery-emitted greenhouse gases.   California’s carbon pollution-trading program is now BAAQMD’s chief alibi for eliminating public and board review, and for refusing to protect the climate from oil pollution,” the groups said.

      Activists said they are also alarmed by the “gutting and indefinite postponement of a long-awaited particular-matter reduction regulation impacting the Chevron, Marathon (formerly Tesoro) and Shell refineries.”

      A letter submitted to the Air District by 25 environmental justice organizations on August 16 points to yet another “secret agreement”—this one signed with the oil industry by the District’s Chief Air Pollution Control Officer. The agreement commits the Air District to propose and advocate for weakened emissions limits.

      ”As the Global Climate Action Summit rapidly approaches, our air quality regulators and designated climate protectors need to stop coddling the oil industry and start demonstrating real accountability to the public. People’s lives depend on it,” the groups concluded.

      Read the Demand Letter to BAAQMD for Refinery PM Clean-Up at www.CBECAL.org.

      While California is often lauded as a “climate leader” and Governor Jerry Brown is praised as a “climate hero” in national and international idea, the reality is much different, as we can see in the  widening gap between lofty California climate goals and the reality on the ground in the Bay Area and other refining centers in the state.

      The reality is that Big Oil is the largest and most powerful lobby and the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) is the largest and most powerful lobbying organization. As a result of the enormous political influence of WSPA and the oil industry on the Brown administration and the Legislature, Governor Brown’s oil and gas regulators have approved over 21,000 new oil and gas permits in the past seven years — and Brown controls 4 times the number of offshore wells that Donald Trump does.

      WSPA and Big Oil wield their power in 6 major ways: through (1) lobbying; (2) campaign spending; (3) serving on and putting shills on regulatory panels; (4) creating Astroturf groups: (5) working in collaboration with media; and (6) contributing to non profit organizations.

      This article on Big Oil Regulatory Capture is a must-read for everybody going to the BAAQMD meeting tomorrow, the Rise for Climate March on September 8, and the many other climate events planned for the coming week: Before the Rise for Climate March Sept. 8, read this: Big oil’s grip on California.