Trump’s failure to fight climate change is a crime against humanity

Trump administration dismisses EPA scientists 02:35

Jeffrey Sachs is a professor and director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University. The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author; view more opinion articles on CNN.

(CNN)President Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and others who oppose action to address human-induced climate change should be held accountable for climate crimes against humanity. They are the authors and agents of systematic policies that deny basic human rights to their own citizens and people around the world, including the rights to life, health, and property. These politicians have blood on their hands, and the death toll continues to rise.

Trump remains in willful denial of the thousands of deaths caused by his government’s inept, under-funded, and under-motivated response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year. The image that will remain in history is of the President gleefully throwing paper towels for a photo op as the people of Puerto Rico around him suffered and died of neglect. Last month, Hurricane Florence claimed at least 48 deaths, with more likely to come in its aftermath. This past week Hurricane Michael has claimed at least 32 lives, with more than a thousand people reportedly still missing. The final death toll will likely soar in the months ahead as the residual consequences of the storm become more clear.
As the Earth warms due to the continued burning of coal, oil, and gas, climate-related disasters that include high-intensity hurricanes, floods, droughts, extreme precipitation, forest fires, and heat waves, pose rising dangers to life and property. Hurricanes become more destructive as warmer ocean waters feed more energy to the storms. Warmer air also carries more moisture for devastating rainfalls, while rising sea levels lead to more flooding.
Yet Trump and his minions are the loyal servants of the fossil-fuel industry, which fill Republican partycampaign coffers. Trump has also stalled the fight against climate change by pulling out of the Paris Agreement. The politicians thereby deprive the people of their lives and property out of profound cynicism, greed, and willful scientific ignorance.
The first job of government is to protect the public. Real protection requires climate action on several fronts: educating the public about the growing dire risks of human-induced climate change; enacting legislation and regulations to ensure that families and businesses are kept out of harm’s way, for example by stopping construction in flood plains, and investing in sustainable infrastructure to counteract rising sea levels; anticipating the rising frequency of high-intensity climate-related disasters through science-based preparedness following through on properly scaled disaster-response during and after storm events; and most importantly for the future, spearheading the rapid transition to zero-carbon energy to prevent much greater calamities in the years ahead.
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This straightforward to-do list is the opposite of what Trump and his cronies are doing. Trump blithely disregards scientific findings about climate change and thereby exposes the nation to unprecedented risks. The officials he has appointed to the Environmental Protection Agency and other relevant parts of government are industry cronies and lobbyists far more interested in self-enrichment, padding their accounts, and helping their once-and-future employers than in doing their current jobs.
Trump’s mishandling of last year’s Puerto Rico disaster in the wake of Hurricane Maria is grounds itself for impeachment and trial. Thousands of citizens died unnecessarily on Trump’s watch because the administration could not be stirred to proper action before, during, and after the hurricane.
Two independent, detailed epidemiological studies, using different methodologies — one led by researchers at Harvard University and the other by researchers at George Washington University— have estimated that thousands died in the aftermath of Maria.
While dozens died during the storm, thousands more died as a result of the residual effects of the storm. Maria downed electricity and wreaked havoc on the ability of Puerto Ricans to meet their life-sustaining needs by disrupting access to health services, safe water, and transportation. They died, in short, from the storm, and ultimately from inadequate disaster prevention, preparedness and response.
Yet when the George Washington University study was released in September, the President responded by saying, “I think we did a fantastic job” in Puerto Rico. He brazenly denied the death count, without any attempt whatsoever to understand or learn from the findings.
Recent scientific studies underscore the dire emergency ahead. Professor James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climatologists, has demonstrated that the Earth’s climate has moved above the temperature range that supported the entire 10,000 years of civilization. The risks of catastrophic sea level rise are upon us. A group of world-leading ecologists recently highlighted that critical Earth systems could spiral out of control. The Nobel-prize winning Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change has also just released a harrowing report showing that the world has just a few years left to move decisively towards renewable energy if it hopes to achieve the globally agreed target to limit warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average temperature of the planet.
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The huge bills for Hurricanes Florence and Michael will now start rolling in: funerals, suffering, sorting through debris, and perhaps $30 billion in losses that could have been reduced dramatically through science-based planning and foresight. The American people are paying a heavy cost for the cynicism and cruelty of politicians in the pocket of the fossil-fuel industry. It is time to hold these reckless politicians to account.

Government Report Reveals The Trump Administration Is Fully Aware of The Devastating Impacts of Climate Change

….But they’re not going to do anything to stop it.

 

Last month, deep in a 500-page environmental impact statement, the Trump administration made a startling assumption: On its current course, the planet will warm a disastrous seven degrees Fahrenheit (3.9 degrees Celsius) by the end of this century.

A rise of seven degrees Fahrenheit, or about four degrees Celsius, compared with preindustrial levels would be catastrophic, according to scientists. Many coral reefs would dissolve in increasingly acidic oceans. Parts of Manhattan and Miami would be underwater without costly coastal defenses. Extreme heat waves would routinely smother large parts of the globe.

But the administration did not offer this dire forecast, premised on the idea that the world will fail to cut its greenhouse gas emissions, as part of an argument to combat climate change. Just the opposite: The analysis assumes the planet’s fate is already sealed.

The draft statement, issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), was written to justify President Trump’s decision to freeze federal fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks built after 2020.

While the proposal would increase greenhouse gas emissions, the impact statement says, that policy would add just a very small drop to a very big, hot bucket.

“The amazing thing they’re saying is human activities are going to lead to this rise of carbon dioxide that is disastrous for the environment and society. And then they’re saying they’re not going to do anything about it,” said Michael MacCracken, who served as a senior scientist at the US Global Change Research Program from 1993 to 2002.

The document projects that global temperature will rise by nearly 3.5 degrees Celsius above the average temperature between 1986 and 2005 regardless of whether Obama-era tailpipe standards take effect or are frozen for six years, as the Trump administration has proposed.

The global average temperature rose more than 0.5 degrees Celsius between 1880, the start of industrialization, and 1986, so the analysis assumes a roughly four degree Celsius or seven degree Fahrenheit increase from preindustrial levels.

The world would have to make deep cuts in carbon emissions to avoid this drastic warming, the analysis states.

And that “would require substantial increases in technology innovation and adoption compared to today’s levels and would require the economy and the vehicle fleet to move away from the use of fossil fuels, which is not currently technologically feasible or economically feasible.”

The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

World leaders have pledged to keep the world from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius compared with preindustrial levels, and agreed to try to keep the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

But the current greenhouse gas cuts pledged under the 2015 Paris climate agreement are not steep enough to meet either goal. Scientists predict a 4 degree Celsius rise by the century’s end if countries take no meaningful actions to curb their carbon output.

Trump has vowed to exit the Paris accord and called climate change a hoax. In the past two months, the White House has pushed to dismantle nearly half a dozen major rules aimed at reducing greenhouse gases, deregulatory moves intended to save companies hundreds of millions of dollars.

If enacted, the administration’s proposals would give new life to aging coal plants; allow oil and gas operations to release more methane into the atmosphere; and prevent new curbs on greenhouse gases used in refrigerators and air-conditioning units.

The vehicle rule alone would put 8 billion additional tons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere this century, more than a year’s worth of total US emissions, according to the government’s own analysis.

Administration estimates acknowledge that the policies would release far more greenhouse gas emissions from America’s energy and transportation sectors than otherwise would have been allowed.

The statement is the latest evidence of deep contradictions in the Trump administration’s approach to climate change.

Despite Trump’s skepticism, federal agencies conducting scientific research have often reaffirmed that humans are causing climate change, including in a major 2017 report that found “no convincing alternative explanation.”

In one internal White House memo, officials wondered whether it would be best to simply “ignore” such analyses.

In this context, the draft environmental impact statement from NHTSA – which simultaneously outlines a scenario for very extreme climate change, and yet offers it to support an environmental rollback – is simply the latest apparent inconsistency.

David Pettit, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council who testified against Trump’s freeze of car mileage standards Monday in Fresno, Calif., said his organization is prepared to use the administration’s own numbers to challenge its regulatory rollbacks.

He noted that NHTSA document projects that if the world takes no action to curb emissions, current atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide would rise from 410 parts per million to 789 ppm by 2100.

“I was shocked when I saw it,” Pettit said in a phone interview. “These are their numbers. They aren’t our numbers.”

Conservatives who condemned President Barack Obama’s climate initiatives as regulatory overreach have defended the Trump administration’s approach, calling it a more reasonable course.

Obama’s climate policies were costly to industry and yet “mostly symbolic,” because they would have made barely a dent in global carbon dioxide emissions, said Heritage Foundation research fellow Nick Loris, adding: “Frivolous is a good way to describe it.”

NHTSA commissioned ICF International Inc., a consulting firm based in Fairfax, Va., to help prepare the impact statement.

An agency spokeswoman said the Environmental Protection Agency “and NHTSA welcome comments on all aspects of the environmental analysis” but declined to provide additional information about the agency’s long-term temperature forecast.

Federal agencies typically do not include century-long climate projections in their environmental impact statements. Instead, they tend to assess a regulation’s impact during the life of the program – the years a coal plant would run, for example, or the amount of time certain vehicles would be on the road.

Using the no-action scenario “is a textbook example of how to lie with statistics,” said MIT Sloan School of Management professor John Sterman.

“First, the administration proposes vehicle efficiency policies that would do almost nothing [to fight climate change]. Then [the administration] makes their impact seem even smaller by comparing their proposals to what would happen if the entire world does nothing.”

This week, UN. Secretary-General António Guterres warned leaders gathered in New York, “If we do not change course in the next two years, we risk runaway climate change . . . Our future is at stake.”

Federal and independent research – including projections included in last month’s analysis of the revised fuel-efficiency standards – echoes that theme.

The environmental impact statement cites “evidence of climate-induced changes,” such as more frequent droughts, floods, severe stormsand heat waves, and estimates that seas could rise nearly three feet globally by 2100 if the world does not decrease its carbon output.

Two articles published in the journal Science since late July – both co-authored by federal scientists – predicted that the global landscape could be transformed “without major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions” and declared that soaring temperatures worldwide bore humans’ “fingerprint“.

“With this administration, it’s almost as if this science is happening in another galaxy,” said Rachel Cleetus, policy director and lead economist for the Union of Concerned Scientists’ climate and energy program. “That feedback isn’t informing the policy.”

Administration officials say they take federal scientific findings into account when crafting energy policy – along with their interpretation of the law and Trump’s agenda.

The EPA’s acting administrator, Andrew Wheeler, has been among the Trump officials who have noted that US emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants have fallen over time.

But the debate comes after a troubling summer of devastating wildfires, record-breaking heat and a catastrophic hurricane – each of which, federal scientists say, signals a warming world.

Some Democratic elected officials, such as Washington Governor Jay Inslee, said Americans are starting to recognize these events as evidence of climate change.

On Feb. 25, Inslee met privately with several Cabinet officials, including then-EPA chief Scott Pruitt, and Western state governors.

Inslee accused them of engaging in “morally reprehensible” behavior that threatened his children and grandchildren, according to four meeting participants, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide details of the private conversation.

In an interview, Inslee said that the ash from wildfires that covered Washington residents’ car hoods this summer, and the acrid smoke that filled their air, has made more voters of both parties grasp the real-world implications of climate change.

“There is anger in my state about the administration’s failure to protect us,” he said. “When you taste it on your tongue, it’s a reality.”

2018 © The Washington Post

Movie Review: Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 11/9 Is a Must-See

Photo: 1996-98 AccuSoft Inc., All rights reserved/Courtesy of TIFF

You could argue that Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 11/9 has too many irons in the fire, being variously an acid evocation of the rise of Donald Trump, a peroration against establishment Democrats (among them both Clintons and Barack Obama), an earnest exhortation to grass-roots activism, and an alarmist examination of the current moment’s parallels to Weimar Germany. But I’d say Moore has about the right number of irons, and that he strikes the living hell out of every one. This isn’t his smoothest film, but it’s his fullest and most original. It’s also his most urgent, which is really saying something. It’s one of the most urgent films ever made.

The thrust is that the United States of America is toast, or at least pretty close. Closer than it has been in 250 years — not that Moore thinks the country has ever lived up to its branding as a place of liberty and justice for all. (His own brand wouldn’t exist if he did.) But the Constitution, imperfect as it is, is only as strong as the democracy that protects it, and the democracy that protects it is only as strong as… Thereby hangs his tale.

It must be said that Fahrenheit 11/9 is something of a bait-and-switch. It opens funny, if you can forget for a second the broader narrative. 11/9, of course, is the day (it was early a.m.) that Donald Trump became president-elect, and Moore’s prologue and first section is a Greatest Hits collection of low points: from the media’s certainty he’d never win a primary/the nomination/the presidency to the certainty of Hillary Clinton and her followers that no halfway intelligent country would elect a vulgar, boastful, racist, misogynistic grifter. But after making the case that Trump’s presidency can be blamed on Gwen Stefani (hint: it was her salary on The Voice), Moore offers a hilariously annotated list of since-dethroned male harassers harassing Clinton about her e-mails and/or competency to occupy the Oval office, and then demonstrates how “the malignant narcissist played the media for suckers.” He includes himself.

He once had a bit of fun with Trump on Roseanne Barr’s short-lived yak show, grinning when Trump said he loved Roger & Me and hoped Moore would never make a film about him. Moore follows with a somewhat amusing but generally icky montage depicting Trump’s lechery towards his daughter.

Moore is barreling along when he segues to a spiritual cousin of Trump, Michigan governor Rick Snyder, a very rich man who joined the government in order to privatize it. And then comes Flint, the laughs stop abruptly, and Fahrenheit 11/9 becomes a story of criminal Republican malfeasance, establishment Democratic uninterest and/or impotence, and the rise of local activism that rattles the poohbahs of both parties.

We get Flint because it illustrates one kind of malignant governance. Snyder decided to build a second pipeline from Lake Huron (the existing one worked fine), drew water in the meantime from the ghastly Flint River, and ignored evidence that elevated levels of lead were sickening children—and permanently damaging their brains. Here’s the sort of rhetoric Moore does best: He portrays Snyder as criminally indifferent to the poisoning of poor and black children (Moore calls this “a slow-motion ethnic cleansing”) while incensed when General Motors complains that Flint water is corroding the steel in the cars still being made there. When the world premiere screening audience heard that Snyder restored the Lake Huron water to GM but not residents of Flint, there were gasps.

Moore gets a few cheap laughs when he goes to the state capitol to make a citizen’s arrest and then deluges the governor’s lawn with a truckload of Flint water. But it was the efforts of Flint mother LeeAnne Walters; Dr. Mona Hanna-Atisha; and the previously little-known whistleblower April Cook-Hawkins, who refused to follow orders and reduce the levels of lead on a report of children’s blood tests, that Moore is here to celebrate. They’re “ordinary” people who stepped up in the absence of politicians — among them President Obama, who visited the community but declined to declare a national disaster, offering only words of encouragement, and, in an uncharacteristically tone-deaf move, pretending to drink Flint water while only wetting his lips. Later, Moore notes that disgust with the Democrats kept many Flint voters from the polls in that vital Midwest state. It went narrowly for Trump.

That’s a yuuge point in Fahrenheit 11/9. Moore doesn’t reiterate his support for Bernie Sanders here. He’s more concerned with accusing newspapers like the New York Times of misrepresenting Sanders’s youthful constituency with a front-page story headlined, “Sanders’s Messages Resonates with One Age Group: His Own.” More damagingly, he accuses state parties of outright lying at the Democratic Convention about unanimous county majorities for Hillary Clinton. In a close election, the weeping — and, more important, rage — of Sanders’s voters made a difference. And don’t get him started on the Electoral College, a holdover from an era of American aristocracy.

After Flint, Trump is on to West Virginia and a teacher’s strike over wages that put them below the poverty line. While union leaders behaved wimpily and politicians did little, the strike spread to all 55 counties — and inspired teachers in other states to challenge legislatures. The next stop is Parkland, Florida. First, Moore meets for a strategy session with former Stoneman Douglas High School student David Hogg and his posse, and then he accompanies them to the state capitol in Tallahassee, where he captures the most cringeworthy evasions of NRA-funded Republican legislators.

Finally, Moore arrives at the most provocative chapter of Fahrenheit 11/9: He disputes the idea that comparisons to Nazi Germany are spurious, demonstrating the identical kind of rhetoric in the early 1930s on behalf of despotism — and sampling the editorial of a leading German Jewish newspaper that assured its readers that Hitler would be forced to moderate his proposals to conform to the German Constitution. That was before a trumped-up “national emergency,” the dissolution of much of said constitution, the Reichstag fire, and the appointment of Nazi-affiliated legislators and judges. Non-party journalists became Enemies of the People.

Where are the Russians in Fahrenheit 11/9? Putin shows up two or three times in passing. For Moore’s thesis, they’re only relevant in demonstrating Trump’s affection for despots, and, more important, for the ways in which his asides about postponing the 2020 election and becoming president for life might creep into mainstream of public discourse. What Robert Mueller will or won’t do is of no concern to him, either. Moore ridicules hope. After the movie’s premiere screening at the Toronto International Film Festival, Moore bridled when a questioner dared to use the “h” word. Fuck hope, he said. The new word is “action.”

After the world premiere screening, April Cook-Hawkins came onstage to a standing ovation. So did David Hogg and several of his peers, to an even longer one. But this is Canada, you say, the northernmost coordinate of this administration’s new Axis of Evil. (The other two are that old standby Iran and maybe Germany, Iraq being an unmentionable and Kim Jung-un a great guy whose people love him.)

A Michael Moore movie will always have cheap shots, and many liberals and progressives will wince when they’re aimed at the likes of Obama, who only by a miracle managed to pass the watered-down national health care bill that is currently being eviscerated. But can anyone committed to social justice not gag watching crypto-Republican Holy Joe Lieberman complain on Fox News about shrill progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? (Bring a barf bag.) “I have a question for you guys,” said Moore on the Toronto stage. “Who’s ready to save America?” Yes, he’s a bit of a blowhard, but the air is blowing hard in the right direction. You need to see this film.

Donald Trump Jr. back in Canada for his annual hunting trip

Donald Trump Jr. back in Canada for his annual hunting trip

The eldest son of U.S. President Donald Trump posted photos over the weekend of him boarding an expedition plane out of Whitehorse, Yukon.

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Donald Trump Jr. is back in Canada to hunt.

The eldest son of U.S. President Donald Trump posted photos to his social media accounts over the weekend of him boarding an expedition plane out of Whitehorse, Yukon. The plane is believed to be an Alkan Air plane, a Yukon-based private aircraft charter.

“Mountain time. See you all in a week. Won’t have cell or anything else for that matter. #goodtimes #outdoors,” Trump posted.

Donald Trump Jr. posted to social media that he was on a hunting trip this weekend. INSTAGRAM

In his Instagram photo, Trump is accompanied by five others, including a videographer and a photographer, all of whom are dressed in outdoors gear and swag emblazoned with Kuiu, the name of a hunting gear and apparel company.

Last fall, Trump was spotted at a Prince George airport, on a layover while returning from a trip up north. He is a frequent hunter and regularly visits Canada on annual hunting trips.

Donald Trump Jr. Ditched Secret Service to Go Moose Hunting

Donald Trump has some thoughts on fighting wildfires. They’re nonsense.

https://www.vox.com/2018/8/6/17655626/trump-wildfire-twitter-mendocino-complex-carr-california

Humans are increasing wildfire risks, but “bad environmental laws” aren’t the problem.

A C-130 air tanker drops flame retardant on part of the Mendocino Complex Fire in California on August 5, 2018.
 Noah Berger/AFP/Getty Images

The 2018 wildfire year has been devastating. As of Monday, the National Interagency Fire Center reports that there are 60 uncontained large fires across the country, with a total of 5.1 million acres ravaged by fire so far this year.

These deadly infernos have killed several firefighters, forced hundreds of people to flee, and destroyed hundreds of homes and thousands of acres of wilderness.

The Carr Fire in Northern California is now the state’s fifth-largest fire on record after igniting more than 160,0000 acres and killing seven people. But it’s been bested in size by the Mendocino Complex fire, which, at 273,000 acres, is the second-largest in state history.

Late last month, President Trump signed a federal emergency declaration for the state of California, allowing the federal government to assist with firefighting efforts.

So it’s not surprising that Trump would weigh in on the California blazes. But on Sunday night, he used them to bash environmental regulations:

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire spreading!

And then on Monday, he took it up again, this time blaming California Gov. Jerry Brown.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Governor Jerry Brown must allow the Free Flow of the vast amounts of water coming from the North and foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Can be used for fires, farming and everything else. Think of California with plenty of Water – Nice! Fast Federal govt. approvals.

There are a few reasons these statements are bewildering. First, human activity is definitely making these fires worse: People are building in vulnerable areas, they are igniting most of these fires, and humans are driving climate change, which makes fire conditions more severe.

But environmental laws about water that would be used to put the fires out?

Even wildfire scientists have no idea what the president was referring to here. California has been parched from drought for years, so there isn’t a “massive amount of readily available water,” and what little moisture is available is closely tracked.

“We do manage all of our rivers in California, and all the water is allocated many times over. So I’m not sure what he was recommending,” LeRoy Westerling, a professor at the University of California Merced studying wildfires, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Even if we eliminated all habitat for riparian species and fish, and allowed saltwater intrusion into the delta and set up a sprinkler system over the state, that wouldn’t compensate for greater moisture loss from climate change.”

That means if California hoarded every raindrop, as Trump recommended, it still wouldn’t completely offset evaporation from rising average temperatures and years of drought.

Peter Gleick

@PeterGleick

Trump doubles down on his previous ignorant tweet about California and fires. The only water that reaches the ocean these days is what’s left AFTER the massive diversions OUT of our rivers for cities and farms. And there’s no shortage of fire-fighting water. Nuts.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Governor Jerry Brown must allow the Free Flow of the vast amounts of water coming from the North and foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Can be used for fires, farming and everything else. Think of California with plenty of Water – Nice! Fast Federal govt. approvals.

This water also wouldn’t be all that useful for firefighters. Wildfires are a natural part of the ecosystem, so the goal is to allow these fires to burn without threatening lives and property, and spraying water isn’t the main method for containing them.

For wildland firefighters, the tools of the trade are Pulaskis, rakes, shovels, and flamethrowers that burn clearings ahead of towering infernos. Instead of fire engines, they use bulldozers. Since these firefighters aren’t usually using pump trucks and fire hoses, they aren’t limited by water. When they need to snuff out an area, they often do it by air.

These methods help firefighters clear a perimeter of potential fuel to control the spread of flames. But as Westerling added on Twitter, the president’s suggestion of “tree clear” only goes so far.

A. LeRoy Westerling@LeroyWesterling

‘Tree clearing’ isn’t goint to help with the fires burning in grass and shrub fuels. But California is investing millions in fuels treatments funded by our carbon permit auction revenue. It would be wonderful if the Federal gov emulated us, since it owns most of the trees here

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire spreading!

There were indeed regulations that prevented firefighting equipment from being used, but officials say water rules are not hampering firefighting efforts. In fact, the largest fires in California right now have plenty of water nearby.

Scott McLean, a spokesperson for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, pointed out to me that the Carr Fire burned around Shasta Lake and Whiskeytown Lake, while the Mendocino Complex Fire is roaring near Clear Lake.

For a state like California that’s facing increasing heat and more frequent weather whiplashbetween extreme rain and drought, the real “bad environmental laws” worsening the situation are actually Trump’s attempts to roll back policies — like California’s Clean Air Act waiver — that would help mitigate climate change and the threat of more wildfires.

Why is Trump suddenly so interested in California water policy anyway?

For one, it appears to be an opportunity to take a swing at the state’s governor, Jerry Brown, a vociferous critic of the president.

But Trump may also be hearing about it from Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), a confidant who has long fought California’s water restrictions. As the New York Times reported in February:

In this district, Mr. Nunes is more closely associated with campaigning for farmers on water issues than anything to do with Russia — pushing for more dams and trying to get more water from Northern California in the face of a shortage that many fear could turn into another drought.

His efforts have largely failed to solve the problem, which his Republican constituents here blame on environmentalists and Democrats in Sacramento, California’s capital, who they say are more interested in saving the smelt from extinction than serving the region’s farmers with enough water, an issue that President Trump took up during his campaign.

The fires may have given Nunes a reason to broach the topic to Trump, who turned to Twitter to vent and jab a political opponent at the same time.

How Big a Deal Is Trump’s Fuel Economy Rollback? For the Climate, Maybe the Biggest Yet

Image
Trucks headed for delivery in California. Americans have favored larger vehicles for years now.CreditMike Blake/Reuters

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s proposal this week to weaken fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks could be his most consequential climate-policy rollback yet, increasing greenhouse gas emissions in the United States by an amount greater than many midsize countries put out in a year.

Assuming the plan is finalized and survives legal challenges, America’s cars and trucks would emit an extra 321 million to 931 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere between now and 2035 as a result of the weaker rules, according to an analysis by the research firm Rhodium Group. A separate estimate by the think tank Energy Innovation pegged the number even higher, at 1.25 billion metric tons.

To put that in context, the extra pollution in 2035 alone would be more than the current annual emissions from countries like Austria, Bangladesh or Greece, the Rhodium Group analysis found.

How big a deal is that for global warming? The Trump administration claims it is negligible. By 2100, officials argued in their proposal, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would only be 0.65 parts per million higher under the rollback than they would be if the stricter Obama-era rules had stayed in place. (Current levels in the atmosphere are around 410 parts per million.)

But that’s the wrong way to look at it, according to Trevor Houser, lead author of the Rhodium Group report. Any single climate policy from a single country will look relatively modest in isolation. Stopping global warming will require a wide variety of efforts to cut emissions from every sector of nearly every country. “In that context, this single policy really does have a big impact,” he said.

His analysis estimated that the fuel-economy rollback could have a bigger effect on emissions than either Mr. Trump’s attempts to repeal the Clean Power Plan — a federal rule to curb pollution from coal-fired power plants — or his efforts to scale back regulations on oil and gas operations that release methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.

There’s a simple reason for that. Many states have already been making impressive headway on cleaning up their power plants, thanks to a glut of cheap natural gas (which is pushing coal plants into retirement) and the falling cost of wind and solar power. Carbon dioxide emissions from the United States electricity sector are now on pace to fall below the targets envisioned in the original Clean Power Plan.

But pollution from cars and trucks has proved much trickier for states to take on. Transportation now accounts for one-third of America’s carbon-dioxide emissions, surpassing power plants as the largest source, and vehicle emissions have been steadily rising over the past few years. Federal fuel-economy standards were widely seen as a vital tool for curbing gasoline use.

“We’ve seen nowhere near the same progress in transportation as we’ve seen in electricity,” said Jordan Stutt, a policy analyst at the Acadia Center, a group in New England that is pushing for cleaner energy.

The original Obama-era standards would have required automakers to roughly double the fuel economy of their new cars, pickup trucks and S.U.V.s by 2025, putting out vehicles that would average roughly 36 miles per gallon on the road. The Trump proposal would halt the rise of those standards after 2021, when new cars were expected to average around 30 miles per gallon.

The Obama-era rules also granted California permission to set up a separate, more ambitious program to mandate more zero-emission cars on the road. Nine other states in the Northeast have adopted that program, which would require roughly 8 percent of new vehicles sold in-state to be plug-in hybrid, electric or hydrogen fuel cell models.

The Trump proposal plans to challenge California’s authority to mandate zero-emissions cars and to halt the clean vehicle program, which could dramatically slow the adoption of electric vehicles around the country in the near term.

“The zero-emissions vehicle waiver has been the biggest catalyst to date in bringing electric vehicles to market,” said Don Anair, research and deputy director of the Clean Vehicles Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

There are, however, a few important factors that could potentially counteract the climate impact of the Trump administration’s rollback, assuming that it survives any court challenge by California and other states and becomes final.

First, fuel prices will matter enormously. If oil prices increase significantly over the next decade, then many drivers might opt to buy more efficient vehicles regardless of what federal standards require. (The lower emissions numbers in the Rhodium Group analysis are based on a scenario where oil prices are high.)

But if gasoline prices stay at current levels — around $2.80 per gallon — or drop further, then Americans are expected to continue to buy S.U.V.s and other gas guzzlers, as they have been doing in increasing numbers the past few years.

Second, states could try to enact other fresh policies to try to cut emissions from the transportation sector and blunt the impact from Trump’s rollback. California and New York, for instance, have been offering tax breaks for people to buy electric vehicles, and they have been investing hundreds of millions of dollars in new charging infrastructure.

Other Northeastern states have been participating in discussions on how to reduce vehicle emissions, through steps like expanding mass transit, buying electric buses or reconfiguring cities to make them denser and more walkable.

But some of these state policies can be politically difficult and take time to enact. In the absence of stricter federal fuel economy standards, states like Connecticut and Maryland that have set legislative targets for reducing economywide emissions might struggle to meet their goals.

“Transportation is extremely complicated and it really takes all levels of government working together,” said Vicki Arroyo, the executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center, who has been working with states on plans to cut emissions from transportation. If the federal government pulls back, she said, “it’s a tremendous setback.”

The automakers themselves are another wild card. While many manufacturers have been developing new electric car models in response to the ever-rising fuel economy standards, it’s not clear how many would completely pull back if the standards were frozen. China and Europe are continuing to push hard on fuel efficiency and battery-powered vehicles, and automakers have those international markets to consider.

And the biggest wild card of all? What the next president might do. “If a new administration came in, they’d have a blank slate for rethinking the standards entirely, and there are a lot of ideas out there for standards that would be even more effective” than the Obama-era rules, said Mr. Houser.

If a future president ultimately managed to put even stricter vehicle rules in place, he said, “that would certainly reduce the magnitude of the emissions impact that we’re projecting.”

Alaskans say ‘no’ to cruel hunting methods for killing hibernating bears, wolf pups in dens

June 29, 2018

A rule recently proposed by the Trump administration would roll back an Obama-era regulation that prohibits controversial and scientifically unjustified methods of hunting on Alaska’s national preserves, which are federal public lands. These egregious hunting methods include the use of artificial light to attract hibernating bears and their cubs out of their dens to kill them, shooting wolf and coyote pups and mothers at their dens, using bait to attract brown and black bears, shooting vulnerable swimming caribou, including with the aid of motorboats, and using dogs to hunt black bears. Biologists have already condemned these methods, and now a supermajority of Alaska’s residents have spoken out resoundingly against allowing them in their state.

The telephone poll, conducted by Remington Research Group and released by the Humane Society of the United States, found a whopping 71 percent of Alaskan voters oppose allowing hunters to use artificial light to attract hibernating bears and their cubs out of their dens to kill them. Sixty-nine percent oppose hunting black bears with packs of hounds, and 75 percent oppose hunting swimming caribou with the aid of motorboats. Sixty percent of Alaskan voters oppose the baiting of bears with pet food, grease, rotting game or fish or other high-calorie foods, and 57 percent oppose killing whole packs of wolves and coyotes when they are raising their pups in their dens.

The poll also found that a majority of voters disfavor allowing trophy hunters and trappers killing wolves, brown bears, black bears, wolverines, lynx and other wildlife on state lands along the northeast boundary of Denali National Park and Preserve.

In complete disregard for the wishes of the state’s residents, however, the Department of the Interior’s National Park Service is now accepting public comments on the controversial rule that’s designed to benefit a handful of trophy hunters looking for their next big kill.

This indiscriminate killing of native carnivores such as grizzly bears and wolves is often justified as “protecting” ungulates, animals like caribou and moose. But in Alaska and elsewhere, studies show, such predator control, including trophy hunting or culling of wild native carnivores in order to grow game herds, just doesn’t work. In fact, that is precisely the finding of a comprehensive new study that was reported in Scientific American.

On the other hand, live native carnivores like grizzly bears and wolves contribute immensely to the state’s economy. In Alaska, wildlife-watching tourism brings $2 billion every year to local, rural economies.

Several studies in Alaska show that predator control is doomed to fail, because the unforgiving Arctic lands cannot sustain large numbers of prey herds in the short growing seasons followed by extreme winters. Alaska officials have also failed to acknowledge that with the massive killing of wolves or bears, other smaller predators rise up to compete for those same prey, rendering these cruel and harmful predator control practices utterly futile.

Most Alaskans do not want hunters, backed by the deep pockets of trophy-hunting groups like Safari Club International and Alaska Outdoor Council, treating their state as a shopping mall for bearskin rugs and wolf heads to adorn their walls. American wildlife is for all of us to enjoy, and you can do your part to help save it by submitting a commentopposing this new proposed rule by July 23.

Mindless Behavior, Sadistic Tactics Planned Against Alaska Wildlife

Here are C.A.S.H.’s Comments Re the proposed anti-animal tactics to be undertaken in Alaskan National Monuments:

As a wildlife photographer I’ve spent the better part of a decade in Alaska, photographing bears and wolves in addition to moose, Dall’s sheep and caribou in numerous locations throughout the region. Most of what I saw was in the State’s National Parks—Glacier Bay, Katmai and Denali. One thing that struck me right off was how comparatively little wildlife I came acrossin National Monuments such as Wrangle Saint Elias. Clearly, hunting and trapping had taken their toll in the unprotected lands and monuments that, unlike the parks, allowed wildlife “harvesting.”

But even if I wasn’t now president of the group C.A.S.H., the Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting, I’d be sickened, outraged and appalled by the new federal proposals to allow abusive treatment of some ofthe world’s most intelligent and charismatic animals who reside in our Alaskan national monuments. Among the shockingly sadistic tactics are such mindless behaviors as murdering bear cubs and wolf pups in their dens, targeting of animals like swimming caribou from boats and using bait to lure animals like bears in for the kill.

The Trump Administration, in their rush to undo any protections wildlife may have been afforded under the Obama Administration, must think they’ll score points with their friends in the NRA or the Safari Club. But their boss doesn’t need anything else to make him look bad at this point in his career—his sons are already doing a bang-up job at that.

Jim Robertson

President, Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting.

Comment on the new rules here: https://www.regulations.gov/searchResults?rpp=25&po=0&s=1024-AE38&fp=true&ns=true

Trump Skipping G7 Climate Meeting on Climate, Clean Energy, Oceans

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with President Trump. Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

President Donald Trump headed for the Group of Seven (G7) summit in Canada on Friday but will be leaving before Saturday’s meeting on climate changeclean energy and oceans. The White House said an aide will take Trump’s place, CNN reported.

The announcement of his early departure comes amid a brewing war on tariffs. French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a joint press conference on Thursday they intended to challenge Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports at the G7 summit, according to the Associated Press.

Trump will depart for Singapore on Saturday for his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“I am heading for Canada and the G-7 for talks that will mostly center on the long time unfair trade practiced against the United States,” the president tweeted today. “From there I go to Singapore and talks with North Korea on Denuclearization. Won’t be talking about the Russian Witch Hunt Hoax for a while!”

Frankly, it’s not surprising that Trump wants to skip the climate meeting with the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the UK. The president doesn’t believe in climate science, he wants to dramatically expand offshore oil drilling along the nation’s coasts, and his intention to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement has created a significant rift between the U.S. and its G7 allies.

In fact, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt also ducked out of a G7 meeting of environment ministers in Italy last June.

Just look at how incongruous the aims of the G7 meeting are compared to Trump’s pro-fossil fuel agenda:

  1. How can the G7 accelerate the transition to low carbon, climate resilient economies? What issues, areas, or initiatives should the G7 prioritize?
  2. How can the G7 create a cleaner environment for future generations, while also creating jobs and growth that benefits everyone?
  3. What are the most important issues facing our oceans and coastal communities today? How should the G7 work together to address these issues, including as it relates to expanding conservation, eliminating pollution, and promoting the sustainable use of maritime resources?
  4. How can the G7 advance gender equality and women’s empowerment through its actions related to climate change, oceans and clean growth?

As Earther noted, “One can hope Trump’s absence will reduce distractions.” Perhaps, as the website suggested, the meeting can instead focus on the Trudeau government’s recent $4.5 billion purchase of the controversial Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline.

Better yet, the G7 leaders can talk about a new report from Britain’s Overseas Development Institute. The report revealed that their governments continue to subsidize at least $100 billion a year in subsidies for the production and use of coaloil and gas, despite repeated pledges to phase out fossil fuels by 2025.