By Jeff Turrentine
Nearly 20 years have passed since the journalist Malcolm Gladwell popularized the term tipping point, in his best-selling book of the same name. The phrase denotes the moment that a certain idea, behavior, or practice catches on exponentially and gains widespread currency throughout a culture. Having transcended its roots in sociological theory, the tipping point is now part of our everyday vernacular. We use it in scientific contexts to describe, for instance, the climatological point of no return that we'll hit if we allow average global temperatures to rise more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. But we also use it to describe everything from resistance movements to the disenchantment of hockey fans when their team is on a losing streak.
Right now, climate consciousness in America appears to be at a tipping point. The current discourse in this country surrounding the climate crisis, both its causes and its effects, feels bigger, more serious, and less contentious than it ever has before. The underlying message — that we can't wait any longer to curb carbon emissions, and that all the world's nations have to act in unison to get it done — is finally breaking through to people who hadn't been getting that message before.
Crowds pack the streets in lower Manhattan.
Rick Gershon / NRDC
Something out there has changed. Recent polls show that nearly 8 out of 10 Americans now acknowledge that human activity is fueling global warming, and half of them understand that we need to act within the next 10 years to escape its worst effects. You also see this attitudinal change in studies suggesting that the decades-old ideological divides between Americans on the issue are eroding and that people of all political stripes are finally beginning to see that we really are in this thing together. The shift is also apparent in the present media environment, one where journalists no longer feel obligated to frame the climate issue as some sort of a bogus "debate" and are instead just reporting the facts, as troubling as those facts may be.
As welcome as it is, this moment is long overdue. Scientists have been warning us about the consequences of global warming for decades, and environmentalists have been pressing for ameliorative action through emissions reductions and a transition to a clean energy economy. But fossil fuel companies, sensing a threat to their profitable status quo, launched a protracted and well-funded disinformation campaign, turning what should have been a common cause into a fractious, albeit false, debate. Their goals were to sow doubt and delay action — and they succeeded. While other countries around the world were taking their first steps to combat the climate crisis, Americans have been busy arguing over whether it even existed.
After Donald Trump's victory in 2016, the stalemate seemed finally to have broken, but not in a good way. With an open climate denier occupying the highest office in the land, many rightly worried that achieving large-scale climate action would only get more difficult. How, they wondered, could they win the hearts and minds of tens of millions of Americans who were inclined to believe the president's dashed-off climate tweets rather than the international scientific consensus? Even more troublingly: How could they ever reach critical mass — the tipping point — on climate action without getting these people on their side?
And then 2017 happened. The first year of Trump's presidency overlapped, coincidentally, with a series of climate-sensitive catastrophes that helped make it the most expensive year ever for weather-related disasters. California experienced its most destructive wildfire season on record, with more than 9,000 fires burning up nearly 1.4 million acres of land and killing dozens. In just one month, three massive hurricanes — Harvey, Irma, and Maria — battered coastlines in quick succession, killing more than 3,000 people along their path and causing more than $265 billion in damage, making 2017's hurricane season the costliest in U.S. history. Cities and states experienced record-high temperatures: Phoenix had its warmest year on record, and even cool and clammy San Francisco saw its mercury rise to a historic high of 106 degrees. By the end of the year, 2017 would earn the title of the second-hottest year on record — just behind 2016.
As scientists, journalists, and activists continued to emphasize the links between extreme weather events and anthropogenic climate change, it simply became harder and harder to deny the validity of those links. So you might say that the American people were primed to receive the message of the 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which detailed the full range of likely consequences of allowing more than 1.5 °C of warming. Media coverage of the IPCC's staggering findings was extensive — but as one Yale University–affiliated publication noted, the report's impact on public opinion was "unclear." Hard data had never proved persuasive to the skeptics before. Why, some wondered, should we expect the scientific facts to influence them now?
Children at the New York City climate strike.
Kristen Walsh / NRDC
Yet here we are, almost exactly a year later, and it seems safe to say that America's climate consciousness has reached a new level. Just check the local news today in practically any major U.S. city, where millions of young people and their older allies are participating in the Global Climate Strike. The protesters are galvanized and mobilized in a way that we haven't seen since the 1960s, when young Americans took to the streets and demanded — and ultimately won — monumental changes.
And if climate awareness hasn't yet reached critical mass, then it likely will by the end of next week, once all the images and accounts of the massive youth-led movement have circulated and sunk in — and not just with ordinary folks like you and me, but with representatives from all around the world at the United Nations. I truly expect we will come away from this moment changed in our focus, our attitudes, and our dedication to saving the planet and ourselves. And we'll have our children to thank for it.
Reposted with permission from our media associate onEarth.
By Courtney Lindwall
Across the world, tens of thousands of young people are taking to the streets to protest climate inaction. And at the historic Apollo Theater in Harlem last month, more than a dozen of them took to the stage.
On the final night of Climate Speaks, New York City's Climate Museum put on a spoken-word poetry performance where high school students from across the city came to describe, in rhythm and rhyme, a rapidly warming planet to a packed house.
As the finalists of a lengthy audition process, the poets came prepared for a war of words: Since March, the students had been busy writing, rewriting, rehearsing, and receiving coaching from pros like slam poet Darian Dauchan on everything from hand gestures to intonation to pacing.
"We had to get all the words right, but we also had to make sure to know who we were speaking to. That matters a lot because it guides what expressions you choose," said Jenny Gomez, who just graduated from Brooklyn's Northside Charter High School. "When I was hopeful, I thought of [Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez. When I was angry, I thought of [Donald] Trump." Gomez said she imagined that the president was sitting in the audience and that she was speaking directly to him.
The performances felt like a real-time reckoning — by a generation still coming to terms with a catastrophe that it did not create. "At its heart, the show was expressing the single greatest injustice of the climate crisis," said Miranda Massie, director of the Climate Museum, of the plight of the world's children. "Even if you were not aware of it in every moment, it was in the room."
Many of the poems were rife with grief, mourning everything from "once-colorful corals" to future daughters who will inherit an unlivable planet, and even the poets' own childhoods. In her poem on fleeing extreme storms, Katie Lu reflected, "My parents could only bring one suitcase, so my youth and responsibility could not both fit."
Others bluntly assigned blame, calling out polluting corporations by name, the governments that enable them, and the greenhouse gases themselves.
"It is then that I realize that I have no seat at this table. That I am invisible," stated Andreas Psahos, whose poem, "Corporate Round Table," spoke directly to the executives who have knowingly chosen profits over the planet's health. "That company men have no business making this earth hospitable or making the water more drinkable or making life more livable. Despicable. Criminal. Predictable."
Eliza Schiff, who just graduated from Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School in Manhattan, also pointed a finger. "A band played along as the Titanic went down, a sad and mournful tune as hope ran aground. Now our ship is sinking, our world is burning, our cities languish as they gasp for air. But who is dancing to this melody?" Schiff asked. "Is it you, Charles and David Koch, who sit behind a desk in an office, holding back the remedy?"
Still, some of the poets offered hope.
"Big problems are made up of little ones, and solutions are the same way," recited Jordan Sanchez, who recently graduated from the Bronx High School of Science and is heading to Harvard in the fall. "They start in this room, and end under the sunlight of a new day."
To vie for a place in the final performance, the poets attended a Climate Museum workshop in the spring — a chance to learn more about the intersection of climate change, social justice, and the arts from expert performers. From there, the students submitted their own spoken-word pieces — many of them were taking on the medium for the first time — and hoped to beat out dozens of others for a chance to perform on the hallowed Apollo stage.
"Young people do know about this issue," Gomez said of her generation. "They're educated about it from their teachers and friends, but what they need is inspiration and support."
The Climate Museum's Massie and the Climate Speaks team provided just that. "In the end, what was striking to me was the variety of voices and themes in the final performance," Massie said. "We were careful not to sand that down or workshop that away. All we really did was give the performers room to create, with some support where they needed it. It was self-guided."
Massie remembers how profound it was to watch these young activist poets learn about and begin to address something people of all generations are grappling with. "We all, every day, more deeply absorb the extent of the crisis and what it means. There's no final wrapping of one's head around it, of that I'm confident. Not even a 50-year-old climatologist fully embraces the extent of this crisis."
Some students, like Jade Lozada, a senior at the High School of American Studies at Lehman College, learned about climate change in depth for the first time during the Climate Speaks process. Now she considers herself a climate activist, aligned with a growing movement of young demonstrators led by Swedish superstar Greta Thunberg, whose weekly school strikes for climate action outside the Swedish parliament have earned her a Nobel Peace Prize nomination.
"This never was a one-person job," read Lozada from her piece, titled "Baby Girls." "Now we're relying on a 16-year-old across the world to lead the mob." In the fall, Lozada said, she plans to join the Friday strikes alongside Thunberg and others.
The students hope their words will move the audience to action too. At the end of the event, each performer took the mic to offer a tangible next step: Vote on climate, ride a bike, go solar, they suggested. And perhaps most important: Speak out.
Reposted with permission from our media associate onEarth.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
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 Elliott Negin
When multibillionaire industrialist Charles Koch perceives a potential threat to his fossil fuel empire, he doesn't mess around.
To undercut the burgeoning wind industry, Koch's network of advocacy groups, think tanks and Capitol Hill friends fought to terminate the federal production tax credit, and Congress ultimately agreed in 2015 to phase it out over the following four years.
To slow the exponential growth of solar power, his network has been lobbying state legislatures to curtail the practice of net metering, which gives solar panel owners credit for the excess energy they generate and send back to the grid.
Now Koch wants to kill a federal income tax credit of up to $7,500 for electric vehicle (EV) buyers for the first 200,000 EVs each automaker sells. Although EVs make up less than 2 percent of total vehicle sales nationally, 123,000 of them were snapped up in the first six months of this year, more than twice the amount sold in all of 2015, and more carmakers are expected to introduce new EV models over the next few months. Alarm bells are going off at Koch Industries headquarters.
Last year, the initial draft of the House Republican tax reform bill included a provision terminating the EV tax credit, but it survived in the final, end-of-the-year tax package President Trump signed in December. This year's tax-break-extenders bill finds the Koch network back at work to block the EV tax credit, and it got a boost this week from White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow, who said the Trump administration wants to end EV subsidies.
A Fight Looms
The rationale behind the tax credit, which Congress passed in 2009, is to create a stable market for EVs much in the same way government policies helped the gasoline-hybrid market grow. Congress has a long history of providing tax breaks to help emerging and established industries alike, and EVs are a natural candidate because auto industry entry barriers are steep, and electrifying the U.S. transportation sector is one of the most important steps the country can take to address global warming.
The battle over the EV tax credit's future is expected to play out before Congress adjourns for the holidays. Leading the fight in favor of the tax credit is Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who introduced a bill in mid-September that would remove the 200,000-unit cap—which Tesla has already hit—and extend the credit until 2028. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) introduced the same bill in the House.
Meanwhile, Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) introduced a pair of bills in mid-October that would eliminate the 200,000 sales cap but begin to phase out the credit in 2022. That would still help out Tesla, which built an electric car battery factory in Nevada, and Nissan, which manufactures its Leaf EV in Tennessee.
On the other side: Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas), other strategically placed Republicans, and at least 20 advocacy groups—all making the same specious arguments, and all beneficiaries of Koch largesse.
In early October, Barrasso introduced a bill in the Senate that would not only eliminate the EV tax credit, but also slap EV owners with a user fee that would go to the Highway Trust Fund, which is financed by the federal gasoline tax. Koch Industries has been one of the senator's top 10 supporters since 2013, donating $45,400 to his campaign and leadership political action committees.
Before the EV tax credit gets to a floor vote as a part of a tax-extender package, it has to go through the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee, and Charles Koch has cultivated a critical mass of friends on both. Since 2013, Koch Industries has given $253,600 to 11 of the 14 Republicans on the Senate committee and $374,000 to 21 of the 24 Republicans on the House committee, including Chairman Brady. (The company gave nothing to the 13 Democrats on the Senate committee and only $1,030 combined to two of the 16 Democrats on the House committee.)
Koch-Funded Groups—and Koch Industries—Enter the Fray
Three weeks before Barrasso introduced his bill, 30 seemingly independent, self-described free-market organizations signed a letter to Brady urging Congress to either retain the cap on the first 200,000 EVs sold—which would penalize U.S. automakers Tesla and General Motors for selling more EVs than their Asian and European counterparts—or just "eliminate the tax credit entirely, as the House proposed in last year's tax bill."
But it turns out that they are not true free-market groups at all. Yes, they argue that the government shouldn't subsidize any energy technologies, but they confine their objections to tax breaks for clean energy alternatives, claiming all the while that the oil and gas industry receives no subsidies. In fact, since 1918, permanent oil and gas tax breaks and other subsidies have averaged $4.86 billion per year in 2010 dollars, according to a 2011 study by investment firm DBL Partners. Taking inflation into account, that amounts to an average of $5.62 billion today.
Why would free-marketeers make such an exception?
Perhaps because they get significant funding from fossil fuel interests, most notably Charles Koch, whose privately held Koch industries owns three oil refineries, thousands of miles of oil and gas pipelines, and bulk coal delivery services. These think tanks and advocacy groups essentially function as public relations arms of their benefactors, representing their interests under the guise of being neutral, albeit conservative, policy shops.
Consider the group that organized the anti-EV tax credit letter: the American Energy Alliance. AEA is the political lobbying arm of the Institute for Energy Research, and the president of both groups is Thomas J. Pyle, a former lobbyist for Koch Industries and the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association. Between 2012 and 2016, Koch foundations gave $8.9 million to the groups—which together employ only a dozen people—and in previous years, ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute were among their patrons.
Like AEA, 15 of the other 29 organizations that signed Pyle's letter, including Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, Competitive Enterprise Institute and Heritage Action—the Heritage Foundation's political lobbying arm—are Koch grantees, collectively receiving $142.6 million over the same five-year time period. And two other groups on the letter—the National Black Chamber of Commerce and Taxpayers Protection Alliance—got AEA grants in 2015. Including those two, at least 18 of the 30 signatories are known cogs in the Koch network.
Koch Industries itself weighed in on Oct. 24, when company lobbyist Philip Ellender sent a letter to members of Congress opposing the Heller and Black bills that would extend EV tax credits for four more years and eliminate the 200,000-unit cap. "Congress should not be in the business of picking winners and losers by subsidizing one form of energy over others," Ellender wrote, "regardless of its source." Left unsaid, of course, is the bogus Koch World claim that oil and gas industry tax breaks are not subsidies.
Koch-Funded Think Tanks Provide Deceptive Arguments
If direct funding of politicians and advocacy groups weren't enough, Koch foundations also underwrite the libertarian think tanks that produced the studies cited by Barrasso, Pyle and Ellender to make their case: the Pacific Research Institute, which received $200,000 from Koch funds between 2012 and 2016, and the Manhattan Institute, which received $954,500 in Koch grants and another $535,000 from ExxonMobil over that same five-year period. The two studies' spurious arguments are that the EV tax credit largely benefits wealthier Americans and reduces U.S. tax revenue, and that the internal combustion engine-powered cars are as clean as EVs.
The Pacific Research Institute study found that nearly 80 percent of EV tax credits in 2014 went to households with an adjusted gross income of at least $100,000 and more than half went to households with adjusted income levels of at least $200,000. What the study failed to mention, however, is the fact that upper-income Americans are generally the only ones who can afford to buy any kind of new vehicle, whether electric, hybrid or gasoline-powered. As a 2018 study by the National Center for Sustainable Transportation pointed out, the average income of households buying new cars in 2012 was $119,400; accounting for inflation, that would equal an average annual income of $131,000 today.
The Pacific Research Institute study also ignores the fact that some EVs are a relative bargain, and the federal tax credit makes them even more so. The average price of a new vehicle across the country in January of this year was $36,270. The tax credit reduces the cost of a 2018 Nissan Leaf to $22,490 and a 2018 Chevy Bolt to less than $30,000, making these two EVs more affordable options for middle-income households.
The Manhattan Institute study, meanwhile, argues that the EV tax credit is cheating the U.S. Treasury out of tax revenue. Last year, the EV tax credit amounted to $670 million. Compare that to the lost tax revenue in 2014 from the oil and gas industry's permanent tax breaks, which totaled $4.7 billion.
Unlike many of the other Koch-funded groups, the Manhattan Institute grudgingly concedes that the oil and gas industry indeed gets tax breaks, but insists that those subsidies provide consumers a "tangible benefit" by reducing the retail cost of oil and gas. In other words, it's fine for the government to pick winners and losers as long as it picks your preferred subsidy recipient.
EVs Significantly Cleaner Than Gas Engines
The Manhattan Institute study also makes the ludicrous claim that new internal combustion engines emit next to no pollutants while EVs, which are powered by the electricity grid, likely produce more pollution and will not significantly reduce carbon emissions.
Experts at the Rocky Mountain Institute, a truly independent energy think tank, posted a thorough take-down of the Manhattan Institute report last July. In a nutshell, they found that it used "flawed methodology and flawed assumptions" when comparing monetary damages associated with sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter from EVs and internal combustion vehicles and completely ignored the damages associated with carbon dioxide emissions. "A methodology that accurately accounts for all emissions," they concluded, "results in a dramatically different result."
"Nonpartisan institutions, including the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Electric Power Research Institute, have published accurate and reliable studies of these questions that found the opposite of what [the Manhattan Institute report] concludes," they added, "as have others cited by the Energy and Policy Institute."
In fact, according to UCS Senior Engineer Dave Reichmuth, 75 percent of Americans live in areas where an EV is cleaner than a gasoline-powered car that gets 50 miles per gallon, and the carbon emissions from an average EV sold in the United States this year are equivalent to that of gas-powered car that gets 80 MPG. "And the good news," he says, "is EVs will only get cleaner as the U.S. electricity grid adds more renewable energy."
Will the EV Tax Credit Survive?
The Koch network is working overtime to pull the plug on the emerging electric car market, but the momentum is not in its favor.
Demand for EVs is growing. An AAA survey published this spring found that 50 million Americans will likely buy an EV for their next car, 5 percent more than in 2017.
The supply of EVs is growing as well. The number of available EV models jumped from only two in 2010 to more than 40 today.
Sticker price, as with any vehicle purchase, remains a sticking point. Falling manufacturing costs, aided by the EV tax credit, are already starting to help. The cost of an EV battery, for example, plummeted 80 percent between 2010 and 2017 and will become even cheaper as more automakers ramp up electric vehicle production. And EVs have built-in cost advantages over internal combustion cars: They are much cheaper to maintain—and they save owners a ton on gas. Keeping the EV tax credit in place for another decade and removing the 200,000-unit cap would certainly help ensure that EVs can become cost-competitive with gas vehicles.
Finally, Tesla, Nissan and General Motors—which manufacture EVs in California and Nevada, Tennessee, and Michigan, respectively—as well as Ford and Fiat-Chrysler will be pressed to compete with automakers in Asia and Europe that are getting significant support from their governments to go electric. Encouraging EV sales here at home may threaten Charles Koch's fossil fuel empire, but retaining the EV tax credit will not only help combat climate change, it will fortify the U.S. auto industry, which—even with the recent layoffs at General Motors—still employs more than 2 million people.
Danya Abdel Hameid provided research assistance for this article. Koch grant data came from the following Koch-controlled foundations' 990 tax forms (which can be found at ProPublica's Nonprofit Explorer and the Foundation Center's 990 Finder): American Encore, Charles Koch Foundation, Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, and Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce. Campaign contribution data came from the Center for Responsive Politics website, opensecrets.org.
A 23-country poll found that the U.S. led rich nations in the percentage of people who said that climate change was not caused by humans, The Guardian reported Wednesday. Thirteen percent of Americans agreed with the statement that climate change was happening, "but human activity is not responsible at all." An additional five percent denied climate change all together.
The YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project is an annual survey conducted by You Gov and Cambridge University with the help of The Guardian. The 2019 survey asked questions of 25,325 people around the world in February and March. Of those surveyed, only Saudi Arabia and Indonesia had higher percentages of respondents who denied a human role in climate change, at 16 percent and 18 percent respectively. The U.S. also led Western countries for the percentage who said they were not sure that climate change was happening or if humans were responsible, also at 13 percent.
Out of 23 big countries, Only Saudi Arabia and Indonesia have higher proportion of climate change doubters than the… https://t.co/hJGZy9GCrY— YouGov (@YouGov)1557393530.0
The prevalence of climate denial in the U.S. is out of step with other high-emitting countries. In the UK and China, only six percent of the population doubts that humans are behind global warming, Earther pointed out. The site crunched the numbers, and calculated that the five percent of people in the U.S. who are outright climate deniers corresponds to around 58 million individuals.
Climate Mobilization Founder and clinical psychologist Margaret Klein Salamon explained to the Guardian why the U.S. is such an outlier:
"The Koch brothers and the fossil fuel industry have put billions of dollars into lying to the American public, even sending literature to science teachers in schools," Salamon said. "They are so well organised and have managed to turn climate change into a controversial subject that gets shut down. It's clearly working.
"There is also the issue of American individualism, remnants of manifest destiny, that don't set us up well for understanding that we are part of the web of life. The American dream is quite self-involved. We need a new American dream."
Another factor is that beliefs about climate change are strongly linked to political ideology in the U.S., something that separates it from most other countries, a 2018 study found.
"We found that in approximately 75 percent of the countries surveyed, conservatives didn't show any more skepticism of climate change than other people," study author and University of Queensland Prof. Matthew Hornsey said at the time.
The link between political affiliation and climate denial in the U.S. was reflected in the YouGov poll. Seventeen percent of Americans agreed that "the idea of manmade global warming is a hoax that was invented to deceive people," an ideal popularized by U.S. President Donald Trump, who has called it a Chinese hoax. But the number who answered yes to that statement rose to 52 percent among Americans who described themselves as "very rightwing," The Guardian reported.
However, 4 in 10 Americans do believe the climate change is at least partly human-caused, according to the YouGov survey. Another survey in January from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication found that a record number of Americans, 72 percent, said that climate change is "personally important" to them.
The Koch brothers are pouring money into grassroots state efforts to defeat public transit proposals, The New York Times reported.
Local chapters of Koch advocacy group Americans for Prosperity have worked in at least seven states since 2015 to sway voters against public transit proposals, with some notable successes: the group was partially responsible for the defeat of a popular light rail and bus improvement plan in traffic-choked Nashville this May, after making more than 42,000 phone calls and knocking on 6,000 doors.
Koch Industries is deeply embedded in the automobile industry, and the group has also launched attacks on electric vehicles in recent years. "Stopping higher taxes is their rallying cry," Ashley Robbins of Virginia Tech told The New York Times. "But at the end of the day, fuel consumption helps them."
As reported by The New York Times:
"Supporters of transit investments point to research that shows that they reduce traffic, spur economic development and fight global warming by reducing emissions. Americans for Prosperity counters that public transit plans waste taxpayer money on unpopular, outdated technology like trains and buses just as the world is moving toward cleaner, driverless vehicles.
The paucity of federal funding for transit projects means that local ballots are critical in shaping how Americans travel, with decades-long repercussions for the economy and the environment. Highway funding has historically been built into state and federal budgets, but transit funding usually requires a vote to raise taxes, creating what experts call a systemic bias toward cars over trains and buses. The United States transportation sector emits more earth-warming carbon dioxide than any other part of the nation's economy.
The Trump administration had initially raised hopes of more funding for transit by advocating a trillion-dollar infrastructure push. However, when that proposed plan was made public it reduced funding for transit-related grants."
Koch Brothers Launch Attack to Kill Electric Cars https://t.co/9kJQQyD5f3 @EVdotcom @EV_Research— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1499808308.0
For a deeper dive:
By Dana Drugmand
Koch Industries is calling for the elimination of tax credits for electric vehicles (EVs), all while claiming that it does not oppose plug-in cars and inviting the elimination of oil and gas subsidies that the petroleum conglomerate and its industry peers receive.
Outgoing Nevada Republican Senator Dean Heller introduced a bill in September that would lift the sales cap on electric vehicles eligible for a federal tax credit, and replace the cap with a deadline that would dictate when the credit would start being phased out.
Under the current tax credit for EVs, once a manufacturer sells 200,000 EVs in the U.S. the amount of the credit gets slashed in half, then halved again. The full credit amount is $7,500. Tesla has already hit the 200,000 cap and GM will soon reach it, so both companies would benefit from a tax credit extension via eliminating the sales cap. Heller's bill lifts the 200,000 vehicle limit and substitutes a phase-out period starting in 2022.
In a letter to senators dated Oct. 24, Koch Industries lobbyist Philip Ellender urges opposition to the expansion of EV tax credits through 2022. Ellender claims that the tax credits primarily benefit wealthy consumers and that subsidization interferes with "innovation and consumer choice."
The letter cites two studies, each by a right-wing think tank. One study comes from the Pacific Research Institute, which has received fossil fuel funding—including more than $1.7 million from Koch-related foundations and $615,000 from ExxonMobil. The PRI study, "Costly Subsidies for the Rich: Quantifying the Subsidies Offered to Battery Electric Powered Cars," emphasizes that "the majority of the dollar benefits from energy and electric car subsidies are paid to tax filers in the higher income tax brackets."
The other study is from the Manhattan Institute, another "free market think tank" that takes in money from the Koch network and Exxon. The study paints a misleading picture of EVs and their subsidies.
In addition to citing biased studies by groups tied to Koch money, Ellender claims in the letter, "We do not oppose electric vehicles."
This sentiment echoes the company's 2016 advertorial, in which Koch Industries claimed to be "all for electric vehicles."
Ellender also claims that Koch Industries is against any and all energy subsidies, even ones that benefit the company. According to the letter:
Instead of expanding this subsidy for wealthy EV owners, Congress should eliminate it along with all other energy incentives—including eliminating any incentives given to us and our competitors where we may participate. We are focused on long-term value creation, not short-term windfalls.
In reality, while Koch Industries is claiming publicly to support ending fossil fuel subsidies (along with EV and clean energy incentives), Koch lobbyists have long worked to ensure that the petroleum industry continues to get subsidized.
As Koch vs. Clean previously pointed out, "In a detailed 2011 report on Koch Industries, the Center for Public Integrity wrote: 'Oil is the core of the Koch business empire, and the company's lobbyists and officials have successfully fought to preserve the industry's tax breaks and credits.' The report documented that Koch lobbyists have worked to preserve billions of dollars in oil industry subsidies, including the Section 199 manufacturing tax deduction and the 'last-in, first out' accounting rule."
In fact, according to the International Business Times, Koch Industries has itself directly secured subsidies totaling more than $195 million.
The Koch network also lobbied for the Trump tax cuts that became law late last year. The corporate tax cut is not specific to energy, but it benefits giant corporations including Big Oil and Koch Industries nonetheless. Americans for Tax Fairness estimated that the Kochs would save more than $1 billion just this year from the tax cut—a significant windfall for a corporate behemoth that claims, "We are focused on long-term value creation, not short-term windfalls."
Koch vs. California: These Groups Want Pruitt to Undo the State’s Right to Regulate Auto Emissions… https://t.co/QqVojSadKD— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1523458248.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.
By Dana Drugmand
Electric buses are replacing existing diesel-fueled fleets at an accelerating rate, and the transition to battery-powered buses is outpacing even the most optimistic projections. In this light, it should come as little surprise that commentators and organizations with ties to the Koch network and the oil industry are attacking a transportation option that yields fewer fossil fuel profits and cleaner, healthier air for people and planet.
A string of recent commentaries published in the conservative Washington Examiner have relied on a handful of critical reports about the rollout of electric buses in individual municipalities, which the commentators use to portray electric buses, as a class, as uneconomical and unreliable.
Despite these efforts by Koch affiliates and oil industry consultants, the electrification of bus transit is firmly underway. These high tech buses are already being widely deployed throughout China, which, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), is adding about 9,500 electric buses every five weeks. As China leads the way and North American and European municipalities follow suit, analysts expect this momentum to accelerate and predict 80 percent of the global municipal bus fleet to be electric by 2040.
That is bad news for the oil industry. Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecasts that switching from internal combustion engine transport to electric vehicles will displace 7.3 million barrels of oil a day.
According to Bloomberg, this year electric buses already will lower diesel consumption by 233,000 barrels a day.
Who's Behind a Series of Drive-by Attacks on Electric Buses in the Washington Examiner?
As more cities and states move toward this electrified mass transit option, it cuts into the demand for conventional diesel fuel—and into fossil fuel industry profits. A Washington Examiner article from Dec. 12, 2017 explores the rise of electric vehicles with a particularly telling headline: "Rise of electric vehicles threatens oil industry."
More recently, the Washington Examiner has run a series of opinion pieces criticizing electric buses. The main arguments are that they are expensive and unreliable, prone to breaking down. These pieces share arguments, and their authors share affiliations, with the Koch brothers and other oil industry funders.
For example, one commentary by Philip Wegmann looks at a new electric bus fleet on Martha's Vineyard, pointing to the cost of the vehicles and the fact that they experienced technical problems early on. The piece neglects to mention any benefits of these buses to the environment or public health, nor does it reference the fact that the Vineyard Transit Authority's slow rollout of the buses was expected and that they plan on doubling the size of the electric fleet by next summer.
Wegmann has been closely tied to the Koch network since the beginning of his career. He started his writing career as a fellow of the Koch's America's Future Foundation writing program. Wegmann is currently a fellow at the Steamboat Institute, a right-wing think tank affiliated with the Koch-backed State Policy Network. This year, he was awarded the Steamboat Institute's Tony Blankley fellowship, which came with a $10,000 stipend and a host of other benefits.
Prior to joining the Examiner as a staff writer, Wegmann worked for conservative media outlet The Daily Signal, which is published by the Koch network-funded Heritage Foundation and which also features work by fellow America's Future Foundation alumnus Michael Bastasch.
Another Examiner piece by Wegmann slams electric buses in Los Angeles. "They don't run, they are expensive, and they're Chinese," Wegmann wrote. LA's neighbor Santa Monica is also converting its buses to electric, and Wegmann again attacks that move in another commentary. He again played the cost card, and claims, without statistical evidence, that "basically no one" rides the new buses.
Wegmann continues to rail against the electric bus in the Examiner, as recently as last week commenting on Atlanta, Georgia's purchase of a fleet from the Chinese company Build Your Dreams (BYD). "One expects cities like Albuquerque and Los Angeles to drop millions on the novelty environmental fleets, not a deep red state in the South that traditionally votes Republican and cares more for business than green pipe dreams," he writes.
Ross Marchand echoes this criticism in another Examiner opinion piece. Marchand is director of policy for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, which is basically a front group funded in part through Koch-connected channels. Previously Marchand interned for the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), both part of the Koch network.
Marchand's argument is primarily based on expense, but he even claims that electric buses could "prove dirtier than conventional fleet depending on which energy sources America relies on in the future." He backs that statement with a link to a piece by Jonathan Lesser, president of the consulting firm Continental Economics. Lesser has an antagonistic record towards clean energy policies, and he has "submitted expert testimony and reports on behalf of major utility and fossil fuel interests like Exelon, Occidental, Duke Energy, and FirstEnergy," according to the Energy and Policy Institute.
Lesser is also frequently contracted by the Manhattan Institute, a think tank that has received millions of dollars in funding from foundations in the Koch donor network.
Electric Bus Myths, Debunked
The claims laid out by electric bus antagonists use limited views and dog whistles of "communism" and "environmental zealotry" to attack the electric vehicles, especially when compared to "cleaner natural gas-burning buses." The unreliability argument is backed, for instance, by an investigative story in the LA Times from May that looks at problems with range and quality encountered by the Chinese e-bus manufacturing company BYD.
The Times article raises legitimate concerns about the products delivered by BYD, and the company responded with a statement saying that glitches are to be expected with "any groundbreaking technology." However, the article referred only to BYD buses, and not the electric bus industry as a whole.
"That was an article about a company, but the headline was about a category," Ryan Popple, CEO of electric bus maker Proterra, told GTM. "I hope that people don't paint a broad brush over the whole category." While the BYD buses struggled on hills—a major focus of the LA Times article—competitor Proterra's electric buses have been tested, for instance, in the mountains around Park City, Utah, to the satisfaction of local municipal transit planners, who ordered six units to serve the local bus routes.
Had he wanted, Wegmann could have looked even closer to find a counterpoint to the problematic BYD buses in Los Angeles. Foothill Transit, which serves 22 cities from downtown LA to the east, first tested Proterra buses in 2010 and is still using them.
"The technology is very robust," Doran Barnes, Foothill's executive director, told the Seattle Times. "We've had very few problems." Foothill Transit now operates 17 Proterra electric buses, and recently ordered 13 more, including a new set of all-electric double decker buses. Foothill Transit has pledged to serve its hilly region with an exclusively electric fleet by 2030.
So despite the early performance and mechanical issues from at least one manufacturer, as these issues are resolved and technology continues to improve, municipal transit authorities across the U.S. continue to order more of the buses from BYDand other major electric bus manufacturers like Proterra and New Flyer.
As for the cost argument, it is true that electric buses cost more up front than their diesel-powered counterparts. However, those costs are falling, and when considering the entire life cycle of the vehicle—purchase price, fuels, operational and maintenance expenses—electric buses prove to be cheaper than their diesel counterparts.
Moreover, according to BNEF, the projected decline in battery costs likely make electric buses cost-competitive with diesel at the point of purchase by 2026. By then, the number of electric buses on the road is expected to more than triple and make up nearly half of the worldwide city bus fleets.
There are solid reasons behind this trend. Electric buses are better for public health (reducing local air pollution from burning diesel), better for the climate (increasing efficiency and reducing reliance on fossil fuels), and make economic sense in terms of their full cost of moving passengers, when factoring in maintenance and fuel cost-savings. These various benefits are explained in a May 2018 report from U.S. PIRG and Environment America.
In terms of public health, there is no question that electric is better. Diesel exhaust is classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a likely carcinogen, and it is internationally recognized as a cancer-causing agent that is also responsible for respiratory and other illnesses. Chicago estimates that its electric buses will result in $55,000 in healthcare savings annually per bus, while a Columbia University analysis for New York City pegs it at $150,000 per bus.
Another obvious benefit of shifting from diesel to electric buses is the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector. In the U.S. alone, converting transit buses to electric could save over 2 million tons of emissions each year, a clear win for the climate.
Electric buses also have lower operating and maintenance costs. As with other electric vehicles, there is no fuel cost. Chicago Transit Authority estimates it saves $25,000 annually in net fuel costs for each bus.
Furthermore, the U.S. PIRG report states that:
"According to studies of electric buses currently in operation, electric buses save at least $0.19 per mile in lower maintenance costs. Over the lifetime of the bus, an electric transit bus can avoid hundreds of thousands of dollars in operating costs over an equivalent diesel or natural gas bus, from lower fuel and maintenance costs."
While the e-bus costs more upfront, the fuel and maintenance cost-savings make up the difference, usually within 10 years.
Improved models and better battery technology are moving toward solving reliability issues, too. The newer electric bus models apparently can travel up to 200 miles or more on a single charge. Proterra makes e-buses designed to go 200 to 350 miles, for example. Electric buses also have fewer parts than diesel buses, which would theoretically require less maintenance.
Given these considerations, many cities are now announcing transitions to electric bus fleets. New York City announced in April its plans to electrify its fleet by 2040. Los Angeles is committed to an entirely zero-emissions fleet by 2030. Seattle is purchasing 120 e-buses by 2020 and has committed to electrifying its entire fleet by 2040.
Electric buses are moving toward the mainstream, despite attacks from oil industry apologists.
Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.
Under mounting public pressure, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may finally set a national limit on perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl compounds, or PFAS, concentrations in drinking water.
"A decision is expected soon," the Associated Press reported Monday.
PFAS are a class of man-made chemicals found in a wide range of products, from non-stick cookware to firefighting foam. The remarkably persistent compounds have been found in military bases and in many species of wildlife around the world. A Harvard 2016 study found that 6 million Americans get drinking water from sources that exceed current EPA guidelines for the chemicals.
In June, an agency under the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a damning toxicology report for PFAS, and concluded that the chemicals pose a greater risk to human health than previously thought. For one chemical, it recommends exposure limits 10 times lower than those currently set by the EPA and for another it recommends exposure limits seven times lower, according to ProPublica.
The study linked PFAS to health issues such as cancer, liver disease, fertility problems, thyroid issues and asthma. Even extremely low, daily doses of the substances showed an adverse impact on lab animals.
Incidentally, officials with the White House and EPA tried to suppress the CDC report after a Trump administration aide warned that a "potential public relations nightmare" would ensue after the report's release, according to emails reported by POLITICO.
In community hearings around the country, residents have offered sometimes tragic testimonies of living in cancer clusters or raising children with chronic illness and urging rapid government action.
A significant federal regulation on PFAS will help stop pollution and hold polluters liable for its cleanup, they say.
"With children’s health and human lives on the line, it’s past time to address this contamination crisis. The EPA m… https://t.co/4oYxGVV7ia— Sierra Club (@Sierra Club)1549895092.0
Setting nationwide limits for PFAS in drinking water has bipartisan support. Members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, including ranking member Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Sen. Shelley Moore-Capito (R-WV), pushed acting EPA head Andrew Wheeler to take action at a hearing last month, Ohio's WFPL reported.
Wheeler said the recent partial government shutdown delayed the agency's PFAS management plan.
"Our PFAS management plan we were hoping to unveil it next week with the shutdown it's going to be delayed slightly," he told the committee, according to WFPL. "It's in the middle of inter-agency review."
As it happens, POLITICO reported earlier this month that David Dunlap, a deputy in the EPA's Office of Research and Development, who worked for chemical giant Koch Industries for more than eight years, has played a lead role in crafting the Trump administration's plan to address the nation's PFAS contamination crisis.
Ex-Koch Industries official David Dunlap, now a deputy in EPA's Office of Research and Development, has played a ke… https://t.co/y3V2mR2CCG— POLITICO Pro (@POLITICO Pro)1549317780.0
Although Koch told POLITICO that the chemicals were involved with his work during his tenure with the Koch conglomerate, environmentalists are wary.
"This is truly the fox guarding the henhouse, as Koch Industry's Georgia Pacific is still engaged in manufacturing products with these chemicals," Wenonah Hauter, the executive director of Food & Water Watch, told EcoWatch in a statement. "We have zero confidence that this will shake out well for people affected by these and other dangerous chemicals. Day in and day out, the Trump administration is shaping up to be an enterprise bought and paid for by industry at the expense of our public health."
Without a nationwide standard, states such as New Jersey and Vermont have already set regulations more stringent than the EPA, and New Hampshire and New York will likely follow, the AP noted. Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Washington state and Michigan have also made various efforts to monitor, treat and or even ban the chemicals for certain uses, according to the AP.
Meanwhile, a bipartisan bill was introduced in the House last month to list PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances, thus allowing the EPA to clean contaminated sites under the Superfund program, according to MLive.
By Andy Rowell
Since the horrific Parkland shooting in which 17 high school children were murdered in Florida, people from around the world have watched in admiration at the way the traumatized survivors have taken on the National Rifle Association (NRA) and politicians who are in the gun lobby's pocket.
They have taken their anger and are demanding action. Last week's debate on CNN where survivors grilled Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and NRA's spokesperson Dana Loesch, was in many ways inspirational as the young survivors challenged those in power and why we cannot ban assault rifles.
"We would like to know why do we have to be the ones to do this? Why do we have to speak out to the (state) Capitol? Why do we have to march on Washington, just to save innocent lives?" asked one angry participant.
As the death toll from America's gun epidemic increases every week, politicians from President Trump to GOP fail yet another generation in their inability to act in order to stem America's gun carnage. In any other country it would not be acceptable, but for some reason in the U.S., the dirty money of the NRA buys political silence which ends up in the slaughter of the innocent.
The response of the Parkland students has been so commendable. But why stop at gun control?
There are many parallels between gun control and climate change, where the powerful and the rich maintain a status quo that threatens many people's future.
As one commentator on Earther noted: "It was a tour de force watching young people who have been let down by adults and an entrenched political system begin to try tearing it down. There's no reason to stop at gun control. Let's see teens ask policymakers about climate change, the outlines of which closely mirror the gun control."
They continue: "Teens of today will face a more unstable future, one that could be outside the realm of anything humanity has ever experienced if carbon emissions keep rising. And yet our current crop of politicians has done basically nothing to address the root problem, almost exclusively driven by Republican's slavish devotion to fossil fuel interests."
And one of the biggest fossil fuel interests, is of course, the Koch brothers, who have done more than most to spin a multi-million dollar climate denial machine.
We know they are influential with Trump and the GOP, but a new disturbing report in The Intercept outlines the "incredible access" the Koch's have had to the Trump administration. As The Intercept noted: "In the backdrop of a chaotic first year of Donald Trump's presidency, the conservative Koch brothers have won victory after victory in their bid to reshape American government to their interests."
Documents obtained by The Intercept reveal that wealthy donors to the GOP such as Charles and David Koch have funded the GOP directly as well as "third-party organizations that have pressured officials to act swiftly to roll back limits on pollution, approve new pipeline projects, and extend the largest set of upper-income tax breaks in generations."
One memo outlines "how the EPA Clean Power Plan, which is currently under the process of being formally repealed, and Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement" are among their major accomplishments.
And now the Koch's and their network of groups are going to try and sway the 2018 mid-terms to the tune of $400 million, which is the biggest amount they have ever spent on elections and significantly greater than the estimated $250 million they spent on the 2016 presidential election.
And that money will be spent trying to get anti-climate change and pro-gun Republicans elected. Its time for the teens and young adults to fight back.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Oil Change International.
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By Andy Rowell
The disconnect could not be greater. As wildfires raged across the U.S. last week, inflamed by climate change, Trump officials attended the America First Energy Conference, where delegates heard age-old fossil fuel arguments that, amongst others, carbon dioxide makes the planet greener and could not be creating a climate crisis.
The conference comes after an unprecedented heat wave in the Northern hemisphere. Scientists are warning that this summer's heatwave is caused by climate change, which in turn has caused unprecedented temperatures and wildfires in Canada, Greece, Sweden and the U.S. Indeed this summer's heatwave was made more than twice as likely by climate change, according to a rapid assessment by scientists.
Some scientists are even warning that we are descending into "hothouse earth," where a series of positive feedback mechanisms could trigger even more extreme warming.
A record number of Americans now believe that humans are causing climate change, too. The latest survey by the University of Michigan Muhlenberg College revealed that "a record 60% of Americans now think that global warming is happening and that humans are at least partially responsible for the rising temperatures."
These high temperatures continue to cause massive wildfires with more than 100 major active blazes in the U.S. right now. Some 30,000 personnel are battling wildfires that have devastated more than 1.6 million acres (648,000 hectares) of land.
Meanwhile, the climate dinosaurs continue as if nothing is happening. They deny the science and evidence as the flames get ever closer.
The conference was organized by the leading climate denial think tank, Heartland Institute, which has been regurgitating the same climate denial old rubbish—what we now would now call "fake news"—for the last two decades. It has received significant funding from Exxon and the Koch brothers to do so.
But all their climate denial friends were there too, according to Reuters, including speakers from JunkScience, the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, and the Center for Industrial Progress and officials from the U.S. Department of Interior and the White House.
The panels included sessions on "Carbon Taxes, Cap & Trade, and Other Bad Ideas," "Fiduciary Malpractice: The Sustainable Investment Movement," and "Why CO2 Emissions Are Not Creating a Climate Crisis."
Another one of the ludicrous conspiracy theories peddled at the conference was "that the United Nations puts out fake science about climate change to control the global energy market." Oh and they hate renewable energy too, calling wind and solar energy "dumb."
According to Reuters, the U.S. officials who attended included White House special assistant Brooke Rollins, Interior Department Assistant Secretary Joe Balash, and Jason Funes, an assistant in the office of external affairs at Interior. All "praised the administration's moves to clear the way for oil industry activity."
Tim Huelskamp, president and CEO of the Heartland Institute, closed the seminar by stating the person who had made the difference to the climate deniers was Donald Trump. "We have a president who has kept his promises," he said. "It proves that one man can make a difference." He called Trump "our last political chance at freedom."
And in many ways he is right. Trump represents the last chance for the fossil fuel industry to wreck this planet. What they call freedom, we call wildfires. When they see freedom, we see sea level rise.
Huelskamp told Reuters, "The leftist claims about sea level rise are overblown, overstated or frankly just wrong."
Ironically, the conference was held in New Orleans, which was once ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. As Reuters—not normally seen as left-wing conspiracy theorists—noted: "Evidence of sea level rise, however, is strewn across the state that hosted the conference."
The panel speakers are so blinkered in their climate denial they do not notice what is happening right now. They may look, but they cannot see. On the speaker's lectern was the strapline "freedom rising." Maybe someone should have just written "sea level rising" instead.
At Least 20 Climate Change Deniers Lead Trump Team, POLITICO Reports https://t.co/angApWTJxF @IMPL0RABLE @American_Bridge— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1520564427.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate Oil Change International.
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Former coal lobbyist and acting U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler has named a climate denier to serve on the agency's Science Advisory Board, which is responsible for giving independent policy advice.
Among eight new members added to the board Thursday is University of Alabama in Huntsville atmospheric science professor John Christy, who has argued that the climate change predictions agreed upon by most scientists are too extreme, and that urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is not necessary, Reuters reported.
The appointment comes as Wheeler himself is seeking Senate confirmation after President Donald Trump nominated him to head the EPA permanently in January. He had been running the agency on an interim basis following the resignation of scandal-ridden former administrator Scott Pruitt.
All the more reason to #StopWheeler https://t.co/w2LY1VougM— Sierra Club (@Sierra Club)1548964677.0
Christy has taken his views to Congress in the past. In 2017, he testified before the House Science Committee arguing that the climate models used by international organizations were too inaccurate to be used to guide policy.
"The average of the models is considered to be untruthful in representing the recent decades of climate variation and change, and thus would be inappropriate for use in predicting future changes in the climate or for related policy decisions," he said, according to The Hill.
In 2015, he downplayed the connection between carbon dioxide emissions and climate change during his testimony before the House Natural Resources Committee. The Democrats on the committee pointed out his was "a position shared by approximately three percent of professional climate scientists."
John Christy Climate Change Denial Testimony Highlights May 13 youtu.be
"In a fair, open, and transparent fashion, EPA reviewed hundreds of qualified applicants nominated for this committee," acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement on the appointments. "Members who will be appointed or reappointed include experts from a wide variety of scientific disciplines who reflect the geographic diversity needed to represent all ten EPA regions."
Christy isn't Wheeler's only potentially controversial choice. He also selected three members with ties to industry or conservative think tanks:
1. Richard Williams: Williams works at the Mercatus Center, a think tank affiliated with George Mason University and funded by the Koch brothers. Williams has also worked for the Food and Drug Administration and argued there should be limits on the government's ability to issue regulations, The Hill reported.
2. Brant Ulsh: Ulsh works for the privately-owned M.H. Chew and Associates, which has consulted various government agencies on radiation safety, among other scientific matters. He has argued against assuming that small amounts of radiation are harmful to humans.
3. Hugh Barton: Barton is a toxicology consultant with ties to the pharmaceutical industry, having worked for Pfizer Inc., as Reuters reported.
EPA Head Wheeler Hints Administration Could Meddle With Next Climate Assessment #climatechange #Corruption https://t.co/xkRHaBJYKf— Green Bean (@Green Bean)1543499949.0
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By Steve Horn
A leaked memorandum published by The Intercept and Documented Investigations shows that a Koch Industries' donors network, known as the Seminar Network, has taken credit for Donald Trump approving the permits for both the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines during the first months of his presidency.
The memo also applauded efforts by the Koch network's Americans for Prosperity (AFP) chapter in Wisconsin to pass a deregulatory measure there known as the REINS Act. The Seminar Network, which meets secretly twice a year, is made up of donors who give at least $100,000 toward Koch-led political and philanthropic efforts.
Koch Industries has a business interest in both pipelines, though their approval has not been something its funded network has widely discussed. Quietly, though, Koch has advocated for the pair of pipelines in regulatory hearings in both Iowa for Dakota Access—as previously reported by DeSmog—as well as in Canada, as reported in 2012 by InsideClimate News.
The REINS (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny) Act, which GOP officials have been pushing in Congress since Obama's first term, passed as state law in Wisconsin in 2017. The law, long considered crown jewel legislation by the Koch front group AFP, gives legislative bodies full veto authority over regulations proposed by executive agencies. Conservative groups in Wisconsin already are using the law to sue the top state public education officer.
"State legislatures, particularly in states with a strong Network presence, have also made significant progress toward removing harmful and unnecessary regulations. For example, Wisconsin this year went so far as to enact the nation's first REINS Act, which will require legislative approval of any issued regulation that has an impact above a certain cost threshold," reads the Koch Seminar Network document.
The American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-funded group of mostly Republican Party state legislators, has a REINS Act model resolution on the books, which supports the federal version of this legislation. In 2017, six states introduced pro-REINS Act resolutions: Kansas, Montana, Missouri, Georgia, Ohio and South Carolina. ALEC—which brings corporate lobbyists and state legislators together at annual meetings for networking, seminars and voting on what it dubs "model policies" —maintains close connections with the Koch network.
Koch, KXL, DAPL Business Ties
Koch Industries also owns assets in a tar sands reservoir located in Alberta, Canada, both in the form of lease holdings for land and as a company with a drilling interest. For the latter, Koch owns Koch Oil Sands Operating, which has a drilling interest in both the Gemini and Muskwa tar sands fields in Alberta.
It also owns 1-2 million acres' worth of land (the exact number is contested) in the tar sands for prospective future leasing, according to a 2013 report published by the International Forum on Globalization. Keystone XL, the pipeline owned by TransCanada and approved by Trump and his U.S. Department of State in March 2017, would bring around 500,000 currently-booked barrels per day of tar sands oil from Alberta to Cushing, Oklahoma, where the pipeline connects with TransCanada's Gulf Coast Pipeline.
Gulf Coast, which was approved by President Barack Obama in a 2012 election season executive order, sends the tar sands bitumen down to Port Arthur, Texas, where the substance is refined into products and then sent to market.
International Forum on Globalization
Koch Industries even nearly testified at a 2012 hearing in support of its development of tar sands, before backing out after signing confidentiality agreements with impacted landowners. Much of the tar sands extracted in Alberta is refined at Koch's refinery in Pine Bend, Minnesota, which is owned by its subsidiary Flint Hills Resources and is the top refiner of tar sands in the U.S. at 223,000 barrels per day, as of 2013.
For Dakota Access, Koch also quietly came out in support of the pipeline via its front group, the 60 Plus Association, which purports to be a conservative alternative to the American Association of Retired Persons for seniors. Through intermediary groups, 60 Plus had received tens of millions of dollars from the Koch network.
Koch Industries has a direct tie to Dakota Access, through a storage terminal part-owned by its subsidiary Flint Resources and located in North Dakota's Bakken Shale basin. As DeSmog previously reported, this terminal, called the COLT Hub, feeds oil into the Dakota Access pipeline.
Back in 2015 when the pipeline was hotly contested in Iowa, a representative for 60 Plus testified on behalf of Dakota Access in front of the Iowa Utilities Board.
"The Dakota Access Pipeline Project is important to seniors for several reasons. High energy prices are disproportionately impacting America's low and fixed-income senior citizens today—citizens that often have limited financial resources with which to meet their needs," the 60 Plus representative testified in September 2015. "By helping the United States to better capitalize upon its growing domestic energy resources—and affordably transport these resources to market—the Dakota Access Pipeline will help to foster stability within energy markets nationwide, and improve the availability of affordable American produced crude oil."
60 Plus also began lobbying and campaigning on behalf of the Dakota Access as the protest movement grew against the pipeline at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. Around the same time those protests began in September 2016, 60 Plus deployed its chairman, Jim Martin, to begin lobbying Congress about Dakota Access. Martin also wrote an opinion piece that month supporting the pipeline for the publication Morning Consult.
"Whether it's heating or cooling your home or putting gas in your car, the cheaper the energy, the more economically stable your checkbook will be," wrote Martin. "The 60 Plus Association's 5.5 million members know this all too well. This is why as an organization that champions free enterprise and who have championed energy issues for seniors before, we strongly support the Dakota Access pipeline."
'Whole New Level'
In the 2018 election cycle, the Koch network plans to spend up to $400 million to keep the Republican majority in Congress and GOP control over statehouses nationwide.
"We've made more progress in the last five years than I had in the last 50," Charles Koch, one of the infamous petrochemical billionaire Koch brothers, said in January at a private Seminar Network meeting held in Indian Wells, California. "The capabilities we have now can take us to a whole new level."
Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.