It appears that presidential press secretaries are not the only ones doing headers into the hedges to avoid having to answer potentially embarrassing questions. Sean Spicer’s dive into the history books made for great journalistic sport and allowed Melissa McCarthy to show-OFF her considerable comedic talents.
Spicer’s hiding in the greenery is not exactly what’s implied by the term hedging. However, as I will explain a bit further on, companies and organizations like Google, Shell, Bank of America, the US Chamber of Commerce, and Amazon are doing their own version of the Spicey--a hedging maneuver they would have preferred to remain hidden from journalists and the climate defense community. Maneuvers the climate community should wish them not to engage in in the first place.
Investors understand hedging to be a strategy designed to offset a potential loss on one investment by purchasing a second investment that is expected to perform in the opposite way. Most of us engage in the practice whether we’re aware of it or not. The purchase of health or auto insurance, for example, is a form of hedging.
Hedging in politics is not very different from pairing investments or paying for insurance. The goal in each of the cases is to offset a potential loss through a countervailing action. In politics, the loss usually being hedged against is access rather than dollars.
President Trump divides just about everything political he or his administration touches. The latest industry Trump has caused to turn against itself is automaking.
Since Day 1 of the Trump presidency, the auto industry has been hoping to re-negotiate the deal it struck with the Obama administration on auto and light truck fuel efficiency standards (CAFE) for the period 2021 through 2025. The industry thought its wishes were answered when in April 2018 the then-EPA Administrator Pruitt announced the Trump administration would be rolling back the auto efficiency rule that the Obama administration had negotiated with the automakers in 2010.
Not long after the announcement, however, wisher’s remorse began to settle on the sector. It was clear from the beginning that the dialogue between the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the administration would not go well. The only thing the two sides seemed to share was antipathy for each other.
Without much warning, the administration cut off any further discussions with CARB in February 2019 and announced it would be going ahead with its Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule that freezes the standards through 2025 at the 2020 level—a number much below what the industry is both capable and willing to meet.
On the day Greta Thunberg gave her emotion-filled speech at the United Nation’s (UN) Climate Summit, another historic event involving the Swedish activist and 15 other youthful climate hawks—representing 12 countries--took place. The filing of the first-ever legal complaint about climate change to the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child. The communication is titled Sacchi et al. vs. Argentina, et al.
Like the plaintiffs in the case of Juliana vs. US, the young petitioners—all ranging in age between 8 and 17—are seeking to protect themselves and future generations from the harsh consequen-ces of global climate change. Impacts like extreme droughts and rising sea levels that most of the world’s scientists have been warning of for decades; warnings that have gone mostly unheeded in terms of needed state actions.
The Republic of the Marshall Islands, home to three of the petitioners, formally declared a National Climate Crisis on September 30, 2019. A low lying archipelago in the southern Pacific Ocean, portions of the Marshall Islands were the site of 67 nuclear weapons tests by the United States, including the 15-megaton Castle Bravo hydrogen bomb test that produced significant fallout in the region.
Having survived those tests, the Marshall Islands now face the prospect of being uninhabitable by 2050—swallowed by the waters that have sustained its populations for hundreds of centuries. Its 29 atolls average only 6.5 feet above sea level.
This marks the addition of a new audio feature on the Civil Notion site, which I'm calling A Piece of My Mind.
In this first episode, I examine the alchemistic role of the climate youth movement in turning base political words into precious political will.
A year ago, there was no debate in Congress about climate change. Now conservative Repub-licans are being forced into a dialogue they had hoped to avoid about a problem they've been unwilling to admit even exists. The Democrats, for their part, have embraced climate change as a central theme of their 2020 political campaign. What’s changed is the entrance of the youth climate movement onto the scene.
Lead image courtesy of Jean Beaufort/public domain
If the tens of thousands of fires burning in the Amazon and Trump’s disdain for climate science and environmental regulation were not bad enough in their own right, imagine how bad they could be together?
It’s being reported that Brazil’s environmental minister, Ricardo Salles, will be meeting with representatives of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) at EPA headquarters on Sept-ember 19th. CEI is a leading denialist organization whose director for energy and environment, Myron Ebell, headed-up Trump’s EPA transition team.
CEI and company are increasingly alone in their bald denial of climate science and the impacts of global warming. Even organizations like the US Chamber of Commerce are at least willing to acknowledge that the global climate is changing and that human activities contribute to those changes.
Brazil’s recently elected populist president, Jair Bolsonaro, is a fan-boy of President Trump. As is his usual practice, Trump embraces anyone who strokes his ego:
I have gotten to know President @jairbolsonaro well in our dealings with Brazil. He is working very hard on the Amazon fires and in all respects doing a great job for the people of Brazil – Not easy. He and his country have the full and complete support of the USA!
According to reports, Bolsonaro told his supporters to call him Captain Chainsaw. He also wears with pride the tag Trump of the Tropics.
This is the second article in the Civil Notion series--Erasing Trump’s Environmental Legacy—about the barriers a Democratic victor in the 2020 presidential election—President X— will face in an effort to put a national climate defense plan on the books.
As I had written in the first article of the series, undoing the damage done by Trump to the environment and the regulatory framework that protects it will prove more difficult—certainly more time consuming—than climate defenders imply in their various policy proposals.
The way forward for any climate defense plan—moderate or progressive—will be cluttered with the flotsam of the Trump administration, e.g., rolled back regulations, extant lawsuits, and the loss of the many experienced government professionals needed to implement a pro-environment agenda.
Unfortunately, there’s no magic wand President X can wave that will immediately restore critical protections and reverse the damage done to the environment by Trump’s policy actions. For example, the administration’s elimination of efficiency standards covering nearly half the lightbulbs currently on the market will increase annual energy usage by an estimated 80 billion kilowatt-hours—an amount roughly equal to the electricity needed to power all the households in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Erasing Trump’s environmental legacy is going to take time. A return to the Obama standard would undoubtedly require a new rulemaking—a time-consuming process that would likely be met with legal challenges once the final rule came into force. (See Figure 1) Rulemaking is a time-intensive process—made longer by lawsuits waiting at the end of it.
Our next President should declare a national emergency on day 1 to address the existential threat to all
life on the planet posed by Climate Change.
Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN)
By declaring a national emergency concerning the southern border of the US, Trump may have unwittingly given the next Democratic president an additional weapon with which to combat climate change. Although previous presidents have declared national emergencies for things like swine flu and preventing business with people or organizations involved in global conflicts or the drug trade, none have sought to use their executive power in quite the same manner as Trump has done with his immigration declaration.
Oddly, both Republicans and Democrats opposed the emergency declaration using much the same language. Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) were quick to argue that the declaration was an attempt to circumvent Congress—but suggested that a future Democratic president could use the same trick for a different emergency, i.e., climate change or gun control. To emphasize the point, Senator Sanders made a presidential declaration of a national climate emergency an integral part of his recently released climate defense plan.
Petrochemicals are the 800-pound gorilla that many fail to account for in their climate defense plans. Termed a blind spot of the global energy system by the International Energy Agency (IEA) petrochemicals are a driving force behind the increasing demand for fossil fuels.
Petrochemicals also appear to be one of the driving forces behind Trump’s re-election campaign. In the coming weeks and months, Appalachia coal regions and portions of the Rust Belt will become ground zero in the environmental battle between Trump and contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination and, ultimately, for the presidency. In the end, will it all come down to one word--PLASTICS?
Whether he is willing to admit it or not, Donald John Trump surely understands that coal will never return to market prominence in the power sector—absent some miraculous breakthroughs in combustion and carbon capture technologies. Technologies the Trump ad-ministration has shown little interest in developing.
Although Trump accuses Democrats of having launched a war on coal, the real culprits in terms of coal’s declining demand are market forces, e.g., the price of alternatives, about which even coal-state Republicans have shown little genuine interest in overriding. Having promised renewed prosperity to coal country conservatives, Trump is now on the hook to deliver. These are, after all, his peeps.
Dan Levitan argues in the New Republic that Republican deniers of climate change, who are now on the side of the “angels,” don’t deserve redemption by Democrats unless they own-up to the harms they’ve caused by their earlier denials. Prompting Levitan to write his article was the testimony of Republican pollster Frank Luntz before the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis.
Luntz’s invitation was issued by the chair of the Committee, Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI). Unlike the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, the Senate group is not a Senate sanctioned organization. It is a self-selecting group of Democratic senators that, according to their web-site, want to examine how climate change is affecting the country and the planet and to mobilize action and support for bold climate solutions. To achieve their goal the Committee is planning to convene a series of hearings through 2019 and 2020 to gather expert testimony from a wide variety of witnesses.
The July 25th hearing was entitled “The Right Thing to Do: Conservatives for Climate Action.” Joining Luntz as witnesses were Kera O’Brien Vice President, Students for Carbon Dividends and Nick Huey, founder of the Climate Campaign and a member of the Utah Chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Both O’Brien and Huey are young conservative Republicans who believe that carbon needs to be taxed.
I have an Article 2 where I have the right to do whatever I want as president
-- Donald Trump
Time is the dearest resource we have in the fight to combat Earth’s warming. Whether there is time enough to avoid the harsh economic and environmental consequences waiting beyond the 1.5 degree Celsius threshold scientists warn is a point of no return mostly depends on what the US and the other nations of the world choose to do about the climate crisis and when they will choose to do it.
Time is the fixed element of the warming response equation. It can neither be manufactured nor stopped. Idle time can’t be saved in a rainy-day account or the loose change jar on your dresser to be used later.
Although time past can’t be retrieved, tomorrow’s time can be mortgaged—as it has been by Trump’s efforts to deregulate the nation’s environment and continue its addiction to fossil fuels.
Undoing the damage done by Trump to the environment and the regulatory framework that protects it will prove more difficult—certainly more time consuming—than moderate and progressive climate defenders imply in their various green policy proposals.
The way forward for any climate defense plan—moderate or progressive—is going to be cluttered with the refuse of the Trump administration, e.g., rolled back regulations, extant lawsuits, the lost government offices and programs needed to implement a pro-environment agenda. Cleaning up what Trump and company will leave in their wake is going to take time, as will putting in place a comprehensive climate defense plan.
Joel B. Stronberg
Joel Stronberg, MS, JD., of The JBS Group is a veteran clean energy policy analyst with over 30 years’ experience, based in Washington, DC.