Archives for category: Environment

After four years of science-denial, Biden is introducing a new era. Science and facts are in again. Truth matters. No alternative facts. Ignorance and stupidity are no longer honored or tolerable.

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. said on Saturday that he was “always going to lead with science and truth” as he announced top science and technology officials on his White House staff, reaffirming trust in the kind of expert research that the Trump administration often ignored or disdained.

Extolling what he called “some of the most brilliant minds in the world,” Mr. Biden said his new team’s mission would be to ask: “How can we make the impossible possible?” He vowed to elevate scientific research and thinking on topics like the coronavirus, cancer research, climate change, clean-energy jobs, artificial intelligence, 3-D printing and other fast-advancing technologies.

The appointees included Eric S. Lander, whom Mr. Biden will nominate to be director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, a position that will for the first time hold cabinet rank.

President Trump left the position of science adviser unfilled for 18 months and his administration routinely ignored the guidance of government scientists on issues ranging from the coronavirus pandemic to climate change.

Without specifically mentioning Mr. Trump, Mr. Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris drew an implicit contrast with his administration’s dismissive attitude toward expert opinion.

“The science behind climate change is not a hoax,” Ms. Harris said during the introductions, held at the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Del. “The science behind the virus is not a lie.”

Dr. Lander, who will also serve as presidential science adviser, was a leader of the Human Genome Project. As Dr. Lander’s deputy in the science and technology office, Alondra Nelson, whom was also named by Mr. Biden, is a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, who has studied the intersection of science with social inequality and race.

Mr. Biden also named two co-chairs of the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology: Frances H. Arnold, the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and Maria Zuber, a geophysics and planetary science expert and the first woman to lead a NASA spacecraft mission.

Mr. Biden also said that Dr. Francis S. Collins would remain as the director of the National Institutes of Health.

Prosecutors charged former Governor Rick Snyder for “willful neglect of duty” for his role in the Flint water crisis, which led to death and poisoning of that city’s population after a Snyder-appointed emergency manager tried to save money by switching the source of the city’s water to the Flint River.

The charges, revealed in an online court record, are misdemeanors punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

The charges are groundbreaking: No governor or former governor in Michigan’s 184-year history had been charged with crimes related to their time in that office, according to the state archivist….

The alleged offense date is April 25, 2014, when a Snyder-appointed emergency manager who was running the struggling, majority Black city carried out a money-saving decision to use the Flint River for water while a regional pipeline from Lake Huron was under construction.

The corrosive water, however, was not treated properly and released lead from old plumbing into homes in one of the worst manmade environmental disasters in U.S. history.

Despite desperate pleas from residents holding jugs of discolored, skunky water, the Snyder administration took no significant action until a doctor reported elevated lead levels in children about 18 months later….

Authorities counted at least 90 cases of Legionnaires’ disease in Genesee County, including 12 deaths. Some experts found there was not enough chlorine in the water-treatment system to control legionella bacteria, which can trigger a severe form of pneumonia when spread through misting and cooling systems.

The disaster made Flint a national symbol of government dereliction, with residents forced to line up for bottled water and parents fearing their children had suffered permanent harm. Lead can damage the brain and nervous system and cause learning and behavior problems. The crisis was highlighted as an example of environmental injustice and racism.

This article in the Irish Times by Fintan O’Toole is one of the best analyses of the reign of Mad King Donald that I have read.

His hairstyle has been toned down. His demeanour – malign, self-obsessed, reckless of truth and decency, revelling in the harm he has done and can still do to the norms and institutions of democracy – has not. 

This continuity is ominous. Trump was able to upend American politics before he was in office. There is every reason to think he will still be able to do so after he is replaced by Joe Biden on January 20th.

It is useful to go back to the period in 2016 when Trump was where his successor is now: the victor in the election but still not president. For it was in this interregnum that Trump took a single action that was scarcely noticed at the time but that, more than any other, defined his presidency.

That action had both the political destructiveness and the personal brutality that would become familiar as the primary weapons in Trump’s armoury. It consisted merely in ordering a load of ring-binders full of carefully compiled documents to be dumped. 

It was the day after Trump’s victory party, held of course in the garish Trump Tower in Manhattan. Chris Christie, who was still governor of New Jersey, a successful Republican in a heavily Democratic state, was the man with the 30 bulging binders.

In them was the transition plan, the crucial details of how a Trump administration was going to work, including shortlists of pre-vetted candidates for all the top jobs in the administration, as well as timetables for action on key policies and the drafts of the necessary executive orders.

It had taken a team of 140 people assembled under Christie’s chairmanship nearly six months to create the plan. 

Fired with immediate effect

When Christie arrived at Trump Tower, he was met by Trump’s then consigliere, Steve Bannon. Bannon told Christie that he was being fired with immediate effect “and we do not want you to be in the building anymore”. His painstaking work was literally trashed: “All thirty binders”, as Christie recalled in a self-pitying memoir, “were tossed in a Trump Tower dumpster, never to be seen again”.

With Trump, the personal and political could never be separated and both were equally at work here. The personal was silverback gorilla stuff, humiliating Christie was a sadistic pleasure and a declaration to established Republicans that Trump was the boss of them all now.

The political message was one that took longer to sink in. A transition plan implied some kind of basic institutional continuity, some respect for the norms of governance.

At the beginning, as at the end, the idea of an orderly transition of power was anathema to Trump.

Why? Because a timetable for action and a commitment to appoint, to the thousands of positions filled by the incoming president, people with expertise and experience, would constrain him. He was not going to be constrained.

Too many people did not get this. It is hard, after such a relentless barrage of outrage and weirdness over the last four years, to remember what the broad consensus about Trump was at the beginning of 2016.

It was that he wouldn’t be nearly as bad as he looked. To adapt the old saw about campaigning in poetry but governing in prose, he had campaigned in Gothic horror but he would surely govern in the realistic novel…

At worst, Trump would do nothing. He’d sit around eating cheeseburgers and making calls to Fox News, while the serious people got on with serious things.

All of this was to grossly underestimate Trump. He may have done plenty of the cheeseburgers and Fox News stuff. But he also kept his eye on the great strategic prize: the creation in the US of a vast and impassioned base for anti-democratic politics.

The big question to be answered about Trump is why he did not do two things that might have seemed obvious: infrastructure and war.

One of the things that was genuinely appealing about Trump in 2015 was that he said something that everyone knows but that American politicians avoid acknowledging because it is too downbeat.

This truth is that the infrastructure of the richest country in the world – the roads, railways, bridges, dams, tunnels – is woefully substandard. Trump said this and promised to fix it. Polls showed that two-thirds of voters approved.

Did not start a war

But he didn’t fix it. He presented a plan in 2018 for a relatively tiny $200 billion investment (supposedly to be supplemented by $1.5 trillion of private money). It went essentially nowhere.

The other thing he didn’t do is war. For all his belligerence and violently nationalist and xenophobic rhetoric, Trump didn’t start a new war or escalate an existing one, which makes him unusual among modern presidents.

Arguably, these two things – building infrastructure and starting a military conflict – might just have got Trump re-elected. So why did he not do either of them?

His personal laziness is certainly one explanation: galvanising and directing such huge efforts is hard work.

But there is a deeper reason. Great building projects and military engagements validate the idea of government itself. Trump’s overwhelming instinct was to destroy that idea.

It is not just that Trump really was not interested in governing. It is that he was deeply interested in misgovernment.

He left important leadership positions in government departments unfilled on a permanent basis, or filled them with scandalously unqualified cronies. He appointed people to head agencies to which they had been publicly hostile.

Beneath the psychodrama of Trump’s hourly outbursts, there was a duller but often more meaningful agenda: taking a blowtorch to regulation, especially, but by no means exclusively, in relation to the environment.

This right-wing anarchism extended, of course, to global governance: the trashing of international agreements, withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, sucking up to the leaders of mafia states, and open contempt for female leaders like Angela Merkel and Theresa May. 

With this discrediting of democratic governance, it is not just that we cannot disentangle the personal motives from the political ones. It is that the replacement of political institutions by personal rule was precisely the point.

Trump’s aim, in the presidency as in his previous life, was always simple: to be able to do whatever the hell he wanted. That required the transformation of elective office into the relationship of a capricious ruler to his sycophantic courtiers.

In this nexus, the madder the better. Power is proven, not when the sycophants have to obey reasonable commands, but when they have to follow and justify the craziest orders.

Wild swings of position

There is no fun in getting your minions to agree that black is black. The sadist’s pleasure lies in getting them to attest that black is white. The “alternative facts” that Trump’s enabler Kellyanne Conway laid down at the very beginning of his administration are not just about permission to lie. They’re about the erotic gratification of making other people lie absurdly, foolishly, repeatedly…

This is his legacy: he has successfully led a vast number of voters along the path from hatred of government to contempt for rational deliberation to the inevitable endpoint: disdain for the electoral process itself.

In this end is his new beginning. Stripped of direct power, he will face enormous legal and financial jeopardy. He will have every reason to keep drawing on his greatest asset: his ability to unleash the demons that have always haunted the American experiment – racism, nativism, fear of “the government”.

Trump has unfinished business. A republic he wants to destroy still stands. It is, for him, not goodbye but hasta la vista. Instead of waving him off, those who want to rebuild American democracy will have to put a stake through his heart.

Al Gore writes in this article in the New York Times about his reasons to feel hopeful. The United States again has a leader who understands the seriousness of the climate crisis and is prepared to take action, first of all by rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, which Trump abandoned. As you read this thoughtful article, you can only dream of what we lost as a nation because of 537 votes in Florida in the year 2000. As in 2016, Vice-President Gore won the popular vote but lost in the electoral college, that wicked antique, and those 537 votes in Florida sealed his fate–and ours.

This weekend marks two anniversaries that, for me, point a way forward through the accumulated wreckage of the past year.

The first is personal. Twenty years ago, I ended my presidential campaign after the Supreme Court abruptly decided the 2000 election. As the incumbent vice president, my duty then turned to presiding over the tallying of Electoral College votes in Congress to elect my opponent. This process will unfold again on Monday as the college’s electors ratify America’s choice of Joe Biden as the next president, ending a long and fraught campaign and reaffirming the continuity of our democracy.

The second anniversary is universal and hopeful. This weekend also marks the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Paris Agreement. One of President Trump’s first orders of business nearly four years ago was to pull the United States out of the accord, signed by 194 other nations to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases threatening the planet. With Mr. Trump heading for the exit, President-elect Biden plans to rejoin the agreement on his Inauguration Day, Jan. 20.

Mr. Biden’s challenges will be monumental. Most immediately, he assumes office in the midst of the chaos from the colossal failure to respond effectively to the coronavirus pandemic and the economic devastation that has resulted.

And though the pandemic fills our field of vision at the moment, it is only the most urgent of the multiple crises facing the country and planet, including 40 years of economic stagnation for middle-income families; hyper-inequality of incomes and wealth, with high levels of poverty; horrific structural racism; toxic partisanship; the impending collapse of nuclear arms control agreements; an epistemological crisis undermining the authority of knowledge; recklessly unprincipled behavior by social media companies; and, most dangerous of all, the climate crisis.

What lies before us is the opportunity to build a more just and equitable way of life for all humankind. This potential new beginning comes at a rare moment when it may be possible to break the stranglehold of the past over the future, when the trajectory of history might be altered by what we choose to do with a new vision.

With the coronavirus death toll rising rapidly, the battle against the pandemic is desperate, but it will be won. Yet we will still be in the midst of an even more life-threatening battle — to protect the Earth’s climate balance — with consequences measured not only in months and years, but also in centuries and millenniums. Winning will require us to re-establish our compact with nature and our place within the planet’s ecological systems, for the sake not only of civilization’s survival but also of the preservation of the rich web of biodiversity on which human life depends.

The daunting prospect of successfully confronting such large challenges at a time after bitter divisions were exposed and weaponized in the presidential campaign has caused many people to despair. Yet these problems, however profound, are all solvable.

Look at the pandemic. Despite the policy failures and human tragedies, at least one success now burns bright: Scientists have harnessed incredible breakthroughs in biotechnology to produce several vaccines in record time. With medical trials demonstrating their safety and efficacy, these new vaccines prefigure an end to the pandemic in the new year. This triumph alone should put an end to the concerted challenges to facts and science that have threatened to undermine reason as the basis for decision-making.

Similarly, even as the climate crisis rapidly worsens, scientists, engineers and business leaders are making use of stunning advances in technology to end the world’s dependence on fossil fuels far sooner than was hoped possible.

Mr. Biden will take office at a time when humankind faces the choice of life over death. Two years ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned of severe consequences — coastal inundations and worsening droughts, among other catastrophes — if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.

Slowing the rapid warming of the planet will require a unified global effort. Mr. Biden can lead by strengthening the country’s commitment to reduce emissions under the Paris Agreement — something the country is poised to do thanks to the work of cities, states, businesses and investors, which have continued to make progress despite resistance from the Trump administration.

Solar energy is one example. The cost of solar panels has fallen 89 percent in the past decade, and the cost of wind turbines has dropped 59 percent. The International Energy Agency projects that 90 percent of all new electricity capacity worldwide in 2020 will be from clean energy — up from 80 percent in 2019, when total global investment in wind and solar was already more than three times as large as investments in gas and coal.

Over the next five years, the I.E.A. projects that clean energy will constitute 95 percent of all new power generation globally. The agency recently called solar power “the new king” in global energy markets and “the cheapest source of electricity in history.”

As renewable energy costs continue to drop, many utilities are speeding up the retirement of existing fossil fuel plants well before their projected lifetimes expire and replacing them with solar and wind, plus batteries. In a study this summer, the Rocky Mountain Institute, the Carbon Tracker Initiative and the Sierra Club reported that clean energy is now cheaper than 79 percent of U.S. coal plants and 39 percent of coal plants in the rest of the world — a number projected to increase rapidly. Other analyses show that clean energy combined with batteries is already cheaper than most new natural gas plants.

As a former oil minister in Saudi Arabia put it 20 years ago, “the Stone Age came to an end, not because we had a lack of stones, and the oil age will come to an end not because we have a lack of oil.” Many global investors have reached the same conclusion and are beginning to shift capital away from climate-destroying businesses to sustainable solutions. The pressure is no longer coming from only a small group of pioneers, endowments, family foundations and church-based pension funds; some of the world’s largest investment firms are now joining this movement, too, having belatedly recognized that fossil fuels have been extremely poor investments for a long while. Thirty asset managers overseeing $9 trillion announced on Friday an agreement to align their portfolios with net-zero emissions by 2050.

Exxon Mobil, long a major source of funding for grossly unethical climate denial propaganda, just wrote down the value of its fossil fuel reserves by as much as $20 billion, adding to the unbelievable $170 billion in oil and gas assets written down by the industry in just the first half of this year. Last year, a BP executive said that some of the company’s reserves “won’t see the light of day,” and this summer it committed to a 10-fold increase in low-carbon investments this decade as part of its commitment to net-zero emissions.

The world has finally begun to cross a political tipping point, too. Grass-roots climate activists, often led by young people of Greta Thunberg’s generation, are marching every week now (even virtually during the pandemic). In the United States, this movement crosses party lines. More than 50 college conservativeand Republican organizations have petitioned the Republican National Committee to change its position on climate, lest the party lose younger voters.

Significantly, in just the past three months, several of the world’s most important political leaders have introduced important initiatives. Thanks to the leadership of Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, the E.U. just announcedthat it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent in the next nine years. President Xi Jinping has pledged that China will achieve net-zero carbon emissions in 2060. Leaders in Japan and South Korea said a few weeks ago said that their countries will reach net-zero emissions in 2050.

Denmark, the E.U.’s largest producer of gas and oil, has announced a ban on further exploration for fossil fuels. Britain has pledged a 68 percent reduction by 2030, along with a ban on sales of vehicles equipped with only gasoline-powered internal-combustion engines.

The cost of batteries for electric vehicles has dropped by 89 percent over the past decade, and according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, these vehicles will reach price parity with internal-combustion vehicles within two years in key segments of vehicle markets in the United States, Europe and Australia, followed quickly by China and much of the rest of the world. Sales of internal-combustion passenger vehicles worldwide peaked in 2017. 

It is in this new global context that President-elect Biden has made the decarbonization of the U.S. electricity grid by 2035 a centerpiece of his economic plan. Coupled with an accelerated conversion to electric vehicles and an end to government subsidies for fossil fuels, among other initiatives, these efforts can help put the nation on a path toward net-zero emissions by 2050.

As the United States moves forward, it must put frontline communities — often poor, Black, brown or Indigenous — at the center of the climate agenda. They have suffered disproportionate harm from climate pollution. This is reinforced by recent evidence that air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels — to which these communities bear outsize exposure — makes them more vulnerable to Covid-19.

With millions of new jobs needed to recover from the economic ravages of the pandemic, sustainable businesses are among the best bets. A recent study in the Oxford Review of Economic Policy noted that investments in those enterprises result in three times as many new jobs as investments in fossil fuels. Between 2014 and 2019, solar jobs grew five times as fast in the United States as average job growth.

Still, all of these positive developments fall far short of the emissions reductions required. The climate crisis is getting worse faster than we are deploying solutions.

In November of next year, all of the signatories to the Paris Agreement will meet in Glasgow with a mandate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions much faster than they pledged to do in 2015. What will be new in Glasgow is transparency: By the time the delegates arrive, a new monitoring effort made possible by an array of advanced technologies will have precisely measured the emissions from every major source of greenhouse gases in the world, with most of that data updated every six hours.

With this radical transparency, a result of efforts of a broad coalition of corporations and nonprofits I helped to start called Climate Trace (for tracking real-time atmospheric carbon emissions), countries will have no place to hide when failing to meet their emissions commitments. This precision tracking will replace the erratic, self-reported and often inaccurate data on which past climate agreements were based.

Even then, a speedy phaseout of carbon pollution will require functional democracies. With the casting of a majority of the Electoral College votes on Monday for Mr. Biden, and then his inauguration, we will make a start in restoring America as the country best positioned to lead the world’s struggle to solve the climate crisis.

To do that, we need to deal forthrightly with our shortcomings instead of touting our strengths. That, and that alone, can position the United States to recover the respect of other nations and restore their confidence in America as a reliable partner in the great challenges humankind faces. As in the pandemic, knowledge will be our salvation, but to succeed, we must learn to work together, lest we perish together.

Al Gore shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for his work to slow global warming.

Dino Grandoni writes in the Washington Post that the Trump administration is rushing through actions that will be difficult for the Biden administration to reverse. One of them involves formerly protected wilderness in Alaska.

President Trump refuses to acknowledge his defeat in the 2020 election. But his outgoing environmental deputies are still hurrying to complete more than a dozen agency actions in expectation of hitting the exits.

With just two months until Joe Biden becomes president, Trump appointees at the Environmental Protection Agency and elsewhere are up against the clock to lock in rules changes. The last-minute efforts could affect everything from vast tracts of remote Arctic wilderness and air quality nationwide to the everyday showers and clothes dryers in people’s homes.

Biden has promised to undo many of the regulatory rollbacks completed over the past fours years. But some of the Trump administration’s under-the-wire rules could end up hampering the Biden administration from aggressively tackling climate change and other issues right out of the gate.

“The last gasps of the administration,” said David J. Hayes, executive director of the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center at the New York University School of Law, “have the potential to either be a speed bump or a potential roadblock for the new administration coming in.” His group has launched the “Midnight Watch Project” to track the end-of-term efforts.

One of the first of the last-minute moves since Election Day is in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. 

The Interior Department is set this week to ask oil and gas companies to choose where they want to drill in the untouched Alaskan wilderness. Should the Trump administration sell drilling rights within the refuge before Jan. 20, it may be very hard for Biden’s team to take back those leases.  

In 2017, Republicans in Congress opened nearly 1.6 million acres of caribou and polar bear habitat there to potential petroleum extraction. But it has taken until this year for the department to be ready to hold a sale on drilling rights.

Caribou in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Alaska. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via AP)Caribou in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Alaska. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via AP)
 

Frank Macchiarola, senior vice president of policy, economics and regulatory affairs at the American Petroleum Institute, told my colleague Juliet Eilperin that Trump’s team is “under a tight timeline.” But he added that the department is on legally solid footing: “Our view is that Congress has acted.”

Yet despite the 2017 law mandating a lease sale, Biden has promised to oppose drilling in the refuge, calling it “a big disaster to do that.”

When it’s all said and done, the Trump administration may finish a dozen significant actions before Biden’s inauguration.

In addition to potentially leasing within the Arctic refuge, officials aim to complete a plan to open up another vast area in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska to drilling and to auction off extraction rights on more than 4,100 acres in central California on Dec. 10.

Interior may also formalize a more narrow definition of habitat for endangered species before Jan. 20. It could also further water down prohibitions on the incidental killing of migratory birds — a change long sought by some oil companies whose uncovered oil waste pits attract waterfowl.

At the Energy Department, officials may exempt some clothes washers and dryers from energy-efficiency requirements and change the definition of a showerhead to allow more water to flow before Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris take office.

This last action reflects Trump’s pet peeve that his showerhead does not produce enough water when he shampoos his hair.

Jack Hassard, a professor of science education, scoffs at Trump’s claim that California could avoid forest fires by raking leaves on the forest floor. The cause of the raging fires, he writes, is climate change. Trump has declared that climate change is a hoax so he can’t admit what scientists agree is a growing environmental crisis.

This interesting post quotes Trump’s exchange with California officials. It’s painful to read because Trump is so clearly stupid.

By the way, Governor Newsom pointed out that the federal government owns 57% of California’s forest. The state owns less than 5%. If Trump wants leaf-raking, he should hire people to do it on federal lands.

From the Sacramento Bee:

Trump ignored the fact that the federal government manages much of the forested land in the West. Of the 33 million acres of forest in California, roughly 57% is owned and managed by the U.S. Forest Service or federal Bureau of Land Management, according to a report by the state’s Little Hoover Commission. State and local governments control only 3%, while the rest is private.

Read more here: https://www.sacbee.com/news/california/fires/article245727925.html#storylink=cpy

Donald Trump, stable genius, claims that Joe Biden is suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s, that is, when he’s not claiming that Biden is a tool of the “radical left.” Watch this conversation and make your own judgment. Ask yourself how Trump would fare without a script on a teleprompter. The film also serves to remind us of another Trump characteristic: He is utterly without empathy. He despises what he calls “losers.” It is impossible to forget the time he mocked a disabled journalist at one of his rallies. It’s easy to remember that he called John McCain a “loser” because he was a POW.

This is a most interesting unscripted discussion between Joe Biden and Ady Barkan.

Ady is a brilliant progressive activist who was a supporter of Sanders, Warren, and Medicare for all.

In 2016, he was stricken with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and is completely disabled. He is dying by the day.

He asks tough questions.

I recommend the conversation.

Climate expert Bill Becker writes here about the state of America’s air, and Trump’s rollback of regulations to improve its quality.

He writes:

Our air still is not as clean and healthy as it could be, or should be. The most recent “State of the Air” report from the American Lung Association (ALA) includes the sobering fact that nearly half of the American people live in places where it is still dangerous to breathe. Between 2016 and 2018, air quality has actually gotten worse. Over those three years, “millions more Americans were living in communities impacted by unhealthy levels of pollution in the form of more unhealthy ozone days, more particle pollution days and higher annual particle levels.”

Nearly 46% of us (that’s about 150 million people) live in counties with unhealthy levels of those pollutants. Ozone and particulates contribute to a variety of potentially deadly lung-related problems including asthma, heart disease, lung cancer and the basic functions of the lungs. Like so many other problems, from COVID-19 to the deadly consequences of climate change, people of color and low-income families suffer most…

The Trump administration…has significantly weakened enforcement of the Clean Air Act. Trump killed the rules the Obama Administration created to limit emissions from power plants and to make vehicles more efficient. Trump’s weakening of vehicle efficiency standards is expected to allow cars and trucks to emit a billion more tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide. Since President Trump took office, his administration has rolled back 27 regulations to limit air pollution, part of the 100 environmental safeguards it has reversed, revoked, or weakened. Most recently, the Administration is taking steps to stop counting the health benefits of enforcing the Clean Air Act, a move that policy experts and environmentalists say will make it harder to justify federal limits on air pollution.

To make matters worse, Trump has stopped all progress in the nation’s effort to limit climate change at the same time he is helping oil, gas and coal companies increase production of the fuels responsible for global warming and the air pollution described by the ALA.

Trump is the worst president in American history, not “modern times.” He is an international menace and a threat to all living things. His incompetence and stupidity are equaled only by his arrogance.

The New York Times reports:

 

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Wednesday unilaterally weakened one of the nation’s bedrock conservation laws, the National Environmental Policy Act, limiting public review of federal infrastructure projects to speed up the permitting of freeways, power plants and pipelines.

In doing so, the Trump administration claimed it will save hundreds of millions of dollars over almost a decade by significantly reducing the amount of time allowed to complete reviews of major infrastructure projects.

The president announced the final changes to the rule at the U.P.S. Hapeville Airport Hub in Atlanta, making the case that “mountains and mountains of red tape” and lengthy permit processes have held up major infrastructure projects across the country, including a lane expansion to the perpetually clogged Interstate 75 in Georgia.

“All of that ends today,” he said. “We’re doing something dramatic.”

Revising the 50-year-old law through regulatory reinterpretation is one of the biggest — and most audacious — deregulatory actions of the Trump administration, which to date has moved to roll back 100 rulesprotecting clean air and water, and others that aim to reduce the threat of human-caused climate change.

Bill Becker worked for two decades in the U.S. Department of Energy. Bill is the executive director of the Presidential Climate Action Project. I had the good fortune to meet him at a conference at Oberlin College a year or so ago. I have been on the mailing list for his blog ever since.

He wrote:


Wanted: A Vision for America

By William S. Becker

Joe Biden has just released an updated clean-energy platform, inspired in part by his desire to attract Sanders’ voters with stronger plans for leading a “clean energy revolution”. His new plan contains nine elements that range from holding polluters accountable to helping fossil energy workers displaced by the energy transition.”

It’s a predictable list and unlikely to satisfy climate hawks. But what its missing most is a vision for the nation. That has been the case for all of the policy platforms we saw from the Democrats who sought the presidency. Vice President Biden needs to communicate a unifying vision that is uplifting, principled, and aligned with the nation’s highest ideals. It needs to invoke the better angels who have been on sabbatical in America for too long. It needs to remind us what we all (or nearly all) have in common, rather than where we disagree.

Donald Trump dominates the presidential accessories market with “Make America Great Again”. It’s punchy enough to fit on a baseball cap, and everybody wants America to be great. Unfortunately, there is little agreement on what “great” is, and the devil is in the details.

Earlier this year, one of the pollsters posed Ronald Reagan’s famous debate question: “Are you better off today than you were four years ago.” The response was a predictable and resounding yes. That was before CVID-19 changed everything.

But even when the stock market was setting record highs and joblessness was low, those are superficial and temporary metrics that don’t tell us much about “great”. Are we morally and ethically great right now? Are we united around a shared aspiration for our country? Is our Congress functional? Does the rest of the world respect us? Are we at peace?

Do we respect and trust the most powerful guy on the planet?

When Dr. Martin Luther King stood at the Lincoln Memorial to tell us his dream, he didn’t recite a list of policy proposals. He let the better angels speak. His dream lifted us (or most of us) up.

This not to dismiss or belittle policy promises. Federal policies have been my bread and butter for the last 20 years. They form the roadmap to the future we want. Goals such as net-zero by 2050 are the mile markers. But we need something more. Trump has had the bully pulpit and the Twitter megaphone to dominate every daily news cycle for three years, so we have a pretty good idea of what his vision is. Joe Biden needs to give us an alternative. Here are some examples he can consider:

a) We want America to be an inspiration to the world rather than a disappointment. Let’s Make America Proud Again.

b) We want a country that guarantees equal opportunity for all its people, but not necessarily equal results. We should not expect success to be given to us. We should earn it.

c) We want a nation that values and cares for its natural resources, whether it’s wilderness and biodiversity or clean air, water, and skies.

d) We want a nation that cares about future generations.

e) We want a country that has grown past the propaganda that we can’t have environmental protection and lots of jobs at the same time. We can, and we must. The solar, wind energy, energy efficiency, and environmental restorations sectors are proving it.

f) We want to be finally and truly energy independent. Trump says we already are because we produce more oil than anyone else. He’s wrong. By one count, the oil disruption we are experiencing now is the 20th over the last 40 years. Shouldn’t we switch to energy that is inexhaustible, ubiquitous, harvested harmlessly, and free? You know, resources like sunlight, wind, geothermal energy, hydroelectricity, and bioenergy that the Saudis and Russians can’t manipulate?

g) We want America to be an active and constructive part in the community of nations. Let’s stop pretending that we can stand alone when all nations are inexorably bound together in the modern world. It’s probably unavoidable that an egomaniacal president will have an egomaniacal foreign policy. Let’s fix it..

h) We want an inclusive nation that respects the rights and the contributions of all races, religions, and nationalities who contribute to America’s success.

i) We need to stop using GDP as the only indicator of America’s health. It doesn’t measure happiness. And we should redefine growth to prioritize quality over quantity.

j) We want to be a country that pays it forward, we give back to our communities with volunteerism and civic engagement, and give back to our country with national service.

k) We want a country that lives up to the expectations of our greatest leaders, where we will “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty” in the words of President Kennedy; where we judge each other by the content of our character rather than the color of our skin, in the words of Dr. King; where our greatest concern is not whether God is on our side, but whether we are on God’s side, in the words of Abraham Lincoln; where “the test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much (but) whether we provide enough for those who have little” in the words of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt; where we see wars as a “plague of mankind” and work to banish them from the Earth, as George Washington hoped; where we truly are that shining city on hill that President Reagan invoked; and where in the words of President Barack Obama, we “recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which only asks what’s in it for me, a freedom without commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideas and those who died in their defense.”

That is the country we should be, Joe Biden might say, and that is the country we will be again.