2020 Climate and Energy Ballot Initiatives

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 26 Oct 2020 15:09:00 GMT


Columbus' ballot initiative would give Ohio's largest city 100% renewable electricity.
Although there are fewer climate ballot initiatives than in 2018, there are some important local measures on the ballot this November. In particular, Columbus, Ohio has an initiative to confirm AEP as its monopoly electricity provider as part of a plan to rapidly reach 100% renewable electricity.

The only major statewide initiatives are in Alaska and Louisiana, both of which have ballot measures to increase oil drilling taxes.

Here is a review of climate and energy initiatives, measures, and state constitution amendments on the ballot this November 3, drawn from Ballotpedia and Earther's Dharna Noor:

Statewide

Alaska Ballot Measure 1, the North Slope Oil Production Tax Increase Initiative: The campaign Vote Yes for Alaska's Fair Share proposed the ballot initiative to increase taxes on oil production fields located in Alaska's North Slope that exceeded certain output minimums. According to Robin Brena, chairperson of Vote Yes for Alaska's Fair Share, three oil production fields—Alpine, Kuparuk, and Prudhoe Bay—met those criteria. BP ($4.54 million), Conoco Phillips ($4.70 million), Hilcorp Energy ($4.3 million), and ExxonMobil ($3.74 million) are funding the campaign to defeat Measure 1.

California Proposition 15, the Tax on Commercial and Industrial Properties for Education and Local Government Funding Initiative, would require commercial and industrial properties, except those zoned as commercial agriculture, to be taxed based on their market value, rather than their purchase price.

"Oil and gas companies are among the biggest forces lobbying against this measure because they could stand to lose out on a lot of money if it passes," according to Noor. Opponents are falsely claiming Prop 15 would harm California's solar industry.

Louisiana Amendment 2, the Include Oil and Gas Value in Tax Assessment of Wells Amendment: This amendment would allow the presence or production of oil or gas to be taken into account when assessing the fair market value of an oil or gas well for ad valorem property tax purposes. It is supported by Louisiana's oil and gas industry.

Louisiana Amendment 5, the Payments in Lieu of Property Taxes Option Amendment: amends the state constitution to authorize local governments to enter into a cooperative endeavor agreement with new or expanding manufacturing establishments -- such as the oil and gas facilities -- and allowing the manufacturing establishments to make payments to the taxing authority of whatever amount instead of paying property taxes.

This amendment is widely opposed by environmental, religious, and other civic organizations.

"The main lobbying force behind this measure is Cameron, a liquified natural gas firm," writes Noor. "Last year, based on a payment in lieu of taxes agreement, the company paid just $38,000 in taxes. But if it had to pay their full taxes, it would have paid $220 million. The company’s agreement is now expiring, so it’s fighting to make it—and other agreements like it—last forever."

These kinds of industry tax breaks are why Louisiana stays poor forever, explains Together Louisiana:

Michigan Proposal 1, the Use of State and Local Park Funds Amendment: makes changes to how revenue in the state's park-related funds can be spent, including (a) making projects to renovate recreational facilities eligible for grants and (b) requiring that at least 20% of the parks endowment fund spending be spent on park capital improvements, and (c) removing the cap on the size of the natural resources trust fund. The initiative has split the climate movement in the state, as the measure "would allow Michigan’s Parks Endowment Fund to sell off oil and gas leases on public lands," Noor writes. "After that fund is full, any additional oil and gas money would go into a Natural Resources Trust Fund, which is also used for natural resources protection and recreation."

The Michigan Democratic Party, conservation organizations, and the Michigan Oil and Gas Association support the measure, but the Michigan Sierra Club and the Environmental Caucus of the Michigan Democratic Party stands in opposition.

Nevada Renewable Energy Standards Initiative Question 6 (2020) is the required second vote on the initiative, passed in 2018, to add language to the Nevada Constitution requiring the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard to increase to 50 percent by 2030. In 2018, this ballot initiative was approved as Question 6, and therefore needs to be approved again in 2020 to amend the Nevada Constitution. On April 22, 2019, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) signed Senate Bill 358 (SB 358), which was designed to require the same RPS percentage by 2030 as the amendment on the ballot.

New Mexico Constitutional Amendment 1, the Public Regulation Commission Amendment: changes the utility-oversight Public Regulation Commission (PRC) from an elected five-member commission to an appointed three-member commission. New Mexico's PRC is currently dominated by fossil-fuel supporters. Climate organizations overwhelmingly support the amendment.

"Supporters of the measure say that New Mexico is unlikely to meet its 100% clean energy target under its current system because the commissioners’ elections are so often riddled with corporate money," Noor writes. "Under the new system, a bipartisan nominating committee, which would include at least one representative from a local Indigenous group, would come up with a list of environmental experts from the state, and the governor could choose which ones to appoint."

Local

Albany, California, Measure DD, Utility Tax: A “yes” vote supports authorizing an increase to the utility users tax from 7% to 9.5% and application of a 7.5% tax on water service, generating an estimated $675,000 per year for general services including disaster preparedness, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, emergency response and environmental services.

Berkeley, California, Measure HH, Utility Tax: A “yes” vote supports authorizing an increase to the utility users tax from 7.5% to 10% on electricity and gas and a 2.5% increase to the gas users tax, generating an estimated $2.4 million per year for municipal services including reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Boulder, Colorado, Ballot Measure 2C, Public Service Company Franchise, and Measure 2D, to Repurpose the Utility Occupation Tax: These initiatives would allow the city of Boulder to abandon its efforts to establish a 100% renewable-electricity municipal utility and instead enter a long-term monopoly agreement with Xcel Energy with less ambitious renewable targets.

Local climate organizations overwhelmingly oppose 2C.

Denver, Colorado, Ballot Measure 2A, Sales Tax to Fund Environmental and Climate-Related Programs and TABOR Spending Limit Increase: A "yes" vote supports authorizing the city and county of Denver to levy an additional 0.25% sales tax generating an estimated $40 million per year to fund climate-related programs and programs designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, thereby increasing the total sales tax rate in Denver from 8.31% to 8.56%.

Columbus, Ohio, Issue 1, Electric Service Aggregation Program Measure: A "yes" vote supports authorizing the city to establish an Electric Aggregation Program, which would allow the city to aggregate the retail electrical load of customers within the city's boundaries, and allowing customers to opt-out of the program. If passed, the City of Columbus will develop a detailed plan for operation and management of aggregation; include in the plan a commitment to 100 percent renewable energy; and commit to encourage development of renewable-energy facilities in Central Ohio. AEP is financing the campaign in support of the initiative. If voters approve the aggregation program, AEP Energy would lock in most of Ohio’s largest city as its power customer for up to 15 years; the program would be the largest outside California, the company says. The initiative is also strongly backed by local and national environmental organizations and trade unions. The Ohio Coal Association stands against the proposal.

Portland, Oregon, Measure 26-219, Uses of Water Fund Charter Amendment: A "yes" vote supports amending the city's charter to authorize the city council to spend monies from the Water Fund and increase rates to cover expenses for general public uses, such as neighborhood green areas and community gardens.

The various other tax, policing, infrastructure, and campaign finance initiatives on the ballot have climate justice implications, as do, of course, the candidate elections.

Report: Big Law Overwhelmingly Supports Big Carbon

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 01 Oct 2020 21:11:00 GMT

The 2020 Law Firm Climate Change Scorecard is the first to detail the scale of top law firms’ role in the climate crisis. Using the best data available, the Law Students for Climate Accountability assessed litigation, transactional, and lobbying work conducted by the 2020 Vault Law 100 law firms—the 100 most prestigious law firms in the United States—from 2015 to 2019.

Their findings:

  • Vault 100 firms worked on ten times as many cases exacerbating climate change as cases addressing climate change: 286 cases compared to 27 cases.
  • Vault 100 firms were the legal advisors on five times more transactional work for the fossil fuel industry than the renewable energy industry: $1.3 trillion of transactions compared to $271 billion of transactions.
  • Vault 100 firms lobbied five times more for fossil fuel companies than renewable energy companies: for $36.5 million in compensation compared to $6.8 million in compensation.
There are four firms that have only engaged in pro-climate work in the covered period, earning an A grade:
  • Cozen O’Connor
  • Schulte Roth & Zabel
  • Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton
  • Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
The worst firms include:
  • Paul, Weiss worked on as many cases exacerbating climate change as 62 other Vault 100 firms combined.
  • Allen & Overy was the legal advisor on more transactional work for the fossil fuel industry than 78 other Vault 100 firms combined.
  • Hogan Lovells lobbied more for fossil fuel companies than 92 other Vault 100 firms combined.
  • Latham & Watkins is the only firm to be in the Top 5 Worst Firms for both transactions and litigation exacerbating climate change

The report also details the work that Latham & Watkins, Norton Rose Fulbright, Vinson & Elkins, Gibson Dunn, Baker Botts, and Greenberg Traurig did on behalf of the Dakota Access Pipeline project, including numerous efforts to crack down on the water defenders.

The group is calling on law students and firms to take the Law Firm Climate Responsibility Pledge to stop taking on new fossil fuel industry work, continue to take on renewable energy industry work and litigation to fight climate change, and to completely phase out fossil fuel work by 2025.

Top 5 Worst Firms for Litigation
  • Paul Weiss: 21 cases (7x the average)
  • Gibson Dunn: 18 cases
  • Sidley Austin: 16 cases
  • Latham & Watkins: 13 cases
  • Tie: Baker & Hostetler / Baker Botts / Munger, Tolles: 10 cases
Top 5 Worst Firms for Transactions
  • Allen & Overy: $153,365,000,000 (15x the average)
  • Vinson & Elkins: $108,217,000,000
  • Latham & Watkins: $94,815,000,000
  • Clifford Chance: $83,708,000,000
  • Milbank: $59,180,000,000
Top 5 Worst Firms for Lobbying
  • Hogan Lovells: $7,085,000 (24x the average)
  • Akin Gump: $6,820,000
  • Squire Patton Boggs: $4,755,000
  • McGuire Woods: $2,320,000
  • Steptoe & Johnson: $1,920,000

Download the full report.

The Biden-Trump Climate Debate, Transcribed With An Attempt At Accurately Portraying Trump's Interruptions And Identifying His Falsehoods

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 01 Oct 2020 01:47:00 GMT

WALLACE: I would like to talk about climate change.
BIDEN: So would I.
WALLACE: Okay. The forest fires in the west are raging now. They have burned millions of acres. They have displaced hundreds of thousands of people. When state officials there blame the fires on climate change, Mr. President, you said, 'I don't think the science knows.' Over your four years, you have pulled the US out of the Paris climate accord. You have rolled back a number of Obama environmental records [sic]. What do you believe about the science of climate change and what will you do in the next four years to confront it?
TRUMP: I want crystal clean water and air. I want beautiful clean air. We have now the lowest carbon. If you look at our numbers right now, we are doing phenomenally. [Ed.: False.] But I haven't destroyed our businesses. Our businesses aren't put out of commission. If you look at the Paris accord, it was a disaster from our standpoint. And people are actually very happy about what is going on, because our businesses are doing well.

As far as the fires are concerned, you need forest management in addition to everything else. The forest floors are loaded up with trees, dead trees that are years old, and they're like tinder and leaves and everything else. You drop a cigarette in there, the whole forest burns down. You've gotta have forest management, you've gotta have cuts ...
WALLACE: What do you believe about the science of climate change, sir?
TRUMP: Uh, I believe that we have to do everything we can to have immaculate air, immaculate water and do whatever else we can that's good. You know, we'e planting a billion trees, the billion tree project, and it's very exciting to a lot of people.
WALLACE: Do you believe that human pollution, gas, greenhouse gas emissions contributes to the global warming of the planet?
TRUMP: I think that lot of things do, but to an extent yes, I think to an extent yes, but I also think we have to do better management of our forests. Every year, I get the call, California's burning, California is burning. If that was cleaned, if that were, if you had forest management, good forest management, you wouldn't be getting those calls. You know, in Europe they live their forest cities. They're called forest cities and they maintain their forests. I was with the head of a major country it's a forest city. He said, 'Sir, we have trees that are far more, they ignite much easier than California. There shouldn't be that problem.' [Ed.: He completely made this up.] I spoke with the Governor about it. I'm getting along very well with the governor. But I said, 'At some point you can't every year have hundreds of thousands of acres of land just burned to the ground.'
WALLACE: But sir ...
That's burning down because of a lack of management.
WALLACE: But sir, if you believe in the science of climate change, why have you rolled back the Obama Clean Power Plan which limited carbon emissions and power plants? Why have you relaxed...?
TRUMP: Because it was driving energy prices through the sky.
WALLACE: Why have you relaxed fuel economy standards that are going to create more pollution from cars and trucks?
TRUMP: Well, not really because what's happening is the car is much less expensive and it's a much safer car and you talk it about a tiny difference. And then what would happen because of the cost of the car you would have at least double and triple the number of cars purchased. We have the old slugs out there that are ten, twelve years old. If you did that, the car would be safer. It would be much cheaper by $3,500. [Ed.: Basically everything he said here is false.]
WALLACE: But in the case of California they have simply ignored that.
TRUMP: No, but you would take a lot of cars off the market because people would be able to afford a car. Now, by the way, we're going to see how that turns out. But a lot of people agree with me, many people. The car has gotten so expensive because they have computers all over the place for an extra little [WALLACE: Okay.] bit of gasoline. [BIDEN: That's not...] [Ed.: False.] And I'm okay with electric cars too. I think I'm all for electric cars. I've given big incentives for electric cars. [Ed.: False.] But what they've done in California is just crazy.
WALLACE: All right, Vice President Biden. I'd like you to respond to the president's climate change record but I also want to ask you about a concern. You propose $2 trillion in green jobs. You talk about new limits, not abolishing, but new limits on fracking. Ending the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity by 2035 and zero net emission of greenhouse gases by 2050. The president says a lot of these things would tank the economy and cost millions of jobs.
BIDEN: He's absolutely wrong, number one. Number two, if, in fact, during our administration in the Recovery Act, I was in charge, able to bring down the cost of renewable energy to cheaper than or as cheap as coal and gas and oil. [Ed.: Getting there.] Nobody's going to build another coal-fired plant in America. No one's going to build another oil-fired plant in America. They're going to move to renewable energy.

Number one, number two, we're going to make sure that we are able to take the federal fleet and turn it into a fleet that's run on their electric vehicles. Making sure that we can do that, we're going to put 500,000 charging stations in all of the highways that we're going to be building in the future.

We're going to build a economy that in fact is going to provide for the ability of us to take 4 million buildings and make sure that they in fact are weatherized in a way that in fact will, they'll emit significantly less gas and oil because the heat will not be going out.

There's so many things that we can do now to create thousands and thousands of jobs. We can get to net zero, in terms of energy production [sic], by 2035. Not only not costing people jobs, creating jobs, creating millions of good-paying jobs. Not 15 bucks an hour, but prevailing wage, by having a new infrastructure that in fact, is green.

And the first thing I will do, I will rejoin the Paris accord. I will join the Paris accord because with us out of it, look what's happening. It's all falling apart. And talk about someone who has no, no relationship with foreign policy. Brazil - the rainforests of Brazil are being torn down, are being ripped down. More, more carbon is absorbed in that rainforest than every bit of carbon that's emitted in the United States. Instead of doing something about that, I would be gathering up and making sure we had the countries of the world coming up with $20 billion, and say, 'Here's $20 billion. Stop, stop tearing down the forest. And If you don't, then you're going to have significant economic consequences.'
WALLACE: What about the argument that President Trump basically says, that you have to balance environmental interests and economic interests? And he's drawn his line.
BIDEN: Well, he hasn't drawn a line. He still for example, he wants to make sure that methane's not a problem [sic]. You can now emit more methane without it being a problem. Methane. This is a guy who says that you don't have to have mileage standards for automobiles that exist now. This is the guy who says that, the fact that ...
TRUMP: Not true. Not true.
TRUMP: He's talking about the Green New Deal.
BIDEN: It's all true. And here's the deal ...
TRUMP: And it's not 2 billion or 20 billion, as you said. It's 100 trillion dollars.
WALLACE (to TRUMP): Let him go for a minute, and then you can go.
Where they want to rip down buildings and rebuild the building. It's the dumbest, most ridiculous where airplanes are out of business,
where two car systems are out,
where they want to take out the cows too.
BIDEN: I'm talking about the Biden plan. I'm ... I'm ...


No.

That is not...

That is not...
BIDEN: Not true.
TRUMP:That's not true either, right?
BIDEN: Not true.
TRUMP:This is a 100 trillion-
BIDEN: Simply... Look-
TRUMP: That's more money than our country could make in 100 years if we're -
WALLACE: All right. Let me . . . Wait a minute, sir.

That is simply not the case.
WALLACE: I actually have studied your plan, and it includes upgrading 4 million buildings, weatherizing 2 million homes over four years, building one and a half million energy efficient homes. So the question becomes, some, the president is saying, I think some people who support the president would say, that sounds like it's going to cost a lot of money and hurt the economy.
BIDEN: What it's going to do, it's going to create thousands and millions of jobs.
TRUMP: 100 trillion dollars.
Good paying jobs.
WALLACE: Let him finish, sir.
BIDEN: He doesn't know how to do that.
BIDEN: The fact is, it's going to create millions of good paying jobs, and these tax incentives for people to weatherize, which he wants to get rid of. It's going to make the economy much safer. Look how much we're paying now to deal with the hurricanes, deal with... By the way, he has an answer for hurricanes. He said, maybe we should drop a nuclear weapon on them, and they may-
TRUMP: I never said that at all-
BIDEN: Yeah, he did say that.
TRUMP: They made it up.
BIDEN: And here's the deal.
TRUMP: You make up a lot.
We're going to be in a position where we can create hard, hard, good jobs by making sure the environment is clean, and we all are in better shape. We spend billions of dollars now, billions of dollars, on floods, hurricanes, rising seas. We're in real trouble. Look what's happened just in the Midwest with these storms that come through and wipe out entire sections and counties in Iowa. They didn't happen before. They're because of global warming. We make up 15% of the world's problem. We in fact ... But the rest of the world, we've got to get them to come along. That's why we have to get back into, back into the Paris accord.
WALLACE: All right, gentlemen-
TRUMP: Wait a minute, Chris. So why didn't he do it for 47 years?
BIDEN: For 47-
You were vice president, so why didn't you get the world... China sends up real dirt into the air. Russia does. India does. They all do. We're supposed to be good. And by the way, he made a couple of statements.
BIDEN: That is not my plan. The Green New Deal is not my plan. If he knew anything about, if he knew anything about ...
The Green New Deal is a hundred trillion dollars, not 20 billion. You want to rebuild every building, you want to rebuild every building.
WALLACE: Gentlemen. . .
TRUMP: He made a statement about the military. He said I said something about the military. He and his friends made it up, and then they went with it. I never said it.
BIDEN: That is not true.
You're done in this segment.


Mister, please, sir.

Stop.
What he did is he said he called the military stupid bastards.
He said it on tape. He said stupid bastards. He said it.
I would never say that.
You're on tape . . [Snopes: Mostly false.]

I did not say that . . .


Play it. Play it-
WALLACE: Go ahead, Mr. Vice President, answer his final question.
BIDEN: The final question is, I can't remember which of all his rantings he was talking about.
WALLACE (laughing): I'm having a little trouble myself, but...
BIDEN: Yeah.
WALLACE: And about the economy and about this question of what it's going to cost.
BIDEN: The economy-
WALLACE: I mean, the Green New Deal and the idea of what your environmental changes will do.
BIDEN: The Green New Deal will pay for itself as we move forward. We're not going to build plants that, in fact, are great polluting plants-
WALLACE: So, do you support the Green New Deal?
BIDEN: Pardon me?
WALLACE: Do you support the ...
BIDEN: No, I don't support the Green New Deal.
TRUMP: Oh, you don't? Oh, well, that's a big statement.
BIDEN: I support the -
TRUMP: That means you just lost the radical left.
BIDEN: I support the Biden plan that I put forward.
WALLACE: Okay.
BIDEN: The Biden plan, which is different than what he calls the radical Green New Deal.
Transcript from Rev.com with additional edits and formatting by Hill Heat.

Sen. Whitehouse & Rep. Quigley Introduce Grid Services and Efficiency Act

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 29 Sep 2020 20:02:00 GMT

U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Congressman Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) have introduced legislation to prepare the nation’s power grids to affordably and reliably deliver clean energy. Many of the provisions of the Grid Services and Efficiency Act were included in Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act, which the House of Representatives passed last week.

“The Grid Services and Efficiency Act instructs a cross-section of federal and regional agencies to work together to pinpoint gaps in grid services and operator platforms that may hamper the introduction of clean energy sources to the power grid. The legislation authorizes funding to upgrade electricity delivery infrastructure to better accommodate clean energy sources. The bill would also help determine whether federal regulators have the proper authorities to oversee the siting of interregional transmission lines necessary for expanding clean energy.”

The Grid Services and Efficiency Act takes steps to accelerate the transition by improving power system modeling and grid operator planning, commissioning studies of grid efficiency, and improving the connectivity of the electricity transmission system.

This legislation is supported by Advanced Energy Economy, Sunrun, National Grid, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Exelon, and the WATT Coalition.

Further summary:

Rep. Haaland Leads Introduction Of THRIVE Resolution, Adding Covid Response To Green New Deal Agenda

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 17 Sep 2020 21:45:00 GMT

Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) has introduced a resolution that calls for a comprehensive justice-based response to the crises facing the nation and the world, from the fossil-fueled climate crisis to the global Covid-19 pandemic.

The Transform, Heal, and Renew by Investing in a Vibrant Economy (THRIVE) Resolution (H. Res. 1102) is modeled in part after 2019’s Green New Deal resolution introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). The resolution is also largely consistent with the 2020 Democratic Party platform and the Biden campaign agenda.

Haaland introduced the agenda at a press conference on September 10 with Markey and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Keya Chaterjee, the director of the U.S. Climate Action Network, an environmental coalition, also participated.

The resolution was formally introduced on September 11th with 76 co-sponsors, all Democrats.

Haaland’s resolution was praised by several other emocratic members of the U.S. Senate, including former presidential candidates Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), as well as Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-N.M.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

While the resolution has limited specifics, it does include a call for a national “carbon pollution-free” electricity system by 2035, in line with presidential candidate Joe Biden’s plan.

The resolution calls for the expansion of union protections and increased union density in clean-energy jobs, and investment in “Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities to build power and counteract racial and gender injustice.”

Notably, the resolution says nothing about foreign policy or the military.

Unlike the Green New Deal resolution, the THRIVE resolution does not call for universal employment, housing, or health care.

The resolution is supported by The Sunrise Movement, Sierra Club, Movement for Black Lives, Working Families Party, Service Employees International Union, Indigenous Environmental Network and Center for Popular Democracy.

Full text:

Full Transcript: Joe Biden Remarks On Climate Change And Wildfires

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 14 Sep 2020 19:53:00 GMT

This afternoon, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden made an extended speech in Delaware about global warming and climate disasters, outlining his vision for “net-zero emissions by no later than 2050.” This speech was reminiscent of then-candidate Barack Obama’s climate speech of 2007.

Good afternoon.

As a nation, we face one of the most difficult moments in our history. Four historic crises. All at the same time.

The worst pandemic in over 100 years, that’s killed nearly 200,000 Americans and counting.

The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, that’s cost tens of millions of American jobs and counting.

Emboldened white supremacy unseen since the 1960s and a reckoning on race long overdue.

And the undeniable, accelerating, and punishing reality of climate change and its impact on our planet and our people — on lives and livelihoods — which I’d like to talk about today.

Jill and I continue to pray for everyone in California, Oregon, Washington, and across the West as the devastating wildfires rage on — just as we’ve held in our hearts those who’ve faced hurricanes and tropical storms on our coasts, in Florida, in North Carolina, or like in parts of New Orleans where they just issued an emergency evacuation for Hurricane Sally, that’s approaching and intensifying; Floods and droughts across the Midwest, the fury of climate change everywhere — all this year, all right now.

We stand with our families who have lost everything, the firefighters and first responders risking everything to save others, and the millions of Americans caught between relocating during a pandemic or staying put as ash and smoke pollute the air they breathe.

Think about that.

People are not just worried about raging fires. They are worried about breathing air. About damage to their lungs.

Parents, already worried about Covid-19 for their kids when they’re indoors, are now worried about asthma attacks for their kids when they’re outside.

Over the past two years, the total damage from wildfires has reached nearly $50 Billion in California alone.

This year alone, nearly 5 million acres have burned across 10 states — more acres than the entire state of Connecticut.

And it’s only September. California’s wildfire season typically runs through October.

Fires are blazing so bright and smoke reaching so far, NASA satellites can see them a million miles away in space.

The cost of this year’s damage will again be astronomically high.

But think of the view from the ground, in the smoldering ashes.

Loved ones lost, along with the photos and keepsakes of their memory. Spouses and kids praying each night that their firefighting husband, wife, father, and mother will come home. Entire communities destroyed.

We have to act as a nation. It shouldn’t be so bad that millions of Americans live in the shadow of an orange sky and are left asking if doomsday is here.

In 1957, Climate Scientist Warned Congress That Fossil-Fueled Global Warming Could Turn California Into A Desert

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 10 Sep 2020 17:18:00 GMT


Dr. Roger Revelle (seated, far right) testifies before Congress, May 1, 1957. (Roger Revelle papers, UCSD)

Unprecedented heat and wildfires driven by fossil-fueled global warming are ravaging the forests of California and the Pacific Northwest – in line with scientific predictions to the U.S. Congress from the 1950s.

Over sixty-three years ago, physical oceanographer Roger Revelle testified to Congress that fossil-fueled climate change could turn southern California and most of Texas into “real deserts.”

On May 1, 1957, Dr. Revelle testified at the hearing on appropriations for the International Geophysical Year, Independent Offices Subcommittee, House Committee on Appropriations:

The last time that I was here I talked about the responsibility of climatic changes due to the changing carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere and you will remember that I mentioned the fact that during the last 100 years there apparently has been a slight increase in the carbon dioxide because of the burning of coal and oil and natural gas.

If we look at the probable amounts of these substances that will be burned in the future, it is fairly easy to predict that the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere could easily increase by about 20 percent. This might, in fact, make a considerable change in the climate. It would mean that the lines of equal temperature on the earth would move north and the lines of equal rainfall would move north and that southern California and a good part of Texas, instead of being just barely livable as they are now, would become real deserts.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations in 1957 were 315 parts per million. It reached 378 ppm, Revelle’s cautioned 20 percent increase, in 2004. As of September 2020, the planet is now at 410 ppm, a 30 percent increase.

Revelle’s testimony in the previous year in support of federal funding to monitor atmospheric and oceanic carbon dioxide levels was the first time that manmade global warming was discussed in the Congressional record.

“We are making perhaps the greatest geophysical experiment in history,” he said on March 8, 1956, “an experiment which could not be made in the past because we didn’t have an industrial civilization and which will be impossible to make in the future because all the fossil fuels will be gone.”

Revelle also noted that regional shifts in climate in the past led to “the rise and fall and complete decay of many civilizations.”

In response to questions from Rep. Sydney Yates (D-Ill.) and Rep. Albert Thomas (D-Texas), Dr. Revelle elucidated further:

People talk about making fresh water out of sea water. God does that for them far better than any man ever could. He evaporates three feet of water on every square foot of the ocean every year. The problem is that the distribution system is bad. The water coming from the ocean moves over the land but mostly over the northern and southern parts of the land, and this circulation pattern, or transport of water vapor from the sea to the land and the precipitation on the land, apparently shifts with the temperature; at least we think it does, and there seems to be a broad belt called the horse latitudes between the equatorial regions and the belt of cyclonic storms where the precipitation is minimal.

If you increase the temperature of the earth, the north latitude belt, which covers most of the western part of the United States and the Southwest, would move to the north.

“Only God knows whether what I am saying is true or not,” Revelle concluded. But his understanding of the science of fossil-fueled global warming has now been proven correct. The climate of southern California has undergone a phase shift to a persistently hotter, drier regime — a permanent shift if action is not taken to end the burning of fossil fuels and reduce the concentration of industrial greenhouse pollution in the atmosphere.

Top Hurricane Scientist: ‘Katrina Would Not Have Been As Intense In 1980′

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 27 Aug 2020 13:35:00 GMT

Originally published September 5, 2008 on the ThinkProgress Wonk Room.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology climatologist Kerry Emanuel says that he would be “surprised” if global warming “were not a big factor” in intensifying Hurricane Katrina’s destructive power. Katrina, the costliest and third deadliest hurricane in United States history, intensified to Category Five strength, with peak sustained winds over 170 mph, over extremely warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico before its record storm surge devastated the Gulf Coast.

Emanuel compared the meteorological conditions in which Hurricane Katrina developed in 2005 to the existing conditions twenty-five years earlier in 1980. Using his model of tropical storm potential intensity, which uses at determining factors such as sea and air temperature and wind shear, he found that Katrina would have been significantly weaker twenty-five years earlier. When asked how to characterize his findings, Emanuel replied:

I think it is correct to say that Katrina would not have been as intense in 1980. What part of that to attribute to global warming is tricky, but I would be surprised if it were not a big factor.

Katrina potential intensity chart
NCEP/NCAR Re-analysis potential intensity for 1980 and 2005 (Emanuel, 2008)

Dr. Emanuel, one of Time Magazine’s 100 Influential People of 2006, is the author of dozens of influential papers on tropical meteorology and climatology, including the 2005 Nature paper, “Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years.” Dr. Emanuel has authored the popular science books Divine Wind: The History and Science of Hurricanes and What We Know About Climate Change, and is profiled in ScienceProgress editor Chris Mooney’s book, Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle Over Global Warming.

Senate Democrats Release Agenda For "Net-Zero Emissions" Clean Economy By 2050

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 25 Aug 2020 19:54:00 GMT

The Senate Democrats’ Select Committee on the Climate Crisis has released a 263-page report detailing a “clean economy” agenda with “bold climate solutions.” Entitled “The Case for Climate Action: Building a Clean Economy for the American People,” the report, which repeatedly emphasizes economic growth and job creation, was developed by the ten-member committee chaired by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).

Legislation must now be developed to meet the overarching goals of the committee:
  • Reduce U.S. emissions rapidly to help achieve 100 percent global net-zero emissions no later than 2050.
  • Stimulate economic growth by increasing federal spending on climate action to at least 2 percent of GDP annually—and ensure that at least 40 percent of the benefits from these investments help communities of color and low-income, deindustrialized, and disadvantaged communities.
  • Create at least 10 million new jobs.

The report, while largely in the spirit of the Green New Deal platform – in particular in the listing of recommendations from environmental justice leaders – avoids any mention of that phrase. Several of the photographs in the report are of rallies and marches of Green New Deal advocates.

Unlike most Green New Deal advocates, the report makes space for “safer nuclear power” and “fossil generation paired with carbon capture and storage.” “Carbon capture and removal technologies are an essential supplement to decarbonization,” the report argues in an extended section.

An entire chapter of the report is dedicated to “Dark Money” – specifically, the “undue influence from the leaders of giant fossil fuel corporations” who “used weak American laws and regulations governing election spending, lobbying, and giving to advocacy groups to mount a massive covert operation” to “spread disinformation about climate change and obstruct climate action.”
In order to advance bold climate legislation, we must expose the covert influence of wealthy fossil fuel executives, trade associations, and front groups that have done everything possible to obstruct climate action.

The report credits the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision with allowing “fossil fuel political power to effectively capture Republican elected officials nationwide.”

In addition to ten hearings, the committee held twelve in-depth hearings with advocates, four of which were exclusively with corporate executives (utilities, health care, insurance, and banks). Two meetings were held with international representatives (a United Nations representative and European central bankers). Two meetings were with union officials (one included environmentalists); two were with environmental justice activists and mainstream environmentalists; one was with youth climate activists. The last meeting was with surfers and surfing industry representatives.

Notably, the committee did not meet with any climate scientists in academia.

Download the report here.

Sunrise Movement Launches "Wide Awake" Campaign Confronting Politicians At Their Doorsteps

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 18 Aug 2020 18:58:00 GMT

The youth climate activist collective known as the Sunrise Movement has begun protesting outside the homes of politicians they hold responsible for the “death economy” of rising climate, racial, and economic injustice. The “Wide Awake” campaign is inspired by the Wide Awakes, a militant youth abolitionist organization in the years leading into the Civil War.

We are Wide Awake. And, for the next hundred days, the architects of this death economy will be too.

This is not just an uprising, it’s a mothafucking haunting. We will march to their homes at midnight so they understand that we are wide awake to their role in crafting this nightmare. When they try to dine at restaurants we’re forced to work at — despite the risk of COVID — because our unemployment is ending, we will not serve them. When they do nothing to stop federal agents from snatching us off the streets, when they force us to go back to school in unsafe conditions, when they do nothing to stop our democracy from crumbling, we will bang on their doors from dusk until dawn and make them hear us. We will make their lives a waking nightmare until they stand with us or give way to the power of the people and the vision we have for a new world.

“Wide Awake” actions so far include:

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