Archives for category: Environment

The tiny city of Cudahy, California, is locked in battle with the mega-powerful KIPP charter chain over KIPP’s determination to build a charter school on a toxic waste site. KIPP is avoiding the usual environmental review that would be required for public schools. Local environmental activists and parents are raising money to fight the KIPP machine.

Larry Buhl writes in “Capital & Main”:

At issue are a state law allowing different building standards for different types of schools, and a planning code, obscure to most local residents, that allows a charter school company to build a new school without thoroughly cleaning up the site’s alleged toxins.

Using a process that allows the company to skirt state environmental rules, KIPP SoCal Public Schools plans to build a new elementary school on land that its own reports show contains toxic substances including lead and arsenic. The company can do that because the regulations for building or renovating charter and private schools are less restrictive than for state-funded district schools, and because Cudahy has, according to critics and plaintiffs in a lawsuit, used the wrong planning code to approve the project.

If charter schools were public schools, there would be a full environmental impact review.

Governor Greg Abbott of Texas and a bevy of rightwing commentators blamed wind turbines, which supply 10% of the state’s energy, and “the Green New Deal, which doesn’t exist, for the failure of the state’s power supply. He learned “the Big Lie” from his hero Trump.

As millions of people across Texas struggled to stay warm Tuesday amid massive cold-weather power outages, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) directed his ire at one particular failure in the state’s independent energy grid: frozen wind turbines.


“This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America,” Abbott said to host Sean Hannity on Tuesday. “Our wind and our solar got shut down, and they were collectively more than 10 percent of our power grid, and that thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power on a statewide basis. … It just shows that fossil fuel is necessary.”


The governor’s arguments were contradicted by his own energy department, which outlined how most of Texas’s energy losses came from failures to winterize the power-generating systems, including fossil fuel pipelines, The Washington Post’s Will Englund reported. But Abbott’s debunked claims were echoed by other conservatives this week who have repeatedly blamed clean energy sources for the outages crippling the southern U.S.


[The Texas grid got crushed because its operators didn’t see the need to prepare for cold weather]


In fact, typically mild winters and a lack of state regulations in Texas combined to leave electricity providers unprepared for the extreme cold that has suddenly hit the state, The Post reported. Nearly every source of energy — from wind turbines to natural gas to nuclear power — have failed to some degree following a harsh storm that covered the region with thick layers of snow and ice.
Although renewable energy sources did partially fail, they only contributed to 13 percent of the power outages, while providing about a quarter of the state’s energy in winter. Thermal sources, including coal, gas and nuclear, lost almost twice as many gigawatts of power because of the cold, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the state’s electric grid operator.

Critics have also noted that wind turbines can operate in climates as cold as Greenland if they’re properly prepared for the weather.


Despite the much larger dip in energy from fossil fuels, Republican politicians have seized on the outages to attack the Green New Deal and Democrats’ push to address climate change by reducing the consumption of fossil fuels.


In his Fox News interview, Abbott did not address the fact that most of the state’s power comes from fossil fuels and that ERCOT had planned to produce far more power from natural gas than became available as the cold set in, contributing a stunning deficit amid the freezing weather. On Tuesday, Abbott called for a state investigation into ERCOT’s failings, saying the agency had been “anything but reliable” following the winter storm.


Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Tuesday.
The governor was not the only prominent Texas Republican to blame clean energy for the historic power outages. After Fox News host Tucker Carlson inaccurately told viewers that the state’s power grid had become “totally reliant on windmills,” former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who served as energy secretary under President Donald Trump, joined Carlson in railing against the Green New Deal, which has not been enacted in Texas or nationally.


“If this Green New Deal goes forward the way that the Biden administration appears to want it to, then we’ll have more events like we’ve had in Texas all across the country,” Perry said in another Fox News segment.


Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex.) shared a detailed accounting on Twitter of how the state’s power grid failed, noted the roles that natural gas and nuclear power played — but also used the moment to attack wind turbines on Tuesday.


“Bottom line: Thank God for baseload energy made up of fossil fuels,” Crenshaw tweeted. “Had our grid been more reliant on the wind turbines that froze, the outages would have been much worse.”


Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who has been a strong proponent of the Green New Deal proposal, slammed Texas Republicans early Wednesday.
“The infrastructure failures in Texas are quite literally what happens when you don’t pursue a Green New Deal,” she said in a tweet.


Texas Democrats also criticized Abbott in a statement Monday, calling out Republican leaders for allowing the power to go out in the state that produces the most energy in the nation.
“If we had a governor open to alternative sources of energy, Texas might be in a situation in which we have energy reserves to efficiently power our state, instead of the reckless leadership we have witnessed time and time again from Greg Abbott,” the Texas Democrats said.


Wind turbines are working very well in far colder climates. Abbott probably outsourced the state’s energy needs to profit-seeking entrepreneurs who cut corners to make more money.

In another article in the Washington Post, the blame is placed where it belongs: on short-sighted politicians who didn’t plan for a worst-case scenarios.

When it gets really cold, it can be hard to produce electricity, as customers in Texas and neighboring states are finding out. But it’s not impossible. Operators in Alaska, Canada, Maine, Norway and Siberia do it all the time.


What has sent Texas reeling is not an engineering problem, nor is it the frozen wind turbines blamed by prominent Republicans. It is a financial structure for power generation that offers no incentives to power plant operators to prepare for winter. In the name of deregulation and free markets, critics say, Texas has created an electric grid that puts an emphasis on cheap prices over reliable service.


It’s a “Wild West market design based only on short-run prices,” said Matt Breidert, a portfolio manager at a firm called Ecofin.


And yet the temporary train wreck of that market Monday and Tuesday has seen the wholesale price of electricity in Houston go from $22 a megawatt-hour to about $9,000. Meanwhile, 4 million Texas households have been without power.


One utility company, Griddy, which sells power at wholesale rates to retail customers without locking in a price in advance, told its patrons Tuesday to find another provider before they get socked with tremendous bills.


The widespread failure in Texas and, to a lesser extent, Oklahoma and Louisiana in the face of a winter cold snap shines a light on what some see as the derelict state of America’s power infrastructure, a mirror reflection of the chaos that struck California last summer.


Edward Hirs, an energy fellow at the University of Houston, said the disinvestment in electricity production reminds him of the last years of the Soviet Union, or of the oil sector today in Venezuela.
“They hate it when I say that,” he said.

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.