(de)regulation nation: Dem climate debate nixed

"Not building a wall but making a brick"

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This is London. Or rather, it was, earlier in the week:

When headlines combine the words “Trump” and “climate,” whatever follows will be at best embarrassing, and at worst enraging.

We got bit of both out of London this week, after President Trump met with Prince Charles, who’s long advocated for environmental conservation and climate action.

Asked about the sit-down by a TV interviewer, Trump praised Charles’ “passion for future generations,” but said the U.S. bears no special responsibility to ensure their welfare. The US has one of “the cleanest climates there are,” Trump stated, adding that while the weather was changing, “I think it changes both ways.”

Just to clean all that up:

  • The climate does not start or stop at the border of the United States.

  • The U.S. was the leading carbon polluter among nations for much of the 20th century, until China surpassed us in 2005.

  • We remain #2.

  • Historically, no country has pumped more CO2 pollution into the atmosphere than the U.S.

  • 97 out of 100 scientific experts worldwide concur that human activities have destabilized the climate, which globally is only going one way: hotter.

  • Barring as-yet-undeveloped technologies to reduce that CO2 overload (lately grouped under the sexy term “drawdown”), this problem is going to remain with us for centuries or millennia to come.

Upshot: The U.S. has a lot of responsibilities, now and to future generations, when it comes to the state of the climate, whether or not we ever own up to them as a nation.

Trump’s climate denial is so divorced from reality that it’s tempting to laugh it off. But apparently he’s sincere. In covering his administration’s latest attack on federal climate science (which I linked to Tuesday’s newsletter), reporters for The New York Times described Trump as “less an ideologue than an armchair naysayer about climate change, according to people who know him.”

As shrewd media manipulator, however, Trump seems to realize that news outlets can’t resist reporting and repeating his every word on the subject.

In doing that they transmit another message that he clearly does believe in, based on his record: As long as he’s president, it’ll remain a profitable business as usual for the fossil fuel industry and their allies.


bad: Democratic Party punts on a climate-focused presidential debate

  • According to Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington state and Democratic presidential hopeful, the Democratic National Committee has “officially refused” to include a climate change-focused debate in its debate schedule.

  • Several Democrats racing for the nomination, led by Inslee, had been lobbying the DNC for months to schedule such an event.

  • Inslee charged the DNC with “silencing the voices of Democratic activists, many of our progressive partner organizations, and nearly half of the Democratic presidential field, who want to debate the existential crisis of our time,” according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

  • The DNC utilized “the elliptical language of a gentle letdown,” according to the Seattle PI, stating that it wants “to make sure voters have the ability to hear from the candidates on dozens of issues of importance to American voters.”

  • The decision comes amid intra-part tensions between progressives and centrists, notably a recent move by establishment Democrats, as reported by HuffPost in May, to blacklist political consultants who work with Democratic challengers to Democrat-held seats.

  • That last describes then-candidate, now Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, who ousted a powerful House Democrat from office when she won her New York City district’s primary in 2018.

  • Earlier this year, Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) introduced their Green New Deal resolution, a set proposals for acting on climate change in time with mending related economic and racial injustices.

  • Despite being a mere non-binding resolution brought before a divided Congress, the GND has become a major talking point among those Democratic presidential hopefuls who “want to make 2020 the climate change election,” per BuzzFeed News.]

  • Grist wrote up Greenpeace’s climate scorecard on the candidates at the end of May.

  • Since then, as The New York Times reports, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former vice president Joe Biden, have both released big new proposals.

better: federal judges hear arguments in the kids’ climate lawsuit

  • After eight months of delay, a federal three-judge panel heard arguments in the Juliana v United States climate lawsuit this week.

  • The plaintiffs, 21 young people, first brought the suit during the Obama administration, saying they have a constitutional right to government protection from climate change and its affects on their future health, opportunities, and families.

  • They want the government to bar any new drilling for oil and gas, or mining for coal, while the case continues.

  • The Trump administration argued to have the case dismissed without going to trial, calling the notion of a constitutional right to a stable climate “misguided,” according to the writeup in The New York Times.

  • “The judges pressed the lawyers for both sides,” the Times reported, “seeming to suggest that the government’s arguments in favor of shutting down the case were too narrow and finding the plaintiffs’ legal theories too sweeping.”

  • “With the case back in court on Tuesday,” reports Inside Climate News, “some of the heaviest hitters in the public health arena — including 15 major health organizations and two former U.S. surgeons general — have been publicly backing [the plaintiffs] up.”

  • The case has the potential to set a powerful precedent in forcing the government to stop supporting fossil fuel extraction and use, and regulate heat-trapping greenhouse gas pollution.

  • “Many aspects of the Juliana suit, especially its central tenet that future generations have a constitutional right to a safe climate, are unprecedented,” reports Pacific Standard. “It’s all so new and wide-reaching that experts have expressed surprise that the case hasn’t yet been dismissed outright.”

good: east coast Republicans continue to break from White House on offshore drilling

  • A divide is growing between the Trump administration and some Republicans from coastal states over offshore drilling, reports the PBS climate news project Peril & Promise: The challenge of climate change.

  • “In the years since Deepwater Horizon, support for offshore drilling has declined” in states like Florida and Georgia, especially in communities where the tourism economy flatlined after that oil disaster.

  • In South Carolina, “lawmakers have made their stand against offshore drilling and seismic testing” via the state legislature, according to TV outlet WTOC, while both the governor and state attorney general have publicly rejected drilling.

  • The American Petroleum Institute, the oil and gas industry’s lead lobbyist, claims that offshore drilling would spur thousands of new jobs and billions in state revenue.

  • But “we already have a lot of money coming in to South Carolina because of tourism,” Robert Barber, owner of a coastal restaurant, told a reporter. “I don’t think it’s worth the gamble.”

  • In the wake of a recent federal court decision upholding two Obama-era bans on Atlantic and Arctic ocean offshore drilling, Interior chief David Bernhardt has sent mixed signals on whether he’ll proceed with the administration’s offshore drilling expansion, as covered in this Politico story.

also good

Coastal Review Online reports that many North Carolina politicians, including Republican Sen. Richard Burr, united in opposition to offshore drilling, during a coastal mayors’ roundtable in early May.

The Maine Senate this week overwhelmingly passed an offshore drilling ban, reports the trade publication Kallanish Energy. Gov. Janet Mills is expected to sign it soon.

great: accountability reporting on city climate promises

  • Dozens of cities across the country have passed new laws to combat climate change. But how do we know whether or not those new laws have an effect?

  • One way is for reporters to look into it, like NPR does in this feature story: “Cities Are Making Big Climate Promises. Keeping Them Can Be Tough.”

  • It’s a comprehensive look at Atlanta’s struggle to make good on its commitment to switch largely to renewable energy.

  • Atlanta’s path forward has been complicated by Georgia Power’s a monopoly on the energy supply. The utility is “regulated by statewide elected officials who are all Republicans, none of whom has emphasized climate change as a concern.”

  • Georgia Power, for its part, has been frank with city officials that while it has been decreasing use of coal in favor of cheaper natural gas, it looks more at costs than reducing carbon pollution when planning new generation infrastructure.

  • Reporting like this helps the public hold officials at all levels of government accountable.

  • Which is why the free press is protected by the First Amendment. Go Team 1A!

Also great

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has announced that landowners in the state’s farmland and open space conservation program can put commercial solar panels on their land, under certain conditions.

The change reverses a decision barring solar power in the program by her predecessor, Republican Rick Snyder, and “would allow solar energy development on up to 3.4 million acres of farmland,” reports Bridge/Michigan Environment Watch.

Thanks for reading (de)regulation nation, a production of Brooklyn Radio Telegraph LLC.

This newsletter is written by me, Emily J Gertz. I’m a veteran environmental journalist and a graduate of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism’s annual fellowship. You’ll find links to my past reporting and more biographical goodness at my website.

Please send tips and suggestions to: emily@deregnation.com

This week’s quote is from the Oblique Strategies by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt, via stoney.sb.org.

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