Leonardo DiCaprio and Terry Tamminen, the CEO of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF), met with Donald Trump and his advisors including daughter Ivanka Trump on Wednesday at Trump Tower in New York to discuss how green jobs can revitalize the economy.
Actor and environmental advocate Leonardo DiCaprio Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation
“We presented the President-elect and his advisors with a framework—which LDF developed in consultation with leading voices in the fields of economics and environmentalism—that details how to unleash a major economic revival across the United States that is centered on investments in sustainable infrastructure," Tamminen said in a statement to EcoWatch. "Our conversation focused on how create millions of secure, American jobs in the construction and operation of commercial and residential clean, renewable energy generation."
"These programs are attainable—and include energy efficiency upgrades that pay for themselves with savings, waste reduction projects that can turn every city into a source of new materials and fuels, and transportation projects that will support global trade while reducing traffic and air pollution and make America a leader in sustainable fuel and vehicle technologies," he added.
The meeting took place on the same day that Trump announced his controversial choice of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Trump's pick was met with unprecedented criticism by environmental and health organizations nationwide, who consider Pruitt a "puppet" of the fossil fuel industry. Pruitt, who believes the science behind climate change is unsettled and believes the EPA's regulations are a war on energy, has spearheaded numerous lawsuits against the Obama administration and the agency he will likely be heading.
Pruitt falls in line with Trump's other cabinet nominees who have close ties to Big Energy and deny the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is causing climate change. The commander in chief to-be is a notorious climate change denialist himself who has made plans to exit the Paris climate accord, revitalize the coal industry and axe many of President Obama's environmental initiatives, including the historic Clean Power Plan that reduces emissions from power plans.
Although the president-elect will not be able to completely nix Obama's Clean Power Plan, having Pruitt—an experienced legal officer—as EPA head can help "substantially weaken, delay or slowly dismantle them," as the New York Times noted.
But Tamminen, who served as Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, said Trump was receptive during their meeting and a follow-up will take place next month.
"Climate change is bigger than politics, and the disastrous effects on our planet and our civilization will continue regardless of what party holds majorities in Congress or occupies the White House," he said. "The President-elect expressed his desire for a follow up meeting in January, and we look forward to continuing the conversation with the incoming administration as we work to stop the dangerous march of climate change, while putting millions of people to work at the same time."
DiCaprio is a prominent environmental advocate who said in October during a sit-down with President Obama and climate scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, that "If you do not believe in climate change you do not believe in facts or science or empirical truths, and therefore in my opinion, you should not be allowed to hold public office."
Well, we all know what happened on Nov. 8.
Perhaps DiCaprio is now using his clout to push the incoming administration towards a more sustainable economy. In one part of DiCaprio's climate change documentary Before the Flood, the Oscar-winning actor toured the Tesla gigafactory in Nevada with founder and CEO Elon Musk, who is also a big proponent of green jobs.
"If governments can set the rules in favor of sustainable energy, then we can get there really quickly," Musk told DiCaprio about transitioning the world to sustainable energy.
Trump recently said he had "an open mind" with regards to climate change science and policies although many environmentalists are skeptical.
Daughter Ivanka, however, is purportedly planning on using her new mantle to address climate change. Earlier this week, Trump and the future First Daughter met with former VP Al Gore at Trump Tower to discuss the topic.
"I had a lengthy and very productive session with the president-elect," Gore said after the meeting. "It was a sincere search for areas of common ground."
DiCaprio also reportedly gave the Trumps a copy of his climate change documentary at a recent meeting....
Missouri's largest peach grower is suing Monsanto over claims that dicamba drift caused widespread damage to the farm's peach trees. This is Monsanto's first lawsuit over the illegal spraying of the herbicide on its genetically modified (GMO) cotton and soy that's suspected of causing extensive damage to non-target crops across America's farm belt.
Peach tree damaged by dicamba drift Kade McBroom
The lawsuit, Bader Farms, Inc., et al v. Monsanto Company, Case No. 16DU-CC00111, was filed in Dunklin County, Missouri on Nov. 23. Bill Bader of Bader Farms in Campbell, Missouri claims that more than 7,000 peach trees were damaged by the drift-prone and extremely volatile herbicide in 2015, amounting to $1.5 million in losses. This year, the farm said it lost more than 30,000 trees, with financial losses estimated in the millions.
The complaint accuses Monsanto of knowingly selling dicamba-tolerant cotton and soybean seeds to farmers before securing federal approval for the herbicide designed to go along with it. Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton was introduced in 2015 and Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans was introduced earlier this year. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency only
approved the corresponding herbicide, XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology, last month.
Even though the biotech company warned growers against illegal dicamba use on the crops, many farmers allegedly sprayed older versions of dicamba on the crops anyway to stop weeds. However, while Monsanto's crops are genetically engineered to tolerate sprays of dicamba, other crops cannot. And since dicamba is extremely prone to drift, it can be picked up by the wind and land on neighboring fields, crops and native plants. In the fall, 10 states reported horrific damage on thousands of acres of peaches, tomatoes, cantaloupes, watermelons, rice, cotton, peas, peanuts, alfalfa and soybeans.
Bader said in August that 400-500 farmers in his region have been affected: "If they don't get compensation 60 percent will be out of business in two years."
"We need to go after Monsanto. These farmers are being hung out to dry," Bader added.
Bader's lawsuit alleges that Monsanto chose to sell its Xtend cotton and soybean seeds knowing that such destructive spraying would be inevitable.
"Monsanto chose to sell these seeds before they could be safely cultivated," Bev Randles of Randles & Splittgerber, the Kansas City, Missouri law firm representing Bader Farms, said in a statement. "We believe it is against Monsanto's own practice, not to mention industry standards, to release a seed without a corresponding herbicide to protect the crop from destruction. But Monsanto chose greed over public safety and made farms in Southeast Missouri and Northeast Arkansas unwilling test labs for their defective seed system."
The law firm expects similar lawsuits to follow. "Our firm continues to be contacted to help farmers who have been harmed by Monsanto's actions," Randles said. "They are folks who have supported Monsanto by purchasing their products for years, only to have been betrayed in the end. We expect more farmers to file suit in the coming weeks."
In response, Monsanto said that the responsibility lies with the growers who illegally applied dicamba.
"Both prior to and throughout the 2016 season, Monsanto took many steps to remind growers, dealers and applicators that dicamba was not approved for in-crop use at the time, and we do not condone the illegal use of any pesticide," the company said in a statement to Brownfield. "While we sympathize with those who have been impacted by farmers who chose to apply dicamba illegally, this lawsuit attempts to shift responsibility away from individuals who knowingly and intentionally broke state and federal law and harmed their neighbors in the process. Responsibility for these actions belongs to those individuals alone. We will defend ourselves accordingly."
Monsanto developed its Xtend system to address "superweeds" that have grown resistant to glyphosate, the main ingredient in the company's former bread-and-butter, Roundup. The firm expects to see 15 million Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybean acres and more than 3 million acres of Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton in 2017. According to AgWeb, the technology is also licensed to more than 100 additional brands. The company has invested more than $1 billion in a dicamba production facility in Luling, Louisiana, to meet the demand it predicts.
Critics, however, are worried about the herbicide's potential threat to biodiversity, that it forces growers to switch to the Xtend system and that it only creates another round of superweeds. Dicamba-resistant weeds have already been found in Kansas and Nebraska.
"We can't spray our way out of this problem. We need to get off the pesticide treadmill," Dr. Nathan Donley with the Center for Biological Diversity said. "Pesticide resistant superweeds are a serious threat to our farmers, and piling on more pesticides will just result in superweeds resistant to more pesticides. We can't fight evolution—it's a losing strategy."...
For the third day in a row, air pollution blanketed Paris, which authorities called the worst bout for at least 10 years. The city imposed driving restrictions and made public transit free.
Unusually calm air failed to disperse vehicle emissions and particulates from wood fires, creating conditions that have veiled the Eiffel Tower in a gray haze.
Paris has instituted a system based on alternating odd or even license plate numbers to ban certain vehicles from city streets, effectively cutting traffic in half each day. This is just the fourth time in 20 years that Paris has taken this step, and the first time it has been in place for consecutive days.
"Cars are poisoning the air," Paris city hall transport official Herve Levife told Reuters. "We need to take preventive measures."
"We want these bans to automatically take effect when the pollution exceeds a certain level, not have to negotiate them with the government each time," Levife added.
More than 1,700 drivers were issued tickets for violating the ban on Tuesday, which carries a fine of 35 Euros, or about $37.42. Hybrid and battery electric vehicles, as well as those carrying three or more passengers, are exempt.
All public transit was made free, putting a strain on commuter systems as crowds piled onto trains and buses. The city's bike-share system was also free to use.
Along with Paris, the French cities of Lyons and Villeurbanne were expected to impose similar measures.
Air quality index readings reached or exceeded 150 on Thursday, considered a "critical" level.Air Pollution in Paris: Real-time Air Quality Index Visual Map
Readings of particulate matter exceeded 80 micrograms per cubic meter. The European Union has set a maximum daily average of 50. Particulate matter, due to its small size, can be inhaled deeply into lungs. High exposure can cause asthma, lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory diseases, birth defects and premature death.
Beginning July 1, Paris banned all cars 20 years or older. Longer-term, Paris and three other cities—Athens, Madrid and Mexico City—will ban diesel engines by 2025 as announced earlier this week. Diesels area major emitter of particulate matter pollution.
In March 2015, the air quality index in Paris briefly made it the worst polluted city in the world....
Two studies published in Nature Wednesday show seemingly contradictory visions for Greenland's past and the future of its ice sheet, but actually describe different aspects of the ice.
Meltwater on the Greenland ice sheet carved this canyon. Ian Joughin
One study finds that Greenland's ice sheet may have melted almost completely and repeatedly during the last 1.4 million years, suggesting the ice is more sensitive to warming than currently thought.
The second concluded that the ice on the very easternmost coast has been stable over a 7.5 million year period. Scientists working on both studies say that their results could be compatible: both demonstrate the volatility of the ice sheet, both show that more research is needed, and that while the majority of the island's ice has melted multiple times, the high altitude east coast has remained icy. Determining the ice sheet's response to warming is crucial, because its melting could raise global sea levels by up to 24 feet.
For a deeper dive:
Donald Trump has appointed Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The conservative Republican has close ties to the fossil fuel industry and has waged numerous legal wars against the EPA and President Obama's environmental regulations, including the president's signature Clean Power Plan.
Pruitt, who was elected as Oklahoma's top legal officer in November 2010, states on his own LinkedIn page that he "has led the charge with repeated notices and subsequent lawsuits against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for their leadership's activist agenda and refusal to follow the law."
Although the president-elect will not be able to completely cancel Obama's historic carbon emissions standards for power plants, having a legally experienced EPA head can help "substantially weaken, delay or slowly dismantle them," the New York Times reported.
Pruitt was among a handful of other attorneys general that began planning as early as 2014 a coordinated legal effort to fight the Obama Administration's climate rules. That effort has resulted in a 28-state lawsuit against the Clean Power Plan. The case is now pending in federal court, but likely to advance to the Supreme Court, the New York Times said.
Watch this Fox Business interview with Pruitt in August 2015 when he was leading the charge against the EPA's guidelines on emissions, calling the 2015 EPA rules a power grab:
Trump's latest appointee falls in line with his other cabinet picks who deny the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is causing climate change. Pruitt once wrote an editorial questioning "the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind."
The Heartland Institute, a nonprofit that questions the reality and import of climate change, celebrated Trump's EPA appointment. H. Sterling Burnett, research fellow at The Heartland Institute, said in response, "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!"
Keith Gaby, the senior communications director of the Environmental Defense Fund, noted that since 2002, Pruitt has "received more than $314,996 from fossil fuel industries." In 2014, Pruitt was infamously caught sending letters to President Obama and federal agency heads asserting that the EPA was overestimating the air pollution from drilling for natural gas in Oklahoma. Turns out, the letter was by lawyers for one of state's largest oil and gas companies, Devon Energy.
Harold G. Hamm, the chief executive of Continental Energy, was also co-chairman of Pruitt's 2013 re-election campaign.
Pruitt's appointment has been met with unprecedented criticism by environmental and health organizations nationwide.
"By appointing Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Trump is putting America at risk," Greenpeace spokesperson Travis Nichols said. "Pruitt is a pure product of the oil and gas industry, installed in successive government posts to sell out his constituents at every turn. He will push this country far behind the rest of the world in the race for 21st century clean energy. With Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA, the people and the environment will be in the hands of a man who cares about neither."
Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, agrees. "The mission of the EPA and its administrator requires an absolute commitment to safeguard public health and protect our air, land, water and planet. That's the litmus test. By naming Pruitt, President-elect Trump has flunked," Suh exclaimed.
Suh wrote in a blog post on Monday that "over the past five years, Pruitt has used his position as Oklahoma's top prosecutor to sue the EPA in a series of attempts to deny Americans the benefits of reducing mercury, arsenic and other toxins from the air we breathe; cutting smog that can cause asthma attacks; and protecting our wetlands and streams."
"You couldn't pick a better fossil fuel industry puppet," 350.org's Executive Director May Boeve said. "Pruitt's appointment reveals Trump's climate flip-flopping and meetings with Gore as nothing more than a smokescreen."
And the outcry didn't stop there.
Ken Cook, president of Environmental Working Group, said, "It's a safe assumption that Pruitt could be the most hostile EPA administrator toward clean air and safe drinking water in history."
CEO and president of Defenders of Wildlife, Jamie Rappaport Clark, added, "We need a leader for EPA who fully appreciates the gravity of the menace that climate change poses for our nation's public health, our wildlife and our environment, and is prepared to use the full force of our nation's strong environmental laws to curb that threat. Mr. Pruitt is plainly not that person."
Food & Water Watch's executive director, Wenonah Hauter, shared her dismay, too. Pruitt has championed the interests of industrial agriculture in his state, supporting a dubious, deregulatory 'right to farm' initiative that residents rightly rejected at the ballot box this year. He's also sued the EPA over the Waters of the U.S. rule that effectively strengthens the Clean Water Act."
"Pruitt is a wholly owned subsidiary of the oil industry," Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute, said. "Any Senator who doesn't fight this nomination is handing corporate polluters a wrecking ball to destroy our future."
World Resources Institute's Director Sam Adams said, Americans depend on EPA to promote human health and protect families and future generations. Its ability to protect air, water, and the climate for all people must continue."
Friends of the Earth climate and energy program director Benjamin Schreiber concurred. "As the Attorney General, Scott Pruitt did the bidding of the oil and gas industry and fought many of the laws he will now be tasked to enforce," Schreiber said. "He helped Big Oil turn Oklahoma into an Earthquake zone."
David Turnbull, campaigns director at Oil Change International, concluded, "We call on Senators to reject this nomination, as well as other climate-denying, unqualified and regressive nominees. There is no place in our government for individuals who refuse to accept science and risk the safety of Americans around the country. There is no place in our government for individuals who are in clear alliance with the industry fueling our climate crisis. We need a separation of oil and state."...
As many as 10,000 snow geese landed on the remains of an open pit mine near Butte, Montana that was filled with toxic water. Now, they are being found sick and dead in places as unwild as a Walmart parking lot and a nearby casino.
The Berkeley Pit, an abandoned open pit copper mine in Butte, Montana—part of the largest Superfund site in the U.S.—is filled with 40 billion gallons of acidic, metal-contaminated water. PitWatch.org
The 700-acre Berkeley Pit closed in 1982, leaving behind a trove of toxic heavy metals. As the pit filled with rainwater, arsenic, cadmium, copper, cobalt, iron, zinc and other inorganic compunds leached into the water. It soon became a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund site.
Snow geese summer in colonies on the Canadian and Alaskan tundra, migrating south in the fall to wintering grounds along the American coasts and inland wetland areas. For those in the central part of the continent, their migration route takes them across Montana.
On the evening of Nov. 28, wildlife spotters hired by Montana Resources, which jointly manages the abandoned mine with Atlantic Richfield, saw an incoming flock about 25 miles away that they estimated at 25,000 geese.
"I can't underscore enough how many birds were in the Butte area that night," Mark Thompson, environmental affairs manager for Montana Resources told the Associated Press. "Numbers beyond anything we've ever experienced in our 21 years of monitoring by several orders of magnitude."
Workers used hazing techniques including loud noises and non-lethal gunshots to attempt to deter the birds. But they may not have had much choice in where to land.
One theory is that the usual landing place for migrating snow geese—Freezeout Lake west of Great Falls—was largely frozen over when the geese flew by. Others think that November's unseasonably warm weather delayed the timing of their southbound migration or that a storm may have driven the birds to find a new landing spot.
Crews have been trying to rescue as many birds as possible, bringing the geese to animal shelters and veterinarians as they find them. But a similar, although much smaller, die-off in 1995 showed how dangerous the toxic waters can be.
"In each bird autopsied, the oral cavity, trachea, and esophagus, as well as digestive organs like the gizzard and intestines, were lined with burns and festering sores," wrote Harper's in 1996.
Snow geese are not considered an endangered species. The population numbers about 15 million.
Mining in the Butte region dates back to 1864 when gold was discovered in Silver Bow Creek. A large-scale underground mine operated from 1875 to 1955, when open-pit mining at Berkeley Pit began.
A Montana mine circa 1893. U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
A spokesman for the EPA said the companies and agency are keeping a lookout for additional flocks headed toward Butte.
Montana Resources said it will reimburse veterinary costs and investigate this incident. It will look to update its mitigation plan to keep wildlife out of the pit water....
Al Gore was the latest participant in the president-elect's parade of pandering, meeting with daughter Ivanka Trump and then Donald Trump himself. Might this mean we might see a change his position on climate change? And will the impeccably cited letter to Ivanka or interview with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. on the Dakota Access Pipeline, both published in the Observer, which is owned by Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, make a difference? Does any of this portend a softening of Trump's denial?
Gage Skidmore / Flickr
Not anymore than his waffling at the New York Times interview, or the uncovering of the fact that his golf course in Scotland lists climate change as a reason to build a seawall, or his own signature on a decade-old open letter calling for climate action.
Because the day after the meeting with Gore, Trump's transition team named five new members of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) landing team: David Kreutzer (Heritage), Austin Lipari (Federalist), David Schnare (EELI), Dave Stevenson (Caesar Rodney Institute) and George Sugiyama. Of the five of them, only two aren't with groups receiving funding from the Koch brothers. Although the link between the Kochs and Stevenson's Caesar Rodney Institute isn't crystal clear, they are a member of the Koch-funded State Policy Network. Stevenson also recently wrote that the American Lung Association and EPA are engaged in some sort of anti-clean-air conspiracy because "if you work for the EPA, the worst possible outcome is to actually have clean air."
The other is George Sugiyama, a lawyer who worked for Sen. "Snowball" James Inhofe as his counsel for the Senate's Environment and Public Works committee. After that, he went to work for a law firm that defends companies from regulations, which was described as a focus of his work.
For the next four years, Trump will undoubtedly say lots of things. Some might give us cause for hope. But none should be trusted.
In a post-truth world, only actions matter. And so far, Trump has appointed fossil fuel funded deniers and those who have worked to protect polluters from EPA's regulations to his EPA landing team and entertained the likes of ExxonMobil's CEO Rex Tillerson for the position of Secretary of State. (At least Tillerson has some relevant experience, like his "close ties to Vladimir Putin"). All this to say it's looking pretty undeniable that the Donald will remain in denial.
Which is an inconvenient truth, but not an unexpected or unbelievable one.
Photos by Brian Nevins, Introduction by Joe Spring
This past Saturday night, Dispatch singer Brad Corrigan called photographer Brian Nevins, and told him he wanted to go to Standing Rock. Nevins was on a flight six hours later from Boston. At the time, Corrigan was in Pine Ridge Reservation doing work for his organization Love, Light and Melody, which he'd founded to raise the profile of vulnerable children by telling their stories. Some of the people with him at Pine Ridge wanted to go to Standing Rock to be water protectors. He invited Nevins to join them, because the photographer has worked with him on past projects, most notably in Nicaragua.
Both men were present when news moved through the camp that the Department of the Army would look for an alternative route to the pipeline, instead of drilling near the camp and under the Missouri River. After the announcement, Nevins said the reaction in camp ranged from happy to concerned that the news couldn't be trusted. He said that people also realized that the forces behind the Dakota Access Pipeline might just wait until Donald Trump is in office to move forward and that they are resolved to protest until the end.
His photos capture a march that took place after the announcement was made. "It's a far cry from what it felt like to be there, but I hope it captures our best side of humanity," Nevins said. "For a day we were one people with one cause all unified in prayer for the cause of our planet. It brought me to tears. We are truly amazing as humans."
Reposted with permission from our media associate SIERRA Magazine.
In a bluntly titled blog post, Note to Breitbart: Earth Is Not Cooling, Climate Change Is Real and Please Stop Using Our Video to Mislead Americans, The Weather Channel took Breitbart to task for using a Weather.com video in an article about "global cooling."
The post lays out the misleading science behind the Breitbart piece and tells the outlet to "please call" the Weather Channel the next time they need a fact check on a climate-related piece.
The Breitbart article—a prime example of cherry picking, or pulling a single item out of context to build a misleading case—includes this statement: "The last three years may eventually come to be seen as the final death rattle of the global warming scare."
In fact, thousands of researchers and scientific societies are in agreement that greenhouse gases produced by human activity are warming the planet's climate and will keep doing so.
The Breitbart article was tweeted out from the official U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology account last week, leading to furious backlash from the scientific community.
For a deeper dive:
A six-inch crude oil pipeline operated by Belle Fourche Pipeline Company in western North Dakota was shut down following discovery of a leak on Monday. The amount of the spill was not immediately known, but oil has leaked into the Ash Coulee Creek in Billings County.
The site of the spill is about 200 miles from the camp where members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their supporters have been protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
"It is a significant spill," Bill Suess, spill investigation program manager for the North Dakota Department of health, said.
"A series of booms have been placed across the creek to prevent downstream migration and a siphon dam has been constructed four miles downstream of the release point."
The Belle Fourche Pipeline Co. is part of the family-owned True companies, which also operates Bridger Pipeline LLC. Both pipelines are operated from the same control room in Casper, Wyoming. From 2006 to 2014, Belle Fourche reported 21 incidents, leaking a total of 272,832 gallons of oil. Bridger Pipeline recorded nine pipeline incidents in the same period, spilling nearly 11,000 gallons of crude.
"In general, Bridger has a poor compliance history," wrote a federal regulator charged with overseeing pipeline safety in a 2012 order regarding a 2006 oil spill.
A Belle Fourche pipeline that spilled 12,200 gallons in May, 2014 occurred on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land near Buffalo, Wyoming. It was later discovered that Belle Fourche did not have a permit to operate the land. Its sister company, Bridger, was fined $27,029 for trespassing by the BLM.
Bridger was also responsbile for dumping up to 50,000 gallons of crude into the scenic Yellowstone River in 2015.
While operators claim that oil pipelines are safer than trains or trucks, an aging infrastructure and inadequate oversight leads to numerous leaks, most of which never make headlines. A Nov. 30 analysis by Citylab revealed that more than 9,000 significant accidents over the past 20 years have resulted in 548 deaths, 2,576 injuries and more than $8.5 billion in financial damages. An Oct. 25 analysis by EcoWatch found 220 significant pipeline spills to date in 2016 and showed that the number of significant pipeline incidents has grown 26.8 percent from 2006 to 2015.
The Belle Fourche and Bridger pipelines transport crude oil in the Williston Basin of western North Dakota and eastern Montana and the Powder River Basin of Wyoming....