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ENVIRONMENT POLICIES, ANALYSIS, AND RESOURCES

The Environment Domain tracks and reports on policies that deal with the use of natural resources, climate change, energy emissions, pollution, and the protection of endangered species. This domain tracks policies emanating from the White House, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Energy Department, and the Interior Department. Our Principal Analyst is Megan Toney who can be reached at megan@usresistnews.org.

Latest Environment Posts

 

Democrats’ Green New Deal Gains Momentum amid Shutdown

Brief #54—Environment Policy Summary New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday that his new executive budget would focus on diminishing the state’s dependence on fossil fuels and promoting a clean energy economy. The governor is the latest in a long line of...

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Trump’s Emissions Rollbacks Refuted by New Study

Brief #53—Environment Policy Summary A 16-author study published in the December issue of Science reassessed the 2009 Endangerment Finding for greenhouse gas emissions. The report found increased evidence that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and...

read more

Coal and the NCA

Brief #52—Environment Policy Summary Representatives from nearly 200 different countries have gathered in Katowice, Poland to discuss the parameters of the Paris Agreement, known as the COP24. The United States, however, are in a challenging position with regard to...

read more

Analysis: The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act

Brief #50—Environment Policy Summary Last week U.S. lawmakers sponsored the first bipartisan attempt at climate legislation in nearly a decade. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act would impose a progressively increasing tax on carbon emissions, topping out...

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Gen. Waldhauser:” Climate Change Is Threat to Global Stability”

Gen. Waldhauser:” Climate Change Is Threat to Global Stability”

Brief #57—Enviroment

Policy Summary
Climate change poses an immediate risk to international stability, General Waldhauser (Commander, AFRICOM) told the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday. He cited research done by the Red Cross, which found that the effects of climate change directly worsen violent conflicts and lead to more poverty and weaker public services. Gen. Waldhauser also highlighted his personal observations of grasslands in the Sahel, the bioregion between the Sahara and the Sudanian Savanna, where temperatures are rising at a rate of more than 1.5 times faster than the global average. The grasslands there, he recounted, are receding by as much a “a mile a year,” significantly contributing to food scarcity and armed conflict.

The general’s testimony to congress comes after a flurry of reports documenting the threat of climate change to national security. A January report by the Pentagon, entitled “Effects of a Changing Climate to the Department of Defense,” found that 53 of 79 mission-critical US bases are at immediate risk of being damaged or destroyed by rising sea levels. Many of the bases in question are integral to the maintenance of American nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers. In February, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar cautioned that, should the current administration fail to act to reverse this trend, the next POTUS should declare a national emergency over the issue.

Policy Analysis
The threat that climate change poses to the national security of the US has been well documented for years. In 2014, the Pentagon released a report classifying climate change as a “threat multiplier” that posed “immediate risks” to the safety and security of the nation. It is unsurprising then that General Waldhauser used the exact same words to describe climate change before the committee on Thursday, underscoring the fact that the military has not changed its mind on the issue regardless of what the current administration may say.

Indeed, it is important to note that the military will feel the brunt of climate change’s worst effects both sooner, and more harshly than the general public. President Trump’s push to declare a national emergency directly threatens funds that the Navy requires to maintain its two aged icebreaker ships. Ships that are being used more frequently than ever before due to increased competition with Russia and China in the arctic, where melting ice caps have opened new waterways for commercial and military vessels.

The international implications of the current administration’s rebuttal of climate science are immense. During the committee hearing on Thursday, General Waldhauser’s colleague, General Joseph Votel (Commander, CENTCOM), stated that the US had entered “New era of great power competition,” and highlighted the international influence currently being cultivated by China, who is developing and building resilient infrastructure across the globe.

In the existential crisis that is climate change, it can be quite easy to forget about this last issue. Regardless of whether the US succeeds in limiting emissions, creating new green technologies, or protecting its food supply, the simple fact is that a lack of commitment to developing climate resiliency in partner nations is already leading to a decrease in US influence abroad. The current administration’s inaction in seriously combating climate change is contributing directly to global instability and a weakened national defense, a sentiment made clear by the top commanders of the US military. When asked by the committee whether there was sufficient data to declare climate change a significant threat to national security, Generals Votel and Waldhauser said simply, “Yes.”

Engagement Resources

  • Climate Centre: The climate reference wing of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent.
  • Climate Deregulation Tracker: Columbia Law School tool for tracing legal attempts to roll back or eliminate climate legislation
  • The Climate Mobilization: Volunteer organization seeking to curb the effects of climate change
  • The Consensus Project: Organization dedicated to educating the public about scientific consensus and the scientific community’s stance on climate change
  • Data for Progress: Research organization dedicated to highlighting voter attitudes
  • UN Environment: United Nations program designed to map pathways toward sustainable development
  • Union of Concerned Scientists: A US non-profit dedicating to applying scientific solutions to global problems.

This brief was submitted by USRESIST environmental policy analyst Andrew Thornebrooke. Contact: contact@thornebrooke.com

Whose New Deal? Unpacking the Green Plans of AOC and Senate Democrats

Whose New Deal? Unpacking the Green Plans of AOC and Senate Democrats

Brief #56 – Environmental Policy

Policy Summary
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced her plans for a Green New Deal in February. Senate Democrats responded with their own, highly abridged version of a Green New Deal proposal at the end of the month, signifying the divide between new progressives in the house and more center-leaning party veterans in the Senate on how, exactly, the party’s thrust for green legislation should be aimed.

Ocasio-Cortez’s resolution, which has come under fire by lawmakers and pundits on both sides of the aisle, goes far past envisioning a future with a smaller carbon footprint and includes calls to:

  • Create millions of high-wage jobs
  • Provide economic security for all citizens
  • Reverse anti-labor policies
  • Achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050
  • Invest public funds in resilient infrastructure
  • Secure healthy food, clean air and water, and access to natural spaces for all citizens
  • Actively promote justice programs for “frontline and vulnerable communities”
  • Meet 100 percent of US power demand through zero-emissions sources
  • Promote globalized exchange of technologies and products
  • Provide resources and higher education to minority groups
  • Invest public funds in research and development of new energy technologies
  • Ensure that all new jobs created are unionized
  • Offer universal healthcare and affordable housing to all citizens

The resolution unanimously offered by Senate Democrats, by contrast, seeks to:

  • Acknowledge the scientific consensus concerning role of human beings in affecting climate change over the last 100 years
  • Lay out a path for Congress to immediately address the role of humans in affecting climate change


Policy Analysis
The policy proposals offered up by the new and old guards of the Democratic Party could not be more different. One seeking to wholly overturn the current US economic and social system, the other seeking to promise to address, at least, that climate change exists in the near future. Such a stark contrast has led many outlets to float the idea that the party is bitterly divided. The different proposals, however, could well be a coordinated effort by the party to establish the base minimum and maximum starting points on climate policy negotiations, as they prepare to challenge Trump’s presidency in 2020.

In its current form, Ocasio-Cortez’s resolution would be sure to fail in the Senate, if not the Congress, as its primary objectives wander far from the domain of climate science. Ocasio-Cortez’s resolution is equally aimed at addressing grievances about the state of “frontline and vulnerable communities” as it is at addressing climate change. Hence, the “New Deal” in Green New Deal. The list of who, exactly, makes up frontline and vulnerable communities is long: “Indigenous communities, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth.”

Such a list, so broad as to be nearly untenable as a category, is certainly one reason for the criticism being raised against the resolution. And it is likely that Rep. Ocasio-Cortez will continue to be accused of pandering to her constituents by padding the resolution with an openly diversity-driven agenda by her critics, as well as lauded for it by her supporters. Regardless of which side opinions fall on the matter, its ambiguity is likely to ensure its characterization as a fugue dream of the radical left.

The terse plan of Senate Democrats led by Sen. Tom Carper, on the other hand, which would only commit efforts to acknowledging the role of human activity in climate change and committing the nation to action on the issue would likely be an easy win. The resolution, which is still a work-in-progress, carries none of the baggage of including frontline and vulnerable communities, and does not bog the goals of clean energy down in what many might view as identity politics, and is likely to be seen as the choice of moderate realists.

If the opposing resolutions are an effort to plot out the boundaries of future climate talks, then the Democrats will certainly be aiming for a middle-of-the-road resolution before the 2020 elections. What form that resolution will take remains to be seen, but it is important to recognize that neither Ocasio-Cortez’ resolution, nor that of the Senate, include a single mention of how such a deal would protect workers currently in dirty industries such as coal, or offer re-training for them.

Engagement Resources

This brief was submitted by USRESIST environmental policy analyst Andrew Thornebrooke. Contact: contact@thornebrooke.com

Amid Record CO2 Emissions, Majority of Americans Demand Climate Legislation

Amid Record CO2 Emissions, Majority of Americans Demand Climate Legislation

Brief #55—Environment


Policy Summary
Research carried out by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication found that by the end of 2018 approximately 85% of Americans believed more funding should be allocated to research renewable energy sources and that 77% of Americans believed that CO2 emissions should be regulated as a pollutant. The data was revealed within a month of the UN’s publishing of the Emissions Gap Report for 2018, which found that unregulated economic growth and dwindling national efforts to combat emissions will result in the Paris climate pact’s goal of peaking emissions by 2020 not likely being possible until 2030.

Global CO2 emissions rose by an unprecedented 3.4% in 2018, amid environmental deregulation efforts by governments such as those in the US, Russia, and Iran. A new research article in Environmental Research Letters found that the emissions growth is likely to continue in 2019, barring drastic policy change from major CO2 contributors.

Policy Analysis
The United States is the second largest producer of CO2 emissions in the world, and is likely to suffer major damage to its economy and natural resources if proactive measures are not taken to curb the rise in CO2. NASA’s ongoing research on climate change has found that the continental US can expect more droughts, wildfires, and hurricanes, and that temperatures will continue to reach new extremes without meaningful climate legislation and enforcement practices in place. To date, the four hottest years on record were 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018.

Yale’s findings on American perceptions of climate change and environmental policy could well highlight some of the most important issues facing congress and the myriad of 2020 presidential hopefuls. The research found that 70% of Americans polled believed that combating climate change is more important than economic growth, and that half of all Americans believe climate change is already hurting US citizens. In all, the study may well signal a shift in popular perceptions as to what role the government should play in regulating emissions, following the hugely unpopular attempts by the Trump administration to roll back over 78 environmental regulations, most of which concern carbon emissions.

Despite the desire for more meaningful climate legislation, the Yale study also highlighted the alarming disconnect between the American public and the scientific discourse community. It found that only 49% of Americans believe that “Most scientists think global warming is happening.” In reality, 97-98% of the scientific community shares a consensus that climate change is caused by human activity.

Engagement Resources

  • Climate Deregulation Tracker: Columbia Law School tool for tracing legal attempts to roll back or eliminate climate legislation
  • The Climate Mobilization: Volunteer organization seeking to curb the effects of climate change
  • The Consensus Project: Organization dedicated to educating the public about scientific consensus and the scientific community’s stance on climate change
  • Data for Progress: Research organization dedicated to highlighting voter attitudes
  • UN Environment: United Nations program designed to map pathways toward sustainable development

This brief was submitted by USRESIST environmental policy analyst Andrew Thornebrooke. Contact: contact@thornebrooke.com

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Democrats’ Green New Deal Gains Momentum amid Shutdown

Democrats’ Green New Deal Gains Momentum amid Shutdown

Brief #54—Environment

Policy Summary
New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday that his new executive budget would focus on diminishing the state’s dependence on fossil fuels and promoting a clean energy economy. The governor is the latest in a long line of democratic politicians who are finding the intersection of economy and energy to be a unifying platform for the party and is the first state lawmaker to openly brand a budget as being part of the Green New Deal.

The Green New Deal is a proposed economic stimulus program designed to address both economic inequalities and climate change at once. Numerous representatives in the house and senate are championing the program which promotes building reduced-carbon infrastructure, financial incentives for green investment, and curbs on corporate tax evasion. Among the program’s more prominent proponents are Cory Booker, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.

Both old and new guard democrats were given a further platform to highlight their unity on the issue this Wednesday as they questioned the president’s nominee for Administrator of the Environmental Protections Agency, Andrew Wheeler. Wheeler, a staunch crusader for environmental deregulation, is a convenient target in the fight for environmental protectionism and though his nomination is likely to clear the republican senate, the publicity that democrats reap from the hearing amid the US government shutdown is likely to increase voter support for their cause.

Policy Analysis

Democrats have chosen environmental health and preservation as an issue to unite the party on. Staving off the negative effects of climate change and ensuring air quality are among the top priorities of the official party platform. Governor Cuomo’s new state budget, while by no means perfect, is an integral launching point for Democratic efforts to shore up holes in the defense of environmental policy. To date, the Trump administration has rolled back 47 environmental regulations created from the Nixon through the Obama eras, and has proposed legislation to roll back another 31 regulations.Importantly for democrats, the focus on strengthening environmental regulations is a mission that can be pursued even in the midst of the country’s longest government shutdown.

Engagement Resources:

  • The Climate Mobilization: Volunteer organization seeking to curb the effects of climate change
  • Data for Progress: Research organization dedicated to highlighting voter attitudes
  • Global Greens: International volunteer organization dedicated to participatory governance and sustainability
  • Sunrise Movement: Grassroots organization aimed at employing youth in green sectors
  • UN Environment: United Nations program designed to map pathways toward sustainable development

This brief was submitted by USRESIST environmental analyst Andrew Thornebrooke. Contact: andrew@thornebrooke.com

Trump’s Emissions Rollbacks Refuted by New Study

Trump’s Emissions Rollbacks Refuted by New Study

Brief #53—Environment

Policy Summary
A 16-author study published in the December issue of Science reassessed the 2009 Endangerment Finding for greenhouse gas emissions. The report found increased evidence that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and welfare and is being considered as a possible way to refute emissions regulation rollbacks by the Trump administration.

The Science report further strengthened the 2009 Endangerment Finding by incorporating new climate data from across the ten years since the original study was carried out and concluded that rising greenhouse gases detrimentally endanger public health and lead to “violent interactions between individuals” due to resource scarcity. The original Endangerment Finding defined a number of greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide, hydrofluorocarbons, methane, nitrous oxide, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride as contributing harm to the public health and environment, and therefore subject to the Clean Air Act. The new study further strengthens the findings of the original, and further cements the EPA’s rejection of petitions to reconsider the findings.

To date, the Trump administration has implemented or proposed 78 separate rollbacks of various climate regulations. The majority of those rollbacks have focused on easing regulations concerning pollution and emissions, and include reversals of previous regulations that required oil and gas companies to report on methane emissions, and rescinded the Obama-era “Social Cost of Carbon” metric.

Policy Analysis
The report’s finding that evidence for the harmful effects of greenhouse gas emissions is more conclusive than ever is an important one and may help to shore up some of the many battles of the administration’s war on the environment. When combined with a recent analysis by researchers at Harvard University that found that the Trump climate rollbacks could lead to an extra 80,000 deaths per decade, the study is likely to prove a valuable tool for legal challenges to the administration’s dismantling of existing regulations.

The report also comes at a time when courtroom jockeying has become the standard for mitigating the administration’s attempts to completely deregulate big businesses’ interactions with the environment. A fact the newly Democratic congress is not likely to overlook.

 Engagement Resources:

  • Alliance for Climate Education: A video education program that seeks to empower youth to create positive environmental change in their everyday lives.
  • Citizens’ Climate Lobby: A nonprofit advocacy organization that seeks to promote bipartisan political support for sustainable climate change solutions.
  • The Climate Reality Project: A multinational grassroots effort that seeks to “catalyze a global solution to the climate crisis by making urgent action a necessity across every level of society.”
  • Union of Concerned Scientists: Scientist-led organization that seeks to “develop and implement innovative, practical solutions to some of our planet’s most pressing problems.”

This brief was developed by USRESIST NEWS environmental policy analyst Andrew Thornebrooke. Contact: andrew@thornebrooke.com

Coal and the NCA

Coal and the NCA

Brief #52—Environment

Policy Summary
Representatives from nearly 200 different countries have gathered in Katowice, Poland to discuss the parameters of the Paris Agreement, known as the COP24. The United States, however, are in a challenging position with regard to the conference, given their withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. The conference, too, comes amidst turmoil because the Trump Administration recently responded to the “National Climate Assessment” by arguing that the report only considered the worst-case scenario of greenhouse gas emissions and nothing else. The Assessment extrapolated on the state of peril the world faces given the adverse consequences of climate change.

Analysis
The NCA raised major concerns for the state of the world, as well as for many of the United States’ most visited sites, such as Lake Eerie and the Southwest. Meanwhile in Katowice, many climate campaigners were denied entry to the country, citing that they were a, “threat to national security.” And many protesters have still been able to gather, demanding that governments take a stand against climate change. The U.N. has in turn, suggested offering support to those affected by climate change, while countries like the United States are not only denying, but offering no institutional aid to amend the issue.

Resistance Resources

  • End Coal: Reports and tracks the perils and detriments of coal use globally.

This Brief was developed by USRESIST NEWS Analyst Zoe Stricker. Contact: zoe@usresistnews.org

Photo by Val Vesa

Analysis: The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act

Analysis: The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act

Brief #50—Environment

Policy Summary
Last week U.S. lawmakers sponsored the first bipartisan attempt at climate legislation in nearly a decade. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act would impose a progressively increasing tax on carbon emissions, topping out in 2030 at $100 per ton of carbon.

The tax is coupled with cuts on EPA regulations that are viewed as redundant with the targeted energy production industries. However, if emissions exceed the targets set by the legislation, the EPA is authorized to impose regulation to make up the difference. Proponents of the bill claim the policy would reduce carbon emissions by forty percent in 2030 and by ninety-one percent in 2050. Analyses indicate that the bill would provide greater emissions cuts than competing proposals, such as those of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) or Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.). Whether these are plausible projections is highly uncertain, however, depending on factors such as economic growth, technological progress and policy developments.

The bill is designed to be revenue neutral: proceeds of the tax would be distributed back to American taxpayers in the form of a rebate ($500 on average per individual; around $3500 for a family of four). This revenue-neutral approach no doubt helped attract the Republican sponsors of the bill. This included Francis Rooney (R-Fla.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and David Trott (R-Mi.), who were joined by Democratic House members Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), John Delaney (D-Md.) and Charlie Crist (D-Fla.). Its revenue neutrality distinguishes it from other current carbon tax bills and proposals that have recently garnered attention, such as the Curbelo and Whitehouse proposals or the more aggressive Green New Deal positions advocated by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

Analysis
Economist Noah Kaufman has offered positive, if measured, support for The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. It appears to be especially effective as a mechanism of carbon reduction, at least in the short term, as longer-term projections tend to involve more speculative assumptions.

His conclusions about the economic impact of the policy are more qualified and tentative, however. The proposal is structured in a highly progressive form, extending most of the benefits of the rebates to lower- and middle-class taxpayers, who, it is hoped, will then not feel the brunt of rising fuel and heating costs. But Kaufman also notes that its revenue-neutral approach “would sacrifice opportunities for better macroeconomic outcomes or government services.”

Kaufman is gesturing at some of the weaknesses in what is ultimately a neoliberal approach to the idea of carbon taxes, weaknesses that may explain why, as commentators such as Bill Scher have wondered, such a victory for climate change bipartisanship has largely been met with silence and indifference by the climate-activist community (Citizen’s Climate Lobby has vocally supported it, however).

Climate hawks worry that if tax revenues are not reinvested in the green economy, especially in renewable energy subsidies, the result will  be unstable and squeezed energy markets, and thus, lower economic growth and higher unemployment. Hence, many probably see supporting Ocasio-Cortez’s concurrent push for the Green New Deal package as a better investment of advocacy capital.

Yet, some commentators note that even if the bill is effectively dead on arrival in the current political environment, it may create policy inertia similar to the way the Clinton healthcare push, and the center-right policies it spurred in response, eventually set the table of options for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Additionally, for proponents of the bill like Scher, pragmatism and getting things done should trump climate change-policy perfectionism. And anyway, the biggest victory here was symbolic, thanks to the first development of some kind bipartisanship on climate policy in nearly ten years.

Perhaps, but the ACA may be an instructive example in a different sense. It may illustrate how suboptimally designed policy compromises can end up delegitimizing the entire enterprise with the American public, not to mention paving the way to electoral disaster for progressives. What’s more, the bipartisanship evidenced here is less impressive than it seems.

Rooney’s district in southern Florida is regularly hammered by the increasingly powerful hurricanes climate change is causing, while David Trott is retiring from a district that was just taken over by Democrat Haley Stevens. It is true that Brian Fitzpatrick has an impressive reputation for independence. Still, Fitzpatrick represents one of the few remaining House seats where gerrymandering has not made political centrism toxic. Indeed, it’s something of a miracle that in a Democratic wave election he held onto his seat in the newly redrawn First congressional district of Pennsylvania, which leans Democrat.

The idea that this represents a new inception of bipartisanship on climate change is wishful thinking, plain and simple. All the evidence necessary to demonstrate this fact can be found on @realDonaldTrump’s Twitter feed.

Of course, there is no question that eventually bipartisan compromises will have to be made for any climate change legislation to be passed. But if real negotiations on climate policy ever begin someday, one hopes Democrats will not be so desperate for any compromise at all that they allow the GOP to force them into dead-end policy solutions and electoral suicide.

Engagement Resources

  • Greenpeace is “a global, independent campaigning organization that uses peaceful protest and creative communication to expose global environmental problems and promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.”
  • The Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) is an organization whose “mission is to educate young people on the science of climate change and aid them in meaningful advocacy.”
  • The Union of Concerned Scientists is a network of professional scientists who seek to bring the insights of science to bear on issues of public concern.
  • Citizens’ Climate Lobby is “a non-profit, nonpartisan, grassroots advocacy organization focused on national policies to address climate change.”
  • org “uses online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions to oppose new coal, oil and gas projects, take money out of the companies that are heating up the planet, and build 100% clean energy solutions that work for all.”
  • Climate Reality Project is “a diverse group of passionate individuals who’ve come together to solve the greatest challenge of our time. We are activists, cultural leaders, organizers, scientists, and storytellers committed to building a sustainable future together.”
  • The Sunrise Movement is an activist organization working to further the idea of a Green New Deal revolution in climate change policy.

This Brief was posted by USRESIST NEWS Analyst Jonathan Schwartz: Contact; Jonathan@usresistnews.org

Photo by Appolinary Kalashnikova

Major U.S. Government Climate Assessment Ignored by U.S Government

Major U.S. Government Climate Assessment Ignored by U.S Government

Policy Summary
Political controversy erupted this last black Friday, a day normally reserved for nonpolitical pursuits, such as bargain hunting and post-Thanksgiving family therapy. The controversy was instigated by the White House’s release of Volume 2 of the Fourth National Climate Assessment. A product of 13 government agencies, the National Climate Assessment is congressionally mandated, its release therefore not left to the administration’s discretion.

The report paints a bleak picture of the impact climate change will have on the American economy and environment in coming decades of the twenty-first century. Extreme weather events—illustrated most recently in the intense 2018 hurricane season and California wildfires—are soon to become even more common and destructive. Heat-related deaths will become a greater threat as many  regions become nearly unlivable.

On the economic from, along with the obvious damage to real estate and infrastructure from sea-level rise and extreme weather, numerous other areas of the U.S. economy will be affected. Given the international supply chain of most major U.S. manufacturers, production could also be seriously hampered by extreme weather events. Agricultural productivity will likely also decline as each 1°C rise above pre-industrial temperature levels results in a 3-7% decline in crop yield.

The report also notes the potential for rising domestic and international political instability resulting from more varied and numerous environmental refugee crises.

The National Climate Assessment comes a month after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a dire report predicting that severe humanitarian crises could be a dominant aspect of global politics as early as 2040.  Both reports were noted for their unusually direct language—a striking departure for the typically measured scientific community. As David Wallace-Wells notes in a comment on the I.P.C.C. report that could as easily apply to the new Climate Assessment, “[T]he real meaning of the report is not ‘climate change is much worse than you think,’ because anyone who knows the state of the research will find nothing surprising in it. The real meaning is, ‘you now have permission to freak out.’”

Yet, despite two of the most direct statements to date by the scientific community, both internationally and in the U.S., on the threat posed to human civilization by climate change, the Trump administration did its best to undermine and deny these findings. The release of the report on Black Friday seemed obviously intended as a news dump on a day when few Americans would be paying attention. A statement from the administration suggested the report was “largely based on the most extreme scenario.”

Climate advocates, such as Philip B. Duffy of the Woods Hole Research Center, attacked the administration, noting the “bizarre contrast between this report, which is being released by this administration, and [its] own policies.” Former vice president Al Gore said in a statement that the “President may try to hide the truth, but his own scientists and experts have made it as stark and clear as possible.”

Analysis
As climate expert Michael Mann noted on CNN on Friday, “[W]e don’t have to use our imagination anymore because we saw this play out over the past several months.” California’s 2018 wildfire season was unprecedentedly lethal and destructive. The 2018 hurricane season was similarly violent and destructive. But these are only the obvious effects of climate change. Most of its future impacts will be akin to the proverbial frog in boiling water. It will be a slow-motion catastrophe, especially for the Earth’s nearly one billion slum dwellers and the hundreds of millions more who only recently escaped extreme poverty.

While the National Climate Assessment largely focuses on U.S. interests, this myopic focus probably fails to grasp just how desperate the global international order could become as these millions of people begin seeking refugee status in cooler and richer northern countries. Echoing a 2015 statement by the Pentagon, Stephen Cheney, former Marine brigadier general and CEO of the American Security Project, writes, “Climate change is what we in the military call a ‘threat multiplier.’ Its connection to conflict is not linear. Rather, it intensifies and complicates existing security risks, increasing the frequency, scale, and complexity of future missions…. [Its] effects will be particularly destabilizing in already-volatile situations, exacerbating challenges like weak governance, economic inequality, and social tensions—and producing truly toxic conflicts.”

Engagement Resources

  • Greenpeace is “a global, independent campaigning organization that uses peaceful protest and creative communication to expose global environmental problems and promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.”
  • The Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) is an organization whose “mission is to educate young people on the science of climate change and aid them in meaningful advocacy.”
  • The Union of Concerned Scientists is a network of professional scientists who seek to bring the insights of science to bear on issues of public concern.
  • Citizens’ Climate Lobby is “a non-profit, nonpartisan, grassroots advocacy organization focused on national policies to address climate change.”
  • org “uses online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions to oppose new coal, oil and gas projects, take money out of the companies that are heating up the planet, and build 100% clean energy solutions that work for all.”

This Brief was submitted by USRESIST NEWS Analyst Jonathan Schwartz Jonathan@usresistnews.org

Photo by Jon Tyson

California Wildfires Keep Roaring

California Wildfires Keep Roaring

Policy Summary
A devastating fire has been roaring through California, and the death toll has reached at least 77 people, while 1,000 are still missing. wildfires, California, Camp Fire, climate change, Trump, PG&E The fire, called, the Camp Fire, is the deadliest fire in state history, and has burned hundreds of thousands of acres of land in Northern California. Simultaneously, in Southern California, the Woolsey Fire has already burned nearly a hundred thousand acres of land, and as of last week had burned 400 structures alone. President Trump criticized the Fire Management Department, citing them to blame for the wildfires both on Twitter and on Fox News. Public officials and civilians expressed upset over this.

Analysis
PG&E is currently suspected of foul play in the role of the wildfire, and a woman living in Pulga, California, the site where the fire began, says that the utility giant only got in touch with her the day before the fires started to rage. The Camp fire has not only impacted the community to the point of being unrecognizable, with an entire town of Paradise, California burned to the ground, but has also transformed California temporarily. As of now, California’s air quality has climbed to new heights as the worst in the world, with school cancelled all over the Bay Area due to unsafe air quality, and many being asked to stay home from work. The hazards facing health are manifold, and many suspect that the worst is yet to come for California’s wildfires.

Resistance Resources

This Brief was developed by USRESIST NEWS Analyst Zoe Stricker. Contact: zoe@usresistnews.org

Photo by Joanne Francis

Pipelines

Pipelines

Brief #47—Environment

Summary
The oil and gas industry is starting to face some blowback at the legal level. A Federal Circuit Judge in Montana recently rejected the Trump administration’s demand to build a Keystone XL pipeline, marking a new wave of environmentally charged legal decision-making. And in Pennsylvania, locals are resisting the construction of an approved pipeline, believed to cost tax-payers a fortune for virtually no benefit. These actions, however, come amidst other chaos throughout the country. In New Mexico, unaddressed oil and gas violations on public lands have become widespread, as the Bureau of Land Management has been encouraging fossil fuel production at a rapid rate. And fracking on public lands is ramping up under the Trump Administration. More still, unmanaged gas leaks have taken the lives of hundreds in recent years, prompting uproar from people but silence from local governments and industry.    

Analysis
Demands for greater opposition to environmental hazard are starting to come on The Hill. New Representative, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, joined in with 200 youth climate protestors in an effort to encourage a Green New Deal, which would encourage renewable industry. Elsewhere, the EPA has decided to consider new rules that would limit emissions on heavy-duty trucks, a progressive measure out of the Obama era. Meanwhile, renewable energy is making huge leaps globally, but significant policy change is necessary in order for the industry’s potential to materialize, giving rise to the Green New Deal. The fight however, might be just what is needed, as a new field of psychology has emerged to help those dealing with the embittered struggle against climate change—it’s called ecopsychology.

Resistance Resources

 This Brief was developed by USRESIST NEWS Analyst Zoe Stricker. Contact: zoe@usresistnews.org

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