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Bill McKibben: Climate Change Is Scary—Not the Green New Deal
By Bill McKibben
Myron Ebell of the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, the man who led the drive to pull America out of the Paris climate accords, said the other day that the Green New Deal was a "back-to-the-dark-ages manifesto." That's language worth thinking about, coming from perhaps the Right's most influential spokesman on climate change.
Ebell's complaint (and that of the rest of the Right) is that the set of proposals to address climate change and economic inequality put forth last week by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey would do too much, and cost too much. Indeed, he describes the Green New Deal this way: "It calls for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in 10 years, 'upgrading all existing buildings', and replacing our vehicle fleet with electric cars and more mass transit. And turning our energy economy upside down must be accomplished while ending historic income inequities and oppression of disadvantaged groups." All of which sounds good not just to me, but to most people: Polling for the Green New Deal is through the roof, especially among young people so ably organized by the Sunrise Movement.
But even if ending historic oppression doesn't catch your fancy, it's not a return to the Dark Ages.
A return to the Dark Ages is what happened in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit: Survivors dying in the convention center of a modern American city, locals organizing a makeshift "navy" to try to pluck people from rooftops after levees collapsed.
A return to the Dark Ages is what happened in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, when most of the island was literally dark for months as workers struggled to rebuild power lines.
A return to the Dark Ages is what happened in California last fall, when old people burned to death in their cars while stuck in traffic jams trying to flee deadly wildfires.
And that's just the United States. Around the world now we're seeing climate change help ignite diabolical civil war in places like Syria, where the fiercest drought in the history of what we used to call the Fertile Crescent has driven millions of farmers off their land. We're watching the rapid spread of diseases such as zika via the wings of insects whose range expands as climate warms. Studies have demonstrated that, after years of decline, starvation and child labor are now on the rise as the result of climate stress.
That's what a modern Dark Ages looks like.
What the future looks like is electric cars, to use one of Ebell's examples. They outperform internal combustion vehicles by every metric: They move more nimbly, they cost less to own and operate, they break down less often because there are fewer moving parts.
What the future looks like is mass transit. Visit Europe and ride on the trains for a few days and then explain how much more modern it is to sit in traffic jams in American exurbia.
What the future looks like is "upgrading all existing buildings," because it's now easy to do. Example after example shows that technology like, say, air-source heat pumps don't just cut carbon, they cut heating bills, making them affordable from day one.
We're against these things because—why again?
That better future doesn't come for free—but it costs pennies on the dollar compared to the future Ebell and his Beltway ilk apparently accept, the one where you have to start moving all the residents of Miami, the one where fire season never stops, the one where growing wheat becomes a chancy proposition. And if you think these political conservatives prefer a less costly plan, think again: When Barack Obama proposed the mighty-modest Clean Power Plan to reduce the use of coal-fired power plants, Ebell called it "illegal."
What Ebell and his colleagues prefer is—nothing. It's sticking with coal and gas and oil while the global temperature rises another degree and another and another. Forget the Dark Ages merely 1,500 years ago—Ebell would set Earth back to the interglacial Eemian era, 130,000 years ago. Or maybe the Eocene-Paleocene Thermal Maximum, 55 million years ago.
It's very clear that conservatives have one plan for dealing with the popularity of the Green New Deal: scaring the hell out of people. And it's very clear that they have one big problem: The hell they're building through inaction is a lot scarier than "upgrading all existing buildings."
Reposted with permission from our media associate YES! Magazine.
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Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.