If you're looking to cut down on your single-use plastic consumption, refusing to-go cutlery is an easy switch to make. In this article, we'll show you three of the best bamboo utensils and cutlery sets for eating on the go.
Why Use Bamboo Utensils?
There are a few reasons we recommend tossing bamboo utensils in your pocket or purse. As takeout and food delivery is becoming increasingly popular, the use (and disposal) of plastic to-go cutlery is on the rise. According to Forbes, in the U.S. alone, it's estimated that 40 billion individual plastic utensils are wasted every year.
Many times, it's not just a single fork or spoon but a whole set wrapped in a disposable plastic bag, complete with a napkin and even single-serve salt and pepper packets. More often than not, people only use the one utensil they need and toss the rest without a second thought.
By carrying reusable utensils with you, you can refuse the single-use cutlery. But with so many options — metal, bamboo, or sturdy plastic — it can be difficult to narrow down the best set for you.
Here are a few reasons we recommend going with reusable bamboo utensils over metal or plastic alternatives:
- Lightweight: Bamboo is lighter than both plastic and metal, making it more convenient to carry for everyday use.
- Odorless: Some materials, especially plastic, can take on the smell of the foods you've eaten. Bamboo doesn't trap odors, so you don't have to worry about them getting funky.
- Compostable and biodegradable: If your bamboo utensils get worn out, they can be composted at the end of their life, so they'll never end up in a landfill or waterway.
Best Bamboo Utensil Sets
Based on our market research and firsthand use, these are the three best bamboo utensils and eco-friendly bamboo cutlery sets available:
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Most Sustainable: To-Go Ware Bamboo Utensil Set With Carrying Case
The To-Go Ware Bamboo Utensil Set includes a fork, spoon, non-serrated knife, and chopsticks. It comes in a handy carrying case that's made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles, so not only are you preventing plastic from entering the waste stream, but you're also helping to reduce the amount of existing plastic clogging our landfills and oceans.
The company itself, a certified B Corp, has a steadfast commitment to the planet. Aside from using sustainable materials, it collaborates with eco-friendly brands like Patagonia and 4ocean and has employee programs such as a zero-waste pledge and community clean-ups to reduce its environmental footprint.
Customer Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars with over 1,500 Amazon reviewsWhy Buy: Sleeve made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles; Certified B Corp; Climate Neutral Certified; Supports 1% For the Planet; Fair Labor Association member
Most Convenient: Bambu Reusable Bamboo Sporks
If a full bamboo cutlery set is too bulky to carry, consider the compact Bambu Reusable Bamboo Spork. This merges two bamboo utensils into one convenient tool that's small enough to fit in your pocket yet still large enough to hold in your hand and comfortably eat with.
Bambu products are sourced from the "bamboo belt" of Eastern China and sustainably handcrafted in family-operated workshops near the raw material source for minimal environmental impact. It's certified organic by a number of international organizations, including the USDA, LETIS, and CERES.
Customer Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars with over 50 Amazon reviews
Why Buy: Certified USDA Organic and Biobased Product; Certified B Corp; Carbonfree® Product Certified; Supports 1% For the Planet
Best For Travel: Waves of Change Reusable Bamboo Utensil Set
The Waves of Change line from Full Circle Home features ocean-inspired products to make meals away from home more sustainable, including insulated lunch bags, sandwich and snack pouches, and a reusable bamboo utensil set.
These eco-friendly bamboo utensils come in a zippered pouch for extra cleanliness while traveling or commuting. Whether you choose the wave or whale design, each pouch is made with a recycled fabric that's produced from plastic waste and certified by the Global Recycled Standard (GRS).
Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 200 Amazon reviewsWhy Buy: Sleeve made from GRS-certified recycled fabric; Certified B Corp; Plastic Neutral company; Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified; USDA Certified Biobased Product
Whether it be bringing your own utensils, a reusable straw, or a takeout container from home, finding ways to reduce your plastic consumption when out to eat is key to leading a more sustainable life. With any of these three bamboo utensil sets, you can feel good about being able to refuse single-use plastic on the go.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
By Jeannette Cwienk
As Germans shiver through double-digit negative temperatures and more than 80 centimeters (30 inches) of snow in parts of the country, climate science deniers have taken to social media to argue that global warming is a hoax.
Their claim — which has been repeatedly debunked by climate scientists — is that extremely cold weather shows that carbon dioxide emissions are not warming the Earth.
In fact, the effects of global warming may even have favored the extremely cold temperature.
Why Is It So Cold?
The past week's sub-zero temperatures and heavy snowfalls are more than just a cold winter. They are made more likely by the collapse of the polar vortex — a huge ring of cold winds raging in the Earth's stratosphere — at the North Pole.
The polar vortex is closely connected to the jet stream, a band of strong winds about 10 kilometers above the ground. At the polar front, this flows between warm air from the tropics and subtropics, and cold polar air. The pressure extremes that form in this transitional area at lower layers are sometimes referred to in weather reports as the Icelandic low or the Azores high.
The jet stream usually determines the winter weather in Europe: if it is strong and flows from west to east, it brings mild, windy and rainy weather from the Atlantic, and holds the cold air from the Arctic.
But if the jet stream is weak and wavy, the polar vortex also weakens, and sometimes breaks down completely. The cold snap across Europe is the result of a weak jet stream — more precisely a dip — that has caused a strong and long-lasting collapse of the polar vortex.
How Can Climate Change Make the Weather Colder?
Through the burning of fossil fuels, people have heated the planet by more than 1 degrees Celsius (1.8°F) since the Industrial Revolution. The decade from 2010 to 2019 was the hottest on record. Climate change, however, doesn't only lead to higher temperatures, but more extreme weather.
This is where the disproportionate warming of the Arctic comes into play, said Stefan Rahmstorf, head of the Earth System Analysis research department at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). Temperatures in the Arctic have risen more than twice as fast as the global average over the past 40 years. "These changes are affecting the weather in Europe."
The jet stream usually determines the winter weather in Europe: if it is strong and flows from west to east, it brings mild, windy and rainy weather from the Atlantic, and holds the cold air from the Arctic.
But if the jet stream is weak and wavy, the polar vortex also weakens, and sometimes breaks down completely. The cold snap across Europe is the result of a weak jet stream — more precisely a dip — that has caused a strong and long-lasting collapse of the polar vortex.
Arctic warming is particularly strong in winter, said Dörthe Handorf, who researches the physics of the atmosphere at the Alfred Wegener Institute of the Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI). "As many studies show, this weakens the jet stream."
The wind stream begins to fray, said Handorf, which could lead to more dips that affect temperatures in Europe.
Will Climate Change Make European Winters Colder?
Climate change won't necessarily make European winters colder because the outbreaks of cold air from the polar vortex are sometimes milder than the current cold snap. The Arctic is also not the only part of the world where air currents are changing because of rising temperatures.
Strong warming over the subtropics also affects the jet stream, said Handorf. While the Arctic warming tends to direct the jet stream southwards and cause cold spells in Europe, the subtropical warming generally sends the band northwards. If this is the case, she said, the winter weather in Europe will be milder. Climate models do not yet know which warming trend will dominate in the future, she added.
Why Global Warming Can Lead to Snow
Snow forms when warm, moist air meets very cold air. Over the flatlands in western Europe, the air is rarely cold enough for the volume of snowfall that has blanketed the region this winter.
But on this occasion, an area of high-pressure air called Gisela brought cold Arctic winds to the center of Germany, where it collided with two low-pressure areas called Tristan and Reinhard. As they were carrying warm sea air, the moisture was turned into snow.
Because warmer air holds more moisture, rising temperatures mean air masses will transport more water. This moisture can then become snow wherever it gets cold enough — typically at higher altitudes.
The massive snowfalls in the Alps in the winter of 2019 were also triggered by unusually moist and warm air masses. At that time, said Peter Hoffmann, meteorologist at PIK, the oceans were still quite warm in winter due to the long, hot summer — and so a lot of water evaporated.
The air currents then took it to the Alps, where an enormous amount of wet snow fell at high altitudes, causing chaos on the roads and increasing the risk of avalanches.
What's the Difference Between Weather and Climate?
Changes in local weather can be different to changes in the global climate. This can cause confusion.
While average temperatures have warmed to record-breaking levels — making regional heatwaves and wildfires more intense — climate change does not make temperatures everywhere rise. In the past 20 years, for example, winters in many areas of temperate latitudes have not been much warmer than the long-term average, said Handorf.
Complex weather systems such as the polar vortex, for instance, could be cooling parts of Europe even as the Arctic warms. And though February may be particularly cold this year, January — compared to the long-term average — might have been too warm.
"Although we don't always see warming regionally or locally, we have no signs that global warming is weakening," said Handorf. "On the contrary."
The changing jet stream also affects summer temperatures, she added. "There are studies that show we also have a more meandering jet stream in summer. And these meanders, these bulges, tend to remain more stationary." In other words, just like a cold spell in winter, the heat can last for an unusually long time in summer.
If hot Saharan air then reaches Europe through the jet stream, as it did in June 2019, for example, it can cause a long heat wave. During such scorching weeks and months, it seems obvious that the climate crisis is upon us — but the same is true when it snows.
This article was adapted from German by Ajit Niranjan.
Reposted with permission from DW.
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Over the past decade, rapid advances in solar energy technology, falling costs of clean energy systems and government-sponsored incentives have driven the popularity of installing solar panels to a record level. For readers wondering, "who is the best solar installer near me?" here's the good news: To capitalize on the projected growth of solar power, a large number of new solar installers and electricians are opening up shop across the country, which creates healthy competition for your business.
The growing number of competing solar installers presents both challenges and opportunities for a customer. One one hand, having more options may make for a more difficult decision. But on the other, savvy investors can use competition between local installers to their advantage. The competition between solar companies can lower the cost of solar panels, saving you thousands of dollars.
To make sure you're getting the best bang for your buck, we recommend getting free quotes from a few certified solar installers near you. You can get connected with top solar companies in your area by filling out the 30-second form below.
So, How Do I Find the Best Solar Installer Near Me?
To get a concrete understanding of the cost and process of installing a solar panel system on your home, it's best to contact a solar installer near you. Typically, most solar installers will offer a free consultation during which they analyze your current energy use, roof layout, budget, product availability and energy goals. Then, they'll offer a proposal customized to your specific needs.
To ensure they're securing the best possible value from their investment in renewable energy, savvy customers will get proposals from several companies and compare costs and warranties. Companies frequently run specials and promotions on solar products or energy efficiency packages, so be sure to ask about those when reaching out for quotes.
When choosing the best solar installer for your job, look for a company that provides homeowners with assistance when applying for the federal solar tax credit as well as any applicable local rebates and solar tax incentives. If applicable, installers will also help you get connected to the net metering program offered by your utility company, and most will walk you through solar financing options if you're unable to pay cash for your system.
It's a good idea to be familiar with financial incentives and financing options prior to your consultation to ensure an installer covers everything available. If an installer doesn't have a thorough knowledge of local programs or doesn't offer help with applying for rebates or solar loans, it may not be the best company to do business with.
Here are some other things to consider when looking for the best solar installers near you:
- Licenses and certifications: Legitimate installers hold state-mandated electrical licenses as well as North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certifications.
- Customer reviews: Checking a company's Better Business Bureau rating and reviews from customers around the web can give you a better sense of an installer's service.
- Additional services offered: Some installers have tree removal, roof repair, solar battery installation and energy monitoring services. If you need these or other solutions to complete your installation, look for a full-service installer.
- Financing options: Whether you're paying in cash, taking out a loan or wanting to lease solar panels, make sure the installers you're considering have the financing options you need.
How Do I Read a Solar Proposal?
Choosing a few top solar installers near you and booking consultations is the easy part. Once you get proposals from each company, however, things may get a bit more confusing. Reading and understanding those proposals is one of the most important steps in choosing a solar installer. Here are a few items to look out for in a proposal:
|Solar Proposal Element||What to Look for from Solar Installers Near You|
The size of a solar energy system is measured in kilowatts, which is abbreviated to kW. A kW is a common unit of energy measuring power generation — or consumption.
The size of your system will be based on how much energy you use in your home and will determine how many solar panels you need to purchase. For example, if you need a 5kW system and are purchasing panels with a 340-watt output, you'll need 15 panels. (5kW / 340W = 14.7 panels)
Estimated annual solar production
Your estimated annual solar production is a measure of how much energy your system is expected to produce in one year. You can compare this figure with the usage shown on your utility bills to calculate how much energy your system will offset.
Estimated energy burden
When creating a proposal, a solar installer will ask how much electricity your home uses each year. They use this to calculate your estimated energy burden, which reflects how much money you could expect to spend on energy without a solar system.
Watch out for number inflation here, as installers will often factor in rising utility rates over time. If an installer estimates a high energy burden, it makes it easier for them to calculate high estimated lifetime savings. If you get multiple proposals and one reflects a much higher estimated energy burden than the others, the installer may be using shady sales tactics.
Estimated lifetime savings
By comparing your energy burden with your estimated annual solar production, solar installers can estimate the lifetime energy savings generated by a system.
Compare this key figure to other proposals to evaluate which company may offer the best return on investment (ROI).
What Should I Expect from My Solar Panel Installation?
So, you've compared your proposals and picked a winner. A trustworthy solar installer will walk you through the process from beginning to end, but here's a good idea of what to expect when installing solar panels:
|Solar Installation Step||What to Expect from Solar Installers Near You|
Sign contract and submit paperwork
Customers should be prepared to provide a copy of a utility bill, a down payment (depending on their chosen financing) and a signature for their net metering agreement if applicable.
Obtain permits and approvals
Similar to some other home improvements, an approved permit from the presiding city or county is required for solar projects in most areas. The solar installer will handle the permitting, but this process can take a few days to weeks depending on the efficiency of the area.
Most energy providers also require approval for solar installations in their network. This can come in the form of a net metering agreement or interconnection agreement.
Once all the permits and approvals are secured, the company will schedule a day to install the solar panels, inverters and other equipment.
The timing will vary depending on the complexity of the installation, but most are completed in less than one day.
Both the presiding permitting office and utility company need to inspect the installation before it can be turned on. The solar installer will handle the inspection logistics, but scheduling and completing an inspection can take a few weeks.
Obtain PTO and turn system on
Once your utility provider approves the inspection and processes the necessary paperwork, it issues permission to operate (PTO). Obtaining PTO is the final step before a system can be turned on.
After this happens, your solar installer will notify you and walk you through the steps of turning the system on or come and do it for you if necessary.
FAQ: Solar Installers Near Me
Who is the best solar panel provider?
Though we can recommend some top solar companies that operate across the U.S., the best solar panel provider and installer for you will depend on where you live. We encourage readers to compare quotes from local companies, read reviews and talk to neighbors who have installed solar panels. Referrals are also a popular method for finding a trusted installer.
What is the average cost of installing a solar system?
The cost of installing solar will vary greatly depending on the size of the system, your location and the type of solar panels and other products you choose. On average for a modest system, one can expect to pay between $15,000, and $20,000 after the tax credit is applied.
Is installing solar panels worth it?
Unless you deal with a shady property, a rainy climate or an unfit roof, solar panels are one of the most reliable investments you can make. Most solar panel installations pay for themselves in energy savings within five to 10 years and last an expected lifetime of 25 years. Even if you intend to move, solar panels add to property value, so your investment is protected.
How much will solar help me save on my electric bill?
Energy savings depend on a variety of factors such as monthly energy usage, the size of the system and the size and shape of the roof exposed to sunlight. The best way to calculate estimated savings on your electric bill is to consult a solar installer near you.
By Ilana Cohen
Last November, youth climate activists helped elect U.S. President Joe Biden. The Green New Deal enthusiasts turned their peers out to the polls in record numbers, with youth of color making a key difference in battleground states. Many were motivated by Biden's historically bold climate agenda—which was shaped, in no small part, by the activism and input of youth climate activists. They were also moved by a strong desire to defeat climate science denier incumbent Donald Trump.
But the first few weeks of the Biden administration have given activists some reason to doubt that Biden will deliver serious climate action. While including progressive climate policy leaders on his team and issuing sweeping executive actions to combat climate change, Biden has also continued issuing dozens of new oil drilling permits.
Now, many youth climate activists are demanding a say in U.S. federal climate policy.
"We need to be given not just the mic but decision-making abilities," said Isabella Fallahi. The 17-year-old is the founder of Polluters Out, a global youth-led coalition targeting the fossil fuel industry. "We ought to be able to dictate what our future is going to look like."
A Formal Role?
Offering young climate activists an official seat at Biden's White House table could help secure Democratic support for upcoming elections. Such a position would also bring a fresh and likely more left-leaning perspective to federal climate policy.
Marcela Mulholland warned that "it's easy to pay lip service" to representing youth in policy making "without actually following through." Mulholland is Deputy Director for Climate at progressive think tank Data for Progress. "I would love to see more formalized structures… that make sure the youth climate perspective is represented in the policymaking process," she said.
Already, many youth climate activists are pointing to historical precedent for including young people in the work of local, state, national, and even international agencies. They hope that the White House will follow suit.
The 18-year-old climate activist Sophia Kianni, for instance, said she wanted to see the Biden administration adopt a model similar to the UN Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change, of which she is a U.S. representative. The group, initially formed last July, comprises seven 18 to 28-year-old climate leaders from around the world. The Advisory Group counsels UN Secretary-General António Guterres on international action to tackle the climate crisis.
Kianni suggested that the White House replicate this structure. She proposed assembling a diverse team of U.S. climate activists to advise climate policy czars Gina McCarthy and John Kerry, along with other federal agencies.
Sophia Kianni (middle, rightmost) attending a Zoom meeting for the UN Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (top middle box). UN Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change
Meanwhile, a coalition of youth-led groups including climate organizations Earth Guardians and Future Coalition has put forward a proposal for the administration to establish an independent "Office of Young Americans". Such an office would be situated within the Executive Office of the President. They also seek the appointment of a "Director of Youth Engagement" to oversee the office and engage with top executive agencies.
Going forward, "it should just be standard operating procedure" for the White House to engage with youth climate activists, says Natalie Mebane. Associate director of U.S. policy at 350 Action, Mebane believes that young people should be considered full stakeholders in climate policy. She added that longer-standing climate organizations like 350.org could help facilitate connections between the two.
A White House spokesperson didn't respond directly to questions about whether youth climate activists will have a formal role in the White House. But they stated that the administration "feels that youth climate activists will play an important role in tackling the climate crisis" and intends to work with them to do so.
If Biden doesn't deliver a bold enough climate agenda, youth climate activists will make their frustration known.
"What we're going to do is what we do best and that's disrupt," said Fallahi. "As you see our anger rising, you can expect that the next step is we're going to take action," she remarked.
Disruptive action seems more difficult, though, when in-person action remains limited amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The massive youth climate strikes that once galvanized international attention and led to a flurry of climate emergency declarations have become impracticable.
At the same time, digital communication has offered internet and social media-savvy youth climate activists unique opportunities to amplify their demands.
Young people celebrate Joe Biden and Kamala Harris' victory in the 2020 U.S. presidential election in Washington D.C. on November 7, 2020. Photo: Elvert Barnes. Lic: CC BY-SA 2.0
Invoking her experiences targeting fossil fuel companies with Polluters Out, Fallahi suggested that youth climate activists could create "cyber storms." Some strategies are calling the White House, bombarding federal aides with emails, and posting en masse on social media to drum up public pressure.
"Cyber storms" would likely be the least of Biden's problems if the White House fails to make youth climate activists like Fallahi feel heard. Such failure could also diminish support for Democratic majorities in Congress among a key block of voters ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, according to Mulholland of Data for Progress.
Failing to deliver could also jeopardize a potential 2024 presidential run by current Vice President Kamala Harris. Given that Biden is expected to serve only a single term in office, many see Harris as a natural successor.
"Young people are the future of this country," said Mulholland. "If you want to win elections, you should make sure that they feel their perspective is included," she continued.
The extent to which the Biden administration engages with the youth climate movement remains to be seen. What's certain is that young Americans will be keeping a close watch.
"We helped get Biden elected and this is not how our generation is going to be paid back—in scraps." Fallahi refuses action that's "more symbolic than effective." "And I have full faith that the youth will be able to get that message across. Not just to the Biden administration but to the rest of the country too," she added.
This story originally appeared in Climate Tracker, and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.
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By Andy Rowell
Five years ago, the leading climate denial organization in the UK, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), published a pamphlet entitled: Carbon Dioxide, the good news.
The paper reiterated many of the climate deniers' favorite, but long discredited, arguments. In many ways, the GWPF's claims on climate science would be laughable if the ramifications were not so serious. They boil down to two main arguments: firstly, that there has been no warming and secondly, even if there has been warming, carbon dioxide is good for you.
The paper was written by Indur Goklany, described as "an independent scholar and author."
He stated that the "benefits of increasing carbon dioxide have been under-estimated" and that "the risks from increasing carbon dioxide have been overestimated."
Goklany continued: "there is little or no empirical evidence that the warming that has occurred — or any changes it may have caused — since the end of the last ice age or since the putative start of manmade warming around 1950is actually causing net harm or diminishing human or environmental wellbeing."
And also that: "the direct effects of higher carbon dioxide levels may benefit mankind and the natural world."
How anyone can describe tens of thousands of peer-reviewed research papers, along with numerous reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, along with hundreds if not thousands of other scientific assessments by Governmental panels or scientific bodies, plus thousands of credible reports by NGOs all describing our increasing climate crisis and the role that man-made emissions of carbon dioxide have had, as "no empirical evidence" — is beyond me. It is just plain stupid.
The deniers have long argued that CO2 is good for plant growth, and I had heard it in the early nineties at an OPEC conference, spoken by Dr. Richard Lindzen. At the time, the OPEC delegates lapped it up as a simplistic and fundamentally flawed argument that would allow them to carry on drilling with a so-called clean conscience.
Goklany has also written papers for other denier organizations such as the Cato Institute and the Heartland Institute. Over a decade ago, he appeared in a film entitled Policy Peril: Why Global Warming Policies are More Dangerous than Global Warming Itself.
But for years, Goklany's day job has been an official at the U.S. Interior Department. You can understand why someone like Goklany, with his die-hard denial views, would flourish well under Trump. And so when Trump was elected, he was promoted to the Office of the Deputy Secretary, with responsibility for reviewing the agency's climate policies.
Therefore, today's New York Times story is on the one hand not surprising, but at the same time, deeply worrying.
The paper notes that Goklany "embarked on a campaign that has inserted misleading language about climate change — including debunked claims that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is beneficial — into the agency's scientific reports."
According to the Times, the misleading language appears in at least nine reports, and became so embedded in documents that it was colloquially known as "Goks uncertainty language." The Times outlined how in Interior Department emails to scientists, Goklany pushed "misleading interpretations of climate science" reminiscent of his GWPF briefing:
"Firstly, that we "may be overestimating the rate of global warming, for whatever reason," and secondly that rising CO2 was beneficial because it "may increase plant water use efficiency" and "lengthen the agricultural growing season."
As the Times points out: "Both assertions misrepresent the scientific consensus that overall, climate change will result in severe disruptions to global agriculture and significant reductions in crop yields."
Samuel Myers, a research scientist at Harvard University's Center for the Environment told the Times that the language "takes very specific and isolated pieces of science, and tries to expand it in an extraordinarily misleading fashion."
But that is what the climate deniers do: set out to mislead and confuse. The reviewers for Goklany's GWPF paper, included known climate skeptics Craig Idso and Will Happer. Both men authored a petition sent to Trump in 2017, asking him to withdraw the United States from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Trump, Goklany, Lindzen, Idso, and Happer exist in a denial echo chamber. They will continue to deny the evidence as the earth warms and burns around them. We must resist this — with a new energy and vigor. In this new decade, we must ensure that the deniers' day is finally done. As Greta Thunberg and the millions of young climate activists demand every week: it is time to listen to the science.
Reposted with permission from Oil Change International.
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The attorney general for Washington, DC filed a lawsuit on Thursday against four of the largest energy companies, claiming that the companies have spent millions upon millions of dollars to deceive customers in about the calamitous effect fossil fuel extraction and emissions is having on the climate crisis, according to The Washington Post.
The suit names ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Chevron as the defendants, and argues that the companies "systematically and intentionally misled consumers in Washington, DC ... about the central role their products play in causing climate change," according to The Hill.
Karl A. Racine, the DC attorney general, said in a news conference on Thursday that the four companies painted a false picture of what effect their products had and therefore violated consumer protection laws.
"For decades, these oil and gas companies spent millions to mislead consumers and discredit climate science in pursuit of profits," Racine said in a statement, as The Washington Post reported. "OAG filed this suit to end these disinformation campaigns and to hold these companies accountable for their deceptive practices."
New York and Massachusetts have both sued ExxonMobil for fraud related to the climate crisis, though New York lost its case against the energy giant. California and Baltimore have filed similar suits. On Wednesday, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed a complaint in state court accusing ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, Flint Hills Resources and the American Petroleum Institute of consumer fraud, failure to warn, deceptive trade practices, and fraud and false advertising, as Courthouse News reported.
Ellison's complaint said that Minnesota was already feeling the effects from the climate crisis as droughts, flooding and crop failures have damaged the state's economy. That has all happened while the companies named in the suit invested in public relations campaigns that denied the climate crisis and even promoted increased CO2 as a solution to world hunger, according to Courthouse News.
"Impacts from climate change hurt our low-income residents and communities of color first and worst. The impacts on farmers in our agricultural state are widespread as well," Ellison said in a statement. "Holding these companies accountable for the climate deception they've spread and continue to spread is essential to helping families to afford their lives and live with dignity and respect."
The two suits drew praise from environmental activists and the science community.
In a statement Thursday, Greenpeace USA climate campaign director Janet Redman said, "Climate denial is not a victimless crime. Now, one by one states and local governments are stepping up to hold the perpetrators accountable," as Common Dreams reported. "Just yesterday it was Minnesota Attorney General Ellison standing up to big oil, today it's D.C. Attorney General Racine."
The Union of Concerned Scientists also issued a statement noting that the fossil fuel industry long knew about the devastating impacts of burning fossil fuels, but followed the Big Tobacco playbook and waged a disinformation campaign.
"When scientists, including some employed by ExxonMobil, warned that burning fossil fuels could catastrophically alter the climate, ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron and Shell funded decades-long disinformation campaigns designed to undermine climate science, while simultaneously unleashing an army of lobbyists to block state and federal policies that sought to limit global warming emissions to protect communities across the country," said Rachel Licker, senior climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists in a statement.
"As a result, the nation's capital and communities across the country and world now have to battle worsening floods, heat waves, wildfires and many other avoidable climate impacts," she added.
In the DC suit, Racine specifically mentioned the fossil fuel companies' strategy lifted from Big Tobacco. "The companies not only employed the Advancement of Sound Science Coalition — a fake grassroots citizen group created by Big Tobacco as part of the industry's misinformation campaign — they also funded and promoted some of the same scientists hired by tobacco companies," he said in a statement.
The lawsuit also alleges that the companies have recently exaggerated their investments and commitments to renewable energy.
"Defendants have shifted their advertising strategies to mislead DC consumers into believing that buying Defendants' products supports companies committed to reducing and reversing the effects of climate change," the lawsuit asserts, as The Washington Post reported. "In fact, the opposite is true."
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By Anne-Sophie Brändlin
So why not spend your lockdown binge-watching environmental documentaries that come with an impactful message about the fate of our planet?
1.My Octopus Teacher (2020)
No person has ever gotten as close and intimate with a wild octopus as South African filmmaker Craig Foster, who decided to head out to an underwater kelp forest in the Atlantic Ocean every day for an entire year to capture the life of the mesmerizing creature. An unusual, touching friendship develops that will likely change the way you see your relationship to animals and the planet.
2.David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet (2020)
David Attenborough is the godfather of environmental docs. In his 94 years, the Briton has visited every corner of the world, documenting nature in all its variety and wonder. His latest film is a witness statement, in which he reflects upon the devastating changes he's seen in his lifetime. He also gives a vision of the future in which we work with nature, rather than against it.
3.The Human Element (2019)
This doc follows environmental photographer James Balog on his quest to portray Americans on the frontlines of climate change whose lives and livelihoods have been affected by the collision between people and nature. Balog captures how the four elements of earth, water, air and fire are being transformed by a fifth element — the human element — and what that means for our future.
4.Before the Flood (2016)
In this doc, actor Leonardo DiCaprio teams up with National Geographic to travel the globe and witness the effects of global warming that are already visible, such as rising sea levels and deforestation. Featuring prominent figures such as Barack Obama, Ban Ki-moon, Pope Francis and Elon Musk, the doc offers solutions for a sustainable future and shows how we can challenge climate change deniers.
Need an optimistic view on how to tackle the climate crisis? Then this upbeat French doc seeking out creative alternatives to our current form of agriculture, energy supply and waste management is for you. It introduces everyday sustainability innovators from across the world, such as urban gardeners and renewable energy enthusiasts, to inspire the rest of us to make local changes
6.Racing Extinction (2015)
In this film by Oscar-winning director Louie Psihoyos, a team of activists expose the illegal trade of endangered species and document the global extinction crisis, which could result in the loss of half of all species. By using covert tactics and state-of-the-art technology, they take you to places where no one can go, uncover secrets and show you images you have never seen before.
Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the only places in the world where you can still find wild mountain gorillas. But the park and its inhabitants are under attack from poachers, armed militias and companies wanting to exploit natural resources. This gripping doc follows a group of people trying to preserve the park and protect these magnificent great apes.
8.Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (2014)
This crowdfunded documentary explores the impact of animal agriculture on the environment and investigates why the world's leading environmental organizations are too afraid to talk about it. The film has caused controversy by suggesting that animal agriculture is the primary source of environmental destruction and the main emitter of greenhouse gases, rather than fossil fuels.
9.Years of Living Dangerously (2014)
In this Emmy-winning documentary series, celebrity correspondents travel the world to interview experts and scientists on the climate crisis and its effects. But rather than focusing on its star power, the two-season series also shines a spotlight on ordinary people affected by the climate crisis and shows how we can save our world for future generations.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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First, David Legates, a University of Delaware professor who has questioned the scientific consensus that human activity drives the climate crisis and has argued carbon dioxide emissions are actually beneficial, was named deputy assistant secretary of commerce for environmental observation. Now, the Trump administration is in the process of appointing meteorologist Ryan Maue to serve as the agency's chief scientist, two NOAA officials confirmed to The Washington Post Monday. Maue, who runs the site weathermodels.com, does accept that the burning of greenhouse gases is impacting the global climate. However, he has spoken out against worst-case-scenario climate predictions and criticized activists for using extreme weather events to argue for reducing the burning of fossil fuels.
"For the second time this month, a person who misrepresents, distorts, and disagrees with climate science is being placed in a science position at NOAA," professor Katharine Hayhoe tweeted in response to the news.
Maue previously served as an adjunct scholar with the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank that questioned mainstream climate science, The Washington Post pointed out. He co-wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal challenging the climate predictions of NASA scientist James Hansen, which have been supported by peer-reviewed studies. Most recently, he has lashed out against California Gov. Gavin Newsom and his supporters for linking the climate crisis to the state's record-breaking wildfire season.
"Seems the Democrats have coordinated their efforts to use the devastating California fires as an opportunity to score political points in the upcoming election by blaming them solely on climate change (and Trump)," he wrote in a deleted tweet recovered by The Washington Post.
However, a number of studies have shown that changes to the climate are making the state's fires more frequent and more intense.
As chief scientist, Maue would influence NOAA's research agenda for oceanic and atmospheric science, as well as its scientific integrity policy. He still has to pass ethics and security reviews, but would not require Senate confirmation.
Other scientists questioned whether Maue had the credentials for the role.
"Normally, when people are chosen for high-profile positions relating to climate change, I've heard of them. I have no idea who this person is, other than I've seen him saying things about climate that are wrong on social media and in op-eds. I suspect that he has the one and only necessary qualification for the job: a willingness to advance the agenda of climate deniers," Texas A&M climate scientist Andrew Dessler tweeted in reaction to Maue's likely appointment. "To me, this emphasizes how thin the climate deniers' bench is. I'm sure they'd prefer to have someone with actual credentials take the job, but this shows that credentialized experts who dispute mainstream climate science simply don't exist."
Maue told E&E News he believes in "lukewarming."
"Lukewarming is not climate denial," Maue said. "Most of us on this side of the issue believe in lower climate sensitivity. We don't believe there's going to be 5° of warming; we figure it's at the lower end of 1.5°."
However, most scientists think the world could hit 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels within the next two decades and then continue to heat up.
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By Julia Conley
A new campaign unveiled this weekend by the nonprofit organization Fossil Free Media aims to expand on the goals of the fossil fuel divestment movement, cutting into oil and gas companies' profit margins through their public relations and ad campaigns.
Along with the support fossil fuel giants get from Wall Street, the industry has been propped up for decades by PR and advertising agencies that aren't always transparent about their relationships with companies including Shell, Exxon, and BP.
"PR and ad agencies pollute the airwaves so that fossil fuel companies can pollute the atmosphere," said Duncan Meisel, campaign manager for Fossil Free Media's project, titled Clean Creatives. "The spread of climate misinformation can be directly traced back to firms with names like WPP, Omnicom, and Edelman. As long as they continue to engage in polluter relations, these firms will be one of our greatest barriers to climate progress. It's time for PR and ad agencies to come clean."
Fossil fuel companies have spent more than $3.6 billion on advertising since the 1990s, increasingly focusing their efforts on convincing the public that they're concerned about the climate crisis and committed to "sustainability" even as they continue extracting planet-heating oil and gas.
Tens of millions of dollars also go into advertising by industry groups like the American Petroleum Institute (API), which paid PR firm Edelman $327.4 million between 2008 and 2017.
Clean Creatives' campaign will be a multi-pronged one, engaging directly with PR and ad firms as well as the creative artists who work for them—often helping to prop up the reputations of companies whose work is increasingly unpopular with the public—non-fossil fuel clients, and lawmakers.
The campaign "will be reaching out to creatives directly, including high profile directors and artists...who likely feel conflicted making propaganda for oil and gas companies," Clean Creatives said.
PR and ad companies' work for the fossil fuel industry is pushing the planet past the breaking point.… https://t.co/wOuDBM26ne— Clean Creatives (@Clean Creatives)1605974060.0
At its website, Clean Creatives urged creative artists in the PR and ad industries to take a pledge stating, "We are the heart of our industry, and our best brands want creatives that will help them find their purpose and make a difference—not take their money and then sit down with the biggest polluters on the planet."
"Sign the pledge if you are committed to using your power for good, not fossil fuels," the website reads.
The campaign will run targeted ads on LinkedIn and other social media to find employees who are willing to sign the pledge.
Clean Creatives will also expose the fossil fuel companies that major ad and PR agencies work with—information that often isn't made public by the agencies.
"Despite their sustainability goals and past pledges to stop working with climate deniers, nearly all of the world's largest PR and ad firms continue to work with fossil fuel industry clients," said Jamie Henn, founder of Fossil Free Media and producer of the Clean Creatives campaign. "WPP does business with Shell and Chevron, Omnicom's BBDO does much of ExxonMobil's advertising, Ogilvy runs branding exercises for BP. Our campaign will expose the depth and breadth of these relationships."
As the relationships are made public, Clean Creatives will engage with other clients who work with the agencies, calling on them to withhold their business unless they stop "spinning fossil fuel industry propaganda."
"Clean Creatives will be circulating a business sign-on letter via networks like the American Sustainable Business Council and the Ceres BICEP Network (Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy) in the coming days," the group said.
Fossil Free Media was encouraged recently by global PR firm Porter Novelli, which announced it would cut ties with the American Public Gas Association (APGA) at the end of the year after 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben wrote about the relationship in The New Yorker in an article published Saturday.
Starting in 2017, the firm helped the APGA develop a campaign called "Natural Gas Genius," the message of which "was 'I choose natural gas to live better,' and the firm found a mid-tier Instagram influencer to help disseminate it."
According to the APGA, the campaign's "target audience is homeowners who are looking to buy or renovate a home in the next five years. We are confident in the ability of this new type of message that speaks to the emotional aspect of natural gas, to help us achieve our goal of increasing consumer consideration of natural gas direct use in their homes."
That is, they were trying to do the opposite of what climate science suggests. If you're buying a new home or renovating an old one, you can install an electric air-source heat pump instead of a gas boiler. It will heat (and also cool) your home effectively and cheaply, and produce far fewer greenhouse gases in the process. You can also install, instead of a gas stove, an induction cooktop—an appliance whose use is growing rapidly in Asia and Europe.
Responding to McKibben's inquiries, Porter Novelli announced it had "determined our work with the American Public Gas Association is incongruous with our increased focus and priority on addressing climate justice."
Fossil Free Media applauded the move, and the climate action movement's role in pushing the agency, on social media.
Porter Novelli isn't some small shop: they've got offices and clients in 60 countries and are part of @Omnicom, the… https://t.co/iw0BCmrdzx— Jamie Henn (@Jamie Henn)1605980652.0
"It's a BIG deal that they're dropping fossil fuel clients—let's make sure it's the drop that starts a flood," wrote Henn.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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President Trump's claim that the U.S. has the cleanest air and water in the world has been widely refuted by statistics showing harmful levels of pollution. Now, a new biannual ranking released by researchers at Yale and Columbia finds that the U.S. is nowhere near the top in environmental performance, according to The Guardian.
Not only is the U.S. not in the top 10, it's not in the top 20. It ranks 24th in the 2020 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), which was released on Thursday. The top ranked country, Denmark, has made commitments to a carbon-free future, renewable energy and sustainable agriculture. By contrast, the U.S., during the Trump administration, has worked at breakneck speed to rollback environmental regulations, expand fossil fuel development, and ditch international treaties protecting the environment. He has even questioned climate science and ridiculed its findings.
"If you look at Denmark, they're doing great but they're a tiny fraction of overall carbon emissions or greenhouse gas emissions broadly," said Zach Wenderling, lead researcher on the index, as The Guardian reported. "The U.S. is one of the top five players in every greenhouse gas, so we need to do better than just OK if we're going to generate the best practices."
Many signatories to the Paris agreement have ramped up their commitments to have net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, especially in Europe. European countries performed the best in the new index. After Denmark, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom rounded out the top four, according to The Guardian.
Researchers at Yale and Columbia universities produce the global report, which is released every two years. It ranks 180 of the world's nations on 24 key indicators in 10 categories related to environmental health and ecosystem vitality.
The data-driven and empirical approach to environmental protection makes it easier to spot problems, track trends, highlight policy successes and failures, identify best practices, and optimize the benefits of investing in environmental protection, said Daniel Esty, a professor of environmental law and policy at Yale, in a university press release.
"[T]he EPI provides a clear and compelling way to see which countries are leading issue by issue, who is lagging, and what the best policy practices look like across a range of critical environmental challenges," said Esty, in the university press release.
Since the EPI was created in the year 2000, the U.S has never reached the top of the rankings.
"Countries that make an effort do better than those that don't don't and the U.S. right now is not making an effort. That shows up in a stagnation in the rankings where others are really seeing some significant improvements," said Esty, as The Guardian reported.
The U.S., which is the second largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions after China, is near the bottom of the rankings for advanced industrial countries. China, which suffers from poor air quality, has made significant investments in solar energy and reducing its dependence on coal, and climbed the rankings to 120th place. China is still a big polluter but has made "much more dramatic progress than other countries," Esty said, as The Guardian reported.
China's ranking as the world's worst contributor to the climate crisis is only recent. Over time, the U.S. has put more heat trapping gases into the air than any other country. India, which also sees its cities choking under polluted air quality, ranked 168th.
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Eco-friendly outdoor brand Patagonia has a colorful and timely message stitched into the tags of its latest line of shorts. "VOTE THE A**HOLES," it reads.
PATAGONIA’s New Tag! https://t.co/llY71SwsQG— Outlander Magazine (@Outlander Magazine)1599929596.0
The new tags are already a hit online. They became a trending topic on Twitter after a photo of the message went viral, CNN Business reported Tuesday. Company spokesperson Tessa Byars confirmed to Euronews Living that the tags were genuine, and that "a**holes" in this case meant climate deniers specifically.
"It refers to politicians from any part who deny or disregard the climate crises and ignore science, not because they aren't aware of it, but because their pockets are lined with money from oil and gas interests," Byars said.
Patagonia is no stranger to taking a stand on environmental issues. Spokesperson Corley Kenna told CNN that CEO Yvon Chouinard has been saying "vote the a**holes out" for years when talking about climate-denying politicians. The company also sued President Donald Trump for his decision to shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah and even endorsed two Senate candidates in 2018 because of their support for protecting public lands. It also decided to give away its $10 million windfall from the Trump tax cut to conservation groups.
The company's latest political message is sewn into its 2020 Men's and Women's Road to Regenerative Organic Stand-up Shorts collection, according to Euronews Living.
"[W]e have been standing up to climate deniers for almost as long as we've been making those shorts," Byars told Euronews Living.
The company first started making the shorts in 1973, CNN said.
But Patagonia is doing more to encourage voting than just sharing a cheeky message with customers, the company's director of copy Brad Wieners explained on Twitter. The company has worked with BallotReady to design a widget on their website that helps people make a voting plan for November.
"We need to elect climate leaders," the website reads. "The 2020 US Senate races will have a significant, long-lasting impact on the strength of our nation's climate policies and the existence of our wild places."
The website also features a map where the company recommends certain candidates, such as Barbara Bollier in Kansas for her support of renewable energy and Steve Bullock in Montana for his defense of public lands.
On Election Day 2020, Patagonia will repeat its practice from 2016 and 2018 and close its stores, headquarters and distribution center to encourage voting, CNN reported.
But the company is going farther this year. For the first time, it will also give employees up to four days off to train and work as poll workers to address the national shortage, Patagonia told EcoWatch in an email. It is also providing information on state voting policies in its retail stores.
"Patagonia is doing our part to ensure this November's elections are accessible for all eligible voters," Patagonia general counsel Hilary Dessouky said in the email. "Already this election has been marred by misinformation about voting, roadblocks to accessible voting and threats to cut essential voting services like the US Postal Service, which allow people to vote safely and securely. Patagonia is prioritizing time off to vote, and we encourage others to vote, serve as poll workers and share localized information to help make sure all voices are heard this November."
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James is the younger son of the Australian media tycoon Rupert Murdoch who owns News Corp, and the younger brother of Lachlan Murdoch who runs Fox News.
"Kathryn and James' views on climate are well established and their frustration with some of the News Corp and Fox coverage of the topic is also well known," a spokesperson for the couple told the Daily Beast. "They are particularly disappointed with the ongoing denial among the news outlets in Australia given obvious evidence to the contrary."
James Murdoch is CEO of Lupa Systems — a private investment firm he founded — but sits on the board of his father's companies. Recently, he has distanced himself from his father's businesses and political positions, according to CNN.
News Corp Australia dominates the media landscape across the continent. It publishes more than 140 newspapers and employs more than 3,000 journalists in print, broadcast and online, according to the Daily Beast.
While Australia has seen an estimated 15.6 million acres burn in the recent brushfires, nearly 1 billion animals have perished, and residents have choked on the hazy air, the Murdoch's newspapers continue to deny the climate crisis as the cause of the fires, as TIME reported. While scientists attribute Australia's unforgiving drought and heat to a changing climate, News Corp Australia has called such claims "silly" and "hysterical."
Some commentators and hosts on Fox News have tried to blame the fires on arsonists.
In last May's elections, most of Murdoch's papers in Australia endorsed Prime Minister Scott Morrison who has also shown skepticism about the fires' connection to the climate crisis, as CNN reported.
The Daily Beast highlighted a few egregious examples of Murdoch's papers giving voice to climate deniers in its papers.
In late November, while the fires were burning, News Corp columnist Chris Kenny wrote in The Australian, "Hysterical efforts to blame the fires on climate change continue, even though we have always faced this threat and always will."
A day later, News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt wrote in The Herald Sun: "Let's assume you're silly enough to think global warming is causing worse bushfires around the world. (In fact a recent NASA study found that the area burned by fire has dropped 24 percent over 18 years.) … True, the world has warmed slightly as it rebounds from the little ice age that stretched from 1300 to around 1870, but can we cool it on this panic? In that time of warming, life expectancy has shot up, world grain crops have set new records, and the death rate from extreme weather has been slashed by 99 percent."
And last week, on Fox News, contributor Raymond Arroyo — speaking on The Ingraham Angle about Golden Globes winners warning about climate following the Australian fires — said, "They just arrested 12 people in Australia for those fires and they were blaming it on climate change. Wrong again!" Then a couple of days later, Arroyo said, "Though Australia has had the highest temperatures on record — the driest season ever — it's not correct to say climate change caused these wildfires."
James Murdoch's outspoken statement could embolden shareholder activists to attack management and put pressure on News Corp to respond to the climate crisis, according to The Guardian.
"The pressure's mounting on them on climate change, so let's see," said Brynn O'Brien, who heads the Australasian Center for Corporate Responsibility, which has no holding in News Corp, to The Guardian. "It's a very unusual situation where you have a board member on the record, through a spokesperson, attacking the governance and operations of the company."
By Karen Charman
When President Donald Trump visited California on September 14 and dismissed the state Secretary of Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot's plea to recognize the role of climate change in the midst of the Golden State's worst and most dangerous recorded fire season to date, he gaslighted the tens of millions of West Coast residents suffering through the ordeal.
While Trump declared that the weather will just "start getting cooler" and that science is irrelevant to the wildfires, millions were struggling to breathe through the toxic smoke that gave Portland the week-long distinction of having the most hazardous air on the planet, with pollution levels in Seattle and San Francisco close behind. Whole towns in California and Oregon have been destroyed by the wildfires.
A growing body of scientific evidence over the last several decades confirms that as atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases rise, so too will frequent, intense and increasingly deadly weather events. Strange new weather phenomena like fire tornadoes, "snowacanes" and "rain bombs" are now part of our experience and language. Droughts, unprecedented heat, wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes and flooding are happening more often, becoming more severe, and occurring over larger and larger areas.
This year several strange and extreme weather conditions combined to create the perfect firestorm across the Western U.S. A prolonged record-breaking heatwave saw temperatures reach 130 degrees Fahrenheit in Death Valley, California, on August 16, and 121 degrees Fahrenheit in the Los Angeles suburb of Woodland Hills three weeks later on September 6. In mid-August, more than 10,000 dry lightning strikes began igniting fires in Northern California, Oregon and Washington, including all over the Bay Area where they were eerily close to heavily populated areas. Lightning-induced fires are also torching Idaho, Arizona, Utah, Montana, Colorado and New Mexico. Subsequent high winds in drought-stricken landscapes then turned the initial sparks into major conflagrations.
By the morning of Trump's California appearance, 28 major fires had incinerated more than 3 million acres just in California. Fires in California, Oregon and Washington had combined to create a hellscape of toxic smoke that turned the skies in those states orange, blood red and deep magenta and was detected as far away as Europe. At least 35 people had died.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, Hurricane Sally, one of five named storms then swirling in the Atlantic, was just two days away from flooding coastal communities from the Florida Panhandle to Louisiana. Sally, which submerged downtown Pensacola in five feet of water, hit just three weeks after Hurricane Laura caused massive flooding and 10 deaths. Slamming into the Louisiana coast with 150-mile-an-hour winds, Laura was one of the strongest hurricanes to make landfall in U.S. history.
So far, 2020 has been an extremely busy hurricane season with more than 20 named storms, seven of which formed in the first half of September. With two more months before the hurricane season officially ends, there could be several more. Meanwhile, many of the fires across the West are still burning.
Nor has catastrophic weather spared the middle of the country this summer. On August 10, a particularly strong derecho, a quick-forming massive wall of intense winds, blasted through Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana. The derecho cut a path 770 miles long, held its strength for 14 hours, and clocked winds up to 140 miles per hour. Four people died, and crops and buildings on some 10 million acres in Iowa — nearly a third of the state's farmland — were heavily damaged. This storm also caused significant damage to cars and homes, downed power lines and destroyed massive numbers of trees in Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and parts of Chicago.
In 2019, the Fourth National Climate Assessment, a comprehensive report mandated by Congress to study the impacts of climate change, found that without substantial and sustained greenhouse gas reductions along with vast infrastructure upgrades, unabated climate change will threaten much that many Americans take for granted and lead to an unrecognizable, dystopian existence for large swaths of the population.
Among the report's findings: food will become harder to grow and be lower in quality but more expensive. Clean, safe water supplies will become scarce in many parts of the country. Human health will take a significant hit from worsening air and water pollution, greater exposure to disease-carrying insects, pests, foodborne and waterborne pathogens, as well as the emotional strain of having to deal with the reality and uncertainty of catastrophic weather events and their aftermath. Heat will kill more people. Energy supplies will become increasingly unstable and more costly (because most U.S. power plants need a steady supply of cooling water to operate).
Moreover, the report predicts that already compromised roads, bridges, and the safety of pipelines all over the country will be vulnerable to damage from violent storms and flooding. Whole communities, especially those facing rising sea levels along the coastline, will be forced to move. Increasing production and supply chain disruptions will cause significant damage to the economy as a whole. Areas and industries that depend on natural resources and good, stable weather will likely be hardest hit with annual losses in the hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century, an amount exceeding the current total economic output of many U.S. states.
Overall, the report predicts "substantial net damage to the U.S. economy throughout this century," though it notes that poor and disadvantaged communities will disproportionately bear the worst impacts.
A stark illustration of what current levels of greenhouse gas emissions will look like is provided in maps by the Rhodium Group, a New York-based independent research organization, which forecasts a much harsher living environment for many parts of the U.S. over the next 20 to 40 years. Temperatures above 95 degrees Fahrenheit will become much more common, especially in the South and Southwest, with places like Phoenix, Arizona, much of interior Southern California and southern Texas likely sweltering in 95 degrees or hotter for half the year.
Along with rising temperatures, humidity is expected to dramatically increase, even in places like Arizona, Southern California and Nevada, which have long been known for their dry heat. When excessive humidity combines with extreme heat, it creates "wet bulb" temperatures where sweating fails to cool the body. Such conditions make it dangerous to work outside or for kids to play outside. According to Rhodium's projections, current emissions are on track to turn much of the Mississippi Valley, the above-mentioned areas in the Southwest, southern Texas, and coastal areas in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina into high wet bulb zones.
Despite all of these future threats — on top of the climate disasters we are already seeing — Trump, the ruling Republicans, the fossil fuel sector and their defenders in right-wing media continue to deny climate change.
"If we don't have a stable environment to live in, there's no way to have life, liberty, or pursue happiness," Jeffrey Potent, adjunct professor of sustainability at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, told Truthout, decrying the Trump administration's attack on the government's ability to oversee and protect our environment.
"This is completely different from anything I have encountered in Washington," said Tyson Slocum, director Public Citizen's energy program. "It's an all-out assault on everything for the public interest."
Foxes Guarding the Henhouse
Before he assumed power, Trump attacked regulations as unnecessary barriers to freedom and economic prosperity. Since taking office, he has targeted anything enacted by the administration of his predecessor, Barack Obama, and taken steps to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement, the international effort to combat climate change. He has also staffed heads of key agencies with climate deniers of various stripes, forced out career public servants and created a hostile work environment for those who don't profess loyalty to his deregulatory agenda.
Like Trump himself, some of his cabinet choices displayed an audacious penchant for self-dealing and abusing their positions of authority. One example is Trump's first Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Scott Pruitt, who aggressively worked to overturn Obama's climate regulations, spent most of his time in private meetings with fossil fuel and chemical company executives, sidelined career EPA staff and reconfigured independent scientific advisory boards to make them more supportive of the industries EPA is charged with regulating. Dubbed "one of the most scandal-plagued Cabinet officials in U.S. history," Pruitt resigned in disgrace after revelations about his multiple brazen abuses, including using the agency as his personal concierge service and piggy bank.
Pruitt's deputy, Andrew Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist and longtime Republican Washington insider, took over and has continued Trump's deregulatory agenda apace.
At the Department of Interior (DOI), a sprawling agency that oversees 75 percent of the country's public federal lands and includes the U.S. Geological Survey, which is tasked with evaluating natural hazards that threaten life and the health of our ecosystems, Trump installed another flamboyant anti-environmentalist to head the agency. Like Pruitt, Trump's first Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke aggressively attacked environmental regulations, ditched more than 200 advisory panels, and pushed to open up vast swaths of public land to oil and gas drilling. Described by one environmental group as "the most anti-conservation Interior secretary in our nation's history," Zinke was forced out after numerous highly publicized conflict-of-interest scandals.
The DOI is now run by Zinke's deputy secretary, David Bernhardt, another longtime Republican Washington insider and former oil industry lobbyist who has also been the subject of several government ethics complaints for various violations favoring polluting industries.
More recently, longtime climate change denier David Legates, a climatologist at the University of Delaware previously funded by fossil fuel interests, was hired for a top job advancing weather modeling and prediction at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Legates has called for increasing carbon emissions.
The Trump administration has done much more than stack government agencies with fossil fuel industry proponents. It has removed or diluted discussion of climate change from as many government platforms as it can and decimated independent scientific advisory boards that provide unbiased, fact-based information the government needs to enact policies that protect the public. It has also slashed environmental agency staffing and budgets.
The Damage So Far
A September 17 report by the Rhodium Group calculates that 1.8 billion tons more greenhouse gases will be released over the next 15 years as a result of climate change rollbacks the Trump administration has achieved so far. These include repealing Obama's main climate policy, the Clean Power Plan, which was intended to reduce dirty emissions from power plants; increasing pollution from cars by rolling back fuel economy standards and challenging California's longtime authority to set stricter emissions standards; targeting controls on hydrofluorocarbons, powerful greenhouse gases used mainly in refrigerators and air conditioners that also destroy the Earth's protective ozone layer; and allowing unreported and unregulated emissions of methane, another potent greenhouse gas, by oil and gas companies.
Besides these measures, Trump is also trying to gut core environmental statutes like the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, all of which were enacted to protect human health and preserve a livable world.
The Paris agreement aims to keep the rise in average global temperatures at less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and hopefully cap it at 1.5 degrees C or lower. We are now at approximately 1.2 degrees C and counting.
This story originally appeared in Truthout and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.
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- New NASA Project Will Help Identify Greenhouse Gases From Space ›
- EPA Proposes Phase Down of Climate Super-Pollutants ›
- China Now Emits More Greenhouse Gases Than Developed World ›