Trump's Koch-Connected Rumored Pick to Run EPA: Renewables Are 'a False Hope That Simply Won't Work'
By Jeremy Symons
As President-elect Donald Trump fills out his cabinet, he has an opportunity to continue the long, bipartisan tradition of appointing qualified leaders to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) who will protect and defend the public health of all Americans.
The outlook took a turn for the worse, however, when Trump met with Kathleen Hartnett White on Monday, Nov. 28, reportedly to discuss cabinet positions, including one as the head of the EPA.
Like Myron Ebell, who is leading Trump's EPA transition team, White is a polluter-funded operative who has harshly attacked the agency.
America needs an EPA administrator who is guided by science, respects our environmental laws and values protecting public health ahead of the lobbying agenda of special interests.
OMG! Chief of Staff Confirms #ClimateDenial Will Be Official Policy of the #Trump Administration https://t.co/5oI4eoUbHa @greenpeaceusa @350— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1480427825.0
White, a registered lobbyist in Texas—where she works on behalf of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, an advocacy group funded in large part by the energy industry—fails all three of these most fundamental qualifications.
She has undermined the work of health scientists on air pollution and climate change. She has taken positions at odds with the Supreme Court regarding the Clean Air Act.
And as a lobbyist for an organization funded by fossil fuel interests, she would most benefit her current patrons if Trump were to choose her as EPA administrator.
Guided by Science? No.
A former chairwoman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, White has repeatedly pushed ideas that are flatly contradicted by decades of scientific evidence and all major scientific organizations.
When Abraham Lincoln and the U.S. Congress found time at the height of the Civil War to establish the National Academy of Sciences, they recognized that sound science is a cornerstone of good government. Unlike Lincoln, White has a skeptical view of the value of health and science studies.
"We're not a democracy if science dictates what our rules are," she recently told Rolling Stone.
In a 2012 report targeting EPA's efforts to reduce the fine particle air pollution that exacerbates lung disease and asthma, she lamented that political appointees must weigh the views of what she called "mandarins brandishing their scientific credentials." These are people others would call knowledgeable experts.
Two years later, in the publication The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, White attacked climate science as a biased indictment of carbon emissions from fossil fuels.
CO2 is "the gas that makes life possible on the Earth and naturally fertilizes plant growth," she wrote. "Whether emitted from the human use of fossil fuels or as a natural (and necessary) gas in the atmosphere surrounding the Earth, carbon dioxide has none of the attributes of a pollutant."
In the same publication, White argued that the planet had stopped warming. She was wrong again: 2014 and 2015 were the hottest years on record and the top 10 hottest years have been since 2008. This year, meanwhile, is on track to be another record-breaking year.
If you want to understand the breadth of scientific voices who disagree with White and others who question climate change, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration offers insights.
White wrote that that science is tarnished because "solar activity plays almost no role in current climate modeling" when it does. Bloomberg, for example, has an interactive display on the different drivers of global warming.
She also frequently derides cleaner energy sources, calling renewables "a false hope that simply won't work," despite the fact that her home state of Texas is generating record-breaking amounts of wind power at low costs.
Respect for America's Environmental Laws? No.
White has been a critic of the EPA's efforts to reduce air pollution such as soot and toxic emissions of mercury. In a 2016 op-ed for The Hill newspaper she attacked the agency for pursuing standards to reduce air pollution from fossil fuels.
She also lobbied in favor of legislation that would ban the EPA from creating standards to reduce emissions of CO2, methane and other damaging greenhouse gases.
White has argued that greenhouse gas emissions are not a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. What she overlooks is that the Supreme Court affirmed in 2007 that greenhouse gas emissions are in fact pollutants as governed by the law.
The EPA administrator has a responsibility to uphold and implement the law.
Puts Public Health Ahead of Special Interest Lobbyists? No.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation, the advocacy group where White works, is funded, among others, by Koch Industries, ExxonMobil and "American Coalition for Clean Coal." But White has also lobbied Congress to pass specific legislation aimed at hamstringing the EPA.
The Dallas Morning News had this to say about her:
"She has been an apologist for polluters, consistently siding with business interests instead of protecting public health. Ms. White worked to set a low bar as she lobbied for lax ozone standards and pushed through an inadequate anti-pollution plan."
That is not the kind of leader we need in charge of protecting and defending the air we breathe, the water we drink and the planet we will leave future generations.
By Victoria Masterson
Using one of the world's problems to solve another is the philosophy behind a Norwegian start-up's mission to develop affordable housing from 100% recycled plastic.
Sustainable Homes<p>UN-Habitat says an <a href="https://unhabitat.org/un-habitat-aims-to-use-plastic-waste-to-support-housing-for-all" target="_blank">estimated 60% of people living in urban areas of Africa are in informal settlements</a>. At the same time, between 1990 and 2017, African countries imported around 230 metric tonnes of plastic, "which mostly ended up in dump sites creating a massive environmental challenge," the agency adds.</p><p>UN-Habitat deputy executive director, Victor Kisob, said the aim of the partnership with Othalo was to "promote adequate, sustainable and affordable housing for all."</p>
Artist's impression of an Othalo community, imagined by architect Julien De Smedt. Othalo<p>Othalo's process involves shredding plastic waste and mixing it with other elements, including non-flammable materials. Components are used to build up to four floors, with a home of 60 square metres using eight tons of recycled plastic. A factory with one production line can produce 2,800 housing units annually.</p><p>Following successful laboratory tests, Othalo's factory in Estonia has started producing components to build three demonstration homes for Kenya's capital, Nairobi; Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon and Dakar, the capital of Senegal.</p><p>Othalo founder Frank Cato Lahti has been developing and testing the technology since 2016 in partnership with <a href="https://www.sintef.no/en/" target="_blank">SINTEF</a>, a 70-year-old independent research organization in Trondheim, Norway, and experts at Norway's <a href="https://en.uit.no/startsida" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">University of Tromsø</a>.</p>
Othalo founder Frank Cato Lahti. Othalo<p>Almost <a href="https://www.un.org/development/desa/publications/2018-revision-of-world-urbanization-prospects.html" target="_blank">seven out of every 10 people in the world are expected to live in urban areas by 2050</a>. More than 90% of this growth will take place in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.</p><p>"In the absence of effective urban planning, the consequences of this rapid urbanization will be dramatic," UN-Habitat warns.</p><p>Lack of proper housing and growth of slums, inadequate and outdated infrastructure, escalating poverty and unemployment, and pollution and health issues, are just some of the effects.</p><p>Mindsets, policies, and approaches towards urbanization need to change for the growth of cities and urban areas to be turned into opportunities that will leave nobody behind, UN-Habitat says.</p>
Pioneers of Change<p>Reimagining cities and communities for greater resilience and sustainability was a key topic at the<a href="https://www.weforum.org/events/pioneers-of-change-summit-2020" target="_blank"> World Economic Forum's Pioneers of Change Summit 2020</a>.</p><p>The digital event brought together innovators and stakeholders from around the world to explore solutions to the challenges facing enterprises, governments and society.</p><p>Opening the summit, <a href="https://www.weforum.org/events/pioneers-of-change-summit-2020/sessions/opening-plenary-8f731cbc65" target="_blank">Stephan Mergenthaler, the Forum's Head of Strategic Intelligence and a member of the Executive Committee</a>, said: "We need to change the way we produce, the way we live and interact in our cities to make this transition to net-zero emissions a reality…</p><p>"And as this year has illustrated so dramatically, we need to make every effort that we keep populations healthy, if we want to avoid jeopardizing all this progress."</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/11/un-africa-recycled-plastic-housing/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649069252#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian
John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.
Energy Is at the Center of the Climate Challenge<p>The <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/1/" target="_blank">effects of climate change</a> are already evident across the globe, from <a href="https://theconversation.com/100-degrees-in-siberia-5-ways-the-extreme-arctic-heat-wave-follows-a-disturbing-pattern-141442" target="_blank">extreme heat waves</a> to <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/12/" target="_blank">sea level rise</a>. But while the challenge is daunting, there is hope. Solar and wind power have become the <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2020/Jun/Renewable-Power-Costs-in-2019" target="_blank">cheapest forms of power generation globally</a>, and technology progress and innovation continue apace to support a transition to clean energy.</p><p>In the U.S. under a Biden administration, long-term national climate legislation will depend on who controls the Senate, and that won't be clear until after two run-off elections in Georgia in January.</p><p>But there is no shortage of <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-biden-climate-change-advice/" target="_blank">ideas for ways Biden</a> could still take action even if his proposals are blocked in Congress. For example, he could use executive orders and direct government agencies to tighten regulations on greenhouse gas emissions; increase research and development in clean energy technologies; and empower states to exceed national standards, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-emissions-california/defying-trump-california-locks-in-vehicle-emission-deals-with-major-automakers-idUSKCN25D2CH" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as California did in the past with auto emission standards</a>. A focus on a just and equitable transition for communities and people affected by the decline of fossil fuels will also be key to creating a sustainable transition.</p><p>The U.S. position as the world's largest oil and gas producer and consumer creates political challenges for any administration. U.S. forays into European energy security are often treated with suspicion. Recently, France blocked <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-engie-backs-out-of-u-s-lng-deal-11604435609" target="_blank">a multi-billion dollar contract</a> to buy U.S. liquefied natural gas because of concerns about limited emissions regulations in Texas.</p><p>Strengthening cooperation and partnerships with like-minded countries will be critical to bring about a transition to cleaner energy as well as sustainability in agriculture, forestry, water and other sectors of the global economy.</p>
Creating a Global Sustainable Transition<p>How the world recovers from COVID-19's economic damage could help drive a lasting shift in the global energy mix.</p><p>Nearly one-third of Europe's US$2 trillion economic relief package <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-21/eu-approves-biggest-green-stimulus-in-history-with-572-billion-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">involves investments that are also good for the climate</a>. The European Union is also strengthening its 2030 climate targets, though each country's energy and climate plans will be critical for successfully implementing them. The <a href="https://joebiden.com/clean-energy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Biden plan</a> – including a $2 trillion commitment to developing sustainable energy and infrastructure – is aligned with a global energy transition, but its implementation is also uncertain.</p><p>Once Biden takes office, Kerry will be joining ongoing <a href="https://www.un.org/en/conferences/energy2021/about#:%7E:text=The%20overarching%20goal%20of%20the,2030%20Agenda%20for%20Sustainable%20Development.&text=Accelerate%20delivery%20of%20United%20Nations,related%20issues%20at%20all%20levels." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high-level discussions on the energy transition</a> at the U.N. General Assembly and other gatherings of international leaders. With the U.S. no longer obstructing work on climate issues, the G-7 and G-20 have more potential for progress on energy and climate.</p><p>Lots of technical details still need to be worked out, including international trade frameworks and standards that can help countries lower greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global warming in check. <a href="https://www.carbonpricingleadership.org/what" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Carbon pricing</a> and <a href="https://www.csis.org/analysis/how-can-europe-get-carbon-border-adjustment-right" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">carbon border adjustment taxes</a>, which create incentive for companies to reduce emissions, may be part of it. A consistent and comprehensive set of national energy transition plans will also be needed.</p><p>The global shift to <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2019/Jan/A-New-World-The-Geopolitics-of-the-Energy-Transformation" target="_blank">clean energy will also have geopolitical implications for countries and regions</a>, and this will have a profound impact on wider international relations. Kerry, with his experience as secretary of state in the Obama administration, and Biden's plan to make the climate envoy position part of the National Security Council, may help mend these relations. In doing so, the U.S. may again join the wider community of countries willing to lead.</p>
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By Maria Caffrey
As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.