‘It’s Not Going to Get Turned Around in 10 Years’: Sen. Feinstein Criticized for Dismissive Attitude to Young Climate Activists
An encounter between 15 San Francisco middle and high school students and California Senator Dianne Feinstein on Friday revealed a generational divide within the Democratic party when it comes to acting on climate change.
The children arrived to ask Feinstein to support the Green New Deal resolution proposed by Democratic New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Democratic Massachusetts Senator Edward J. Markey, which calls for a 10-year plan to shift the U.S. away from fossil fuels and towards 100 percent renewable energy while providing green jobs. They were met with a refusal that the Sunrise Movement Bay Area called "condescending" in a Facebook post sharing the video.
"That resolution will not pass the Senate, and you can take that back to whoever sent you here and tell them," Feinstein said at one point, The New York Times reported. "I've been in the Senate for over a quarter of a century and I know what can pass and I know what can't pass."
You can watch the full video here:
Feinstein countered the children's request by sharing a draft of an alternative proposal that she told them was both more affordable and more likely to pass the Senate. However, environmentalist critics like 350.org founder Bill McKibben pointed out that Feinstein's proposal—which calls for zero carbon emissions by 2050—simply does not move fast enough for scientific reality. He explained in The New Yorker:
The irony is that, when Feinstein said she's been "doing this for thirty years," she described the precise time period during which we could have acted. James Hansen brought the climate question to widespread attention with his congressional testimony in 1988. If we'd moved thirty years ago, moderate steps of the kind that Feinstein proposes would have been enough to change our trajectory. But that didn't get done, in large part because oil and gas companies that have successfully gamed our political system didn't want it to get done. And the legislators didn't do anywhere near enough to fight them.
The video revealed this tension between political and physical reality. One of the children referenced the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that says greenhouse gas emissions must rapidly fall within 12 years in order for warming to stay at 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
"Some scientists have said that we have 12 years to turn this around," the child said.
"Well, it's not going to get turned around in 10 years," Feinstein responded.
The video also exemplifies a rift between more seasoned legislatures who are used to how Washington works and younger Americans who are afraid for what climate change could mean for their futures.
"The divide in today's Democratic party is not left vs center/left, it is generational," Brian Fallon, a former aide to top Democrats Eric Holder, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer, said in a Tweet quoted by The New York Times.
The divide in today's Democratic party is not left vs center/left, it is generational. https://t.co/vvcKoHcH1K— Brian Fallon (@Brian Fallon)1550877522.0
Some commentators criticized the targeting of Feinstein, who is still working on the issue. when Republicans including President Donald Trump engage in out right climate denial. They also questioned whether the children were acting entirely on their own behalf.
"[W]hy didn't they go after someone who's against climate change?" NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell asked on Meet the Press Sunday. "She has legislation. She's saying, 'I don't want to sign on to the Green New Deal because it's aspirational. It's not legislation. I'm working on something that's real.' Also, who are the adults who bring their kids who don't understand this stuff?"
The children featured in the video have pushed back against the idea that their actions were directed by adults.
"We are the young people in this video. We have heard claims that we are being used as props or prepped by the adults in the room," they wrote on their Twitter account Youth Vs. Apocalypse. "That's just not true. We write our own petitions, deliver our own speeches, and organize our own events. It's our future at stake."
We are the young people in this video. We have heard claims that we are being used as props or prepped by the adult… https://t.co/BbnidD8OIy— Youth Vs. Apocalypse (@Youth Vs. Apocalypse)1550975854.0
Young climate activists aren't just targeting Democrats. Thirty-nine young people were arrested at Republican Senator Mitch McConnell's D.C. office during a Green New Deal protest Monday, the Sunrise Movement tweeted.
UPDATE: 39 young people were arrested at #OilMoneyMitch's DC office today. All were fighting for #GreenNewDeal and… https://t.co/vJRC1Wn4Dw— Sunrise Movement 🌅 (@Sunrise Movement 🌅)1551117956.0
But that doesn't mean Fensteinn is off the hook, either. The Youth Vs. Apocalypse activists returned to her San Francisco office Monday with a letter in hopes of explaining their objections to her alternative Green New Deal proposal. Feinstein was not in her office, but no one else from her team would accept the letter, and the children had to leave the it outside the door when the office responded with a lock and extra security, according to a series of videos shared on Twitter.
They’re putting in extra security now... https://t.co/D2xJxHrrdo— Youth Vs. Apocalypse (@Youth Vs. Apocalypse)1551117610.0
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the young activists who confronted Dianne Feinstein are not affiliated with the Sunrise Movement, while they support its work. The language in this article has been clarified to reflect this.
"What the hell is going on with Global Waming? Please come back fast, we need you!" he wrote.
In the beautiful Midwest, windchill temperatures are reaching minus 60 degrees, the coldest ever recorded. In comin… https://t.co/FnaCaBA5Nz— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1548728929.0
While scientists and journalists jumped in to point out his mistake, Trump also got a schooling from a less traditional group: comedians. On Jimmy Kimmel Live! Tuesday, the talk show host invited two children to explain the basics of climate science to the president.
Eight-year old Apollo and ten-year-old Kaitlynn broke down the workings of the greenhouse effect with helpful illustrations.
"And even though it's cold where you are, that doesn't mean the globe isn't heating up," Apollo said. "What you are experiencing is weather. Weather is what happens today. Climate is what happens over the long run."
You can watch the full segment here:
Kids Explain Climate Change to Donald Trump www.youtube.com
Not to be left out, Seth Meyers also addressed the president's remarks on the Late Night with Seth Meyers by using Trump's confrontational temperament as an object lesson in the difference between weather and climate, The Huffington Post reported.
To demonstrate weather, he showed a one-off clip of Trump saying he respected Hillary Clinton, his opponent in the 2016 election, for her persistence.
"See that was weather. A quick, one-time thing," Meyers said.
"Now this is climate," Meyers continued, introducing a montage of some of Trump's most offensive remarks. "And that's what's going to get us all killed," the comedian concluded.
From tonight’s #LNSM: Seth explains global warming in terms Trump can understand. https://t.co/YZRNLc9hW5— Late Night with Seth Meyers (@Late Night with Seth Meyers)1548811230.0
Stephen Colbert, meanwhile, addressed the fact that climate change might actually be the cause of the extreme cold threatening the Midwest this week.
"These temperatures are actually caused by 'global waming,' sir," the host of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert said in his opening monologue, mocking the president's typo. "Polar vortex breaks up and dips south, it's all predicted."
What The Hell Is Going On With 'Global Waming?' www.youtube.com
Indeed, the Union of Concerned Scientists explained that a weaker polar vortex, the name for the cold air that usually circulates around the poles, means colder temperatures in Northern Eurasia and the Eastern U.S. That vortex has been weakened by accelerated Arctic warming and the melting of Arctic sea ice. Temperatures in some Midwest cities are colder now than parts of Antarctica, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
But perhaps the most elegant, though unintentional, takedown of the president's climate ignorance came earlier in the day from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). On Tuesday morning, NOAA Climate.gov tweeted a cartoon showing how warmer oceans can add more moisture to the atmosphere, actually increasing snowfall.
"Winter storms don't prove that global warming isn't happening," the tweet read.
Winter storms don't prove that global warming isn't happening. https://t.co/LDqfq4JH9n https://t.co/ndmLD637Cb— NOAA Climate.gov (@NOAA Climate.gov)1548774023.0
NOAA spokeswoman Monica Allen told The Hill that the tweet was not a veiled dig at the president.
"With the blast of severe winter weather affecting the US, we often get asked about the relationship between cold weather and climate change. We routinely put this story out at these times," Allen said. "Our scientists weren't responding to a tweet."
Colbert: Trump Should Get the Ocean to Pay for Wall to Save Tangier Island https://t.co/fP8eGeCFBL #renewable… https://t.co/BXrdN5K9OS— Renewable Search (@Renewable Search)1497969246.0
- Blind, Burrowing, Thin-Skinned Worm Named After Climate-Denier ... ›
- Michael Mann Fights Climate Denial With Comedy - EcoWatch ›
For nearly as long as solar panels have been gracing rooftops and barren land, creative people have been searching out additional surfaces that can be tiled with energy-generating photovoltaic (PV) panels. The idea has been pretty straightforward: if solar panels generate energy simply by facing the sun, then humans could collectively reduce our reliance on coal, oil, gas and other polluting fuels by maximizing our aggregate solar surface area.
So, what kind of unobstructed surfaces are built in every community and in between every major city across the globe? Highways and streets. With this in mind, the futuristic vision of laying thousands, or even millions, of solar panels on top of the asphalt of interstates and main streets was born.
While the concept art looked like a still from a sci-fi film, many inventors, businesses and investors saw these panels as a golden path toward clean energy and profit. Ultimately, though, the technology and economics ended up letting down those working behind each solar roadway project — from initial concepts in the early 2000s to the first solar roadway actually opened in France in 2016, they all flopped.
In the years since the concept of solar roadways went viral, solar PV has continued to improve in technology and drop in price. So, with a 2021 lens, is it time to re-run the numbers and see if a solar roadway could potentially deliver on that early promise? We dig in to find out.
Solar Roadways: The Original Concept
Solar roadways are complex in execution, but in concept, they're as simple as they sound. They're roads "paved" with extremely strong solar panels that are covered in glass that can withstand environmental stressors and the weight of vehicles driving over them on a consistent basis.
The idea was something that got people really excited when the initial Solar Roadways, Inc. project (which is still seeking funding) burst onto the scene in 2014:
More advanced designs included solar roadways outfitted with LED lights that could be used to illuminate lane lines, communicate to drivers and more. Other iterations included weight sensors that would detect when obstructions were on the road or could alert homeowners if unexpected vehicles were approaching their driveway. Embedding these kinds of technology into the solar roadways renderings only added to their appeal and the initial hype around the concept.
Key Selling Points of Solar Roadways
Early innovators of solar roadways touted the numerous benefits of their ideas. These included:
- Sunlight shines down on roads at no cost, making the energy not only readily available, but also free (aside from installation and maintenance).
- The ability to power street lights with solar roadways eliminated the need to pull extra energy from the grid.
- Having electronics embedded into the roadway opened up a world of possibilities for communicating with drivers in ways that didn't require painting and repainting of roads.
- The ingenuity to attach weight sensors on the solar panels could be used to alert drivers about potential obstructions, such as animals, disabled vehicles or rocks on the road.
- In a future of electric vehicles, the possibilities were seen as even more beneficial, as solar roadways could be used to power electric vehicle charging stations or to charge the cars while they're driving.
While some early thinkers may also have envisioned these roadways sending solar energy to the local power grid, the most impactful way solar roadways could utilize the energy they generated is right around the road itself: lighting street lights, heating mechanisms to melt snow on the roadway, or powering small emergency equipment on road shoulders.
Using the energy for on-road applications would mean that the power didn't have to be sent long distances before being used, which results in energy loss. However, in more rural or remote locations, having the solar roadway energy available for nearby homes and businesses could be a huge benefit, especially if there's an outage in the overall grid.
Why Solar Roadway Tests Have Failed
To much of the general public — and especially to people who weren't well versed in the intricacies of solar panels or road structures — solar roadways seemed like a slam-dunk solution that both looked futuristic and had benefits that went far beyond electricity generation. It was the kind of innovation that had people exclaiming: "How has no one done this yet?!" But in reality, the execution of solar roadways was much more complex than the idea.
Here are a few reasons solar roadway tests have failed:
Cost of Manufacturing and Maintenance
The cost of the energy from the sun may be free, but the investment to install and maintain the solar roadways was undeniably prohibitive. The reason asphalt is used by default to pave roadways is because it is immensely affordable and low-maintenance, which is especially critical on vast, expansive roadways and interstates.
In 2010, Scott Brusaw, co-founder of Solar Roadways, Inc., estimated a square foot of solar roadway would cost about $70. However, when the first solar roadway was built in France by a company called Colas, it measured 1 kilometer and cost $5.2 million to build — or about $1,585 per foot of roadway. Of course, this was a small iteration and bulk manufacturing would cost less, but either way, it's hard to believe the cost of a solar roadway would ever be competitive with the price of asphalt, which is about $3 to $15 per square foot.
Further, the cost and complexity to send a crew to repair individual panels that fail would far outweigh those to maintain asphalt. So, while one of the presumed benefits of solar roadways is the cost savings associated with self-generated energy, even back-of-the-envelope math highlights how the numbers would simply not add up to be more cost-effective in the long run.
Energy Required to Produce the Panels
Another limiting factor appears when considering the energy it takes to make asphalt versus high-durability glass and solar panels. Most asphalt used on roads today is a byproduct of distilling petroleum crude oil for products such as gasoline, which means it makes use of a substance that would otherwise be discarded as waste.
The solar roadway panels, although intended to save energy in the long run, take much more to produce. Typical rooftop solar panels can easily make up for the extra energy used in production because the glass doesn't need to withstand the weight of vehicles driving over them, but solar roadways have that added complexity.
Power Output of the Panels
When estimating power output, early optimists seemed to perform calculations based on the raw surface area they could cover — and not much else. However, beyond the stunted energy generation that any solar panels face on cloudy days or at night, solar roadways presented unique new performance challenges.
For example, vehicles constantly driving over solar roadways would interrupt sun exposure. Plus, they'd leave behind trails of fluid, dirt and dust that can dramatically reduce the efficiency of solar panels. Being installed on the ground is a challenge in itself because of how readily shade would find the roads; that's the reason you find most solar panels on rooftops or elevated off the ground and angled toward the sun.
Issues With Glass Roadways
Lastly, driving on glass surfaces is simply not what modern cars are designed to do. Asphalt and tires grip each other well, being particularly resilient in wet conditions. If the asphalt is replaced with glass — even the textured glass that's used for solar roadways — tire traction could be reduced dramatically. Wet or icy conditions could lead to catastrophic situations on solar roadways.
Could Recent Advances in Solar Technology Bring Solar Roadways Closer to Reality?
For all of these challenges and even more roadblocks that early solar roadway projects have run into in the past, the reality is that solar technology continues to improve. In the seven years since the first Solar Roadways, Inc. video went viral, solar panels have developed to be more durable, more cost-effective and more efficient at converting sunlight to electricity. To put some numbers behind these trends:
- The average solar PV panel cost has dropped about 70% since 2014.
- In 2015, FirstSolar made news with panels that were 18.2% efficient. Today, the most advanced prototypes are able to exceed 45% efficiency.
- Total solar energy capacity in 2021 is nearly six times greater than in 2014, and with that explosion has come advances to flatten the learning curve and increase the general public's acceptance of the benefits of solar.
- Solar jobs have increased 167% in the last decade, giving the industry more capable workers able to take the reins of a solar roadway project and more professionals who know how to affordably install solar.
The question to ask is whether these advances are enough to bring solar roadways from failure to success.
Despite the improvements, many of the original challenges with solar roadways remain, and the scale of execution is immense. Even with decreasing solar PV costs, outfitting long stretches of roadway with such complex technologies will require tremendous capital.
Rather than a future where solar roadways cover the country from coast to coast, a more likely outcome is that these advances will bring solar roadways to viability in narrow, niche applications.
Just like tidal energy is a great opportunity for small coastal communities but can't be scaled to solve the energy crisis across the world, it's conceivable that limited-scope solar roadways could be constructed around the world. However, large-scale solar roadways may never be more than a pipe dream.
Total U.S. coal consumption is expected to fall to its lowest level in nearly 40 years, according to a report by the federal Energy Information Agency, or EIA.
The use of coal by the U.S. power sector will drop by 4 percent, or 691 million short tons for 2018.
The EIA wrote in a blog post published on Dec. 4, that the drop "in coal consumption since 2007 is the result of both the retirements of coal-fired power plants and the decreases in the capacity factors, or utilization, of coal plants as increased competition from natural gas and renewable sources have reduced coal's market share."
Last week, S&P Global Market Intelligence reported that coal plant closings doubled in President Trump's second year in office, despite his repeated pledge to "end the war on coal."
"The trend lines showing the demise of coal shouldn't come as a shock to anyone, including those in the Trump administration and coal industry executives," said Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook. "There are times when the entire state of California, the fifth largest economy in the world, is powered entirely by renewable energy sources, and other states from across the country are actively pursuing clean energy policies."
During the 2016 campaign, then-candidate Trump repeatedly told crowds in coal-reliant regions of the country that as President he would 'bring back coal.' Trump carried the state of West Virginia by more than 40 points over Hillary Clinton largely over his pledge to bring coal jobs back to hard hit communities in Appalachia.
In May, 2016 Trump told a throng of West Virginia coal miners "Get ready because you're going to be working your asses off."
As President, he's put forth policies backed by the coal lobby, including repealing the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, weakening water and air standards and pushing a now-shelved plan to bailout out the coal and nuclear industries on the backs of ratepayers.
"No one should have been surprised that candidate Trump made empty promises to bring back coal, or that as president he has utterly failed to do so," said Cook. "The surprise is that coal miners have consistently bought into his cynical pandering."
By Steve Horn
While the oil and gas industry has lauded the new trade deal that may soon replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a provision added by Mexico, along with its new president's plan to ban fracking, could complicate the industry's rising ambitions there.
The new agreement, known as the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA), has faced criticism as being tantamount to NAFTA 2.0—more of a minor reboot that primarily benefits Wall Street investors and large corporations, including oil and gas companies.
Mercilessly critiqued by then-candidate Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, NAFTA is now the second major trade deal kicked to the curb by now-President Trump. The other, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), was canceled days into Trump's presidency.
After the most recent deal's announcement, the oil and gas industry offered praise for USMCA. The White House even pointed this out in a press release, highlighting a quote given by the U.S. industry's major trade group, the American Petroleum Institute (API).
"We urge Congress to approve the USMCA. Having Canada as a trading partner and a party to this agreement is critical for North American energy security and U.S. consumers," said Mike Sommers, president and CEO of API. "Retaining a trade agreement for North America will help ensure the U.S. energy revolution continues into the future."
In its own press release declaring its support for USMCA, API further spelled out the parts of the deal it supports.
Those include "continued market access for U.S. natural gas and oil products, and investments in Canada and Mexico; continued zero tariffs on natural gas and oil products; investment protections to which all countries commit and the eligibility for Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) for U.S. natural gas and oil companies investing in Mexico; requirement that Mexico retain at least current level of openness to U.S. energy investment; additional flexibility allowing U.S. customs authorities to accept alternative documentation to certify that natural gas and oil have originated in Canada or Mexico upon entering the U.S.-Mexico Provision."
Mexico's New NAFTA Energy Stance
Within Mexico, too, things look promising for the oil and gas industry. Unlike the U.S. and Canada, Mexico has yet to experience a major oil and gas pipeline expansion or unconventional oil and gas extraction boom, a la hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") or tar sands production.
That could change, however, under Mexico's recently privatized energy market, and USMCA appears to have shored up the gains the oil and gas industry won when in 2013 Mexico's Congress voted to open up its energy market to international investment. Those energy reforms were pushed by the U.S. Department of State under then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Duncan Wood, director of the Mexico Institute at the Washington D.C.-based Wilson Center, explained how the USMCA would affect Mexico's new energy reality in an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune.
"Mexico has come out of this with pretty strong protections for investors in the oil and gas sectors, as well as in telecom infrastructure, and that's good news for the future of the energy reform," explained Wood. "That's good news, even more so for those companies that have already invested in Mexico."
Mexico's recently elected president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has yet to comment on the USMCA's energy-related provisions. But he recently reiterated that he will implement a ban on fracking during his time in office.
And Mexico landed a provision within USMCA saying that the country has "direct and inalienable ownership" of its hydrocarbons, which could complicate the multinational industry's expansion into the country going forward.
"The Mexican State has the direct, inalienable, and imprescriptible ownership of all hydrocarbons in the subsoil of the national territory, including the continental shelf and the exclusive economic zone located outside the territorial sea and adjacent thereto, in strata or deposits, regardless of their physical conditions pursuant to Mexico's Constitution," reads USMCA's provision on this issue.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador as president elect of Mexico speaks during a press conference at Salon D'Luz on July 5, 2018 in Mexico City. Carlos Tischler / Getty Images
For its part, API believes it can potentially change López Obrador's mind on the issue. Aaron Padilla, senior adviser for international policy at API, told The Washington Post that like the wind, political will often changes directions.
"The new president in Mexico has expressed some skepticism about energy reforms he has inherited from his predecessor," said Padilla. "Our member companies are looking to work constructively with him, but they are looking at the long term and understand politics can change in any country."
U.S. exports of natural gas to Mexico, though, will likely continue apace and expand under the new NAFTA. That is because, as Inside Climate News reported, the deal assumes exports of petroleum products into Mexico from the U.S. are in the public interest, which would expedite their approval on a de facto basis.
Climate Change Unmentioned
The words "climate change" barely get a mention in the report, as well. As The HuffPost reported, the word "climate change" does not appear at all within the 31 pages of the deal's environmental section.
Doug Norlen, who does watchdog work on trade issues for the environmental advocacy group Friends of the Earth, has decried the deal.
"The agreement continues to give polluting transnational companies greater rights than governments and citizens. This agreement is an attack on our ability to hold Big Oil and Gas accountable for the damage they cause to our communities," said Norlen in a press release from the organization. "If this trade agreement moves forward, citizens in all three countries must continue our fight to protect the very food, air, and water our communities need to survive."
USMCA is not a done deal, however, and still must be approved by the legislative bodies in all three North American countries. If it goes into effect, the deal impacts $1.2 trillion worth of economic assets.
How NAFTA Is Making Our Food and Water Much Less Healthy https://t.co/TCSqAEJmPA @DeSmogBlog @Public_Citizen @SunFoundation— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1516659009.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.
By Justin Mikulka
As the midterm elections approach, DeSmog is taking this opportunity to highlight some of the top climate science deniers currently running for office in the U.S.
Did we miss someone notable? Let us know.
Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La)
Recently featured on DeSmog for some of his other extreme views, Rep. Clay Higgins of Louisiana's Third Congressional District qualifies as a climate science denier on top of being a "warrior" for the natural gas industry.
Higgins told PBS News Hour in August 2017: "Climate change has always happened, that's my argument, well before, you know, we had four-wheel drive trucks and boats and Suburbans rolling around or, you know, large industrial plants and whatnot."
[email protected] has been a great help to me on Cutting Taxes, creating great new healthcare programs at low cost,… https://t.co/8Y4VAfVZK3— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1529888899.0
North Carolina's Ninth Congressional District
North Carolina was recently devastated by Hurricane Florence, which has raised discussions of climate change in a historically skeptical state. The congressional seat in the Ninth District, which felt the impacts of Florence, is currently up for grabs after the Republican incumbent lost in the primary.
Running on the Republican side is Mark Harris, a conservative Baptist preacher and avid Trump supporter. While Harris has run for office before, he has not won.
In 2014 when asked if he believed in climate change, he simply said, "No."
Running against Harris is Dan McCready, a Harvard Business School graduate and former marine who started a solar investment fund after graduating from Harvard. Polls show a tight race. Though both candidates were asked at a debateabout their views on public education and climate change, neither directly answered the question.
This remains a close race as in two recent polls McCready led in one and Harris led in the other (although both were within the margin of error). McCready does have a major fundraising advantage over Harris for the last weeks of the campaign making this a competitive race in a district that was expected to be an easy win for Republicans.
And while the candidates aren't talking about climate change, their future constituents increasingly are. As The Washington Post recently reported, the state's extreme weather has been making believers out of former climate deniers. One Trump supporter reportedly said, "I always thought climate change was a bunch of nonsense, but now I really do think it is happening."
Florida Governor Race
The race to be the next Governor of Florida will conclude long before the recovery from Hurricane Michael does. Notably, the current governor of Florida, Rick Scott, banned use of the phrase "climate change" in government communications.
The Republican candidate is Ron DeSantis, a three-term Congressman who recently resigned from Congress to run full-time for governor. DeSantis is a Trump favorite, with the President recently tweeting: "A great Congressman and top student at Harvard & Yale."
In a recent debate DeSantis said he doesn't "want to be an alarmist" — a favorite term of climate science deniers — when talking about climate change, despite commenting shortly after Hurricane Michael devastated the panhandle.
Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum got straight to the point, saying if he is elected, the people of Florida will "have a governor who believes in science, which we haven't had for quite some time in this state." He is also campaigning on cutting greenhouse gas emissions and shifting to renewable energy.
The co-owner of the only house on Mexico Beach that survived Hurricane Michael with barely any damage summed up the reality when speaking with DeSmog's Julie Dermansky: "I'm tired of politicians lying to us. The American people need to understand they are lying. The people who are denying climate change are not telling the truth." Incidentally, he's a Republican.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)
Rep. Rohrabacher is a longtime Congressman representing Orange County, California, who is known for climate denying statements such as, "I disagree with the theory that CO2, done by mankind, is a major cause for climate change."
Despite his district's typically conservative history (though Hillary Clinton beat Trump there by two points in 2016), Rohrabacher finds himself in a competitive race against Democrat Harley Rouda. Last week the Los Angeles Times reported that a national Super PAC closely aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan stopped spending money on Rohrabacher's race — a troubling sign for his campaign— but perhaps a positive one for the climate.
Texas Senate Race
Former Republican presidential candidate and incumbent Texas Senator Ted Cruz is well known for his climate denialism. Now facing a tough challenge from newcomer Beto O'Rourke, Cruz gave a classic non-response to a question about climate change in a recent debate.
"Of course, the climate is changing," Cruz said. "The climate has been changing since the dawn of time."
On the other hand, Cruz's opponent O'Rourke was quite clear on his position on climate change at the debate: "The climate is changing. And man-made climate change is a fact."
In a state that suffered $125 billion in damages from Hurricane Harvey — which broke rainfall records for a continental U.S.city — 70 percent of adults agree global warming is happening, though only 42 percent believe that it will harm them personally.
Pennsylvania Governor Race
After belittling as "a little young and naive" an 18-year-old constituent who asked him about climate change (and his campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry), Pennsylvania Republican candidate for governor Scott Wagner said, "Are we here to elect a governor, or are we here to elect a scientist?"
In past comments, Wagner has used typical denier talking points when discussing climate change, saying: "I haven't been in a science class in a long time, but the earth moves closer to the sun every year — you know the rotation of the earth. We're moving closer to the sun."
He went on to say: "We have more people. You know, humans have warm bodies. So is heat coming off? Things are changing, but I think we are, as a society, doing the best we can."
In case you were wondering: No, human body heat is not causing climate change and neither is the position of the Earth to the sun. And no, climate scientists don't think we're doing the best we can.
In a debate for the open Senate seat in Arizona, Republican candidate Martha McSally responded to a question about climate change by saying, "I can't believe this is the last question" and didn't directly give an answer. Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema said, "I do believe that climate change is real."
However, in response to a similar question by the Arizona Republic earlier this month, McSally, a representative who has frequently voted against the climate, acknowledged: "Our environment and the Earth's climate are changing and there is likely a human element to it." But she went on to call Obama's signature climate change program, the Clean Power Plan, "crushing regulation" and failed to offer any specific approach to addressing climate change in Arizona.
Not exactly denial but not exactly embracing the scientific consensus either.
And while Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) isn't up for reelection this year, he lost no time in the wake of Hurricane Michael's devastation to unleash a string of climate denial talking points, including doubt that climate change is substantially caused by human activity.
When asked by CNN's Jake Tapper what he would tell his children 20 years from now about what he did to help stop the impacts of climate change, Rubio didn't have good news for the kids: "We're going to have to do something … But I'm also not going to destroy our economy. There's a reality here."
Check out this video for more of Rubio's views on climate change:
Climate Change and Electoral Politics
As the impacts of climate change become more severe, widespread, and frequent, expect climate change to play a bigger role in electoral politics (it certainly has plenty of room to grow).
For example, one of the few Republicans in the country who is outspoken in acknowledging climate change is Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) who represents southern Florida, including the Florida Keys. If nothing is done about sea level rise, much of his district may be underwater in a few decades.
Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.
The proposal was reportedly introduced by Christine Pelosi, a member of the DNC and the daughter of House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.
"Climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels represents an existential threat to civilization," the text states, "and Democrats committed in our 2016 Platform to curbing the effects of climate change, protecting America's natural resources, and ensuring the quality of our air, water, and land for current and future generations."
The resolution cites President Obama's ban on all corporate PAC donations to the DNC as well as his Farewell Address, in which he called on efforts to "reduce the corrosive influence of money in our politics, and insist on the principles of transparency and ethics in public service."
The fossil fuel industry contributed a record $100 million into the last presidential campaign and the vast majority was spent on Republicans, according to filings compiled by Greenpeace. Fossil fuel funds comprised 57 percent of Texas Senator Ted Cruz's Super PAC. Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio also received significant fossil fuel contributions.
Republicans received about $53.7 million from oil and gas companies during the 2016 election cycle, but Democrats also received about $7.6 million. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton received 7 percent of her Super PAC money from oil and gas interests, Greenpeace revealed.
The resolution urges the DNC to encourage grassroots donors and "reject corporate PAC contributions from the fossil fuel industry that conflict with our DNC Platform" in order for Democrats "to walk our talk in harmony with our stated beliefs and convictions."
Very good to see the Democrats decide not to take money from the fossil fuel companies. The social license of big o… https://t.co/JslfMA3Kav— Bill McKibben (@Bill McKibben)1528854192.0
The DNC will also consider banning contributions of over $200 from donors employed by the fossil fuel industry, according to HuffPost. That vote will take place at a board meeting in Chicago in August.
"So if Eddie Exxon is your college buddy and a frat-boy friend of yours and he's employed at an Exxon gas station and wishes to donate $25 to have a barbecue and a beer with you, fine," RL Miller, president of the super PAC Climate Hawks Vote Political Action and a co-author of the resolution explained to the website. "But if Edward J. Exxon in Exxon's middle management thinks you're worth contributing $2,700 to out of his own salary, that is much more concerning to us."
The vote was cheered by environmentalists who have pushed progressive lawmakers to affirm their commitment to the climate crisis and swear off contributions from fossil fuel companies.
"Wow. This is a big step AND it's serious proof that our pressure is working," the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led climate action network, tweeted. "Now, the DNC must step up further and refuse all donations over $200 from fossil fuel execs to prove they value young people's futures over oil and gas profits."
The Rise of Big Oil in American Politics https://t.co/JVxh0vSGNK @DeSmogBlog @billmckibben @350 @sierraclub @foe_us @ClimateReality— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1484069996.0
- 100+ Candidates for Congress Want to Win in 2018 on a Platform of ... ›
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By Steve Horn
Since Mexico privatized its oil and gas resources in 2013, border-crossing pipelines including those owned by Sempra Energy and TransCanada have come under intense scrutiny and legal challenges, particularly from Indigenous peoples.
Opening up the spigot for U.S. companies to sell oil and gas into Mexico was a top priority for the Obama State Department under Hillary Clinton.
Mexico is now facing its own Standing Rock-like moment as the Yaqui Tribe challenges Sempra Energy's Agua Prieta pipeline between Arizona and the Mexican state of Senora. The Yaquis in the village of Loma de Bácum claim that the Mexican government has failed to consult with them adequately, as required by Mexican law.
Under Mexico's new legal approach to energy, pipeline project permits require consultations with Indigenous peoples living along pipeline routes. (In addition, Mexico supported the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which includes the principle of "free, prior and informed consent" from Indigenous peoples on projects affecting them—something Canada currently is grappling with as well.)
It was a similar lack of indigenous consultation which the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said was the impetus for lawsuits and the months-long uprising against the Dakota Access Pipeline near the tribe's reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, in late 2016. Now, according to Bloomberg and Mexican reporter Gema Villela Valenzuela for the Spanish language publication Cimacnoticias, history is repeating itself in the village of Loma de Bácum in northwest Mexico.
Agua Prieta, slated to cross the Yaqui River, was given the OK by seven of eight Yaqui tribal communities. But the Yaquis based in Loma de Bácum have come out against the pipeline passing through their land, even going as far as chopping out a 25 foot section of pipe built across it.
"The Yaquis of Loma de Bácum say they were asked by community authorities in 2015 if they wanted a 9-mile tract of the pipeline running through their farmland—and said no. Construction went ahead anyway," Bloomberg reported in a December 2017 story. "The project is now in a legal limbo. IEnova, the Sempra unit that operates the pipeline, is awaiting a judicial ruling that could allow them to go in and repair it—or require a costlier re-route."
As the legal case plays out in the Supreme Court of Justice in Mexico, disagreements over the pipeline and its construction in Loma de Bácum have torn the community apart and even led to violence, according to Cimacnoticias.
Construction of the pipeline "has generated violence ranging from clashes between the community members themselves, to threats to Yaqui leaders and women of the same ethnic group, defenders of the Human Rights of indigenous peoples and of the land," reported Cimacnoticias, according to a Spanish-to-English translation of its October 2016 story.
"They explained that there have been car fires and fights that have ended in homicide. Some women in the community have had to stay in places they consider safe, on the recommendation of the Yaquis authorities of the town of Bácum, because they have received threats after opposing signing the collective permit for the construction of the pipeline."
TransCanada's Troubles Cross Another Border
While best known for the Canada-to-U.S. Keystone XL pipeline and the years-long fight to build that proposed tar sands line, the Alberta-based TransCanada has also faced permitting issues in Mexico for its proposed U.S.-to-Mexico gas pipelines.
According to a December 2017 story published in Natural Gas Intelligence, TransCanada's proposed Tuxpan-Tula pipeline is facing opposition from the indigenous Otomi community living in the Mexican state of Puebla. With Tuxpan-Tula, TransCanada hopes to send natural gas from Texas to Mexico via an underwater pipeline named the Sur de Texas-Tuxpan pipeline into the western part of the country.
The Otomi community recently won a successful bid in Mexican district court to stop construction of Tuxpan-Tula.
"At a recent hearing on an indoor soccer court at the foot of Cerro del Brujo, or Shaman's Hill, in the southern Mexican state of Puebla, a district judge sided with an indigenous community and ordered construction" of the pipeline to halt, Natural Gas Intelligence reported. "[T]he court made the order in response to pleas from the local Otomi indigenous community, which claims that the construction would disturb sacred ground."
Energy sector privatization in Mexico, decried by the country's left-wing political parties and leading 2018 presidential contender Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has actually opened up the sort of legal opportunities that the Otomi have pursued in court.
"What is new in Mexico is the requirement that indigenous communities should be consulted," Ramses Pech, CEO of the energy analysis group Caraiva y Asociados, told Natural Gas Intelligence. "That kind of consultation has long been a part of any project in the U.S. and other countries, but not so here. It was obviously needed in Mexico, too, but it has added to the complexities of the Mexican legal system in areas such as land and rights of way."
In the U.S., the tribal consultation process is governed by the National Historic Preservation Act's Section 106. That law gave the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe standing to sue U.S. government agencies, though ultimately unsuccessfully, for what the tribe alleged were violations which took place during the inter-agency permitting process.
Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.
By John Light
Editor's note: Watch the oral arguments live beginning at 1 p.m. EST above.
Three judges in San Francisco potentially have the power to decide how the U.S. government deals with climate change. Monday, 21 young Americans will make the case that President Trump has endangered their future by aiding and abetting the dirty industries responsible for the global crisis. And they will argue that they can hold him legally accountable.
Trump and his predecessors in the Oval Office, these young Americans claim, have not only let climate change occur, they've encouraged it. Despite research going back to the mid-20th century that pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere would destabilize the climate, they say the government incentivized the companies that did so through such programs as fossil-fuel subsidies.
Thery further attest that Donald Trump has upped the ante, with his administration outlining plans to lend a helping hand to the coal companies whose CEOs have donated to his campaign—regardless of the dirty fuel's dim future prospects—and promoting fossil fuels internationally.
The 21 young plaintiffs originally filed their suit against President Obama in 2015, but Trump inherited it, and Justice Department lawyers quickly redoubled efforts begun by the Obama administration to have the case dismissed.
Whether they can will be decided following Monday's hearing: A lower court is set to hear the youth's arguments in February, and the Trump administration has appealed to a higher court, the 9th Circuit, to throw the case out before it goes to trial.
In November 2016, days after the election, District Court Judge Ann Aiken allowed the case to proceed. The Trump administration's decision to ask a higher court to weigh in is highly unusual.
But so, too, is the young plaintiffs' suit, which seeks a judicial solution to climate change, a crisis that is growing increasingly urgent and that the other branches of the government have failed to adequately address. The suit argues both that the government cannot put kids in harm's way by encouraging fossil-fuel production, but also that the earth's atmosphere is a public trust that the government has failed to protect.
U.S. Deputy Assistant Attorney General Eric Grant, who was appointed to work in the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division last April, will be representing the government. Grant replaces Jeffrey Wood, an acting assistant attorney general and former coal lobbyist who was working on the case last spring. Formerly a California-based lawyer, Grant clerked for conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and the late Chief Justice Warren Burger.
Three fossil-fuel industry lobbying groups, meanwhile, have quit the suit. After the young plaintiffs filed their initial lawsuit against the Obama administration in 2015, the American Petroleum Institute, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers and the National Association of Manufacturers joined as co-defendants, challenging the case in court. But after November 2016, when a court gave the plaintiffs the green light to proceed to trial, the lobbying groups bailed, claiming that the Trump administration would more adequately defend their interests than the Obama administration.
Interestingly, although Trump himself has spoken extensively of his doubts on climate change ("global warming hoax," etc.), his legal team assigned to this case has not denied the reality of the threat during recent proceedings. Instead, they've sought to wriggle out of the case on the grounds that what the young people are asking for—both in terms of their legal remedy and in terms of discovery—is overly broad. The U.S. may be a rogue state when it comes to climate change—the only one no longer on board with the Paris agreement—but, the government's attorneys argue, that's not their problem. The Constitution, they say, says nothing about climate change.
In its briefing to the court last June, the government wrote:
The Supreme Court has recently emphasized how, under established separation-of-powers principles, Congress, through legislation, defines the EPA's authorities and duties regarding the control of greenhouse gas emissions, while the executive executes them … There is no room in the constitutional structure for a federal court to take on the role of overseeing the propriety of all governmental actions that may be viewed as contributing to the buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere.
But the government's approach to the case may change. As E&E News reported earlier this month, the Justice Department has been speaking with scientists who have been critical of the case or who have expressed dissenting views on climate change, which may indicate DOJ lawyers plan to put on trial the science behind climate change.
The suit also comes at a time when the lack of a presidential or legislative response to climate change has made the U.S. unique in a world that has at least acknowledged the necessity of action. As a result, environmentalists and legal scholars alike increasingly look to the courts for a solution. Judge Ann Aiken's decision to let the suit proceed, days after Trump won election, "was a ray of sunshine in what was a very dark day for the environmental community," Michael Burger, the executive director of Columbia University's Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, told BillMoyers.com.
Trump's climate change-blind policies could "make it more likely the courts will step into this situation," David Bookbinder, chief legal counsel for the libertarian Niskanen Center, told Bloomberg Environment. Trump's election, lead plaintiff Kelsey Juliana told us in May, "has really lifted our case up and given our case even more importance and urgency."
In the short term, it comes down to the three 9th Circuit judges who will hear the case Monday. Two are Clinton nominees, and the third, Alex Kozinski, is a Reagan nominee. It's unclear what effect, if any, allegations of inappropriate sexual misconduct by six court staffers against Kozinski, reported by The Washington Post Friday, will have on the hearing.
John Light is a reporter and producer for the Moyers team. His work has appeared at The Atlantic, Grist, Mother Jones, Salon, Slate, Vox and Al Jazeera, and has been broadcast on Public Radio International. He's a graduate of Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. You can follow him on Twitter at @LightTweeting.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Moyers & Company.
By Dr. Jason von Meding and Heidi Harmon
It is unusual for disasters to garner as much sustained coverage in the media as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have. Authors have been able to explore complex aspects of disasters in more nuanced ways than fleeting public interest generally allows.
Whilst it is critical to discuss the issues around urban planning, emergency management funding, insurance, evacuations, pollutants, an impending housing crisis and, of course, the influence of climate change on hurricanes—these disasters, like every other, are ultimately about vulnerability in our society. They are about structural injustice. And they are very, very political.
Harvey impacted the poor, the undocumented, the elderly and the disabled disproportionately. While the impacts of Irma are still being assessed, a similar distribution is expected.
We must not only ask how the most vulnerable are impacted by a disaster, but why they are vulnerable in the first place.
Some have argued that now is not the time to discuss the political aspect of this disaster. They say that we should wait until a more appropriate future time. But will anyone be listening if we do not take this opportunity?
Naomi Klein, talking about climate change, argues that, "Talking honestly about what is fueling this era of serial disasters—even while they're playing out in real time—isn't disrespectful to the people on the front lines. In fact, it is the only way to truly honor their losses, and our last hope for preventing a future littered with countless more victims."
Honest discourse is urgently required. However, a narrow focus on climate change may actually obscure a deeper political malaise that keeps the most marginalized in society perpetually at risk.
U.S. Democracy—A Political Disaster
In the U.S., an entrenched two party system has long embraced neoliberal policies as beyond reproach. These policies are demonstrably devastating for the most marginalized in society.
Whether regarding health care, immigration or the minimum wage, both parties have kept the downtrodden in servitude for decades. The Democratic Party claim incremental change—but at this stage, is less bad really good enough?
In 2016, Bernie Sanders threatened to turn the system on its head. The establishment colluded to make sure that this didn't happen. In recent weeks, he has been widely smeared for daring to run against Hillary Clinton in the primaries. This is how the establishment protects itself—Ralph Nader's character assassination is a prime example.
But we need people like Bernie in government as a matter of urgency. People that care about the most vulnerable and will work to protect and enhance their rights.
In the aftermath of Harvey, Ilan Kelman wrote, "Many voting records in Texas are for lower taxes, for less government intervention, against tackling systemic inequities and against helping marginalized people help themselves. This choice actively creates the vulnerabilities which cause disasters. It is an ideological choice to vote for creating disaster vulnerability and voters have the right to do so."
We need better politics. And we need them now.
The causes of the destruction seen during Harvey are deeply political—so let's not be afraid to politicize it. "Power" often profits from disaster. But it doesn't have to be this way.
From a Politics of Fear and Hate to One of Hope and Love
The American public has become trapped in a politics of fear. Afraid of Conservatives. Afraid of liberals. Afraid of the alt-right and antifa. Afraid of minorities and afraid of poor people—or perhaps of being poor.
Making decisions based on fear is not rational. That is why fear is such a useful political tool in the hands of tyrants.
In 2016 Bernie Sanders rode a wave of hope and love into the hearts of millions. In Britain, meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn's popularity surges on the most positive and compassionate Labour Party message in decades.
We need love to overcome fear.
Political change can undermine unjust and oppressive systems. We need leaders that care for the planet and for people. They sometimes seem to be so few and far between.
What Can You Do?
So we need to "storm" our city halls, our state capitals, and the White House. We need a super storm of caring capable folks to run-win-and lead on climate change. But we need them to be willing to fight against systemic injustice wherever they see it.
While gathering supplies for Texas or Florida, you can be gathering your team and forming strategy around the imminent threats facing our changing world. You can make sure that the focus of this strategy targets the root causes of vulnerability.
If bad politics are the source of systemic issues, we need progressive and courageous politicians willing to challenge entrenched power.
True leaders show up for the vulnerable who are affected most. Those who demonstrate care for others before they run for office also stand with the vulnerable and marginalized who are affected the most when they are in office.
The status quo is simply not protecting those most at risk in American society. The time for a radical departure is now.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
By Jeff Turrentine
President Trump, to put it mildly, hasn't worked too hard to bring Democrats and Republicans together on many issues. By almost any account, the partisan divide in this country today is wider than it's been in living memory, certainly wider than it was before he took office.
But on one issue, at least, the president seems to have bridged that divide and fostered some much-needed unity. When it comes to endorsing Trump's plan to open up the Atlantic coast to oil and gas drilling, citizens in both red and blue states—as well as their elected officials—are speaking with one voice.
They're saying, "Hell, no."
When Trump issued an executive order unveiling his new America-First Offshore Energy Strategy back in April, his administration announced that the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program would be one of its key components. Under the aegis of this new program—which essentially reverses the Obama administration's 2016 ban on drilling in the Atlantic—the U.S. Department of the Interior would begin considering new leases for oil and gas rigs along the Eastern Seaboard for a five-year period beginning in 2019.
Trump knew the move would enrage many of those who didn't vote for him and who already oppose his pro-extraction, anti-renewables energy policy. But by oh-so-cleverly placing the words America First in his plan's name, he probably thought he'd have no trouble picking up support in states where he had performed well in the election, or where the GOP controls the statehouse or the legislature (or both).
Except that's not what happened.
The response from South Carolina—where Trump beat Hillary Clinton by more than 14 points, and where the Trump-supporting Republican governor, Henry McMaster, routinely enjoys the cooperation of a state legislature dominated by members of his party—must have caught the president off guard. "I'm against it," said the governor, flatly and unequivocally, back in June. His objection is shared by the mayors of Republican-heavy cities and towns up and down South Carolina's coast. It's also shared by the president of the state's Small Business Chamber of Commerce, who also leads the multistate Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast, which represents more than 40,000 businesses that oppose the drilling leases.
Other Republican governors along the eastern coast who publicly oppose offshore drilling include Larry Hogan of Maryland and Chris Christie of New Jersey—the latter of whom enthusiastically endorsed Trump during the GOP primaries. While the GOP governors of Georgia and Florida, Nathan Deal and Rick Scott, respectively, have kept their mouths shut on the issue so far, their silence is a statement in and of itself. Both endorsed Trump for president, and both of their states went for Trump over Clinton. But they know the vast majority of their constituents don't want oil spills lapping at their coastlines, or the whale-killing seismic blasting that paves the way for the industry. These governors will keep quiet as long as it's politically feasible, although the pressure from newspaper editorial boards, citizens' groups and the business community suggests that time is almost up.
The public comment period for the Atlantic drilling program formally ended last week, and it's now up to the Interior Department, under the leadership of Ryan Zinke, to weigh the administration's desire to dramatically ramp up offshore oil and gas production against the public's response not to. We can safely assume that Trump and his cabinet won't give a moment's thought to objections raised by Democratic governors and lawmakers, environmental organizations and citizens' groups that are already perceived by the administration as hostile. In the president's childishly binary worldview, anyone who has ever disagreed with him on anything is, de facto, an enemy of the state whose opinion isn't worthy of consideration.
But can the president afford to defy the firmly expressed wishes of his base? Of Republican governors? Of business leaders and chambers of commerce in deep-red states? Of conservative stakeholders who are deeply (and rightly) worried about the potential destruction of the shores they call home?
As Trump and Zinke (or more likely their staffers) sift through the tens of thousands of public comments, perhaps it will finally dawn on this administration that the environment simply doesn't work as a wedge issue. Regardless of how they might vote or self-identify ideologically, American citizens have made it abundantly clear that they don't want wildlife-threatening seismic blasts or unnecessary, and leak-prone, oil rigs off their own coastlines. It's a loser on every level—environmental, economic and, yes, political.
Which brings me to my next point: We need to stop treating the protection of the environment as a "political" issue in the conventional sense of that word. We all breathe air and drink water. We all need clean, nontoxic neighborhoods and a safe food supply. We all deserve to enjoy and appreciate natural wonders like oceans, beaches and waterfronts. And we all contribute, through either our actions or our inactions, to the future condition of the planet that our children, and their children, will inherit.
Some have speculated that Trump's primary presidential motivation is nothing more than destroying Barack Obama's legacy. If this is true, then he won't heed the many voices—including those within his own party—telling him to put this idea of drilling in the Atlantic out of its misery and move on to something else. But if he actually cares about something more than spite, or even if he just wants to do the right thing, he'll listen to the American people and try to carry out their will.
Reposted with permission from our media associate OnEarth.
By Jodie Van Horn
We'd never argue that 2017 was a great year, but some really great things did happen!
Here are 50 ways (yes, 50!) that clean energy kept winning in 2017 despite Trump's attempts to roll back the country's progress.
1. The Republican Mayor Championing 100% Renewable Energy in Louisiana
Republican Mayor Greg Lemons made his small town of Abita Springs the first municipality in Louisiana to commit to 100% clean energy. Mayor Lemons said his 100% renewable energy vision for Abita Springs, which has a population of 2,900, aligns with the conservative values of his community—and it has made him a trailblazer across Louisiana.
2. Madison and Abita Springs Committed to 100% Clean Energy on the Same Day!
On March 21, Madison, Wisconsin and Abita Springs, Louisiana became the 24th and 25th cities in the country to commit to 100% clean energy. Last year, more than 70% of voters in Madison cast ballots supporting Hillary Clinton, while in St. Tammany Parish, where Abita Springs is located, more than 70% of voters supported Donald Trump. They agree on one thing, at least—the need for 100% clean energy.
3. Solar Created Even More Jobs Across America
A new report released this year by The Solar Foundation showed that in 2016, the number of solar jobs increased in 44 of the 50 states, and more than 260,000 Americans now work in solar. In several major metro areas, the solar workforce grew by 50% or more. The New York Times ran a major piece in April, which pretty much sums it up: Today's Energy Jobs Are in Solar, Not Coal.
4. Chicago Committed to Power All Municipal Buildings with 100% Renewable Energy by 2025
In April, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that by 2025, all 900-plus buildings operated by the city, Chicago Public Schools, Chicago Park District, Chicago Housing Authority and City Colleges will be powered entirely by renewable sources. In 2016, those buildings used nearly 1.8 billion kilowatt hours of electricity—equal to the energy needed to power about 295,000 homes.
5. U.S. Mayors Announced New National Drive for 100% Clean Energy
Mayors from across the U.S. teamed up with the Ready for 100 campaign to announce Mayors for 100% Clean Energy, a new effort to engage and recruit mayors to endorse a goal of transitioning to 100% renewable energy in cities across the country.
6. 100% Clean Energy at the People's Climate March
A contingent of 100% clean energy activists representing communities from coast to coast joined hundreds of thousands of people marching in the People's Climate March in Washington, DC on April 29.
7. Atlanta Committed to 100% Clean, Renewable Energy
Atlanta became the largest city in the South to commit to running entirely on clean energy. The city then took it to the people to learn through a series of #CommunityConversations why Atlanta is #ReadyFor100. Atlantans are helping shape the plan, set to be released next year—and they've even got some superhero support.
8. More Companies Bought Into 100% Clean Energy
Around the world, a record number of big corporations, ranging from Anheuser-Busch to Kellogg, committed to going all-in on 100% clean energy. Collectively, their energy footprint is greater than all energy consumed in the state of New York. Corporate demand for renewable energy is helping drive a shift away from fossil fuels and bringing more renewable energy online. Google declared it now buys enough wind to cover 100% of its energy use.
9. Even Puppies Love 100% Clean Energy
And what's more uplifting than puppies?
10. Entire Town of Hanover Voted Unanimously for 100%
At a town meeting on May 9, residents of Hanover, New Hampshire voted to get off of all fossil fuels by 2050. This is the first community in the country to adopt a goal of 100% clean, renewable energy voted on and approved by the residents of the community.
11. Clean Energy Spiked In California and Texas
In California and Texas this year, clean energy like wind and solar set new records for energy generation. On May 13, renewable energy supplied 67% of all power in California. And wind broke records across the country, especially in Texas where 54% of grid electricity came from wind at one point on Oct. 27, breaking a previous 50% record set on March 23.
12. A Movement of Mayors Across Florida
Florida mayors are leading the way towards 100% clean, renewable energy. More than 40 mayors from across Florida have joined Mayors for 100% Clean Energy, the most of any state in the country. Although the Sunshine State gets less than half a percent of its power from the sun, Floridians beat back previous utility-backed efforts to limit solar energy in the state. Now clean energy advocates and dozens of mayors say they deserve better.
13. Pueblo, Colorado Committed to 100% Clean, Renewable Energy
The city of Pueblo, Colorado committed to running entirely on renewable energy by 2035. City council is now exploring options for how they can cut ties with an uncooperative utility, protect low income rate payers, and move to 100% clean energy for all.
14. A Mother's Clean Energy Vision for Her City
On Mother's Day, Mayor Heidi Harmon of San Luis Obispo, California, who is also a proud mom of two, shared her vision for 100% clean energy in her community. Citing the safety and health threats that climate change and pollution will pose to children, Mayor Harmon sees a solution: transitioning San Luis Obispo to run on 100% clean energy.
15. Oregonians Committed to 100% Clean, Renewable Energy
On the same day that Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement, the Portland City Council and Multnomah County Commission voted to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050. Thanks to organizations like Verde and Opal, these commitments also represent a strong commitment to racial and economic justice and will ensure that communities of color and low income communities define, lead, and share the economic, social, and environmental benefits of a renewable energy transition.
16. Energy Experts Agreed: 100% Renewable Energy is Possible
In a global survey, more than 70% of the world's energy experts agreed that powering the globe with 100% renewable resources is achievable.
17. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto to Trump: the Steel City Will Move to 100% Clean Energy
Just hours after Donald Trump claimed to represent the voters of Pittsburgh in his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement, Mayor Bill Peduto announced his support for a goal of powering Pittsburgh entirely with clean and renewable energy by 2035.
18. Edmonds and Whatcom County Were the First Washington Commitments to 100% Clean Energy
In June, the city of Edmonds became the first community in the state of Washington to commit to 100% clean, renewable energy. Edmonds set the goal of achieving a 100% transition by 2025 shortly after the U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting in June. Whatcom County became the sixth county in the country to move towards 100% renewable energy.
19. Mayor Steve Benjamin of Columbia, South Carolina Is a Clean Energy Champ
Columbia, South Carolina Mayor Steve Benjamin, Co-Chair of Mayors for 100% Clean Energy, is #ReadyFor100. Mayor Benjamin's leadership paved the way for Columbia to commit to 100% clean, renewable energy in June. As a local and national leader, Mayor Benjamin is sharing his vision far and wide.
20. Wind is Winning Across America
Wind power reached new heights in 2017! Earlier this year, American Electric Power announced that it would make a $4.5 billion investment in the nation's largest wind energy project, and local advocates like Nancy Moran spoke out in support. The wind farm will provide power in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, and is expected to save customers $7 billion over the next 25 years. In Texas, wind power became a bigger source of electricity than coal.
21. U.S. Conference of Mayors Approved Historic 100% Clean Energy Resolution, Proving That Mayors Are #ReadyFor100
The 85th U.S. Conference of Mayors approved a resolution establishing support from the nation's biggest cities for an equitable and just transition to 100% clean energy by 2035. Clean energy activists celebrated the mayors' vote by taking part in an aerial art action on the beach. Is your mayor signed onto Mayors for 100% Clean Energy?
22. One of the Country's Biggest Bus Fleets Will Be 100% Electric by 2030
This summer, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), voted to transition its fleet of more than 2,200 buses to zero emission electric buses by 2030. Transitioning to all electric buses will help improve air quality, fight climate change, enhance social equity and improve rider experience. Additionally, with policies that encourage local manufacturing, the transition can create good local jobs in disadvantaged communities. Congratulations to the Sierra Club's My Generation campaign and local partners in Los Angeles who worked hard to achieve this major victory.
23. Orlando's 100% Clean Energy Commitment is Already Having an Impact
In August Orlando became the largest city in Florida to commit to 100% renewable energy. The city plans to stop using fossil fuels by 2050. Orlando's commitment to clean energy is already having an impact: Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer indicated that the city's 100% renewable energy goal is a key factor in determining who will become the next CEO of their city-owned utility.
24. The Path to 100% Clean Energy Is Saving Hawai'i Money
The Hawai'i House of Representatives found this year that Hawai'i residents have already saved over a quarter of a billion dollars as a result of the state's progress toward achieving its goal of 100% renewable energy by 2045. The state called on other states and the federal government to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy, citing that it makes economic sense today. Hawai'i has a detailed plan to hit its goal five years ahead of schedule.
25. Faith Leaders Asked Boise's Mayor to Endorse a 100% Clean Energy Future
Boise Faith Leaders representing 20 different faith communities delivered a letter to Mayor Dave Bieter to urge him to support a goal to make Boise the first city in Idaho to commit to 100% clean energy. The Idaho chapter of the Sierra Club has been building grassroots support and asking Mayor Dave Bieter to commit to a 100% clean energy goal.
26. In the Coal-Dependent State of Utah, 100% Is Trending
In a state that still gets nearly 70% of its electricity from coal-fired power plants, municipalities have begun to say "no more." This year, Summit County and Moab, Utah committed to transition to 100% clean, renewable energy. Salt Lake City, which is also in the 100% club, released Climate Positive 2040, a plan to achieve its goal to run on clean energy by 2032, reduce carbon pollution, and take the lead on climate action.
27. 100% Clean Energy Unleashed in Capitals
U.S. lawmakers introduced bills in both the Senate and House of Representatives this year that would move the entire country to 100% renewable energy. Senators Jeff Merkley and Bernie Sanders announced their landmark "100x50" act with community leaders in April. And clean energy supporters from California to Massachusetts have been pushing state lawmakers adopt 100% renewable energy, but many of these efforts are still in progress.
28. 150 Mayors for 100% Clean Energy
The Sierra Club's Mayors for 100% Clean Energy initiative reached a major milestone: 150 mayors from across the country signed onto the campaign and pledged to power their communities with 100% clean, renewable energy. Civic leaders from across the country are stepping up to make it known that they care about the health of their residents and the strength of their local economy by advocating for 100% clean, renewable energy.
29. Local Clean Energy Advocates Rallied for Community Choice
In support of a clean energy future for California, community members rallied in September to protect Community Choice energy programs, like Alameda County's East Bay Community Energy. Community Choice gives cities and counties the chance to take control of their electric power supply and offer renewable energy to residents and businesses.
30. North Carolina Counties Went All-In On Renewable Energy
While cities across the country continue to commit to 100% clean energy, some North Carolina communities are going even bigger. Orange County and Buncombe County, North Carolina this year became some of the first counties in the country to commit to 100% clean, renewable energy.
31. Pueblo's Movement for Energy Justice Featured in Sierra Magazine Profile
In a profile published in Sierra, Michael Tannahill's story reveals the connections between economic and environmental justice—and highlights why the community of Pueblo, Colorado is pushing back hard against high utility costs and dirty fuels to get to 100% clean energy.
32. Portland's Commitment to 100% Clean Energy Pushed Portland General Electric (PGE) to Invest in Renewables
PGE acknowledged that Portland and surrounding Multnomah County's 100% renewable energy goals are shaping its future energy investments. After the Oregon Public Utility Commission rejected PGE's proposal to expand a gas-fired power station in August, PGE issued a proposal to develop renewable energy and energy storage.
33. St. Louis Became the Largest Midwest City to Commit to 100% Clean, Renewable Energy
On Oct. 27, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen unanimously approved the city's commitment to transition to 100% by 2035. St. Louis, a longtime coal capital home to Arch Coal and Peabody Energy, represents the largest city in Missouri and across the Midwest to establish a goal of transitioning entirely to clean, renewable energy. The city will develop a plan by December 2018 to meet the goal and conduct a transparent and inclusive stakeholder process. This includes community members and representatives from organizations representing labor, faith, social justice, environmental justice, frontline communities and those most impacted by our current energy systems, among others.
34. In Cleveland, the Community Wants Clean Energy for Everyone
Through a series of Community Dialogues in Cleveland, Ohio, Ready for 100 organizer Jocelyn Travis has been helping residents of "the Rock and Roll Capital of the World" envision a 100% clean energy transition in their city. The Dialogues have helped Cleveland's diverse communities connect with each other, learn about clean energy solutions, and build a movement for a healthy and just clean energy transition.
35. Community Choice Can Help San Diego Reach Its 100% Clean Energy Goal
A City of San Diego study released this year determined that Community Choice Energy can help San Diego achieve its goal of 100% clean energy at a cost competitive rate with the local utility. San Diego is the largest city in the country to have adopted a legally binding 100% renewable energy goal, which the city plans to achieve by 2035. San Diego's Republican Mayor, Kevin Faulconer, is a co-chair of Mayors for 100% Clean Energy.
36. 100% Clean Energy Won Big on Election Day
37. U.S. Climate Leadership is All About Local
During the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23) in Bonn, Germany, U.S. cities and mayors joined other local leaders to stand behind the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. Mayors affirmed #WeAreStillIn by doubling down on local support for bold climate action. The aggregate climate actions of We Are Still In signatories and other non-federal U.S. actors are being quantified through America's Pledge, an initiative spearheaded by UN Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change Michael Bloomberg and California Gov. Jerry Brown.
38. The Sierras Went All-In On Renewable Energy
South Lake Tahoe, Nevada City and Truckee, California all committed to 100% clean, renewable energy this year, leading the way for other communities across the Sierras. Mountain towns in the West have been leading a move to clean energy to save their snow and the tourist industry.
39. Ready for 100 Released 2nd Annual Case Studies Report
The Ready for 100 campaign released a new report in English and Spanish highlighting 10 cities across the U.S. that have committed to 100% renewable energy and the steps they are taking to get there. Featured cities span from coast to coast, and include tiny towns and large metropolises. This is the second case studies report issued by Ready for 100, following a 2016 release.
40. What Do an Eagle Scout, a Colonel, and a Utility Company Have in Common?
They all support 100% renewable energy! Community members packed a town hall in Breckenridge, Colorado, in support of the town adopting a goal to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2035. Testimony included fifth-grade Boy Scout Eli Larson, who stated, "If this global warming keeps up, we might not even have a winter." And a U.S. Colonel testified that there was a mandate from the community to go renewable. Six Colorado cities in total have committed to 100%, including Nederland and Lafayette this year. An Xcel Energy spokesperson acknowledged that the utility would do everything it can to help cities achieve their goals.
41. Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski is #ReadyFor100
Since Salt Lake City committed to 100% renewable energy last year, Mayor Jackie Biskupski has been on a mission to get other mayors on board. A co-chair of Mayors for 100% Clean Energy, Mayor Biskupski has rallied support for 100% everywhere from Twitter to the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
42. Two Massachusetts Cities Committed to 100% Clean, Renewable Energy
Cambridge and Amherst, Massachusetts passed resolutions in 2017 committing to 100% clean, renewable energy. As the first municipalities to do so in Massachusetts, the cities are leading the way in the Bay State.
43. Ameren Missouri Proposed Wind to Help Meet St. Louis's 100% Clean Energy Goal
Ameren Missouri, the utility serving St. Louis, acted right away on the city's 100% clean energy commitment, which passed in October. The utility has invested $1 billion in wind projects and now wants to create a Renewable Choice Program for customers that would give cities and companies the option to buy wind energy.
44. TOAD the Wet Sprocket Took Ready for 100 on Tour
TOAD the Wet Sprocket went on tour with a cause this summer. Promoting the Ready for 100 campaign at tour stops across the country, the alternative rock band encouraged fans to join the campaign and support 100% renewable energy!
45. Coastal California Cities Embraced 100%
This year, the cities of Santa Barbara, Monterey, Solana Beach, Chula Vista and Goleta, California all made commitments to transitioning to 100% clean, renewable energy. To date, 14 cities across California have committed to running entirely to clean energy.
46. Scotland Will Reach 100% Renewable Energy By 2020
The Scottish government confirmed the country is on track to get all of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. Scotland hit its 2020 emission targets five years early and has gone from delivering 10% to 60% of its electricity consumption from renewable sources over the past 15 years. For the first six months of 2017, wind power provided enough electricity to meet 118% of Scotland's national demand.
47. Greater Philadelphia Is Sparking a Movement for 100% Clean Energy in Pennsylvania
Three Philadelphia-area communities committed to transition to 100% clean, renewable energy. West Chester, Phoenixville Borough and Downingtown in Chester County all set goals to move entirely to renewable energy, setting the bar for Philly and other Pennsylvania cities to follow. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney pledged support for the goal through Mayors for 100% Clean Energy this year, a great first step.
48. Hawai'ian Mayors Committed to 100% Renewably Powered Ground Transportation by 2045
In December, mayors from the City and County of Honolulu, Maui County, Hawai'i County and Kaua'i County committed to transforming Hawai'i's transportation to 100% renewable fuel sources by 2045. The proclamations build off of Hawai'i's goal to transition away from fossil fuels in the electricity sector by the same date.
49. It's Not 100% If It's Not Equitable and Just
This year California adopted legislation requiring all communities in the state to integrate environmental justice policies, objectives, and goals into their General Plans. In October the California Environmental Justice Alliance released a toolkit to help cities integrate these changes. NAACP also released a national toolkit on Just Energy Policies & Practices, a resource for energy justice advocates. And Island Press published a new book titled Energy Democracy, Advancing Equity in Clean Energy Solutions, a collection of essays from leaders across the U.S. who are winning local campaigns that demonstrate what an alternative, democratized energy future can look like. #powertothepeople.
50. More Than 50 (Yes, 50!) Cities Committed to 100% Clean, Renewable Energy
The Ready for 100 campaign hit a milestone when Truckee, California became the 50th city in the U.S. to make a 100% commitment. The Town Council adopted a resolution to move entirely to clean electricity town-wide by 2030, as well as all energy sources by 2050. See a complete list of all cities, counties, and states committed to 100% clean energy here. Ready for your community to be next?
In the latest episode of Zach Galifianakis' web comedy series, the comedian and star of The Hangover trilogy invited Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to sit Between Two Ferns to answer some questions no one else would dare ask her on camera.
The show is anything but serious and gave Clinton the opportunity to showcase a playful side to her personality.
However, one important question that did come up was whether or not Clinton was "down with the TPP"—to which she replied she is "not down" with President Obama's Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal.
Clearly missing—or opting not to play into—the Naughty by Nature reference, after a long pause Galifianakis corrected her by saying, "No, you're supposed to say, 'Yeah, you know me.'"
"Don't tell me what to say," she responded deadpan.
"Fine, lose," Galifianakis shot back.
Clinton supported the deal as secretary of state claiming that she hoped it would "create a new high standard for multilateral free trade," but her views started to shift after meeting with labor unions.
She took a hard stance on the deal in a February debate on MSNBC saying she opposed it because the finalized version did not meet the standards she had hoped for.
"I have a very clear view," Clinton said in the debate. "We have to trade with the rest of the world. We are 5 percent of the world's population. We have to trade with the other 95 percent. And trade has to be reciprocal. That's the way the global economy works. But we have failed to provide the basic safety net support that American workers need in order to be able to compete and win in the global economy."
Back in June, 40 environmental groups signed a letter urging Congress to reject the TPP arguing that if the TPP and its European counterpart, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, were both enacted, it would radically expand the power of fossil fuel companies to sue the U.S. for laws and regulations that hurt their expected future profits. Everything from local fracking bans to renewable energy mandates could be litigated in trade tribunals run overwhelmingly by corporate lawyers.
Free Trade, #DNCPlatform & the #Climate Crisis https://t.co/FgxLp5U72K @foe_us @billmckibben @BoldNebraska @350 @sierraclub @greenpeaceusa— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1467294128.0
Galifianakis ended the interview with the perfectly delivered question:
"Well, this has been a lot of fun Mrs. Clinton. We should stay in touch. What's the best way to reach you? Email?"