Trump’s Bubble Machine, Part 1

By William S. Becker A long time ago on the Greek island of Crete (or so the story goes), a young man named Icarus attempted to escape imprisonment by flying away on wings made of feathers and wax. His father warned him not to fly too close to the sun, but Icarus ignored him. The sun melted the wax. Icarus fell into the sea and drowned. It seems as though this story is being played out by Donald Trump. Except, and stay with me here, he is being buoyed by bubbles instead of wings; the heat that threatens to pop them also comes from the sun, but via global warming. Trump said this about the U.S. economy when he announced in June that he is running for reelection: “Our economy is the envy of the world, perhaps the greatest economy we have had in the history of our country…Our country is now thriving, prospering and booming and, frankly, it’s soaring to incredible new heights.” There are several reasons to question whether it will stay there much longer. A “bubble” develops

August 12th, 2019|home, Uncategorized|

Trump’s Bubble Machine, Part 2

By William S. Becker If you’ve followed climate-change litigation in recent years, you are aware that the case with the most potential consequence involves 21 young Americans who sued the government for promoting and enabling the use of fossil fuels. They’ve been slugging it out with government lawyers in the federal court system ever since. Since filing their lawsuit in 2015, the young plaintiffs have dodged a barrage of legal maneuvers by the Obama and Trump Justice Departments, which both have wanted the courts to dismiss the lawsuit. If the young people are successful, they will force the Trump government to face them in open court, where its representatives would have to testify under threat of perjury. There is an interesting wrinkle in the case, however – one that may not be known by people who haven’t followed the case closely. The government’s lawyers have already admitted that almost everything the young litigants say about climate change is true. The Obama Administration’s attorneys filed their response to the lawsuit the day before Trump was inaugurated in January 2017, acknowledging that

August 12th, 2019|home|

New Carbon-Fee Bills Unveiled in Congress

Reprinted from The Hill Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are introducing competing bills that aim to put a tax on carbon. The push to regulate greenhouse gas emissions comes as both Democrats and Republicans face pressure from their constituents, and in some cases, the fossil fuel industry itself, to regulate carbon emissions that lead to climate change. Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.) and Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) all introduced carbon tax bills on Thursday that each take a shot at cementing the long tossed-around idea of a carbon fee. Those three bills join two other bipartisan measures proposing a carbon tax introduced earlier this year in the House and the Senate. The influx of legislation is surprising some observers who have long called for action on climate change. They say they wouldn’t have believed a year ago that there would have been such a push. “I can tell you from what I know is that we are worlds apart from the Congress that I left at the beginning of this year,” said Carlos Curbelo, a former Republican

July 26th, 2019|home|

See You in Court, Mr. Trump (Part 1)

By William S. Becker The rising number of Americans who want the government to do something about climate change should be thankful that there are three branches of government in the United States. That’s because the Legislative Branch has not done anything since October 1992, and the hard work done by the previous Executive Branch is being trashed by Donald Trump. So, climate action groups have turned to the courts, not only in the U.S. but worldwide. In the first 2.5 years of his presidency, Donald Trump and his team have tried to undermine or reverse federal climate policies 94 times. Analyzing the first two years of Trump’s tenure, the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University reviewed 159 legal cases involving federal policies related to climate change. Cases filed by the good guys outnumbered the bad guys 4 to 1. The Trump Administration’s batting average is not good. Not once during 2017 and 2018 have the courts ruled in favor of the Administration. Thanks largely to the legal eagles at organizations pressing for climate action, the cases

July 19th, 2019|home, Uncategorized|

See You in Court, Mr. Trump (Part 2)

By William S. Becker In Part 1 of this post, I gave an overview of the growing number of climate-change lawsuits underway in the United States and worldwide. I asked whether they are making any difference in ending the long negligence Republican presidents, Congress and the business sector have shown in doing something about the climate crisis. So, is litigation doing some good? The answer is an unequivocal “maybe”. Now under the control of Democrats, several committees in the House of Representatives are gathering testimony on various dimensions of climate change. It is a given, however, that no actual climate bill will be approved by the GOP-controlled Senate or by Trump. The House is merely laying the groundwork in hopes that Democrats win the presidency and Congress in 2020. The Green New Deal, an ambitious aspirational resolution introduced in the House by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has inspired the liveliest public debate in memory about clean energy and climate change. Several of the Democrats’ candidates for president have embraced it. Nevertheless, moderators have given only a few minutes to the crisis

July 19th, 2019|home|

Climate Action Must Be Just

It's often pointed out that the people most affected by climate change are those who are least able to cope. That's true in all countries including the United States. A coalition of non-government organizations has issued a "platform" to make sure that climate-action policies are socially and environmentally just. The organizations that have signed the platform point out that "past failures include the perpetuation of systemic inequalities that have left communities of color, tribal communities, and low-income communities exposed to the highest levels of toxic pollution and the most burdened and affected by climate change. The defining environmental crisis of our time now demands an urgency to act. Yet this urgency must not displace or abandon the fundamental principles of democracy and justice." You'll find the platform here.

July 19th, 2019|home|

When the Legislative and Executive Branches Fail to Act

Editor’s Note: During the first two years in office, Donald Trump and his administration tried to undermine or reverse federal climate policies 94 times. The result was at least 129 lawsuits to defend those policies. More broadly, there were more than 1,000 climate-related lawsuits in the U.S. as of May 2019, brought by individuals and organizations against corporations and governments. PCAP invited retired Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin to comment on the role of the judiciary in forcing climate action. He is the former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California and the Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon. He served as the U.S. Magistrate Judge for the District of Oregon from 1992 to 2016.   By Honorable Magistrate Thomas Coffin (retired) Global climate change is the most urgent issue of this or any century, but the Executive and Legislative Branches of the U.S. government have so far failed to address it with the level of substance and seriousness it requires. The two branches of our three-branch government have been locked in a power struggle for many

July 15th, 2019|home, Uncategorized|

Petrodementia Appearing in High Places

By William S. Becker Recent statements by several public figures indicate that they are suffering from a relatively new malady known as  “petrodementia”, where brain cells calcify after sustained exposure to oil industry propaganda. Symptoms include an inability to recognize irony and to differentiate facts from fiction. Three leaders have shown those symptoms in recent days: U.S. President Donald Trump; EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler; and Mohammed Barkindo, Secretary-General of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). In a 45-minute speech from the White House Monday, Trump claimed that he will be remembered as an environmentalist because of his strong support for fossil fuels and his campaign to roll back scores of regulations designed to protect the environment. Since Trump became president, his war on federal regulations to mitigate climate change has resulted in more than 130 lawsuits. So far, none of Trump’s actions has survived legal challenges. Wheeler, the warm-up act for Trump’s speech, told reporters that critics of the President’s environmental record are ignoring all of the progress the United States has made since 1970. Yet Trump has been

July 8th, 2019|home|

Another Way Trump is Dissing Congress

By William S. Becker The President of the United States must “take care that the laws be faithfully executed” and must take an oath to “faithfully execute the office of the President.” – Article II, U.S. Constitution Between its other investigations of Donald Trump and his administration, Congress may want to defend its right to pass laws with confidence that the Executive Branch will implement and enforce them. More specifically, the House should look into whether Trump’s war on federal regulations is letting polluters violate the letter or the spirit of the nation’s environmental statutes. By one count, the Trump administration has or is trying to roll back more than 80 federal rules on air pollution, drilling, water pollution, and toxic substances. As I noted in a recent blog, nine out of 10 of these attempts have been defeated in court, an indication that Trump’s team is firing its anti-regulation shotguns without much care for what they hit. Trump realizes that this doesn’t look good for reelection. A spokesman at the White House says Trump will hold an event Monday

July 5th, 2019|home, Uncategorized|

Civilization’s Enemy

By William S. Becker It seems like a gross overstatement, the kind of thing only fear-mongers say. It is another in a long line of warnings about catastrophes in our future.  It’s the kind of thing that Fox News loves to ridicule – predictions of environmental doom that never come true. Over the years, we’ve heard many times that if we don’t do something about climate change in the next few years, entire nations would be drowned in the sea, masses would starve, resource wars would break out, and so on. So, it is no surprise that a new study describing the possible collapse of civilization would be greeted with skepticism. Nevertheless, two climate experts in Australia are warning that global warming could end civilization as we know it by mid-century. They are not predicting it; they are saying that this unhappy ending is plausible, caused by the collapse of biodiversity and ecosystems, international resource conflicts, killer heat, massive numbers of climate refugees, the flooding of major coastal cities, and so on. Think of simultaneous tipping points in which damages

June 28th, 2019|home|

Want the Military to Emit Less CO2? Stop Fighting So Many Wars

Following a recent report on the U.S. military's greenhouse gas emissions, Sharon E. Burke wants to set the record straight. She is a senior advisor to New America, where she focuses on international security and Resource Security, a program that examines the intersection of security, prosperity, and natural resources.  Burke served in the Obama Administration as the assistant secretary of defense for operational energy, a new office that worked to improve the energy security of U.S. military operations. Prior to her service at DoD, Burke held a number of senior U.S. government positions, including at the Department of State in the George W. Bush Administration, and was a vice president and senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. She is a member of PCAP's National Advisory Committee. The US Military's Fuel Profligacy in Context Brown University Releases a Misleading Report National Guard fueling up for Hurricane Florence relief efforts, photo by Sgt. Brian Calhoun By Sharon Burke June 24, 2019 War consumes and war destroys -- lives, money, and resources. As Americans, I think we sometimes have the

June 25th, 2019|home|

“We all owe Al Gore an apology”

By William S. Becker The science of global climate change is still gobbledygook to most Americans. But watching helplessly as water rises in their living rooms or picking through the ashes to see if anything from their homes is left – those experiences are sending a message that is personal and persuasive. It appears that more Americans are having those experience and applying their own test to whether the climate crisis is real: If it looks like climate change and smells like climate change and acts like climate change, then it’s probably climate change.  Maybe the government ought to do something about it. Frank Luntz, the pollster who is infamous among climate hawks for encouraging Republicans several years ago to cast doubt on climate science, has just issued some new advice to the GOP: Republican voters want something done about the growing number and intensity of life-threatening weather disasters.  Luntz’s new research finds: 58% of Americans including Republican voters under age 40 are more worried about these disasters than they were just a year ago; 69% of GOP voters are

June 22nd, 2019|home|