(de)regulation nation: self-delusion on national security

"If something is fundamentally amiss with American democracy, it is hiding in plain sight."

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bad: the White House chooses climate denial over national security

  • Reporting on federal climate denial and delay during the (George W.) Bush administration, a journalist muttered to herself from time to time,“You can’t argue with physics.”

  • Fast forward a dozen years and hooooo-mama: Was I naive or what?

  • Because last week, as first reported by the Washington Post, a physicist working for the White House tried to cut all the factual climate science out of a State Department intelligence expert’s formal testimony to Congress on how climate change could could be “possibly catastrophic” to U.S. national security.

  • When the State Dept. refused to change its staffer’s testimony, the White House still let him talk to Congress, but barred him from submitting the written statement for entry into the Congressional Record for the hearing.

  • “I have never heard of basic facts being deleted from or blocked from testimony,” conservative policy scholar Norman Ornstein told The New York Times.

  • Almost every page of the written testimony’s scientific section, according to The Times, was marked up with negative comments by physicist William Happer, a National Security Council appointee.

  • Happer for years led the Marshall Institute, a conservative think tank that has received substantial funding from a charitable giving arm of Exxon.

  • In a 2014 media appearance, Happer denied that he was a climate change denier, but also told CNBC’s Squawk Box that “the demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler. Carbon dioxide is actually a benefit to the world and so were the Jews.”

  • According to a recent story on Climatewire, Happer in late May met with President Trump to brief him on a White House initiative to “highlight uncertainties in climate research and downplay the threat of global warming to national security.”

Pygmy rabbit! Image: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

better: endangered pygmy rabbits are making a comeback in Washington state

  • The pygmy rabbit, North America’s smallest lagomorph, has bounced back from near-extinction in the late 1990s, reports High Country News.

  • Listed as endangered by both state and federal law, the grapefruit-sized rabbit species has gotten a vital assist from biologists for nearly two decades.

  • They’ve grown the rabbit’s population from just 16 animals in 2001, to hundreds today, occupying semi-wild enclosures in their native sagebrush habitat of eastern Washington’s Columbia Basin.

  • The challenge now is for humans to give pygmy rabbits the interconnected wild spaces they need to thrive.

  • That means de-fragmenting habitat cut into pieces by roads, farm fields, and houses, as well as better managing the region’s high fire risks.

  • “When I get asked — ‘Why do we need pygmy rabbits?’ — I don’t always have the best answer,” wildlife biologist Jon Gallie, a Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife endangered species expert, told a reporter. “You either value biodiversity or you don’t, and if you don’t, there’s pretty much nothing I can say that’s going to make you go, ‘Oh, now I agree.’ ”

good: a Trump appointee bucks the administration’s policy of climate denial

  • One member of a powerful federal financial commission is setting himself up for a head-to-head confrontation with the Trump administration over climate change.

  • Rostin Behnam, a Trump appointee to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, told a New York Times reporter on Monday that “it’s abundantly clear that climate change poses financial risk to the stability of the financial system.”

  • Benham is kicking off an investigation by the commission on how growing climate instability may harm different sectors of the U.S. economy, including agriculture, the mortgage and insurance industries, and more.

  • The report will probably be ready just as Trump hits the 2020 campaign trail in farm country.

  • Benham’s seat on the commission must by law be given to a Democrat, an “unusual status [that gives] him a measure of political protection” from reprisal by Trump or his other appointees. He thinks.

also good

The Wall Street Journal reports that “a small but growing number of Republican lawmakers are urging action on climate change, driven by shifting sentiment among GOP voters and the effects of global warming, from stronger hurricanes to more-destructive wildfires.”

According to the Journal, longtime Republican pollster Frank Luntz (author of a now-infamous memo on how to confuse and divide voters about climate change) has warned Republicans that their obstruction and anti-science rhetoric are driving away voters, particularly younger conservatives.

great: flood survivors want answers for unnatural disasters

  • After her hometown flooded for the fourth time in three years, killing some of her neighbors, Missourian Susan Liley got mad.

  • Liley and other De Soto residents founded the Citizen’s Committee for Flood Relief in 2015 with two initial goals, as Ensia, the solutions-focused digital magazine, reports: “figure out some kind of early warning system” and “understand the root causes of repeated flooding and address them”

  • Now they’re networking with dozens of other flood survivors’ groups to strategize, connect with scientific assistance, and petition elected officials for answers to why this is happening, along with funding and action to slash future flood risks.

  • Human-caused climate change is driving rainfall and sea level changes, which are contributing to the growing number of disastrous flood events across the country.

  • But lax zoning and construction rules also contribute by allowing overdevelopment on floodplains, which puts more people in the way of these more frequent and destructive floods.

  • “Questions of fairness are increasingly on flood survivors’ minds,” notes Ensia. “A substantial body of research (highlighted in a recent exposé by NPR) shows that federal aid actually leaves wealthy, white communities better off after natural disasters — while the reverse is true for low-income communities of color.”

  • Another new Ensia piece explores the promise and challenges of moving urban floodwaters underground to better cope with increased flooding, and recharge aquifers at the same time.

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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 annual fellowship. There’s more information about me, and links to my reporting for HuffPost, Audubon, and many other outlets, on my website.

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

This week’s quote is by David Runciman, from his new book, “How Democracy Ends.”