Nel's New Day

November 13, 2014

President Strikes Deal GOP Wants; GOP Furious

President Obama cut a deal with China while the GOP was crowing about the election, and the Republicans are livid. Following nine months of discussion, President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping announced a deal on carbon emissions.

The U.S. pledges to cut its emissions 26 to 28 percent below their 2005 levels by 2025, building on its current target of 17 percent reduction below that baseline by 2020. China promises to get 20 percent of its energy from non-fossil-fuel sources by 2030 and peak its overall carbon dioxide emissions that same year. The country will also deploy an additional 800 to 1,000 gigawatts of zero-carbon energy, approximately all the electricity generated in the U.S., by 2030. The U.S. part of the deal is doable under existing law. Emissions have already declined, and the president has created new rules on tailpipes and power plant rules. The European Union has also agreed to cut its emissions 40 percent below their 1990 levels by 2030.

The conservatives had argued that there was no reason for the U.S. to take action as long as China didn’t do anything. The president has argued that the U.S., as the world’s second-largest emitter, can’t expect other countries to step forward if this country doesn’t take action. Now China has stepped up, and the GOP lost its argument.

As both conservatives and environmentalists have pointed out, the language of the deal has wiggle room. These goals are statements of “intent”; the parties do not promise or even “agree” to accomplish these targets. The president can’t do anything on his own because foreign treaties require a two-thirds majority from the U.S. Senate for ratification.  The White House release refers to these goals as statements of “intent.” They don’t promise or even “agree” to hit these targets, they merely “intend” to.

Even before the president’s trip to China, members of the 114th Senate pledged to roll back the existing measures on the environment. The House has already voted to repeal the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, and the new GOP senate will also pass the bill. It’s a guarantee that there could be no successful vote for an emission-reduction treaty.

The senate’s new Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, was quick to criticize the Beijing pact. “This unrealistic plan, that the president would dump on his successor, would ensure higher utility rates and far fewer jobs,” he said. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) followed the party line with complaining about loss of jobs, and Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), the climate denier who will be head of the Environment and Public Works Committee in January, called the arrangement between the United States and China a “charade.”

Yet the senate cannot stop an announcement between China and the United States of this agreement of intentions.

Together, China and the United States produce over 40 percent of the carbon emissions for the entire planet. While China currently relies on coal and non-renewable energy to develop its economy, the United States is fighting against changing to alternative energy resources from traditional ones.

Global Carbon missionsByCountry

Republicans are already screaming about how the U.S. has to reduce emissions more steeply than previously planned while China does not have to immediately begin its reductions. Longstanding development and wealth in the United States, however, have caused this country to produce 29.3 percent of global cumulative carbon emissions, compared to only 7.6 percent from China. In the dea;, China’s plan is a model for emerging economies such as India, Brazil, and Indonesia.

cumulative pollutions

Watching the Fox network shows the real world what is being said in Conservativeland. The day before the president announced the deal, far-far-right Charles Krauthammer said that Obama should get a climate agreement with China. He said, “If we get one with China we have something real.” The week before, Krauthammer said, “If [President Obama] gets an agreement with China, which he won’t, but that’s the one area it would be historic.”

Immediately after the announcement from the president about the deal, Fox and Friends host Steve Doocy asked Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo, “Is the agreement just a sign that China has a hold on us?” She said that the president is giving China a pass on important issues such as cyber attacks, bootleg software, and handbags. Doocy joined the China- and Obama-bashing. “You want to talk about climate change? First let’s talk about how you’re stealing everything from us!”

Later Doocy slipped when he said that China’s participation in cutting emissions might clean the air so “they might be able to breathe for the first time.” Bartiromo brought him back to the Fox message that cleaning air doesn’t mean cleaner air.

Fox Business commentator Stuart Varney led with “Climate Deal with China Blasted as ‘War on Coal.” He listed the year of 2030 as the peak in China’s carbon emissions as “a total cave on the part of President Obama.” Both Doocy and Varney blamed China for all the pollution. In addition to the U.S. history of emitting more pollution, we have only one-fourth the population as China but still produce almost the same emissions.

Reporter Ben Adler gave four reasons that the Republicans are in such a snit about the president’s climate deal with China:

President Obama shows that he’s not backing down on the climate issue, even after the GOP thinks its in control.

The GOP loses its “we can’t do anything because China won’t” argument

The deal is another death knell for the coal industry after China seems to want to see their sky rather than export coal.

The Republicans’ increasing isolation makes them appear increasingly foolish. Only the European Union has led the U.S. in carbon regulation until now. China’s decision might draw in other countries, leaving only Russia on the conservatives’ side.

 

Foolishness doesn’t concern Republicans, however. Almost two-thirds of them would rather destroy the country than have anything to do with the current president. After the election, 62 percent of Republicans said in a Pew Research poll that they didn’t want the Republican leaders to work with the president at all. This followed all the verbiage from next year’s GOP leaders that they were ready to “compromise.”

Satirist Andy Borowitz has a humorous—but accurate—take on the position of Republicans in Congress:

“President Obama is under increasing pressure to work closely and coöperatively with a group of people who are suing him in federal court, the people suing him confirmed today.

“ ‘Over the past six years, President Obama has been stubborn, arrogant, and oppositional,” John Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House, said. “His refusal to work with people who are suing him is just the latest example.’

“Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, echoed the Speaker’s criticism, adding, ‘Time and time again, the President has refused to pick up the phone and talk to me, despite my saying that I was doing everything in my power to make him a one-term President.’

140316003WM001_BOEHNER_AND_ [The country’s new leaders: Boehner (left) and McConnell (right)]

“Other members of the G.O.P. caucus blasted the President for being aloof and frosty to Republicans who had questioned his American citizenship, the authenticity of his birth certificate, and the legitimacy of his Presidency. ‘That’s no way to get things done,’ Senator James Inhofe, of Oklahoma, said. ‘He’s got a real attitude.’

“Boehner concluded his comments, however, with an olive branch of sorts for Obama. ‘Mr. President, we Republicans are eager to sit across the table from you and get to work for the American people,’ he said. “Otherwise, get ready to be impeached.’ ”

Borowitz summarized the GOP position about China with the first sentence of today’s column:

“The election of Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as the Senate Majority Leader was announced on Thursday by a puff of toxic black coal smoke rising from the United States Capitol.”

Borowitz is right. We will surely see far more toxins in the environment with the GOP in control of Congress.

December 31, 2013

Answers for Deniers of Climate Change

Climate change is here whether people admit it or not. In just the last year, 39 weather-related disasters cost $1 billion or more. In the Philippines, Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest storm ever recorded on land, killing more than 6,000 people and affecting millions more. In Australia, record high temperatures forced mapmakers to create a new color on the weather map. California had massive wildfires throughout the state, historic flooding took out bridges and roadways in Colorado’s flood destroyed bridges and roads, and Midwest tornadoes swept through towns such as Moore (OK).

For the first time, CO2 concentrations passed 400 parts per million, but governments are doing little to curb emissions. Climate-denier think tanks and advocacy groups are raking in hundreds of millions of dollars, frequently from secret sources.

At the end of 2013, the eating holidays of November and December have passed, followed by dieting, but arguments continue. These talking points from the Environmental Defense Fund were suggested for the holiday dinners, but in the interest of peace, I suggest that they can be addressed now to start off the new year.

Alarmed Aunt Anna & Concerned Grandpa Christopher believe that science may be real but think that we cannot solve the climate crisis:

  • California—the 8th largest economy in the world—has implemented the world’s most ambitious climate action plan.
  • At the national level, the EPA is starting to regulate climate pollution using its existing authority under the Clean Air Act.
  • The renewable energy industry is growing exponentially—in fact, the clean energy economy is growing twice as fast as the rest of the economy, and we have enough potential wind and solar energy in the U.S. to power our economy 100 times over.

Trump Card: Yes, this is challenging. Yes, it will take time to rebuild support for national climate action. But what choice do we have? There is no time to waste, and we need to act now.

Cautious Cousin Charlie, Disengaged Grandma Denise, & Doubtful Brother David think that there is not a real consensus on the science of climate change. Without attacks, here are the points to engage them:

  • Carbon dioxide is a heat-trapping gas, and that’s generally a very good thing. Without greenhouse gases, every night when the sun sets, temperatures would immediately plunge to frigid levels.
  • But we are now emitting 9 billion tons of carbon, or 30 billion tons of CO2, into the atmosphere every year, and CO2 levels have increased by about a third since the industrial revolution. If we don’t reduce emissions, we could more than double the level of CO2 in the atmosphere over this century.
  • Already, food growing patterns are changing, seasons are coming earlier, water resources are strained and the number of natural disasters in the U.S. has more than quadrupled in the last 50 years.

Trump Card: You don’t have to accept all the science. But if you had a health condition and 98 out of 100 doctors agreed on the diagnosis, would you base your treatment on the views of the other two?

Dismissive Aunt Debbie almost certainly won’t change her mind, and the more facts she hears, the less she’ll be inclined to agree. Yet she might be willing to help the economy and protect national security:

  • America needs to rebuild. Did you know the clean energy sector creates 3 times as many jobs as the fossil fuel sector? We can’t afford to pass up those jobs.
  • Other countries are taking advantage of the economic stimulation that comes with climate action. China is testing carbon cap-and-trade markets in an area encompassing 250 million people. The U.S. needs to stay competitive.
  • America’s billion-dollar-a-day dependence on oil from hostile nations directly funds our most dangerous enemies, putting guns and bullets into their hands and putting our soldiers in danger. It is time for America to stand strong on its own independent and in control of our energy future.

Trump Card:  Whether climate change is real or not, the benefits of a clean energy economy are undeniable. Not only will we rid ourselves of dangerous pollution that can make us sick and even cause deaths we can finally be energy independent. What’s the downside?

More thoughts to chew on— 

Costs: 

  • In just one year—2012—extreme weather events cost over $100 billion. The future will see higher and higher expenses, bringing even more burden to the U.S. taxpayer.
  • Federal and state disaster relief payouts last year alone are estimated to have cost every person in the US more than $300.
  • The nation had at least 200 annual weather-related natural catastrophes recently compared to about 50 in the early 1980s.
  • Federal crop insurance cost taxpayers a record $17 billion in 2012 alone.
  • Taxpayer-funded federal and state wildfire protection payouts tripled over the last 20 years.

 Lessons from the Colorado floods:

The tragedies of September’s flooding may be the new normal.

  • The 17 inches of rain caused the deaths of eight people and left people with millions of dollars in property damage, including public infrastructure.

flooding highway

  • The disaster came during Boulder’s driest month.
  • The warmer atmosphere held more water and unusual atmospheric circulation patterns came from climate change.
  • Heavy downpours may increase in intensity or frequency in this century.

Climate change and violence go hand in hand: 

  • There is a strong connection between rising temperatures and acts of violence, increasing war and murder
  • Human conflict increases 14% and violence rises 4% with even a modest shift in weather, according to an examination of almost 200 studies.
  • Neglecting the apparent psychological impact of unusual weather, the impact on the food supply and the decline of natural resources is likely to result in warfare on its own.

Negative affects of climate change on individuals:

  • Extreme weather may cause you to lose everything you have, including the people you love.
  • Your insurance costs will go up because the company has to pay out on disasters but still needs to make money.
  • Your food and utilities will cost much more because of extreme temperatures and problems of growing conditions.
  • You’ll have to pay more taxes to care for others that have extreme weather conditions.
  • You may suffer from serious health issues.
  • Your personal security is at risk. Admiral Samuel Locklear, a naval officer in charge of the Asia-Pacific region, said that global warming “is probably the most likely thing that is going to happen . . . that will cripple the security environment.”

Denying these affects won’t allow you to escape them.

There’s still hope. A year ago, a 59-year-old woman, avid follower of Bill O’Reilly and opponent of belief in climate change, reversed her opinion after she watched Chasing Ice. The documentary film uses time-lapse to compress years into seconds, capturing the disappearance of ancient mountains of ice at a breathtaking pace. As with any change, it’s one heart at a time.

Tonight the calendar rolls over to 2014. Maybe we can remedy people’s failure to believe in climate change before 2015.

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