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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

 

EPA Admin Wheeler rejects scientific consensus and danger to public health

EPA Admin Wheeler rejects scientific consensus and danger to public health

Policy Summary
According to a new report, Andrew Wheeler, administrator of the EPA, has declined to ban chlorpyrifos, a chemical known to be dangerous to children’s health. The decision defies a court order to ban the chemical and will face legal challenges.

The chemical chlorpyrifos is largely used as a pesticide by the agricultural industry. The pesticide is widely used in the United States. In 2016, in California alone, over half a million acres of farmland were treated with chlorpyrifos, which was used to treat over 50 types of crops.

Several Studies, based on the science of epidemiology, were released showing that exposure to the chemical posed a threat to children’s brain development. The first study was a 2016 peer-reviewed report authored by the agency showing that the pesticide had links to damage brain in children. Additionally, a 2012 study by Columbia University showed that exposure to chlorpyrifos by pregnant mothers was associated with developmental delays in their children.

Under the Obama administration, the EPA issued a ban of chlorpyrifos. In 2017, before coming into effect, the ban was rolled back by Scott Pruitt. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the EPA must reinstate the ban. The majority opinion was written by judge Jed S. Rakoff, who stated that there was “no justification for the EPA’s decision in its 2017 order to maintain a tolerance for chlorpyrifos in the face of scientific evidence that its residue on food causes neurodevelopmental damage to children.”

As Patti Goldman, a lawyer for Earthjustice, stated, “by allowing chlorpyrifos to stay in our fruits and vegetables, Trump’s E.P.A. is breaking the law and neglecting the overwhelming scientific evidence that this pesticide harms children’s brains.” Wheeler’s failure to ban chlorpyrifos will face legal challenge.

Policy Analysis

The EPA’s broad roll back of environmental regulations are often accomplished by undermining the scientific bases they rest on.

Under Pruitt’s guidance, the EPA changed its method of assessing scientific studies. The agency stated that it would no longer accept scientific studies as the basis of regulations without having access to the underlying data that supported these studies. This policy was made in the name of transparency. Pruitt claimed that making data publicly available would improve the quality of the science the agency bases its policies on.

However, Pruitt’s  policy is disingenuous. There is a reason that the reports that have been excluded by the EPA do not make their underlying data public. Reports that show a connection between exposure to chlorpyrifos and health problems are epidemiological. They are based on data that was collected under non-disclosure agreements to protect the privacy of health information. This is exactly the data Pruitt wanted to be released.

Wheeler and Pruitt are leading an illegal action at the EPA. They disregarded a court order to ban chlorpyrifos, then attempted to cover-up, spin, and justify the illegality of their action by attacking to science that supported the court’s decision. The EPA shows an extreme disregard for the consequences of the use of chlorpyrifos to public health. By refusing to ban the pesticide, children’s lives and health are sacrificed for an increase in profit.

The Trump EPA decision  also should be seen as part of systematic racism. Agro-businesses like Monsanto joined up with their former lobbyer, Andrew Wheeler to push the harmful externalities of crop dusting onto the largely Latino and immigrant communities who make up many of the laborers who administer chlorpyrifos. This is a more systematic pattern of white Americans profiting by harming communities of color. Environmental justice is one of the three pillars of sustainability. Profit is not sustainable if it is gained through externalities shouldered by communities of color and other vulnerable populations.

The systematic exploitation of Latino communities gives Pruitt’s call for transparency a sinister air. The very studies that Pruitt rejected had collected data from Latino farm workers. Pruitt’s decision to disregard these studies should be construed as silencing the voices and experiences of immigrants of color by making their experience and their lives inadmissible as the basis of policy decisions.

With this decision, the Trump EPA joins the growing group of federal agencies, especially ICE, who have scapegoated people of color to achieve their aims.

Resistance Resources

  • NRDC Pre-Written Letter to Trump and Wheeler—The Natural Resources Defense Council has drafted a letter that can easily been sent under your name. The letter asks President Trump and Andrew Wheeler to take the need for environmental regulation seriously. There is also a feature to add your own message.
  • Earthjustice—Earthjustice is an environmental law organization. They are responsible for many legal challenges to the Trump administration’s environmental policy. They also provide an action section where they provide resources for engagement.
  • Indigenous Environmental Network—The Indigenous Environmental Network works to protect the environment from the perspective of indigenous communities. This organization aims to protect the environment through the use of indigenous knowledge. There are useful resources for developing your conceptual toolkit as an activist and to help understand the intersection of social and environmental justice.
  • The Pesticide Action Network—PAN has resources available for activists seeking to get involved with the fight for workers’ rights in the agricultural industry. They focus on the health effects of pesticides on people. They also provide a page that provides action resources. They’ve also drafted a letter for you to send to the EPA.
  • Friends of the Earth—Friends of the Earth work to protect farmworkers from the pesticides. They have an action page that provides resources for understanding the need for organic agriculture and the effect that agriculture has on their health.

Photo by unsplash-logoRawFilm

National Weather Service Predicts Record Number of Dangerously Hot Days for Millions by Mid-Century

National Weather Service Predicts Record Number of Dangerously Hot Days for Millions by Mid-Century

Policy Summary
A recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists and an accompanying peer-reviewed paper predict that by mid-century (2036-2065), given no change to the rate of emissions, the US could face a doubling of days above 100°F and a tripling of days above 105°F compared to historic averages. There will also be a significant increase in days which exceed the heat index of at or above 127°F.

The report, which includes data for three timeframes—historical, mid-century, and late-century—is based on a peer-reviewed paper that took the average of 18 different climate models to make its predictions.

The predictions are stark.

By mid-century, the report predicts that over 6 million people will experience a week or more with temperatures that exceed the heat index. By the end of the century, there could be up to 118 million people in the US could be affected by “off-the-chart” heat for a month or more out of the year.

The risk to public health and occupational health are serious. The name of the report, Killer Heat in the United States, is an indication of this. High temperatures always have serious consequences. As the report indicates, temperatures above pose health risks to outdoor workers. A nation-wide increase in the number of days with temperatures above 90°F poses occupational health hazards especially in areas where agriculture makes up a significant portion of the economy.

Days with a heat index at or above 100°F pose serious health risks to elderly adults, pregnant women, children, and people with underlying conditions. The report notes that across the nation the number of days with a heat index of at or above 100°F is increasing. Without serious change to our emissions standards, vulnerable populations will be threatened.

Days with a heat index of at or above 105°F pose a health threat to anyone. Prolonged exposure to heat at this level can result in death even for healthy adults.

Finally, days with temperatures that exceed the heat index at or above 127°F will occur in mid to late century. The effects of these temperatures are uncertain, and any exposure can be life-threateningly dangerous.

Projections for the rise of hot days vary depending on how rapidly human beings are assumed to take action to combat global warming. Whether or not no action is taken, some action is taken, or rapid action is taken, we will still see an increase in the number of hot days. The report shows that if global temperature remains at or below the increase of  two degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial era as determined by the Paris Treaty, then the number of dangerously hot days will only increase slightly.

Policy Analysis
The projected rise in hot days is part of a larger array of symptoms associated with climate change. These include rising sea levels, ocean acidification, loss of bio diversity. The costs to human well-being associated with these effects are great.

There is significant motivation to actively fight for climate legislation and regulation that greatly reduces national and global emissions since health and industry are both threatened by no-action scenarios.

Under the Trump administration, federal efforts at reducing emissions and slowing the rate at which the climate warms have slowed. On June first, 2017, President Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord, which has set a limit to the global rise in temperature of two degrees Celsius. Although the United States will not formally leave the agreement until 2020, the decision was part of a larger push on behalf of the Trump administration to stifle efforts at transitioning to an alternative energy economy.

While there are important local efforts being made to improving the environment, federal action is needed. Conservative voters and the Republican majority in the Senate have largely resisted attempts to regulate fossil fuel extraction and emissions with the support of the oil, gas, and coal industries. This is largely against the majority opinion of the public, whose support of immediate action is tempered by an unwillingness to make personal sacrifices such as paying higher taxes and driving electric vehicles.

The Green New Deal is one notable effort on behalf of the Democrats in  Congress . Based on the controversial fourteen-page document, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Edward Markey have introduced resolutions that lay out the need to take immediate climate action while providing for “unprecedented levels of prosperity and economic security for all people of the United States”.

Resistance Resources

  • Letter to your Congress member, prepared by the Union for Concerned Scientists to take swift climate action. If you have wanted to get in touch with your elected official but haven’t known how, this link will bring you to a forceful draft that you can adjust as needed and send off.
  • Brightest helps you track conservation movements around your local area. If you are looking for nearby groups to connect with and get involved, Brightest will make your search easy.
  • UN Sustainable Development Goals. While local and especially national efforts are needed, the UN has helped to provide a roadmap for needed international change. This site will provide important information to help you make better choices at the ballot.
  • Protect Our Winters’ Climate Activist Roadmap, true to its name, outlines a strategy that will help you as an individual become engaged in climate activism.
  • People’s Climate Movement has written a letter for you to send to your elected federal representatives in support of the Green New Deal. Legislation on the national level is imperative for fighting the worst effects of climate change.
The EPA’s Affordable Clean Energy Rule (ACE) Rolls Back Regulations for Coal Industry

The EPA’s Affordable Clean Energy Rule (ACE) Rolls Back Regulations for Coal Industry

Policy Summary
In response to President Trump’s Executive Order 13873, Andrew Wheeler, Trump appointed Environmental Protection Agency administrator, announced the introduction of the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule that will replace the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), which was stayed by the supreme court in 2016.

According to the EPA’s fact sheet, the ACE is comprised of two distinct acts: the repeal of the CPP, and the introduction of new emissions standards and guidelines for implementation on a state-by-state basis.

The explicit goal of these new regulations is to support energy affordability while gradually reducing emissions by transferring regulatory oversight of coal-energy from the Federal government to individual states. More stringent Federal regulations promised to reduce the number of coal fired plants whereas the EPA estimates that ACE will prolong the life-span of hundreds of coal-fired energy plants covered under more relaxed state regulation.

Citing the 2016 supreme court decision, Wheeler and the EPA under President Trump claim that the CPP was an overreach of the Agency’s jurisdiction in as much as it set unrealistic goals on individual states’ autonomy from the Federal level. Hence, the ACE is meant to address what it sees as an overreach of federal authority and to outline achievable and realistic goals.

The second part of the ACE is to set new regulatory guidelines for emission standards that are to be based on provisions introduced at the state level. States will have three years to submit plans for emissions regulation to be approved by the EPA. The ACE will replace overall emission reduction with what they call best system of emissions reduction (BSER); rather than reducing emissions, the ACE will focus on the most efficient technological improvements.

Policy Analysis
The EPA’s ACE regulation dilutes the impact of energy regulation by couching it in language that falsely implies sustainability vis-à-vis technological efficiency. In their recent press briefing, Wheeler and the EPA described their new regulations in a way that emphasizes the importance of technological efficiency as a means to reduce emissions while at the same time sustaining coal-fired energy.

This approach to energy regulation shares an important assumption with a theory known as ecological modernization (EMT), which believes that the optimal solution to climate change rests in improving the technological efficiency. Clearly the ACE follows EMT to the extent that it emphasizes technological improvements in lieu of reducing overall emissions.

The EMT and by proxy the ACE has its share of criticism. The main problem with the technological fixes proposed by ecological modernization is known as the treadmill of production. As processes become more efficient, production increases since less is needed to get more. In the context of EPA policy, the treadmill of production suggests that the ACE will lead to greater overall output of emissions since there will no longer be a regulation capping total emissions, only the machinery used in coal-fired plants.

Ecological modernization uses the language of environmental sustainability without committing to real change. Recently Masha Gessen wrote about a similarly empty use of language by the Trump appointed Director of Policy Planning at the State Department. In her article Gessen points out that developing policy around the hunches and intuition of the President problematically undermines the factual basis of policy. Hunch-based policies will not become fact-based by couching them in the language of the State Department. It is the separation of speech from the common world that undermines the power needed to create a stable political reality. It is the same in the case of the EPA’S new ACE rules. The federal agency continues to roll out environmentally damaging policies that fly in the face of scientific consensus, ignore factual reality, and attempt to conceal this by using the language of sustainability.

Resistance Resources:

  • Sierra Club – The Sierra Club has information linking to local chapters and information related to regional issues.
  • 5calls – This service provides you with easy access to the phone numbers of elected officials and provides you with speaking points about specfic issues. Climate change is one of the many subjects they have developed prompts for you to speak directly to representatives about important policy issues relating to climate change.
  • Citizens’ Climate Lobby – Get involved in a grass roots chapter working toward political solutions to climate change.
  • 350 – 350 is a climate action group that links to local organizations that are involved in fighting for a sustainable environment.
  • Green Peace – This site includes several different venues to engage in resistance movements.

Photo by RawFilm

EPA I Clean Energy Rule (ACE) Rolls Back Regulations for Coal Industry

EPA I Clean Energy Rule (ACE) Rolls Back Regulations for Coal Industry

Policy Summary

In response to President Trump’s Executive Order 13873, Andrew Wheeler, Trump appointed Environmental Protection Agency administrator, announced the introduction of the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule that will replace the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan (CCP), which was stayed by the supreme court in 2016.

According to the EPA’s fact sheet, the ACE is comprised of two distinct acts: the repeal of the CCP, and the introduction of new emissions standards and guidelines for implementation on a state-by-state basis.

Citing the 2016 supreme court decision, Wheeler and the EPA claim that the CCP was an overreach of the Agency’s jurisdiction and set unrealistic goals. Hence, the ACE is meant to address what it sees as a federal overreach and to outline achievable and realistic goals.

The second part of the ACE is to set new regulatory guidelines for emission standards that are to be based on provisions introduced at the state level. States will have three years to submit plans for emissions regulation to be approved by the EPA.

The explicit goals of these new regulations are to provide the affordability of coal-fired electricity while gradually reducing emissions. The EPA estimates that ACE will cover hundreds of coal plants across the country, prolonging the life-span of coal-fired energy.

Policy Analysis

There are two problematic features of the EPA’s final ACE regulation. The first is that it dilutes the language behind the policies needed to address man-made climate change. The second problem is that the rule ignores the viability and safety of alternative energy sources.

In their recent press briefing, Wheeler and the EPA described their new regulations in a way that emphasizes the importance of emissions reduction while at the same time sustaining reliance coal based energy as a means to pursue it. This is a contradiction in terms. Trump’s new regulation cannot have its cake and eat it too. By suggesting that relaxing regulations of coal-fired electricity will be a means to reduce emissions, the EPA under President Trump completely equivocates. Reducing emissions becomes a euphemism that means either nothing much or increased use of coal based energy.

Recently Masha Gessen wrote about a similar semantic phenomenon connected to the Trump appointee to the position of director of policy planning at the State Department. In her article Gessen points out that the directors use of empty and meaningless language based on lose descriptions of the President’s hunches undermines the power to create a stable political reality. It is the same in the case of the EPA. If federal agencies continue to couch environmentally damaging decisions in hunches from the President, there will no longer be reality behind the policy of federal agencies.

In an article published last month in the New York Review of Books, Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, frames a new conception of peak oil that predicts a sea change in the viability of alternative energy sources. Citing the abrupt bankruptcy of Peabody coal in 2016 and a 50% drop in the price of alternative energy in India. The difference in price of wind and solar compared to coal energy sources in emerging economies belies the Trump administration’s argument. Presumably wide and solar energy can be similarly affordable in the US.

Resistance Resources:

Photo by: unsplash-logoNick Nice

Government Changes the Rules on Climate Change Data Collection and Reporting

Government Changes the Rules on Climate Change Data Collection and Reporting

The New York Times has reported that James Reilly, the Trump appointed director of the United States Geological Survey, has ordered a change in the way in which the government  collects and reports  climate data. Going forward they will  use only climate models projecting the impact of climate change through 2040.

This order breaks from standard climate modelling as determined by section 106 in the Global Change Research Act of 1990 that claims climate predictions should be projected 25 to 100 years in the future. According to the same Time report, scientists have predicted that the most devastating effects of man-made global warming will occur after 2050 and that the rate of climate change will remain relatively consistent until then.

Reilly’s order signals that the USGS will use a ‘best-case scenario’ model that purposefully minimizes the danger and impact of anthropogenic global warming. The main target of Reilly’s order is likely the National Climate Assessment, which is produced every four years by a body of intergovernmental agencies in order to determine the broad consequences of climate change.

Policy Analysis
This policy change is seen as part of a broader push by the Trump administration to politicize climate science, and produce data that artificially minimizes the environmental, social, and economic impacts the public faces from the fossil fuel industry emissions.

Some sources claim that there may be legal challenges to this order to the extent that it could be countermanded in the courts due to the Global Research Act, which was passed by congress in 1989. The underlying legality of the order could be questioned if it violates the principles behind the United States’ climate research program.

The change to USGS policy squarely violates the Precautionary Principle, which states that when dealing with novel circumstances the burden of proof lies in demonstrating that those circumstances do not pose a significant risk. By limiting the scope of its risk assessment from 25-100 years to 20 years, the National Climate Assessment will be hamstrung in its capacity to provide a holistic risk-assessment.

The Precautionary Principle should be a keystone of Environmental policy in an age where the extent of the harm posed climate by change is complex and hard to predict, but Reilly’s order undermines the scientific basis on which policy can be made that protects vulnerable populations.

Resistance Resources:

Trump Seeks to  Ramp Up Oil Pipelines and  Production

Trump Seeks to Ramp Up Oil Pipelines and Production

Summary
President Trump announced last week that he would be signing two executive orders in an effort to hurry construction of several oil pipelines. One of the orders grants that power to approve international oil pipelines to the Secretary of State. The other order is designed to allow the Environmental Protection Agency to deregulate the Clean Water Act, Section 401, effectively making it much harder for individual states to deny oil companies permits based on the effect of local water pollution they will have.

Executive Order 13867 seeks to grant the president increased authority in permitting or denying “construction, connection, operation, or maintenance of infrastructure projects at an international border of the United States (cross-border infrastructure).” Furthermore, the order grants the Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, the authority to receive all applications for presidential permits concerning cross-border pipelines, bridges, water and sewage infrastructure, and “facilities for the transportation of persons or things, or both, to or from a foreign country.”

Executive Order 13868 seeks to ensure that “The United States will continue to be the undisputed global leader in crude oil and natural gas production for the foreseeable future.” In this effort, the order demands a single point of accountability in the permitting process to get rid of redundant studies or reviews, transfers the implementation of new clean water regulations to the EPA, and grants the Secretary of Transportation the ability to make new rules regarding the safety of natural gas infrastructure.

Analysis
The two executive orders are widely seen as an effort to limit the rights of state governments in how they decide to grant permits to dirty energy infrastructure, and overtly insist that the industries of coal, oil, and natural gas be propped up by better, government-directed investments.

Together, the orders are likely to help speed the construction of currently stalled projects including the Keystone XL Pipeline, the Constitution Pipeline, and the Pilgrim Pipeline, all of which face immense and growing discontent in the states in which they are being built. It is important to note, however, that despite the favorable stance given to dirty industries such as coal, oil, and natural gas in the orders, the real danger of their language is the expanded authority of the executive branch to dictate infrastructure policy across US borders.

Indeed, the clause in order 13867 allowing the president to effectively govern the use of any infrastructure along US borderlands including transportation and international connections could well see future use in the administration’s quest to lock up the US-Mexico border. Whatever the future ramifications for presidential authority, the oil industry has scored a moderate win in the legislation, and is likely to profit from the executive attempt to bail them out.

Engagement Resources 

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

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