Climate and Washington Are Both Taking a Turn for the Worse
March 26, 2017
Bill McKibben / The Boston Globe & Vinnie Wishrad / League of Conservation Voters
Arctic ice has set a new record winter low and a record Midwest drought has triggered the worst wildfires in US history -- two million acres burned. Climate change demands action but, instead, Donald Trump's appointees spent the last week dismantling 40 years' worth of hard-fought environmental laws and regulations. Meanwhile US governors and big city mayors are demanding Washington address climate change and on April 29, a People's Climate March will challenge America's Polluter-in-Chief.
Citizens Must Hold Government Accountable on Climate
Bill McKibben / Opinion: The Boston Globe
(March 24, 2017) -- A few things that happened this week: one set of researchers announced that February was the planet's fourth-warmest month on record, which is especially bad news since the El Nino that produced last year's record-breaking heat is over and we're supposed to be cooling a little.
Another group of scientists published data showing that, for the third year in a row, Arctic ice has set a new record winter low. Still other statisticians showed that, to date, this has been by far the worst wildfire season on record in the United States -- two million acres burned against an average of 200,000.
In Peru, last fall's record drought has given way to record flooding, with dozens dead and 100,000 homes damaged. In Namibia, the worst flooding in history . . . I could go on.
Someone should do something. But that someone clearly isn't going to be the federal government. Instead, President Trump's appointees spent the week dismantling 40 years' worth of environmental laws and regulations.
In the past few days, we've learned that they plan to ditch Obama-era laws that would increase gas mileage for cars and shut down old coal-fired power plants. A new analysis shows that if such plans are carried out, it will be impossible for the United States to meet the targets it pledged to hit in the Paris climate accords -- we'd break our promise by a billion tons of carbon.
One way of dealing with those unpleasant truths is to stop paying attention. A spokesman for the White House said last week that the federal government was no longer going to "waste money" on climate research. Money to maintain even existing climate satellites is disappearing. NASA has been told to stop worrying about our home planet and focus on Mars.
So who's going to stand up? The answer, for the moment, is states and cities. On Wednesday, the governors of the West Coast states and the mayors of most of its big cities put out a stirring joint message: "We speak as a region of over 50 million people with a combined GDP of $2.8 trillion.
There is no question that to act on climate is to act in our best economic interests. Through expanded climate policies, we have grown jobs and expanded our economies while cleaning our air." They would, the officials promised, keep at it. They added that they hoped other local and regional leaders would "join us in leading and re-affirming our commitment to cut carbon emissions and reverse the damaging impacts to our communities of unfettered pollution."
This is not just a national effort -- California Governor Jerry Brown has been helping spearhead the Under2 coalition, joining together "subnational units" from around the planet working to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050. (Massachusetts is a signatory.) And state officials are doing their best to keep the fossil fuel industry honest, even as Washington effectively ends any real oversight.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, for instance, has bravely joined her New York counterpart, Eric Schneiderman, to investigate Exxon's outsize role in fostering the climate denial now in power in Washington. States and cities may be able to keep some of the clean energy momentum rolling. But they can't do it by themselves, at least, not for long.
Reuters recently reported on the growing number of national governments trying to rein in mayors and governors who push "too fast" on climate pollution -- from Norway to Australia, conservative governments are now trying to rein in progressive big-city mayors.
Which means that the rest of us need to add our weight to the political balance. Upset by EPA chief Scott Pruitt and his assertion that carbon dioxide isn't driving global warming? Scared by Trump's insistence that climate change is a Chinese hoax? Inspired by the plucky local officials determined to try and keep the fight alive?
Then show up in Washington on April 29, for the next great mobilization of the cresting resistance. More than 100,000 people have already RSVP'd for the People's Climate March -- it's our chance to say we won't stand silently by as the planet melts.
Bill McKibben is the Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College, and founder of the climate campaign 350.org, which is helping coordinate the April 29 mobilization.
LEAKED REPORT: Trump to Scrap Clean Power Plan;
Open Dangerous Drilling on Public Lands
Vinnie Wishrad / League of Conservation Voters
(March 24, 2017) -- We just got our hands on a leaked copy of Trump’s next executive order -- Trump intends to open up public land to dirty and dangerous coal mining.
This order would also scrap the Clean Power Plan -- the only national limits on carbon pollution from power plants -- and remove critical environmental restrictions on oil and gas drilling.
The announcement may come as early as Monday -- we have to move quickly. We’re organizing a massive protest and flooding Congress with letters and phone calls.
We can’t let this happen without a fight, but after weeks of must-win environmental battles, resources are very low.
This latest executive order isn’t the only urgent threat to the environment right now. Trump’s new budget proposal contains massive cuts to the EPA, and Congress is considering a bill that would abolish the agency entirely.
The upcoming April recess will be a major chance to ensure that lawmakers hear the other side. If we can show up big in districts around the country -- holding rallies, packing townhall events, raising the pressure at district offices -- we have a real chance to block the most harmful parts of Trump’s plans.
Here are five more reasons we’re hoping to hear from you:
1. Trump’s budget proposal would slash EPA’s budget by a whopping 31%. This includes attacks on air pollution safeguards and environmental law enforcement. Trump wants a world where corporations are responsible to no one for their environmental destruction. Don’t let him get away with this.
2. Dakota Access and Keystone XL are back on the table. Trump’s biggest allies in his efforts to move ahead with these dirty pipelines are banks and corporations, so we’re making a major push to get states, banks, and individuals to divest from the pipeline. Simply put -- if the funding falls apart, there’s no way these pipelines can move forward. Help us make them listen.
3. Public lands are about to be sold off to corporate interests. House Republicans have been looking for ways to sell off federal land for years -- and now, they’re seizing their opportunity. Help preserve our national heritage.
4. There’s a bill in the House right now that would abolish the EPA altogether. House Republicans, unsatisfied with just defunding institutions and rolling back bedrock environmental safeguards, have put forward a proposal to kill the entire EPA. We’re flooding House offices with calls and letters -- but we need your help to do even more to stop this horrendous bill. Help us kill this dangerous bill.
5. Right now, your gift will be triple matched. A generous major donor is matching every gift 3-fold. This is a huge opportunity to make your money go even further, and help us do even more to resist Trump’s radical anti-environment agenda. Triple your impact today.
Vinnie Wishrad is the Senior Vice President for Membership and Online Engagement at the League of Conservation Voters